Wednesday Vignette – communication

To prepare yourselves for this post, contemplate this statement, and envision a hand, indicating a height:

“Cut it to about here.”

For a while now, I’ve been involved with designing a seating area on the Benedictine Monastery campus in Mt Angel. The Sisters offer spiritual walks with members of the community, and the walks culminate near the giant 130′ tall Sequoia that was planted in the late 1800’s by one of the very first Sisters to join the order. The seating area is designed as a place of contemplation and meditation, and will focus on the installation of a new Peace Pole. The work is set to begin in about two weeks, at the end of March. To date, an overgrown red-twig dogwood that was eating the existing flag pole had been removed.

I will show you more about the project in a later post, but for the purpose of this Vignette, suffice it to say that a prominent part of the design are four 40′ x 12′ bermed beds, planted with carefully selected plants that will provide year round color and fragrance. Part of the past few weeks have been spent procuring all these plants, and I have made several trips down to the convent to drop them off. On the last of these trips, I had an errand to the offices. When I got to the top of the stairs, I looked toward the future site, and….. GASPED!!!!

IMG_1404 (1)

The cause for my semi-heart attack was one of the grounds workers, merrily going about cutting back a magnificent Bayleaf (Laurus nobilis). The large shrub was adjacent to one of the four beds, and my plans called for limbing it up. Several of the Sisters had mentioned the Laurel, and wanted it to remain. In my design, I had worked it in to serve as an evergreen backdrop to the fiery branches of a Midwinter Fire dogwood in winter.

The miscommunication, according to the worker, was that he had been told something along the lines of that sentence I asked you to ponder, at the top of this post. I can see how that might have been misunderstood, but jeez-louise…. I wasn’t there when the instructions were given, and I’m not going to pass blame. There are always two sides to each story – at least! No, I just want to make a note of how damn important clear communications are to  e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g  we humans do. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others can read our mind, or to overestimate the notion that others really know what we mean. I’m as guilty of that as just about anyone else. From the receiving end of that scenario, I also want to stress the importance of asking all the questions you need answers to, and eliminating all doubts before making assumptions. Yup, I admit – I can be guilty of that, too.

I went home and emailed my pruning god – Mike at Joy Creek Nursery – to see if there was any hope for recovery for this poor decapitated shrub. He promptly returned a detailed email filled with disbelief, instructions, and – thankfully – some encouragement. It will take some work, and it will take a few years, but there is a chance. We’ll proceed with the project as planned, but – obviously – the limbing up of the Laurel will be postponed for a while. That wounded thing needs to be allowed to grow some new branches first, before we take off the few it has left. Time will tell…

So, thoughts and prayers everyone, that the rest of this project goes off without a hitch. Ironically, the massive Sequoia was once topped by some local pranksters who were determined to use the top few feet as a Christmas tree. This was decades ago, and the tree has recovered fine – at least as far as I can tell from my vantage point far below. I’m going to keep that in mind as I watch the injured Laurel try to heal itself. Communications, or the lack thereof, can indeed be life-changing – for better and for worse. Mishaps like this are the kinds of things that should keep us all humble.

The only beauty in this travesty was that the entire area was filled with the most wonderful fragrance. I took some of those severed Bay branches home to use the leaves in my cooking,  all the while musing that if the Sisters could sell all those downed leaves at market rate, they could pay for this project many times over.

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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24 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – communication

  1. Pauline says:

    It must have been an awful shock for you but it will recover, they are pretty tough. I have one and have to keep chopping it back every few years otherwise plants in the woodland wouldn’t get any light. Mine grows back quite quickly, let’s hope that one does too.

    • annamadeit says:

      That’s what Mike said as well, Pauline – and hearing you say it too, makes me so happy! He got so far down though, that I’m still a bit worried. The thickest trunks had diameters of 5-6″ … yikes!

  2. I wish the laurel a good recovery

  3. Tina says:

    Oh, it’s way too early to read about such a mutilation. Well, I love your positive spin on the situation and I do hope that the laurel recovers. Plants are resilient and with some love a care, it very well may be okay–in time. Here’s my contribution today, thanks for hosting:

    • annamadeit says:

      You know, my first reaction was “What the hell was he thinking…???” but done is done. I told him that, in the future, he needs to ask more questions – and that it’s perfectly okay to ask more questions – to make doubly sure he knows what is being asked of him (there was a language barrier). The poor man was mortified… He offered to buy a new Laurel to replace it.

      • Tina says:

        It’s sweet that he offered to pay for it. You’re wise to be measured in your…disappointment. Many screw-ups are simply communication issues and life can (usually) go on.

        • annamadeit says:

          Indeed. I’m not always the best communicator either, and although this (thankfully) was not a blunder of my own doing, this is still a good reminder of the importance of clearly stated intentions. Conversely, if you think whatever you think is being asked of you sounds wrong, by all means, ask, ask, ask, until you are SURE you understand. Next time, I’m sure he will. And, I hope he doesn’t lose his job over this…

  4. Peter Herpst says:

    Sad about the bay laurel but hopefully it makes a full and beautiful recovery.

  5. Oh my, that would be quite the shock. I am afraid to think about how I would react, there would be non-PG words said for sure. I’m sending the laurel healing vibes.

    No WV from me this week, instead I’m celebrating 10 years of blogging with some exciting news! 😉

    • annamadeit says:

      I know… luckily I don’t think any of the convent residents heard my initial reaction…. Thanks for the healing vibes – we need all we can get!
      So excited for you! I think you need a garden picture with Lila in the cover! 💚

  6. Men + power tools = damage

  7. Kris P says:

    Disappointing to say the least. I’ve got a by laurel hedge lining the property boundary with one neighbor at the bottom of the slope. Said neighbor gets persnickety if the hedge isn’t sheared regularly. The only comfort I can offer is the observation that the shrubs grow fast.

    • annamadeit says:

      See, before this happened, I was under the flawed impression that they were rather slow growing. I’m really glad that’s wrong! And, lucky you! Despite a persnickety neighbor, you will never run out of Bay leaves. 😋

  8. Pingback: Wednesday Vignette: This Week So Far, Randomly – A Moveable Garden

  9. mmwm says:

    Thoughts and prayers coming its way! It’s the very least I can do 😉 That is a sad looking bit of amputation there. And a reminder to repeat back what we think we hear when being given instructions. Mine:

    • annamadeit says:

      Thank you! Yeah, that “repeat-back” function is far too under-used… Based on the feedback I’ve gotten, I have new hope for this poor shrub. Fingers crossed!

  10. tonytomeo says:

    Gads! In one of my ‘rants’, I once wrote about how a landscape company I worked for cut down the wrong tree in a formal row of the same. It was right next to the dead tree that was supposed to be cut down. Yes, one was dead, the other was quite healthy. The dead one stayed, and the healthy one was cut down. I have no idea how that miscommunication happened, or how it was justified. Anyway, we charged for the removal and installation of new tree, and then charged for the removal and replacement of the other tree as well. That is some of why I can not work for them.

    • annamadeit says:

      Wow… how does something like that even happen?????

      • tonytomeo says:

        Well, it is a lack of efficient communication, in conjunction with a lack of concern. You would think that those who cut down the tree would have been concerned that they were cutting down a perfectly healthy tree right next to a very dead tree; but no. They just did not care. A foreman tried to explain to me that they guys who did it do not speak English very well, as if that justifies a complete lack of concern.

  11. Argh!!!! In your place I would have been a danger to myself or others, or possibly both.

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