Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Confessions of An Expat. - Part 2 (Mary Mary Quite Contrary.....)

Ahhh, if I had a nickel for every time I was asked, "How Does Your Garden Grow?", I could hire a gardener and just forget about it!  Hold on, (confessional drum roll please) I DO have a gardener!  In fact , this being China, I have several!!  No kidding.  We are fortunate enough to live in a rental home, within a gated (and barbed wire fenced) community of all rental homes.  As such, all of the homes, yards, sidewalks and common spaces are maintained by the central corporation that owns the community.  And maintain they do!!

Each and every day of the week (except for major Chinese holidays), a small army of gardeners descends on "Jing Shan" (the Chinese name for our neighborhood).  Equipped with ancient looking tools and rakes which appear to be hand-made, they DAILY sweep all of the streets and sidewalks.  I swear I am not exaggerating.  Every inch gets swept and/or raked.  Every fallen leaf and twig get collected.  Every day

A couple of the members of the Jing Shan Gardener Brigade.

But that's not all.  Every home gets a minimum of 45 minutes of lawn care each day as well.  Thus our flowers are watered and weeded, our fallen leaves collected, our shrubs kept shapely. Even the potted plants we added to the patio ourselves get watered, pruned, fussed-over.  The grass (such as it is and let's just say it is NOT up to Bill Groh standards!) also gets cut (Bill says "scalped") regularly.  And I lift not a finger.

Our flower beds - no thanks to me!

The climbing vine on our front yard fence - again no thanks to me.

More flowers, compliments of The Gardeners

A shot of the Gardener working in the yard next door.  This is not our Gardener - we ususally have a young woman.  Good thing as I am often in my PJ's when she arrives at 8 on Saturday mornings!

"Yes, dear, I'll check the pots."  (See the fallen leaves?  They WILL be gone tomorrow.)

My old friends and neighbors in Knoxville will find this impossible to fathom.  We (especially "He") had a reputation of being a bit obsessive about our yards.  Bill never shrank from any lawn/landscape challenge.  From our first yard in Knoxville (1333 Candlewick Road) to house number two,  just a couple yards down at 1341 Candlewick Road, and then across town to our last home in Tan Rara, we did it ALL!  Manys the Friday when Bill would say, "I think we need to spend some time in the yard this weekend." and I could see the blisters rise and feel the muscles ache before we even got started.  Bill was a "yardwork machine"!  Our old Toyota van was a great momma-mobile but it just as often doubled as a workhorse hauling river rocks, straw bales, mulch, pinestraw, fallen tree branches, paving bricks, sand, potting soil, shrubs, flats of flowers, sod, and anything else Bill sent me in search of whilst he stayed in the yard, scheming and prepping. 

And I know many wives who wished for a "Bill" now and then.  (Honestly, never in going-on -29 years of marriage did I have to nag him to cut the grass!)  But the downside to this self-motivated lawnboy was that I, his faithful (and  maybe too liberated)  partner, usually tried to give an equal measure of time and effort to our jointly-held properties.  I mowed, raked, shovelled, pitched, dug, hauled, spread, watered, seeded, fertilized right alongside him on most occasions.  (Side note to prove my point: I was out of town on the fateful week Bill chose to install an entire sprinkler system, by himself, in our very steep front yard in Tan Rara.  Good thing because some of his "we can do it ourselves" ideas were over the top and THAT was one of them.  When I returned from my travels, neighbors approached me to describe how they saw him wrestling a trench digger, in the TN August heat, and feared he would collapse.  And if I had been home?  His last words before keeling over would have been to tell me how to finish up where he left off!)    

So.... am I loving the gardener thing?  You bet I am!!  Bill is too, and he'll be the first to admit it.  However (and this is SO "Bill")  he still goes behind the gardener and pulls weeds, waters the trees, and even did some pruning a while back!  He's never home when they do the mowing but if he was I just know he would ask them to raise the blade a couple notches!!  And, no big surprise, he also frequently but kindly asks me to "check the pots on the patio". 
Yup, I love my Gardeners - the new ones and, oh yeah, "the old one" too!


  1. Awww that is sooo Dad to go behind the gardeners! You all are living the life there most days of the week-and I like this little positive confessions series. Nice job with the pics too...I miss our green, flowery yard. We don't have a yard here, except a sketchy grass patch in the back with sandy spots and a big grill for, of course, meat at 1:30 am parties.

  2. Your house and yard are beautiful! I'll think of you relaxing with your feet up while Fred makes me drag pine branches to the burn pile again this weekend!!

  3. You're right....sigh.....we do have it good here. It's easy to forget the backbreaking gardening days of pulling weeds, planting flowers, and trimming shrubs. I wish I had a "Bill" back then! Thank you for reminding me of what I don't have to deal with here in China. How can we complain?