Pulse: Social Diary: The Battle of Waterloo (Gardens)

Last year, my husband John and I were at a party when he ran into a banker he knows. We met the banker’s beautiful wife, who was so buoyant, tall, blond and fun that she looked glamorous even though she was wearing a cocktail dress with cowboy boots. (We all were: it was the “Black Tie and Boots” event for the Devon Horse Show.) As we waited for Carson Kressley, the honorary chair, to arrive in his limo from New York (he’s a champion hunter-jumper — who knew?), we talked about Mrs. Banker’s passion for gardening, and how her family lived all summer on the asparagus and tomatoes she grew. “The asparagus stalks grow overnight,” she told me, which sounded amazing in a Year in Provence/Days of Heaven-ish kind of way. It made me wonder: Is there cachet in tending your own daylilies and veggies, as I’ve always suspected?

“It’s tomato lust,” says our friend P., who inherited a massive garden when he and his wife bought an old farm in Lower Gwynedd, in which he grew delicate heirloom varieties, along with eggplant and squash. “We were giving away produce to neighbors and friends. It was the best.” P.’s tale then turns darker. “The next year, we decided to put in a center square with a walkway, and boy, there’s some math involved in laying a stone walkway,” he recalls, sighing. After years of composting and devising “irrigation scenarios,” P. says, he and his wife had a baby, after which their yard was marched on by an obdurate family of slugs: “We looked at each other and said, ‘I’m done.’”

Which may explain a new approach to gardening that’s sweeping the Main Line: It’s called hiring a landscaper. “I go outside looking for that gratification from being one with Mother Nature,” confesses my friend D., “and all I feel is hot, sweaty, buggy, itchy, thirsty, irritable and bitchy.” D. is a former model who’s constantly repainting her Gladwyne house (actually, you know, doing the labor, with rollers and brushes) and sewing her own living room drapes. But she told me I was cuckoo last fall after I spent hours planting bulbs — and then more hours at the chiropractor. She was right. A herd of deer ate all the tulips in April.

Maybe I was nostalgic for the old days — 1982 — when it seemed everyone did their own gardening. A recent trip to Waterloo Gardens confirmed that Wasps are still at it, with erstwhile Bree Van De Kamps and their husbands packing their SUVs with $22 flats of pansies and heaping bags of peat moss. They made it look so easy. I doubted that deer and slugs ever darkened their driveways.

So I was feeling a bit discouraged about the whole thing until one afternoon when my neighbor Sandra popped over as I was staring moodily at a rosebush. She was toting an armload of her magnificent pink roses. “You need my rose man,” she observed kindly, divulging that this guru visits her garden weekly to work magic on her plantings. She caught my surprised look. “No one grows roses on their own,” she explained.

The relief was indescribable. Freed from guilt and gardening gloves, I’m now considering adopting D.’s plan for the summer. “I’ll stick to my screened-in porch,” she says, “and watch the young, buff college boys take care of my yard as I’m sipping a drink.”

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