Monday, September 29, 2008

Gardeners for the Gartners

I'm going to try very hard not to complain about this. I realize how very blessed we are to live in such a beautiful place in the midst of a tropical garden. It is amazing, and we take such delight in sitting out here on the deck looking at God's creation.
We are also very blessed to be able to hire gardeners to take care of all these plants, especially given that we live on a very steep hillside. Don's first and last attempt to climb out on that hill resulted in him sliding down hill and slamming into a tree (thank God for that tree, otherwise he may have slid another 1000 ft. and disappeared forever into the ravine - ok, maybe that's a slight exaggeration!). So we are happy to delegate that job to someone else.
Last Saturday, we had two brothers work for us, trimming and cleaning up the yard. Their dad had worked for us for several days two weeks ago, but he didn't work out too well. The last day he was to work for us, he sent his sons instead. The older boy is maybe 15 or so and works regularly for Merlin. The younger brother is somewhere around 10 or 12, still pretty small. They worked more quickly and efficiently than their dad, and we were pleased with them. They are young and agile and seem to have no problem scampering up and down the hillside as they clear and haul the clippings down into the ravine at the bottom.
So, last Saturday the boys showed up again and not having Merlin here to interpret, I had to pantomime what I wanted them to start doing; they seemed to understand and got right to work. Don, in the meantime, had dashed off to the ferreteria to buy a hoe. When he returned, they began clearing the weeds and grass from the hillside. They also had clippers to use in trimming some of the shrubs.
Sometime later, Don came in and said "honey, you'd better come out here and look at this. They've cut down your favorite bush....Now, be calm. Don't go out there and yell. What's done is done." So, with great effort, I went out quietly and peered over the deck, and sure enough, they had chopped it in half. This is the Pride of Barbados shrub that you see in the photo at the upper left of this page. It is gorgeous. Or was. It's true that it had grown way above the deck, but the hummingbirds and butterflies liked it that way. So did I.

This is my beheaded Pride of Barbados.

It's hard to question why they did it with my very limited Spanish and their zero English. When they saw my very sad face, the older brother indicated that it would grow back, and I'm sure it will, but it will take several months. I was noticing how he had cut the hibiscus bushes back, and he cuts back pretty severely, by at least 1/3. Thankfully, the rainy season is just starting, so everything will grow more quickly.
We were expecting another older man to come today who has worked for us before. He never showed up. We still have lots of clearing, trimming, raking and planting to do. All the banana and plantain trees need to be thinned out and cleaned up, and there are many of them all the way around our property.
Here is the overgrown hillside.

Thinned out line of banana trees.

Lest you think that this is a real luxury (ok, I guess it is), I should mention what we pay them. The standard rate is 250 lempira per day, or $13.00. And let me tell you, that is backbreaking labor. They earn every penny of it (well, except maybe for the dad...). No kid in the U.S. would do that kind of heavy labor for that little money. During the rainy season, we'll need someone for about 2 weeks every month, after that, maybe only one week per month.

Just an aside, from Don:
When our shipment left our house in St. Louis in July, it had "Gartner" written on all the papers. When it arrived at Jackson Shipping in Tampa, FL, we became "Gardner". When it arrived at Jackson Shipping in French Harbor, Roatan, we became "Gardener." Now I know how our ancestors got their names changed when they immigrated to the United States.


  1. Jeanette,
    I'm so sorry to hear about your Pride of Barbados. It is one of my favorite plants too. I don't have one, but they make me so happy when I see them.
    If you'd like a crash course in what to say or not to say to gardeners in Spanish let me know. Also, there is a great web site called that I use to verify things that I am writing in Spanish from time to time. You could type up what you want to say and select the free translation. You might even print the page so that you wouldn't have to try to pronounce the words the right way. :)

    Thanks for sharing your stories. :)

  2. Yes, you should definitely learn to say "don't cut this" or don't touch this- if nothing else!

    Maybe one day you'll find a gardener who both works well AND speaks a little English!

    At least you do know the plant will grow back quickly! Speaking of which, has it started to cool down yet??

  3. Maria,
    Yes, we have that free translation and have used it with the gardeners. I do have to write it down and then hope they'll understand my pronunciation! But then I don't understand what they reply. I was just so flustered when they cut down my Pride that I couldn't even think. And really, I never thought they would do that.

    Yeah, I dream of getting a bilingual gardener. I would hate to have to follow him around all day.
    Yes, it has begun cooling down, currently 81 degrees at noon with a nice cool breeze.