Gardening Together

Around the same time I closed my nursery, Judy’s Perennials, my husband accepted early retirement. Hurray–we were both free to do what we loved best. I would spend more time in my half-acre garden, Bob would pursue his love of nature photography. And I could certainly use his help in keeping the garden going. Little did I know that after nearly 40 years of marriage we were entering a time of complete gardening incompatibility.

It started when we agreed to make the garden lower maintenance. In Bob’s opinion “lower maintenance” meant having fewer plants to care for. To me it meant using plants that required less attention. I reluctantly agreed to remove some plants, but I insisted that something take their place, mainly to keep encroaching weeds from filling the spot. As I arrived home one day with a truck load of new-plants–ones I considered low maintenance–he commented, “I can see our plan is clearly not working!”

Indeed, we seemed in constant disagreement concerning the garden. When grass weeds sprang up, he fired up his weed-whacker, which I felt didn’t belong anywhere near an intensely planted garden. I had thoughts of destroying this annoying machine but knew it wouldn’t really solve anything. He also felt inspired to prune several flowering shrubs into small trees; I felt it important to underplant them to cover the bareness. (This meant buying even more plants, of course.)

One day as I prepared to go out to the front garden I requested that I be allowed to do so alone. He agreed and said that he was going to work in the back garden, alone.

As I gardened that day an idea came to me, one that would resolve our situation, though it would mean letting go. We would separate–the garden, that is. I’d give him a portion, so that I could have mine. Before presenting this idea to him, knowing that he is a well-mannered, reasonable man, I claimed my space first. I’d take the front garden; his could be the back. Because our house is in the middle of our lot, this seemed fair. I also decided to present him with one rule: if either of us wanted to remove a plant, we would have to offer it to the other as a transplant first.

When I was done explaining this plan, Bob was all smiles. He immediately started making plans with his garden. First on his list / was to convert the little open-air tea house, enjoyed by many in my nursery days, into a bird blind from which to photograph local and migrating birds. That was his beginning of gardening for the birds.

Today, we can both be as creative as we wish, in our own separate gardens, without the other’s interference. Bob is always showing me what new bird just flew into his camera range, and I’m always sharing with him what changes I’ve made. We arc at last living peacefully together again, by gardening apart. 

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