Do-It-Yourself Gardeners


The willingness and capability of some gardeners to just do it all themselves never ceases to amaze me. Whether the incentive is to increase the value of their property (would that really motivate people to do all of that hard work?), take pride in the finished product, enjoy the process, or express their personal ideals, those hands-on gardeners make a huge investment of time and energy.

People who do it themselves with stonework particularly come to mind. Whether they’re using a crowbar and a garden tractor, or renting a backhoe, working with stone is dirty, heavy, exhausting, labor-intensive work.

I’m sure that’s why, when Dan’s casual, Zen approach to creating rustic rock walls that resemble fence rows doesn’t quite match up with my aesthetic sense, he reminds me how much more this would cost if we had to pay someone else to do all of the labor. Thank goodness he enjoys doing it so much that my contribution to the project is confined to selecting, placing, and planting the plants that decorate it.

One older couple I met did everything themselves --- with hand tools. I am not talking about teeny-weeny rocks here, but boulders, some as large as 3’ x 5’. Because the wife wanted to learn the traditional way of building dry-laid stone walls, she apprenticed herself to a noted stone mason for several years, before attempting her own projects. Once the stone was delivered, she studied each piece carefully to determine where it should go. Then her husband moved the stone to its approximate location and she did the rest. Oh, did I mention she is “disabled?”

Yesterday, I visited a younger couple who had done amazing stonework, too. You would not think it was “cheating” that they used a backhoe, if you saw the final product. But, as with most other dedicated do-it-yourself gardeners, that was not the only thing they did themselves.

Earlier this spring, I visited a couple whose stunning gardens looked professionally designed. No, each tree had been limbed up (to about 25 feet), and every last one of the thousands of plants hand selected and planted by the homeowners.

While everyone may not have the time or interest for this type of intensive gardening, the ones who do can all serve as an inspiration for the rest of us, especially the neophyte gardeners who lack the confidence to just begin.

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