November 1, 2011

Getting Wet for a Good Cause

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that working around Paul Miskovsky is an invitation to get wet.  Very wet. 

You may remember that back in July, I helped Paul build an exhibit for the Newport Flower Show.  On the last day of the 'build', it rained so hard that I squished all the way home.  I eventually ended up with a cold that lasted two weeks.  But I digress.

Paul's original whiteboard sketch
Three months ago, I watched with fascination as Paul sketched on a whiteboard in a classroom at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley.  He had just come from a non-descript parcel of land between the Society's main parking lot and its entry gate, where he had wielded two cans of orange spray-paint on the scraggly grass, pines and scrub oaks that were the principal occupants of the site. 

He was sketching out a new, 800-square-foot garden to serve as the entryway to the Society's Elm Bank complex and, as part of a weekly lecture series, was now soliciting ideas as to what this new garden ought to look like from the 40 or so people assembled .  He drew circles and ovals and reeled off the Latin names of plants as easily as if he were an emissary of the Holy Roman Empire.  The room full of people watched, alternately transfixed and shouting out plant names that Paul accepted or countered.

Two and a half months went by and Paul’s landscaping business on Cape Cod took front and center stage.  Yes, it mostly rained in Wellesley during August and September, but at least it was warm rain.  I circled tentative work dates on my calendar and the dates were wiped out because some kettle hole in Wellfleet or estate in Weston cried out for a transformation.
Paul Miskovsky at the
site of the new garden

Then, a month ago, Paul called and said he would be at Elm Bank with a back hoe and some rocks and could I stop by to help?  I did, and three massive rocks went into place.  Fifty cubic yards of premium topsoil quickly followed. 

Two weeks later, Paul again called and said he had some plants for the site.  A group of us – primarily Betty's Master Gardener pals - shoved and nudged a half-dozen massive specimen trees into place and planted 30 hydrangeas.  For many gardens, the work would have been deemed to be done.  For Paul, of course, it was just beginning.  Ten days later, a 36-foot box truck rolled up, this one crammed with two additional varieties of hydrangea, boxwood and forsythia, plus fifteen flats of Japanese forest grass.  This time, of course, it was pouring rain.

Some of the volunteers who helped
build the garden.  Double-click on
the inage to get a better sense of
the cultivars being used.
When it rains and the temperature is, say, 45 degrees, an army of volunteers can shrink to a handful.  In this case, the corps of workers consisted of three very dedicated Master Gardeners, Betty, and me, plus Mike Falzone, a member of Paul’s full-time crew.  In the course of four hours, we planted at least four dozen full-sized shrubs and three topiary trees, re-contoured the site and made it look attractive for an evening event.  Paul dug holes with a Bobcat, then pitched in to complete the plantings.  Having forgotten his rain slicker, Paul did his work wearing a pair of fetching, black trash bags.

The garden is still not finished.  There remains a slate walk to be laid and small shrubs to be integrated into the site.  But the vision created on a whiteboard in July has been turned into a reality.  Now, as people approach the gates of the Elm Bank gardens, they’ll have had a foretaste of what is to come.  It is a garden that will be rich in color and texture and one that has appeal twelve months of the year.  It won’t have the size of the 'name' gardens inside the Society's gates, but it will tell the visitor that there are more treasures inside. 

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