Nola pulled out of the driveway. Her family was sleeping in. Neither of them had any real interest in gardening with the exception of occasional harvesting. And she smiled as she thought about Jamie cutting flowers or picking satsumas or James using herbs from the garden or picking tomatoes. The weather was cooperating. It would be another dry day and it was in the 60s and would climb to the high 70s during the day. Owen had said bring her suit and she had but it was way too cold for her to swim in the pool. If she got in the water it would be in the Jacuzzi.
When she drove up to Owen's he and Joe were in the driveway. She pressed the button to open the gate and hesitated to drive in, unsure about whether her truck would be in the way. But Owen smiled at her and motioned her down the drive to an angled stop next to his truck. Joe took note that Nola could open the driveway gate. Roger said that Owen was seeing Nola but Joe was still holding out hope. As she got out of her truck she greeted Owen with "Hello, boss. I see I'm not the first. Hello Joe."
Joe smiled and said, "Hello Nola."
Owen smiled and hugged her and said, "Hello Woman." And based on the hug Joe was pretty sure that Roger was right. Damn it.
Nola said, "I was hoping to be able to get the trees set out and take a look at placement before everyone else got here. You can't stop me this time, boss."
Then turning to Joe she said, "Joe will you help me get some of the pots placed? Owen wouldn't let me do when I was here on Thursday. He insisted I have help."
Joe said, "Sure. Happy to."
The security gate was open and Nola hooked Joe's arm and they went into through the new, open, iron security gate. Nola teased, "You coming boss or you gonna make us to all the work?"
He chuckled, "Lead on, woman."
When Joe saw the number of trees he whistled. "You sure all of these are going fit?"
Nola smiled and said. "Sure, most of them are small understory trees that don't grow large or fast. The idea is for this back corner area to look like mini-forest. No lawnmowers!"
Joe and Owen smiled at that as Nola continued "I'd like to get the pines along the back fence. Could you all place them about 8 feet from each other starting in the far left corner?"
Joe nodded and he and Owen each took a pine. Nola grabbed the fig and moved that to the corner. Once she placed the fig to her satisfaction she placed the peach a little farther out toward the center of the area to ensure it got enough sun. When Owen placed the last pine he commented to Joe, intentionally loud enough for Nola to hear, "You can't stop her from getting her hands dirty." She just smiled at him as she stood there looking at the pine placement. She adjusted the pines so they were closest to the fenceline but far enough away to make planting easy. She wanted their canopy to straddle the fenceline and create a tall border at the back. She was explaining her reasoning for placement when they heard a "Hey Owen!!!! If you don't let us in we're leaving!!!!!" from the driveway. It seemed the rest of the crew was arriving. Owen left Nola with Joe and went to open the gate.
The guys chatted in the driveway as they hung out waiting for the rest of the crew who was parking on the street to wander in. By the time everyone had arrived and was in the back yard Nola and Joe had set the swamp maples and the redbuds and were working on the sweet olives and Japanese magnolia. Joe was watching how she worked and realizing he really liked this landscaping stuff. They would set the plants and then Nola would stand back and adjust them. She and Joe were standing next to each other talking about angles and view and growth habit of different trees when the rest of the crew came through the gate. Maurice nudged Owen and said, "You better watch Joe with your woman. I think he's got a crush on her." Louis laughed and Owen smiled at them both.
Nola laid her hand on Joe's arm and said, "Before we set the rest, let's go upstairs and take a look from the balcony. I think a different viewpoint will help make sure we've got it right. What do you think?"
Joe looked back at the balcony and noticed the other guys and Owen and smiled and said, "Sure, let's go."
Nola saw Maurice and Larry and smiled and waved at them. "Hello fellows, here to work your magic with cement?"
Maurice smiled. "Yep, You and Owen can think it up but you need me to make it real." Then he took charge of 3 guys who'd be working with him with him to make the form and they went to the back corner to start the lay out of the basket ball court. Maurice asked, "Owen what time is the truck arriving with the cement?"
"Between Noon & 1PM, based on a phone call I made Thursday, but I haven't called to confirm today. I'll do that."
Nola said, "Owen, Joe & I would like to go upstairs and get a look at the backyard from the balcony before we finished setting the trees. Ok?"
"Sure." He said, "I'll join you as soon as I get in touch with the cement company. As he was finishing up his call Roger called from the driveway.
"Hey Man! Come open the gate."
Owen met him at the gate, "Roger, what are you doing here?"
As they walked down the driveway Roger replied, "Oh I thought I'd come and see your woman in action and to see how many of the crew you have working today and to finally get a dip in the pool."
They met the guys who would be helping with the planting but who were lounging on the patio while they waited for the trees to be set. Roger greeted everyone and then nudged Owen. "So where is she?"
Owen pointed up to far corner of the balcony where Nola and Joe were talking and pointing. Nola waved to Roger. Roger leaned into Owen and said quietly, "You better watch Joe with your woman. I think he's got a crush on her."
Owen just shook his head and smiled. "You and Maurice have got to stop gossiping."
Nola and Joe finally made their way down from the balcony. Nola said hello to Roger with a kiss to his cheek and said, "When are we going dancing again?"
Which made Roger smile and say "Soon I hope." She just smiled at him and then headed to the back patio and began placing the last of the Japanese magnolias. They finished placing the trees and she ask Joe, "Would you mind staying down here and letting me go back up on the balcony? I'd like to be able to make any adjustments while I'm up there and since you understand what I'm looking for you could help direct the guys to move any of the pots. Ok?"
Joe nodded understanding complete. "Sure."
Nola kissed his cheek too, "Thanks Joe."
Roger and Owen were still watching all the action from the patio closest to the kitchen door and Roger nudged Owen. "Told you."
Nola made her way to the kitchen door and Owen said. "Where are you going now, woman?"
"To take a look from the balcony again. Joe is going to help me make any adjustments and then we can get started planting."
Owen looked at Roger and said, "Why don't you check on Maurice. I'd like to get a look from the balcony as well." Roger winked at him.
Nola was already on her way up the stairs. Owen called to her and caught up to her before she opened the door to the balcony. He teased her and took her by the waist and said, "Roger gets a kiss. Joe gets a kiss but I don't get a kiss. Now what is wrong with this picture?"
She smiled at him and gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, "Thank you, boss this is a lot of fun. Let's go take a look. Joe is waiting for me to confirm the final placement before we can start planting. I want make sure that you are ok with what we've done."
From the balcony it was easier to see the forested look she was going for and Owen got serious about providing input. They made a few minor adjustments and then Nola signaled an Ok and a thumbs up to Joe. Before they went down she asked, "Do you think that Maurice can leave a small space along the wall in the corner so we can get some vines growing along the side wall? It will help stop the corner from being such a heat sink."
"Sure, I guess he can. I better let him know now though."
"I'll come with you."
"Maurice, Nola's got a slight adjustment to the plan."
"Better speak up. This form is an easy right angle set up and will go in quickly."
"Maurice, I'd like to get a vine, probably jasmine, growing from that corner." and she pointed to the far right corner of the yard. The vine will help stop this corner from being such a heat sink. I only need a space about this big to set the plant" and she made a circle of about 6-8 inches in diameter. "But I want to make sure that we don't make it hard on your form building or create a problem when they're playing on the court by creating hole where they can twist an ankle. What do you think?"
"You're right; it could get mighty hot back here in the summer. I think I can leave you a triangle for setting your plant. You want some string on the wall to like in front?"
"Yes, that would be great. Thank you Maurice." And he got a kiss on the cheek too.
Maurice said, "Sure no problem."
She smiled a group thanks to the basketball court crew and then said, "Ok well, we're going to start the planting now."
"Joe, Steve and Doug didn't work with us on the front yard. I'll show Steve and you can show Doug how dig and get some potting soil in the bottom of the hole and break up the roots before we plant, then we can each take a tree and a shovel and get started. Ok?"
And with 4 of them working it took less than 2 hours to plant all the trees and set the mulch out. Steve and Doug left right after they finished. And it didn't take Maurice much longer to finish up his form.
He and Owen had rigged 2 walkways so they could work the cement from above once it was poured.
A little after 11AM they had all the creeping fig planted as ground cover and with help from the guys who had finished up the form even planted the monkey grass edging. Most of the guys left to have Saturday afternoon with their families. But Joe, Roger, Louis & Maurice stayed around to swim in the pool and because they would help with the cement work after the truck arrived. Nola was working on watering each tree. Owen had ordered pizza and had broken out the beer. He handed a beer to Roger and then went over to Nola and said, "Put your suit on woman and come swim in my pool."
"I've tested the water and it's too cold for me to get in. I'll put on my suit but only if you warm up the Jacuzzi."
"The Jacuzzi is already warm."
When she came back out she had on a black one piece halter with a light weight, long, flowered sarong tied around her waist. She was still working the hose to make sure that every thing was well watered. She moved the hose to another tree and sat on the edge of the pool with her feet on the shelf and chatted with the guys who were showing off in the pool. Except Maurice who was lounging comfortably in an inner tube. She said, "Maurice you look like you belong in a pool."
"It seems I do." And he smiled, "And you look like a Greek goddess in that get up."
"Thank you Maurice."
She finally moved the hose into the far corner and assumed she could leave it in that position for a while and headed to the Jacuzzi. Before she knew it everyone was in the Jacuzzi with her, Owen on one side Joe on the other. Roger said, "I'm hungry. How will you know when the pizza gets here? I told them we were in the back yard and to call my cell when they get to the gate."
And as if on cue Owen's phone rang.
While they were finishing up the pizza Nola checked on the watering was satisfied with it and shut off the hose. Owen had followed her to the far side of the pool. It seemed a good time to leave so Nola said, "I should probably get my truck out of the way before the cement truck shows up."
"Please stay, it won't take us long to finish up."
"I can't. I have to get home. Everything is watered thoroughly but it's been so dry lately that you should put the sprinkler on for an hour every night."
"You’re sure I can't convince you to stay?"
"You all are going to be busy with the cement. I know that takes focus to do well. You all won't miss me."
He hugged her and whispered in her ear. "Yes I will."
Roger, Joe and Louis pretended not to see the hug. Maurice didn't bother, he just smiled. Nola said goodbye and waved to them as she walked to her truck. "I'm going to get out of the way before the cement truck shows up. Maurice I'll be back to appreciate your work on Thursday. Try to keep Owen out of trouble. Joe thanks for all your help today. See you, Louis, Roger."
Owen walked her out and the cement truck showed up not long after Nola backed out of the driveway. Maurice supervised the set up and soon Joe, Louis, Roger and Owen were working for Maurice. It was a bit of a pain to work in such a tight corner and keep the surface smooth. But the walkways over the court allowed all 4 of them to work simultaneously. They finished in the early afternoon and left Owen with a transformed yard and 5 days until Nola would return.