Landscaper Appreciation Day

I think there should be a day solely dedicated to the Landscaper. The guy who gets up at the butt-crack of dawn to mow your lawn, trim your hedges, pick your weeds, build your retainer walls and haul your mulch because you’re too damn lazy to do it yourself.

My husband, Dave, had this past week off of work. This only means trouble for me because Dave doesn’t know or understand the word, vacation. You know, that idle time we all need now and again to re-charge our mental batteries, do fun, leisurely activities and sleep in late.


Instead, on Sunday morning last weekend, he rose out of bed and said, “Let’s go to Home Depot.”


I knew what that meant. We had been discussing building a retainer wall on our parkway in between two huge oak trees. The reason we wanted to build the wall was simply because nothing grew in between the trees; unless you think mold is a plant.

The ground on the parkway was nothing but hardened dirt with large arteries popping out of the ground from the oak trees–kind of like the same type of arteries you’d see on a body builder on steroids. Our plan was to build the retainer wall, place that black sheet stuff (I don’t know what you call it; I’m not a Landscaper–although I should be one now–fill it with dirt to build it up, level it off, and then top it off with mulch and plants.

However, I had to be a little more creative than this–in hindsight, maybe stupid is a better word.

I just couldn’t build an oval retainer wall. That would be boring. Instead, I spray-painted an outline that was curvy on both sides. This meant that there would be gaps in the parkway. With my mind in creative landscaper overdrive, I thought of river stone. We’d fill in the gaps on the outside of the retainer wall with beautiful river stone. I was envisioning stone that was medium-sized; the kind you would find along the beach and put into your pocket.

Day One: Sunday morning. We drive to Home Depot and I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but my back did. My back was having a discussion with my brain saying, “She’s not going to haul all of that is she? Please tell me she’s not. I’m going to kill her for this if she does.”

And, yes. My back did kill me for what I did to it.

A few hours later Home Depot delivered three tons–yes you read that right–of retainer wall. Two skids dropped on our driveway. Lord knows we couldn’t haul that in our jeep unless we wanted to break the shocks.

The first item on the to-do list was to level the ground so the retainer wall would lay flat. Dave did that while I went upstairs and cried on my bed. I was trying to find an excuse to not move three tons of retainer wall blocks. These weren’t Lego’s, although I tried my best to pretend it was.

With the ground level, we started placing the retainer wall blocks, one by one, on the ground ensuring that each one butted up against the other and was perfectly level, so when the wall was completed it wouldn’t fall over like a big tall building of Lego’s.

About twenty minutes into it, both of us were sweating like guys in the engine room of the Titanic. It wasn’t necessarily a dirty job, but it was a heavy, mother-fricking, back-breaking job which we completed in about four hours. I was deaf most of the time. As a matter of fact, I was deaf for most of this entire project because my cochlear device doesn’t like sweat and shuts off as soon as it feels it’s being showered upon. Therefore, Dave and me worked side by side in silence or using hand gestures to get things done.

If he was swearing at me, I would have no idea.

Once the retainer wall was completed, we had to lay that black sheet stuff (again, I don’t know the name of it, but I should by now, don’t ya think?) We tacked this down with what looked like over-sized bobby pins that the Statue of Liberty would use if she were to get a new extreme makeover.


We went inside for the day and after we showered, loaded up on Motrin and Icy Hot, we had a few stiff drinks and went to dinner. Yeah, I said, “went to dinner.” If you think I was going to cook a five-star meal after moving three tons of retainer wall rock, you can kiss my ass.

Day two. Monday was, in my opinion, the worst day of all. As I was on the return trip of walking the first set of my four dogs, I see a big truck backing up on my driveway.

Dave strikes again.

I put the dogs in the backyard. As I walked toward the front of the house, a big, burly guy was standing there with both hands on his hips.

I mimicked him and said, “Big burly guys shouldn’t be placing their hands on their hips.”

He said, “I got some dirt here for ya.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t think you cared! How thoughtful of you…really. How much is in that truck?”

“Three tons.”

As my face lost its color, the big, burly man asked where he should dump it. My back would have thought, dump it where you loaded it, but instead I told him to dump it as close to the retainer wall as possible.

dirtyshoesWith a wheel barrel in one hand and two shovels and a metal rake in the other, Dave and me began our second day of torture. He filled the barrel and dumped. I raked and leveled. Now, as you know–or maybe not–my balance sucks. My gym shoes were caked with mud on the soles, so walking had become an Olympic event for me. I kept scraping off the caked mud to help keep my balance as Dave relentlessly kept pouring more and more dirt inside the retainer wall area.

This was the dirtiest job of this project. I had dirt in places on my body where I wallanddirtswear I didn’t think dirt had gone before. I had black fingernails for two days and that was after scrubbing them with a scouring pad, brush and power-washer.

Six hours later, the dirt mound was gone. We cleaned up the area (safety first), and headed for the shower, but not before I stripped naked downstairs in the basement to remove my dirt infested clothes, casually walked upstairs wincing from back pain and took a shower wishing that little landscaping elves would come in the middle of the night and finish this damn wall for us.

We indulged in more Motrin, Icy Hot, and stiff cocktails. I don’t even remember if we ate dinner. It was all a blur–a dirty, dark, god-forsaken blur.

Oh, my God. It’s only Tuesday? It felt like a whole week had gone by based on the pain level in my body. I think everything hurt, including my eyebrows. Today’s adventure, or rather delivery, was two tons of 4-6″ Wisconsin boulder. This was not the type of rock you find on the beach and can put into your pocket. These were small boulders. All different sizes and colors, my jaw dropped open as the doors of the truck opened up and the boulders came crashing on my driveway.

boulderI could build Stonehenge with these, or a small fort in case the apocalypse occurred.

I was really tired of sweating, and you know how much I sweat when I’m just standing still. This delivery also came with sand. And, unlike the other deliveries, this one was a little different. It required me to provide careful placement of each boulder. I mean, you can’t just throw the damn things down and expect it to look nice.

One by one, I placed the rocks–like a puzzle–into place on both sides of the retainer wall. I then sifted through the sand to find the smaller rocks to use as filler in between the cracks. This part of the project really didn’t take as long as the retainer wall or dirt. I’m not clear why that was, but perhaps I had gotten so used to the pain, sweat, dirt and mosquito bites on my ass, the time seemed to pass by quicker.

I kept a few of the larger rocks off to the side to place next to plants–or to have Dave throw them at me.

Since we sold our plasma for this project, we had just enough money left for mulch. However, we were sidelined to complete our project by the city we live in. A guy stopped by to ask what we were doing.

Dave said we were building a swimming pool. What the hell did he think we were doing? His concern was the boulder and the retainer wall.

“What’s the issue?” I said.

“Well, if we have to dig into the street or the parkway due to sewer issues, we can’t be responsible for the replacement of the landscaping.”

“So, we’ll sign a waiver. Listen, dude. I’m not moving three tons of retainer wall, three tons of dirt and two tons of boulder because you don’t want to replace my landscaping. I’ve got no place to put this stuff unless you want it up your ass.”

Okay. I didn’t say that, but I felt like saying that. We waited a day to see if they finishedwallwould come back with some sort of answer, but they never did, so on Friday we had six yards of mulch delivered and raked that into place.

We bought plants, which I placed and planted and it’s now done at a fraction of the cost it would have taken if we had hired a Landscaper.

We don’t have any plasma, Motrin, or Icy Hot left, but we have pride in what we accomplished. It’s called sweat equity, and it was worth it.



5 thoughts on “Landscaper Appreciation Day

  1. I was a professional garden designer, landscaper, and personal gardener for eight years in Denver. Imagine doing this. Every. Day. The one-hundred-and-twelve-degree 14-hour days were the memorable ones.

    Here’s my report card on your project. The design is good because a curved line fools the eye into believing something is bigger and longer than it actually is. Takes the eye longer to travel the line. Also, it was a good choice keeping the wall so low. You get into all sorts of flying monkeys when anything is taller than eighteen inches, especially on an easement (actually surprised you got away with that). City inspectors lead joyless lives and have no sense of humor. Takes four separate inspectors just to replace a single concrete block in a sidewalk in Denver. The variety of stone shapes and sizes is excellent and nicely arranged. A thousand extra points for using hosta, it is the miracle perennial. You can divide it every other year and practically start a farm, it grows so well.

    Here’s what you can leave out next time: black plastic. It is evil and must be destroyed. It’s overpriced, it tears and breaks apart easily as the soil shifts through the seasons, it suffocates tree roots so that you are saddled with expensive tree pruning (or removal) later because now the tree is pissed, it fucks up drainage, and if you are layering over a foot of soil of top of it, it’s not going to do much to deter weeds, anyway, because most of them creep along in roots only a few inches down or simply scatter seed from the neighbor’s yard. The only thing anyone really uses it for in the industry is for cement jobs and lining small pots to make into fountains. (Which is fun!) Your trees will probably be okay since they are mature and likely have roots extending even further than their branches into your yard (and even across the street!) where they can get water and oxygen (yes, roots breathe) but you may notice stress the first few years (leap drop, curled leaves, turning color earlier than the other trees, baby branches dying back or simply stopping growth. If you have soil and mulch stacked right up against the trunks, pull it away and make subtle little volcanoes of breathing space. Because rot.

    Here’s what to do next time to reduce swearing. 1. Stretching and lots of breaks for more stretching. 2. Gloves. The fabric ones with the rubber grip palms are the best invention since the support bra. 3. Free mulch from your local tree companies. You can often call to find out when they will be near to you doing a job and just have them dump it in your driveway; saves them a lot of hassle because they don’t have to return to their own dump site before heading out on another job. 4. Gullible friends.

    Friends are the secret ingredient. You throw a Landscaping Barbecue, invite everyone over who has bigger muscles than you, and knock this shit out in one day. Promise them beer but don’t serve it until everything’s done and the meat is on the grill (this is key). Tease them with Free Showers and then have a hose fight in the backyard. If you invite friends who garden, too, you’ll get free plants because we have a plant trading addiction for which there is no cure. It’s even more fun when these are rich gardening friends. (You should see my backyard, and I buy generic toilet paper.) The work party idea can be applied to Painting Pizza Parties, Window Washing Lunches, Brush Removal Barbecues, Garage Redesign Keggers, etc. If you go round robin and all gang up on each other’s projects like this, it’s way fun. Plus, someone always has cooler tools than you and can’t wait to show them off.

    5. Lastly, if you use that dyed orange mulch again, I’ll come over there and kick your ass.

    Nice job.

    1. Thanks for the info and the tips! It’s a little too late to remove that black sheet, but the packaging specified that it provides good drainage. It was almost like cutting sheer fabric. It wasn’t plastic. I will pull back the mulch and dirt away from the bases of the trees a bit. You’re awesome!

      1. No problem. It was fun to reminisce about heatstroke and toned legs.

        About the plastic, consider: everybody says their product cures cancer on the packaging, but if you want the real story, you gotta dig a deeper. Landscaper joke.

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