My friend Melissa, who is also my masseuse, laughed when I told her about going to Home Depot for flowers.
I’d walked into the garden area and found an assistant with the orange apron. That took some doing in and of itself. Home Depot employees are becoming as rare as the Bird of Paradise around here.
Then I asked her about ice plants.
“Never heard of them,” she responded.
“Well, do you have ground cover?” I asked.
“I have no idea. All we have is what the truck brought in.”
“Uh, okay. What did the truck bring in?” I pressed.
“No idea,” she said again.
This is about what I expect these days from Home Depot, especially here in Denver where nearly everyone has a “Hiring NOW” sign above the front door.
I turned on my heel and walked out. Not the first time.
Melissa had warned me about Eicher’s, which is a nursery just north of her house.
“Take your credit card,” she said, grinning.
Yesterday I headed back late in the afternoon after dumping some $150, so far over the last week or so. I was stumbling around, finding a few things here and there. Then I ran into Erin out in the expansive, sun-splashed perennials.
About thirty with a nose ring, Erin has the freckles and high energy of someone who lives to be outside. She’s been at Eicher’s for a long time, and it shows. She took pity on my paltry knowledge of plants and took me around her showy pieces. Now I was the one with the nose ring.
Within minutes Erin had directed me to succulents, loaded up my cart, then given me a dictionary’s worth of advice on how to plant, where to plant and what to look for. I showed her some photos and then we were off looking for forsythia bushes. I loaded one of those on, too. More ice plants. More succulents. She put a few more and grinned at me.
“You’ll want these for those barrels,” she laughed.
I figured I might have about $100 worth of plants.
More like $220, especially after we loaded up a big fat bag of specialty compost just for Colorado gardens.
Well crap. I’m not putting anything back.
This morning I was up doing my run at 6 am, then opened my garage and hove to. Six hours later the big, ugly, empty barrels on my front door step where festooned with ice plants and tall succulents basking in the sun. I planted and planted and planted. Then I cleaned out old leaves and spent flowers and swept. I even spent an hour cutting back the overly -eager ground cover that was chasing the sun so hard it covered half the sidewalk.
By midday I was both tired and stupid proud of myself.
The forsythia is planted proudly. The detritus is removed. So is the cash in my bank account.
I’m not even half done. As I walk the yard, I can see where I could use this plant, another tree, and um…more ground cover over here.
No wonder folks go broke.
You get what you pay for. I got expertise, excellent advice, lots of superb suggestions, a two-year guarantee on the more expensive plants, and a great deal of guidance and support.
I’m going back to see Erin this week to pick out a big tree and another bush. More ground cover.
It’s easy to see how gardening can become addictive. I can just hear all my neighbors mumbling “Well it’s about damned TIME…” after watching my showcase yard slowly deteriorate over the last twelve years. I remember back when I’d first moved in and Marge, my then-immediate neighbor to the north, admonished me to mind my yard. It was expected you see. We’re watching you, was the message. Since then I’d let the neighborhood down ratherly badly (and my poor plants and trees). Marge is long gone now, replaced by (that asshole Jerry) who likes to cut branches off my enormous pines, but that’s another story. He doesn’t care. Everyone else does, though.
The Other Benefits
Several other right wonderful things happened during my six long hours outside.
First, I had fun. I’m learning a brand new skill, some new terminology, and that always gives me pleasure.
Second, I met a bunch of my neighbors. A few had no idea I’d lived here for twelve years. Others brought by their puppers, including two simply enormous Great Danes, a border collie, a tiny poodle. Who are these people? They were wondering the same thing about me.
Third, I got into several lengthy conversations with folks I found out lived right down the street. I run by their house every single day. Now I know Peg and John. They’ve been in Colorado the same forty-plus years I have.
Finally, I have the pleasure of forming a relationship with a smart, engaging, and immensely talented young woman who really, truly knows her stuff. I appreciate that Erin’s personally invested in my success and that she takes a great deal of pride in her work. Boomers take note: she’s a Millennial. As with all great, broad, sweeping generalizations about generations, Erin’s a perfect example of why I hate it when folks complain about the “younger generation.” There are plenty of Erins out there. Just like there are plenty of Baby Boomer employees at Home Depot who could care less, fail to invest in the customer and who have no clue what the truck brought in. This is why we all deserve to be treated as unique individuals.
Home Depot, you might want to take note. Those of us who shop for garden supplies and plants, even though we might like a deal (Eichers’ has a frequent buyer program but it won’t save me from spending my way to the poorhouse), many of us would easily spend more in order to work with well-trained, well-informed employees who love their work. I will go back because of Erin. It’s getting damned hard to find folks who have stuck with their work long enough to get good at it, to say the least, enthusiastic, happy and infectious enough so that I will buy anything Erin loads on my cart. That’s because she’s taken a personal interest in the health and welfare of my budding garden (pun intended). She remembers what I bought, wants to know how those barrels look, and has lots more (expensive but very high quality) suggestions about what to do with those open spaces in the east of my yard.
I’m going to take her advice.
And probably go broke. However, I will be having a helluva good time as I do.