If you had asked me three years ago if I was ever going to have a gardener, I probably would have thought you were out of your tree. Sure, I loved the idea of lush greenery and fresh vegetables, but in my mind, it was simply not worth the finding the time and expending all the effort to deal with a gardener every day from spring till fall: way too much hassle. Nothing seemed more tiring than having to figure out what my gardener was going to have to plant and where to order him to plant it—all the countless headaches of getting someone to take care of the garden just seemed overwhelming. To say nothing of the hours and hours I'd have to put in under the deck umbrella watching his every move, making sure every last detail was exactly as I wanted it. Everything about it just screamed "No, thanks!"
But my mother and sister and the servants kept insisting that I needed to get out and be more active. "Why Susan," they'd say. "Look at you! You barely have the energy to get out of bed after breakfast each morning!" They kept telling me how rewarding it was to have a gardener, what wonders an outdoor hobby would do to invigorate my delicate constitution. So I finally gave in and decided to give gardenering a try.
And you know what? They were right! And now I can't imagine life without a gardener any more than I could without stables, the wine buyer, or my kitchen staff!
I recommend starting out slowly. At the beginning, I only had the gardener come once a week. It was difficult at first—gardeners, as it happens, speak an entirely different language than we do, so you have to communicate through pointing and short commands, somewhat like a dog—but once I got out there in the sun and fresh air, I really started to enjoy myself. In less than a month I found myself looking forward to little Paulo's arrival more and more. Now it's a rare day that I don't have him come out to do some gardening every day, even if only for a couple of hours on account of the pouring rain.
Spending time in the garden has really changed my outlook on life. Seeing a fellow human come into such commune with the delicacies of nature, hour after hour, day after day, just to grow flowers to make the view from your window slightly prettier to look at—well, it really makes you enjoy looking out that window that much more. Watching someone dig a hole and plant a tiny seed, and then spend months weeding around it, making sure this precious little life has enough water, is a truly remarkable thing to behold from the porch. It gives one new insight into the elegance of the changing seasons and a greater understanding of the mysterious forces of Mother Earth, an almost spiritual way of experiencing the subtleties of the employee/employer relationship. Having a gardener really helps you appreciate your place in a world where gardeners have to dig holes for a living and you do not.
Getting decent help is never easy, and trying to cultivate a good gardener can be a nightmare. It never ends! And once you finally get your gardener just the way you want him, there's still all that actual gardening work left to watch being done by him.
As I got really invested in overseeing my garden, it became more Zen–like and meditative. It was incredibly freeing to have someone else attending to the infinitesimal fluctuations in my beautiful and complex half-acre garden. I really fell into the role.
Eating food that was picked only minutes ago and then carried over to your lounge chair is a completely different experience. I was so overwhelmed the first time I tried it, I had the cook throw out the dinner she had been preparing all day and had her make a salad out of the fresh ingredients. I've seen Marietta sweat by that stove plenty of times, but few of her meals were ever as satisfying as that simple salad, one that I myself had overseen from seed to salad bowl.
There's just nothing like the feeling of working with your hands, gesturing this way and that, ordering a gardener around in the great gated outdoors. I've even grown to appreciate that clichéd summer drink, ice-cold lemonade. You can never truly realize how refreshing it is until you've spent a long, hot day watching someone get dirt under their fingernails.
At first I feared that my husband would think I was a little batty to spend so much time tending to the gardener, but now he sits on the porch with me after he gets home from the country club every night. He's even been saying that I have a green index finger, because everything I point to seems to blossom and grow. And you know something? I think he's right.