yard nazis, part 1

A friend of mine, the late Margaret V., lived in a retirement community in Arcata, California. Though she wasn’t a major gardener, she did like to plant a few flowers on the borders of her lot and place potted flowers on the steps up to her home. Every summer, I’d get at least one letter from her complaining about “yard nazis”, maintenance staff who weed-whacked this border flower she’d nursed all summer or, inexplicably, knocked over that potted flower on her steps. She’d be livid!

I lived in a regulation house at the time, and always had a big garden in back, nice flower beds in front, that I worked years to get just so. I worked very hard to improve the soil until it required almost no effort to turn, it was so loamy. I double-dug all beds and amended the soil every year. All that in a yard that started with clay soil.

Then I had major illness (Wegener’s granulomatosis), which made maintaining a yard of that size more than I could manage. We moved that fall to the retirement apartments where I live now, a pleasant if not fancy duplex that started out as WWII housing. The yard maintenance, we were assured, was handled by staff, as was snow removal, and so on. One could, however, have a small garden along the foundations of the apartment, if one wished.


Bluebells are pretty, but, like morning glories, have a weedy growth habit. I dug out tons of them at the house. They return without mercy and they spread like the weed they are.

I tried small scale gardening at the apartment the first summer. Someone before planted a variety of flowers and roses I didn’t particularly care for (other than one climbing yellow rose): Bluebells, morning glories, some wimpy plant that hates dry conditions and looks like hell when fully hydrated (name?), iris (which are lovely for a couple of weeks once a year, then not so much), snow-on-the-mountain, two awful artificial-looking red roses with no scent, and a nice yellow rose (also no scent). Not to my taste mostly, but, well, not tragic. I’d try to work them out over years. Gardening, if nothing else, is an exercise in patience and planning. Oh yeah, and hope!

yellow rose

This yellow rose has a clean, floral scent, and grows outside my bathroom window. It is the one rose at the apartment I do like.

Management or an earlier tenant used crushed rock to cover unplanted areas as a weed control and to make things look pretty. Like hell! Hell to dig, though I finally broke through using a garden fork I fortuitously brought from my old home on the chance I’d one day be able to garden again. What I found under the rock was compacted, worn out soil much like I’d started out with and spent years building up with composed leaves and grass at the house. “Shit,” I thought! No, at that point, shit of the right kind would have made me very happy!

Also, I left a huge rhubarb patch at the house, thinking it wouldn’t be right to take any with us when the new owners could enjoy it as much as we. The new owners tore it out and tossed the plants in the trash. (My old neighbors tattled on the new owner…!) They had no idea what to do with it or that a couple of the neighbors always enjoyed large amounts of it each year because we shared it with them.

There were some neighborhood rhubarb patches at the apartment complex, a plant here and there, but the old neighbors scouted it out and usually beat me to it. They’d lived here longer. They knew the routine. I resolved to plant my own, which I documented elsewhere in this blog. It took two, three years to get an amount of rhubarb that gave us a taste of it each year, if nowhere what we had at the house.


I was so happy when I finally got rhubarb to grow in the dead soil out back! I added lots of compost and fertilizer to the spot where I planted it, and, unlike my first, failed effort, had the lovely early spring surprise you see in the photo!

8 thoughts on “yard nazis, part 1

  1. Kansas is an acquired taste, for sure. My kids never understood why I stayed here after seeing so much of the country.. until they had kids, that is. They realize the simple beauty here and a great place for raising kids. Even with no beaches..
    PS.. Finally seeing some red tomatoes in the garden.. ate two of them today and they were heaven.

    • I envy you the tomatoes!

      Nebraska is like that- an acquired taste. There used to be a columnist who wrote a humorous column for the Omaha World-Herald (Robert McMorris), who was a transplant from Iowa (I think) to Nebraska. He loved the state, and created a “Nebraska for Nebraskans” society that had the sole purpose of making sure any negative comments about the state were heavily publicized. The point, of course, was to discourage in-migration or people stopping in the state and lowering the liveability of this precious place! Ha! It was a hilarious concept, one I approved of! It was created for a laugh, but there is some sense to it, too.

      I suspect Kansas is a similar place worth keeping to oneself just in case outsiders “Californicate” the state as happened in Oregon or a variety of in-comers have done to muck up Colorado, as two notorious examples illustrate.

      Feel free to form your own “Kansas for Kansans” organization!

    • I think you are right! It amazes me the numbers of active bloggers there are and the seemingly endless themes of their blogs! Mine is my cats mostly, but other interests and concerns sneak in.

  2. Great, healthy looking garden. Mine is sort of ordinary this year but is growing okay. Am having a hard time with garlic.. was looking forward to it. No flowers this year, just food.

    • Actually, my garden is a mess! If you take close ups, things look better than they are. The roses were in bloom earlier this spring-summer, and the rhubarb photo was from the first year I finally got some to grow in the terrible soil available to me. I’d amended the soil quite a bit to get the result. The real garden is in the second and third parts of the yard nazi blogs. It’s a much sadder picture!

      • Ahhh.. well the plants look good. I do have a couple of beautiful climber roses in the front but one of them was struck with something called rosette disease. Supposedly, all the plants around them will get it and there is no cure. Our dirt in Kansas takes some working but not everything grows well here. Great to have a kindred gardener on here!

      • Great to have a Kansan pop up here! It is odd (to me) that I’ve spent enough time in all the states bordering on Nebraska to say I have some familiarity with them, yet the only time I’ve been in Kansas is when I missed a turn on the way home from Denver, and ended up there! Well, the edge of Kansas, so it doesn’t count. I’m in the wheat growing end of the state (the Panhandle), so the harvest crews head here as soon as they harvest the wheat in Kansas.

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