Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening
An Excerpt From
Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening
I never liked getting my hands dirty. This was one reason that

our yard looked so sad. But there were other reasons, too—

bigger reasons that were much harder to confront than brittle

grass and overgrown bushes.

It’s not that I was ignoring our yard on purpose. Every once

in a while we hired someone to plant or trim something. My

husband, Dick, did his share of mowing. But he never did it happily.

We weren’t yard-proud the way some people are. And when

the kids were young, there was always something more important

than yard work to do. Going to one of their games or events,

running them to school and lessons, or shepherding them to

doctor appointments—all those things ranked way higher on

our list of priorities.

Once the kids were grown, I still managed to find more important

things to do. I much preferred reading a book, or watching

a documentary on TV, or going out to dinner with Dick

to pruning a bush. I loved our house, and I enjoyed decorating

the inside, but there was never anything about maintaining a

house that I enjoyed. In some couples, one spouse makes up for

the flaws of the other. But for better or worse, my beloved

spouse and I shared the same flaw in this department. Neither

of us was handy. We ignored our loose front doorknob until it

went from shaky to wobbly and finally fell off when we tried to

exit the house one evening. Dick watched it fall to the hardwood

floor with a thunk, then looked at me and said, “Time to move.”

I don’t think we were entirely wrong in holding on to our

low-intervention policy. Once when Dick and I were walking

through town, we were stopped by a group of young women

who were celebrating their friend’s upcoming wedding. They

were asking all the obviously married women they saw for advice

for the new bride. I said, “You know, my life really began

when I got married.” They all laughed and told me that I was the

first woman they’d stopped who hadn’t said, “Don’t do it.” Then

I told them that my best advice was not to approach marriage

like it was an arrangement between property co-owners. It

seemed to me like too many people spent too much of their time

taking care of their houses instead of enjoying their spouses.

And where was the fun in that?

I liked to think that it was a valid philosophy of life that kept

me out of the yard, and not just sheer laziness. In any case, to

me, even worse than digging out a screwdriver to fix our doorknob

would have been digging in the dirt. I had zero interest in

that area of our property. I don’t think I even really looked at it.

Then one day, I noticed that our yard had slowly, gradually

transformed itself. No longer could I flatter myself that it was

natural and unmanicured because that was the aesthetic I preferred.

No, our yard wasn’t just rough around the edges. It had

become a genuine embarrassment. Maybe we didn’t have the

worst yard on the block. But we were close to it, and one good

mowing in our most neglectful neighbor’s yard might easily

nudge us into the bottom slot. And that just wouldn’t do. I

might never have been yard-proud, but I did not want to be


So I decided that it was time to do something about this situation.

It was a fixable problem, after all—and how nice it was to

have one of those.

When I passed our neighbor Sarah’s yard I couldn’t help seeing

what an amazing job her gardener had done. Sarah was a

master gardener herself, but recently she’d gotten busy at work

and had brought in some help. And even I could tell that a true

artist was at work there. Maybe I could hire her gardener, I

thought to myself. And then our yard would be as beautiful as

hers. It would be healthy and lush and well taken care of—

just the way I wanted to be myself.

A few days later I saw the mystery gardener in the flesh—

the artist who’d wrought such a miracle transformation in my neighbor’s

yard—and it was kismet. Love at first sight. No, it wasn’t

the kind of love that causes you to question your marriage. It

was the kind of love that causes you to question yourself. The

kind that makes you want to be a better person. The kind that

changes your life completely.

His name was Giles Owita, and from the start, something

flowered between us and around us. First he became my gardener,

and then he became my friend. And while I knew from

the moment I met him that he was someone special—

truly, I didn’t know the half of it.

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening

How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart

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