Uncle Steven

There’s a scene in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” where Tim Robbins’ character comes to an epiphany and concludes, “… it’s time to get busy living … or get busy dying.” I think most of us have hit that fork in the road at some point, and for me, it was right in the middle of that blazing heat of August 1st, which would have been my grandmother’s 101st birthday. I took a moment to reflect and decided in that moment that sometimes reflecting is kind of like standing on the high dive – the view is nice and all, but the moment really calls for some action.

So I jumped onto the computer and signed up for the Garden Writers of America annual conference up in Valley Forge, PA. Both Greg Grant and Ann McCormick (garden writers, of course) had told me about the conference, and although I couldn’t really afford it, I was booked for flight, hotel, and conference inside half an hour. An hour after that, I was wondering if the move had been truly bold or simply foolish. Cruising over planet Earth at 30,000 feet some four weeks later with a zillion ideas careening around inside my head and fond memories of meeting so many wonderful people (including Neil’s other GARDENS Magazine Contributing Editors Bill Adams and Diane Morey Sitton), I decided that I was busy living.

When I got back to work at Chandor Gardens, it was still 100 degrees outside, but the garden looked different to me. I envisioned making drastic changes to several prominent areas of the garden – kind of an “Extreme Makeover at Chandor Gardens.” When the calendar rolled October 1 and the new budget year kicked in, I knew it was indeed “time to get busy living” again. All of those ideas that had been stewing in my head for so long suddenly came to a boil one Sunday morning and kind of erupted into a slew of sloppily-drawn but amazingly inspired plans. I hit the phone Monday morning, and by noon, I had spent over half my horticulture budget for the entire year. Yeah, it was a bit scary, but real living takes real gumption, and it felt good to be pushing things a bit. (Neil’s deep voice rolls into my subconscious … “‘Pushing things a bit?’ For decades you and I have been preaching that fall is the best time to plant. It’s fall. Get busy!!!” So … who am I to argue with a hallucination starring Neil?)

Yesterday, the truck rolled up and dropped enough stuff to recreate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Today, the shovel hit the dirt. We ripped out the old plantings on the north side of the Silver Garden in record time. We were great. We had momentum. We were kickin’ tail and takin’ names. Toby, my ever-so-able assistant, was driving the heaping load of tired-looking purple leaf plums off to the compost pile while I was tilling away like a big dog, singing Huey Lewis songs out loud in the sunshine. Life was grand.

And then, right on time, Murphy stopped by for a quick visit. Have you ever noticed the way a tiller jumps for joy when it finds a sprinkler head? Have you ever noticed that sprinkler lines never break off within the top 3 feet of soil? Have you ever noticed the hoards of people who finally come to visit your garden the very moment you are out of your mind, bent over a Volkswagen-sized hole, and covered in mud, fire ants, and blue glue?

Being burly men, we pressed onward. By the time the sun was setting, the junipers stood tall, the roses blushed, the pansies smiled, and the sago palm sang to the heavens from its protected corner. My back is aching, my head hurts a little, I’m still peeling blue glue off of my hands, and I suppose I could use a shower. (Geesh, even the dog left the room!) I’m blowing off a cool TV show to write this for you now, and it feels really good. This is living. This is what I was made for. This is the good stuff!
I’ll sleep well tonight, knowing that I have 18 sumptuous sweet viburnums, nine fence-swallowing evergreen wisterias, 14 graceful maidengrasses, and a herd of other horticultural delights waiting to greet me first thing in the morning, and the other delivery truck is due in at about 10 a.m. Hmm … better preset that coffee maker with a full pot.

About the author: Steven L. Chamblee is Chief Horticulturist at Chandor Garden in Weatherford. He is also a contributing editor to Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine, where his writing appears each issue. For more information, visit www.chandorgardens.com.

Come out to Chandor Gardens and see us sometime. Just take I-20 west to exit 409, hang a right, go 2.1 miles and hang a left on Lee Avenue . Head straight twelve blocks and you’re driving in the gates.

Call 817-361-1700 to let us know you’re coming and we’ll light the incense and show you around. You can always go to www.chandorgardens.com for a picture tour and more information.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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