You know people who'll insist they know a subject better than you. Oh, if you could sweep them under the carpet, wouldn't you feel better? Well, I'm one of those. I pride myself remembering many facts and I have a stern personality to back my decisions/opinions. My serious mien doesn't scare anyone. But when I know something to be correct, I'm out to prove it.
For instance, advising my daughter and her husband about the new plants they should put in the yard. I've been through so many plants and flowering bushes and discarded the same number through forty years that I know what is best for OUR yard. Mind you, not anyone else's.
Despite never having studied plant science, two summers visiting plant growers in New Jersey on the lookout for just-the-perfect greenery and blooms to sell in my son's Kudzu store in Barryville, NY., I gained a lot of expertise. Twice a month I'd journey fifty miles south where the soil is a gorgeous black and flowers and plants flourish. At the end of one summer's discussion with nursery owners as I selected the best plants, I loaded up on the Latin names so I could repeat them to store customers. I learned which plants liked sun, which felt good in the shade, which ones grew best in pots, which needed no special care. Armed with this knowledge in one summer, I could have opened a nursery. I visited some of the prettiest companies showing their best in acres of tilled fields. I loved these trips and what I learned.
When my daughter and her husband bought our house with the idea we parents would remain en situ, I tried to remain quiet about the changes made inside the house. When it came to hiring a landscaper, I sat on edge. These fifty-some year olds didn't ask me for advice, since I'd planted more shrubs and blooming plants in our yard than they..My choices often were not those of my husband's, who didn't like to dig in the soil. I'd choose a plant, dig a hole and let it marinate for a year. Then my husband would play "Let's change shrubs" The more I planted the more he'd pull up because he didn't like the leaf shape or the blooms turning yellow, or the black spots that formed on leaves after a rain. You can tell we didn't see eye to eye about beauty.
The day the landscape plans arrived to discuss any changes, I sat down and googled all the plants to be sure I was correct about shade and sun. I pointed out to son-in-law the shady areas of the front yard, stressing that the plans call for sunny plants, vice versa. He insisted "things have changed since you last planted anything in the yard.”A nice way to say “You don’t know anything, you’re too old.” When the workers came one morning with threatening clouds overhead, I watched as hostas found their place in the sun and small palms in the shade. I barked at the men, "You have to move these to there and those to here!" I had the authority of experience, didn't they know? With a hang-dog expression boss man looked at me and said, "I can't change anything on the plans." I stomped (well, almost) into the house and saw hosta food within easy reach of the ten deer I'd seen last week crossing the road. Don't tell me there's this spray and that one that will drive the deer away!
On one of my trips in New Jersey was a visit to a hosta farm. These variegated green leafed plants originated in the Orient and brought to Europe in the 1700s. Today there are over 2,500 cultivars and I believe this farm has every variety planted under shady trees scattered over five acres
My first question to the grower was "How do you protect the leafy greens from deer mouths?" His answer, "There's not anything except daily spraying and watchful eyes.” Their kids had the fun of watching out for deer and other small animals,, plentiful in the area. Some precious hostas that cost tons of dollars had a fence enclosure. I became enamored with the varieties and realized our local nurserymen never sell any but a few of these varieties. Some were as large as four feet across. One plant would suffice for a bed. So with that visit I became an expert on hostas.
Our house now sports a beautiful landscape. The workers have gone home and left a beauty of greenery speckled with yellows. Hostas will wink in the sun, starve for water in the summer's heat. By next summer we’ll have the prettiest front yard of anyone on our block. How many days will pass until the deer find their midnight supper at our front porch?