I Love Plants. I Should Have Married the Doctor. My Next Husband Will Hate Gardening.

I’m a horticulturist, a gardener, a plant geek. I love plants. So do the people I work with. It’s literally all we talk about. We never discuss movies, or tv shows, or politics or art (unless it is art related to gardening). We only discuss plants and, though it is a pretty-far-off-second, sometimes food.

I once dated a doctor and when he was with his friends, who were also doctors, they only discussed medicine. I thought he was obnoxious. It was impossible to have dinner with these men and their spouses/girlfriends because the men (the doctors) monopolized the conversation with the world of medicine. I wasn’t interested in medicine. I was interested in plants. So, I stopped dating him and found a forester to marry who talked incessantly about plants, too. I thought that would suit me much better, though admittedly, I would be poorer for it. Sadly, sometimes one’s passions trump one’s reason.

It was years later, while reading Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden that Mrs. Whaley, a Charleston gardener and author of the book, made the astute observation that it wasn’t always wise to marry someone who shared your passion for gardening. That meant they would have opinions in the garden, and no one wants that. Instead, aim to marry someone who enjoys the garden, funds the garden, but takes no interest in the garden, i.e. they could care less if camellias would be planted that year, or the birches limbed up to allow more light in the perennial garden. Brilliant advice, but I was 20 years in, and the doctor was a confirmed bachelor by then. There was no going back. Reflection did force me to agree with Mrs. Whaley, and while hindsight is 20-20, I realized, conversation aside, the doctor cared little for gardens, and would have happily funded mine while pursuing his passion for medicine without a single opinion regarding the garden.

The forester had opinions in the garden. He was a naturalist who followed a Darwinian methodology of gardening–only the strong survive. I ascribe to the right-plant-right-spot common sense method of gardening, but I already knew what plants would survive in my garden–the ones I wanted. I am the gardener, not the observer, and I stated this during many of our heated “plant conversations” I’d been so keen to have.

We argued over the choice and placement of every tree, shrub, perennial and even vegetable. His stupid cantaloupes were planted exactly where my eggplant was supposed to be nodding their fat, purple heads. As if anyone wants cantaloupe instead of eggplant. He wanted shade. I wanted full sun with areas of dappled light. He wanted conifers. I wanted roses. One sad day of gardening arguing ended with two 25 foot tall Norway Spruces becoming topiaries. The forester and myself did not recover from the shock of that day, and neither did the spruces. When the snows came that winter, our topiaries were pitiful. Their snow-piled limbs hung down their bare trunks defeated and embarrassed to be reduced to that silly state, when only months before their beautiful swaying branches would have accommodated that snow with grace and poise. I couldn’t drive down the driveway without feeling shame when they came into view, because that mishap was mine. What was supposed to be a compromise on dappled light versus shade, became topiaries.

The one thing the forester and I agreed on? The native perennials. We had the loveliest stand of trilliums, trout lilies, Alleghany spruge, lady slippers, phlox, bloodroot and Virigina bluebells. For some reason, in the presence of mayapples, we were united.

Sadly, just about the time we got the garden established and firmly determined our prospective areas (and learned the polite art of staying out of said areas or even mentioning said areas), the forester discovered passions beyond our garden gate, and became the ex. The good news? If any future spouses present themselves, I will heed Mrs. Whaley’s advice. Future spouses will hate the labor of gardening but love the rewards, and be absolutely opinion-less on the subject. Future spouses will view it as a sort of hobby that keeps me out of their hair.

I will gladly listen to a future spouse (or spouses, you never know) rattle on about any subject from Fantasy Football to the History Channel–so long as they absolutely abandon the garden to me–while I continue my daily dialogue with co-workers wise enough to marry first-time-spouses whose passions range the globe, but always detour the world of plants.