Woman with trowel: Gardening with another


Rosa ‘Westerland,’ up close and personal. Photo credit: M. Brehaut.

I adhere to the Mae West philosophy of gardening, using as my credo: “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” The same cannot be said for my husband.

I wait years for plants to mature and create opulence and bloom. If I have to trek my way through mounds of hakonechloa as it caresses my calves along the flagstone pathway, then I get to experience my garden in a tactile way.Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola,’ taken while you could still see the pathway. Photo credit: M. Brehaut.

If the Westerland rose arches over its area so the blooms hit my nose as I wander towards the basement door, well, what could be better – have you smelled them? And if the chocolate vine has plans to completely take over the kitchen window, then I thank it as it creates the most delicate shadows in late afternoon. All these things are indicators to me that I am succeeding in my gardening approach.

Akebia quinata, in bloom, before it got completely out of control. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

However, as summer surges forth, my husband gets more and more edgy, dealing (poorly) with feelings of being encroached upon. To listen to him (I try not to), each walk down the side of the house is an expedition through the Amazon forest. He swats at branches if anything touches him. He demands culling if a leaf so much as gets close to him. I think he exaggerates, it is his nature, but eventually I acquiesce. I want my husband to be happy.

So each year at about this time, I choose to walk his walk and I remove the least amount of flora that might allow him to breathe again. I don’t tell him when I do this as I want to gauge his reaction to the space and not to the amount of foliage I harvest. I can sometimes get away with just staking a few plants that are leaning forward, and rearranging a branch here and there. I try that first and listen for the feedback.

If he stops talking about negative space and ikebana tenets, and I no longer get the heavy exhale as he walks the pathways, then I feel I have done enough. He is at peace. This year, he was surprised with how little I had to sacrifice to give him a feeling of expanse. And I am delighted to have my plants free to strut and sway.

I love my husband. I love my garden. They are both at their best with a bit of tending.

Last modified: July 17, 2012

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