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Vacation inspires good kind of gardening thievery

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I watched him climb an aluminum ladder nearly 30 feet into the air with a 2-foot machete. At first I thought he was going after the coconuts.

That wasn’t his goal. With another guy dressed in the same green khaki uniform stabilizing the bottom of the ladder, he quickly and meticulously trimmed off the brown, dead hanging fronds and skin, leaving the tree perfectly shaved. The clean-shaven trunk, an earthen brown from ground level, now blended into the smooth lime-green upper fourth section of the 40-foot tree.

It made a huge difference in the appearance of the tree. And I realized that even on vacations, like a magnetic force, I’m often captivated by the work the gardeners are performing — enhancing the beauty.

A gardener’s job is interestingly quite similar to many professions, like being a teacher, engineer, parent or writer:

Add the good stuff

Remove the distractions

Tend to the details

Do the work efficiently and creatively, while reminding yourself that your job can be quite fun.

It was on this same vacation last week, that I had the sudden personal revelation that I had been and probably always will be a thief. Not the kind that actually takes physical items that belong to others, but the good kind. A garden thief. When I walk through gardens, I concurrently “collect” (“collect” is a much kinder word than “steal”) ideas for my own backyard.

For instance, I collected the idea of using the common Tradescantia zebrina, (also known as creeping jenny) as an annual ground cover around trees or in bedding plants area when I

noticed it in large supply contrasted against many palm trees. My inner thief was reminded to purchase and plant some Indiana-hardy non-invasive bamboo as I read my newest edition of Indiana Gardening Magazine in a hammock next to a bamboo clump off my little vacation patio.

Like commonplace books which are depositories for life’s wisdom learned from people I met along the way, I confess that I’ve stolen at least one grand gardening idea from every garden I’ve ever strolled through. Not that I will ever use all these stolen tidbits, but you might as well know, there’s no such thing as a Garden Thief in remission.

Admit it, you’ve never actually heard anyone say out loud: “Hi, I’m Janet — and I am a recovering Garden Thief.” Those people don’t exist. But the garden thieves are the people who walk through your small or large garden with honest, wide sparkling eyes, muttering, “Oh, my goodness, your place is beautiful.” They’re the ones who understand and appreciate the callused handshake of every potted plant display and garden design that makes Johnson County more beautiful.

Janet Hommel Mangas, the third of seven children, grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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