After years of study and accumulated evidence, ProfessorRoush has reached the conclusion that in an infinite number of universes, there are only three possible gardening relationships between spouses. First, there are those sad couples where neither person gardens but where one grudgingly assumes the duty of pushing a roaring machine across a postage stamp lawn every week from April through October. Often, such couples ultimately retire to a high-rise apartment with a potted and dehydrated cactus on the balcony. Second, there are those mythical unions where both spouses share equally in the garden's triumphs and disappointments, planning and working together in perfect harmony. The only documented example of such a relationship, of course, ended when Eve gave Adam a bite of the apple. The third marriage, a land where there is an unequal and uneasy union between an avid gardener of vision and a less knowledgeable but still mildly enthusiastic spouse, is the one that most of us navigate, bouncing between the shores of two visions for our garden. In these ungodly unions, in the interest of marital harmony, the gardening spouse must, at times, be willing set aside his or her grand vision to accommodate some ill-considered whim of the partner.
My latest personal sojourn into such a gardening quagmire came last weekend, begun in an ill-considered moment when I asked Mrs. ProfessorRoush if she'd like to accompany me to one of our favorite local nurseries. Presumably I was feeling a weak moment of the guilty pleasure of a weekend spent alone in the garden, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush was missing human contact, even if such contact occurred only in the presence of a sweaty, dirty, and sore older gentleman. My punishment came quickly upon arrival at the nursery, where the only visible bloom was from a group of Magnolia 'Ann' and it was announced loudly that I had to purchase one immediately, regardless of my whining protests and the squeak and groans that occurred during the act of prying apart my wallet to purchase the $70.00 extravagance.
As background information, it is important to note that I had long ago considered and rejected the feminine wiles of 'Ann' for several reasons, not the least of which is that my garden already contains her lighter-pink sibling 'Jane', purchased for far less at $10 several years back. I really don't need the sisterly rivalry to disrupt the ambiance of my garden. Another deterrent to her purchase was that, although I am fond of magnolias, they are still reluctant participants in my garden regardless of the best efforts of global warming trends. The more hardy magnolias will bloom occasionally here, but the blooms seldom last long in the strong prairie winds and they are sometimes caught out naked in a late freeze. Finally, I had no inkling of where to possibly fit 'Ann' into my garden, although I freely admit that such a consideration has never stopped me before. Thus, I grumbled and gritted my teeth, but Mrs. ProfessorRoush twisted my arm, and home we came with a pot-bound and prematurely blooming 'Ann'.
I have since planted 'Ann' in a site where she is destined to be the centerpiece of a new bed, a burgundy-colored beacon to explore deeper into the garden. Anticipating a few days of gentle rain and mild temperatures, I lovingly teased out the root ball and fought my way into the anaerobic clay to bed her down, and I've now had two days to fondle her thick petals and inhale her thick musty fragrance. Tonight, of course, the unpredictable Kansas weather is rolling back the clock with a predicted record low of 28°F and possible snow flurries on the 10th of April. Tomorrow night there is a similar forecast. There were evenings, in my younger gardening days, when such a prediction would have sent me scurrying around the garden with armloads of blankets to cover tender plants but I am long past such foolishness. I have instead bid 'Ann' a reluctant goodbye and cast her fate to the Gods.
Next time, I have vowed to swallow my guilt, stay home, and divide a daylily or three. Such an action may not provide any traction towards marital harmony, but at least my wallet will be more thick.