You and Your (Non-Gardening) Spouse

"Looking good, Honey. Don't stay up on that ladder for too long pruning or your beer will get flat."

Does your spouse share your passion for worm composting, Felco products, and beneficial nematodes?  In the winter, do you pore over seed catalogues together into the wee hours?  Spend happy weekends together pruning, weeding, and watering?  Does your spouse understand the depth of your grief when your Camellia – that rare cultivar you found at a specialty nursery, the one with the double pink flowers that were exactly like the ones on the wallpaper you had in your room when you were little – when it succumbs to verticillium wilt and dies a slow, shriveling death – does he embrace you and whisper reassurances in your ear?

No, mine doesn’t either. 

My husband Dan is a non-gardener.  He prefers an indoor lifestyle for the most part; his outdoor activities are limited to: swimming, reading in the hammock, and coming out onto the porch when I’m gardening to ask me where something is.   

Once, I asked him if he could name three plant families and he said yes, he could. 

“Flowers, bushes, and weeds” he said.

Just today, when Dan came across some pumpkin seeds our son had saved, he asked if there was a seed that could grow pumpkin pies.  “Now THAT would be some gardening I’d be interested in!”  he says.  Ha-ha.

Sometimes I am jealous of those couples who share the gardening bug.   I used to watch a bunch of the gardening shows on HGTV: P. Allen Smith, Gardening By the Yard, Landscaper’s Challenge, etc.  My favorite show was one called Gardener’s Diary.  In  each episode the hostess would visit a different garden – often a private garden created by an enthusiastic amateur, or sometimes, one tended by a couple who were both passionate gardeners. 

One image from such an episode sticks in my mind: there was a voice-over of the wife talking about how the garden has “brought Chad and I together” (I don’t remember if his name was really Chad) and then there was an image of Chad giving his wife a piggy-back ride through a beautiful meadow garden on their property – a meadow that they had undoubtedly created and nurtured together, through mutual cooperation and team spirit.

Why doesn’t Dan give me piggy-back rides through our garden

It’s a troubling thought.  I mean, why can’t we be this couple:

"We also put in each other contact lenses and we steer the car together!"

Oh well.  I have to confess, there are some advantages to being the sole gardener in the family.  Namely this:  the garden is my own little kingdom where I get to make all the decisions.  That probably sounds very control freak-ish of me, but I have to admit it’s true.  Since so much of marriage is about compromise and sacrifice, it’s nice to have a little realm to myself where my spouse doesn’t really have a clue about what is going on.

This summer Dan was walking out to the shed to retrieve a piece of pool equipment, when he noticed something.

         “How did this tree get here?”

         “Oh that?  I planted it.”


         “Hmmm…in April, I think.  Yes,  April 2007.”


         “Yup.  I think there’s some tuna in the fridge.   Why don’t you go and make yourself   some lunch?”

I watched his retreating form, and then I turned back to my work, fishtail weeder in hand.  I dropped down to my knees and started tugging at the oxalis growing between the irises.  Queen of the Kingdom.  Er, Queendom.

8 thoughts on “You and Your (Non-Gardening) Spouse

  1. Nicely written, Mary. My mother was the master gardener in the family, My father followed directions. I have a brown thumb. My wife can grow things indoors–her piano studio room looks like a rain forest.

    You make a good point about the pleasures of solitary gardening. I think the couple depicted in the pictures have serious separation issues. They’re kind of creepy, in fact.

    I know I enjoy writing because it’s something I can do by myself and then share with others (duh).

    Thanks again for a nice read.

  2. My wife doesn’t garden and can’t distinguish between a perennial and a weed. Its no big deal in our family. She’s much better at fixing the computer when there is a glitch. We look upon it as a division of hobbies. Each of us excels in our own realm. Fortunately, she loves the flowers and their colors. and I appreciate her techie help.

  3. Great story, Mary!
    This resonates with me too – the running joke in my family is that my husband always comes outside when I am gardening to tell me it’s time to stop! Feeling guilty that he isn’t helping, bless his heart…

  4. You are not alone! Your post described my husband’s and my gardening relationship pretty perfectly. Perhaps we need a support group.
    But actually, I prefer things this way (most of the time!) I really don’t want to be half of that creepy couple! Ew. Separate hobbies are a healthy thing in my world!
    Found you through Grounded Design. Love your blog,

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