There are many ways professional gardeners work in this area. Usually the work is seasonal, often only while renters are in place or while the owner is out for the summer. It might involve the installation of pots and maintenance of them and a garden area. Gardeners also design, install and maintain larger and even very large properties. Sometime a vegetable garden is involved, or a water feature. Often the gardener is involved with several or many properties, each with its own requirements. Choices of plants to use must be made based on the client’s preferences, bloom time, amount and kind of maintenance needed as well as the various horticultural aspects of each plant.
But for the past eight years, I have worked on two properties year-round which has meant meeting all of the above challenges and opportunities throughout all the seasons of the year.
During that time I have worked with a father and son, both named Josue, and we have developed extensive beds, and areas on the properties. We have amended the barely plantable soil and in places removed it, reconstructed it and put it back. We have added worm castings, compost, shredded leaves and grass clippings and other assorted organic mulches to bring the soil in the beds up to a very good quality. We have been able, with the help of a flock of hard working chickens, to make our own compost and the tomatoes, started from seeds in the greenhouse, are almost jumping out of the ground.
We have had the distinct challenge of installing (yes, it’s more than planting) and maintaining several stands of bamboo. Such a beautiful plant – but so naughty! The earliest installation was in a cement surround; it escaped over the top in a 1” layer of soil on top of the cement. We captured it. In another location on the property it escaped under the grout line in the wall cap of a cement trough. We captured it. Such a beautiful plant. Its rapid growth provides building material for bamboo rooms, trellises, and staking and we have made many of such for the flower gardens and vegetable gardens.
We have produced abundant quantities of vegetables, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and flowers for cutting for the house including some amazing calla lilies, the flowers of which are a full 6” tall with the texture of fine glove leather. They are minimally hardy in this zone, so to protect them in winter we mulch their beds heavily with salt hay and then build a burlap house to enclose them. There are also 12 six-year-old rose standards about seven feet tall in their pots which we also build burlap houses for in the fall.
We have been able to house tropicals used at the house in the summer in greenhouses during winter. And in another green house, we have developed specimen collections of succulents, bromeliads, orchids, nepenthes, aristolochias and ferns. And in the spring, the greenhouses are used to produce seedlings for the gardens.
We have been able to use plants in the garden beds that do not get used regularly because they require a lot of staking or frequent deadheading or their bloom times happen in the off seasons. We have been able to plant densely so the garden is heavy with bloom. And we have extended the garden seasons into the entire year.
The lotus garden that we built is amazing in bloom with exotic flowers like no other. And over the years frogs have found it and live there with the fish that monitor the mosquito larva population and because we use no chemicals, there are always many birds hatched each season and a good sized family of toads! This spring, a duck laid three eggs in one of the vegetable beds.
The profusion of pots accompanying the various tropicals from the green house has allowed us to punctuate the beds and gardens with noteworthy plants.
This situation means we can participate in the garden in a very complete way, from the compost pile and the chickens to the magnificent calla lilies on the table set for dinner using vegetables from the garden outside the door.
But these properties are now for sale and according to some real estate brokers visiting the property, the gardens may be a liability in that they require a good deal of care. One mentioned that the raised bed vegetable garden outside the kitchen with stone pathways would be a good basketball court. If, indeed, a new owner is not willing to do what is necessary to maintain the gardens, they would be removed.
As all gardeners know, the garden is constantly about change. And so the two Josues and I are changing the nature of the gardening we do and expanding our work to other properties and other ways to garden. We have loved the work we did in the past and look forward to new clients and new properties creating and maintaining year-round, seasonal, occasional and vegetable gardens.
Jeanelle Myers is the proprietor of Jeanelle Myers Fine Gardening 631-434-5067.