Tuesday, September 4, 2012

a tribute to mexican gardeners

Due to our remodel the first half of the year, we let the yard get completely out of control. The sprinklers got cut by the construction work on one side of the yard, and we never repaired them. The tress and plants look a little overgrown and wilty.

mid-century modern landscape
Center courtyard landscape
The picture above isn't a bad angle, it is really the way our side yard looks. This side yard faces the center patio, so I see it every single day, and we use this patio for entertaining. This bit of our yard annoys me on a regular and ongoing basis. 

Our side yard that faces the center patio (very mid-century home design) was once was a cool little Japanese garden designed by Albert. Here is a Japanese lantern, that really lights up, hidden in the foliage.

mid-century modern landscape
Hidden Japanese lantern.

To make way for the construction, we moved a bunch of sheds and stuff to one side of the house and never moved it back. And we dismantled an organic garden to make way for the new bathrooms. Well Albert did, and then he cleverly stacked it up like benches.

Stuff stacked next to the house plus Albert's little bench invention
of organic bed planks on top of tomato plant wine barrels. Boo.

The yard has sat neglected up to May when the remodel ended and then through the summer. To be fair, we aren't too committed to yard work, as we have eliminated all grass, and used pavers, gravel & succulent everywhere else. But, frankly it was getting embarrassing.

Giant Bird of Paradise
Giant Bird of Paradise

Our Giant Bird of Paradise looked positively prehistoric and all Jurassic Parky. And a squirrel was living in it. Time to do something.

First, we talked to a landscape designer about the back strip of land left devastated by the remodel. We asked for a quote on a bigger idea then just the back strip of land. He wanted muchos grande $$$.  So we peeled the landscaper back JUST to the devastated strip of land in the back of the remodel and called Miguel.

Everyone in Southern California has a Miguel. The Mexican gardener is a staple of  Southern California life. Miguel has worked on our yard for years. Well, his guys have. Since we actually don't even have a lawn, we aren't totally sure what they do, since we aren't home when they do it. For sure they blow. Love it or hate it, the leaf blower is the ubiquitous sound you wake up to most Saturday and Sunday mornings. Not to digress but here is a well written and thought provoking USC sociology research paper by Ramirez/HondaGneu-Sotelo on "Mexican Immigrant Gardeners: Entrepreneurs or Exploited Workers?" Interesting point, "Gardeners still walk a tightrope, acting simultaneously as empowered entrepreneurs and as subjugated service workers."

I texted Miguel about trimming back the trees and foliage on the side yard. He immediately called back and was at our house thirty minutes later to quote (8:30pm on a Tuesday night). His quote was less $$$, and he PROMISED that his guys wouldn't do a hatchet job on the trees, even though he would be on vacation in Hawaii with his family. I don't know why I believed him.

mid-century modern landscape
The stuff on the ground is the trees, piled two feet high.

mid-century modern landscape
If you squint your eyes, you can see a guy in the tree.

Sure enough, our trees have been topped but good. It will be three years before they grow out.

mid-century modern landscape
The middle part is still over grown but we didn't want them to hack up our rare exotic Safari Sunset.

A former neighbor who sold her house and retired in New Mexico, said our home was once owned by a lady Australian botanist. We find some odd plants here and there, like the Safari Sunset in the middle of the picture above, that survived the next homeowners after the lady botanist. The subsequent owners, rumor has it, ripped out her rare rose bush collection, and tore out most of her hard work.

mid-century modern landscape
See the cute little Japanese bridge and the geisha house lights?

Frankly, the yard is not that pretty right now (maybe worse after the tree trim) but we will fix it up and you will be surprised. Swear. And all the crap junk that was in the backyard is gone thanks to Albert and Alex utilizing Labor Day in the literal sense of the word.

Junk is gone! You can see the house and the back corner yard.
What shall we do with it? Stay tuned!

Now the crap junk is in the front yard.

Things to get rid of.

Which is one step closer to out the front gate. Progress.

Related Posts: 
Landscaping Disaster Post Mid-Century Modern Remodel
Dwell on Design Landscape Idea #1 Modern Trellis
Dwell on Design Landscape Idea #2 Modern Wall Planters and Outdoor Furniture


  1. Why is it so freakin' hard to get someone to do your yard the way you want it? I had some really good lawn guys for about 15 years, but they kept raising the price till some months, when they trimmed the shrubs and fertilized, my bill was $500. Now an off-duty fireman does the yard for $100 a month, and it looks awful. I've told him over and over what I want, and he just doesn't get it. I guess you really do get what you pay for.

    Like a bad haircut, trees and shrubs really do grow back though, and I know you'll get yours just the way you want it before long.

  2. Dana you are up late :). I figured this post would strike a note with a few people. I specifically said, keep some height on the trees and he promised. I actually liked our former jungle look but it had gone a little extreme. Poor naked babies. Our next door neighbor has a great gardener. I checked the prices. Gulp. I guess you get what you pay for.

  3. My gardener (whom I adore) told me the other day that he is bidding on a house to buy for a rental property, so I guess business is good. But he works really hard and does in a half hour what it would take me several hours to do, so he is worth every penny. I don't let him near my trees though (liability issues).

    1. Hey Donna...did you read the research paper? It is really interesting and tells how this is an upworldy mobile type job and the good gardeners do well, but make their money on the "extra" work, like trimming trees. Not the mow/blow. Although I know you have zero grass. Hmmm. May need to feature your yard. It is so beautiful.


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