African Garden + water

Too Many Flowers?
Eryngium 'Jade Frost', Hydrangea macrophylla 'PIIHM-I' (Twist-n-Shout), Lilium 'Cobra', Arrhenatherum elatius 'Varigatum', Phlox paniculata, Cornus kousa, Dianthus 'Cranberry Ice' and Lavandula 'Hidcote' in one of the driveway beds in July 2011.

Rose at Prairie Rose's Garden has asked a question* about a quandary that has arisen over her desire to have another garden bed. Her husband objected with the rationale that she has "enough flowers." Boy did that ring a bell. Bicycle Man and I have had the exact same discussion. He has reached his limit on the amount of ground he is willing to cede to "garden." Granted, our property is much smaller than Rose's, but I believe the impetus driving our spouses' objection must be the same. Rose asked whether it is the money or the time to which our spouses object.

I seriously doubt that her husband is concerned about her growing addiction. Bicycle Man knew of my gardening addiction before we started dating. When we married, he moved into my house which already boasted a good-sized shade garden in the back. He even helped me to increase other beds in the back before he objected to further garden expansions in the front in '08.

'Carefree Beauty' rose presides over The Neutral Zone on which I am trying to encroach in the background. The two beds bordering the driveway (installed in '08) have been a bone of contention.

I don't believe money is the heart of the issue either. Like Rose, I don't spend much on clothes or jewelry or on golf anymore. Many of the plants that are going into the new beds are divisions from existing plants. In any event, I would have bought certain plants anyway and tried to stuff them in somewhere in the garden because I simply had to have them.

One of last year's must-haves: Knautia 'Thunder and Lightning' in one of the driveway beds.

While I may be wrong, I believe the answer comes down to one simple thing: lawn. There are many men who love their lawn. I'm not talking about the devoted nuts, the "Lawn Rangers," like the neighbor behind us growing up, who mowed his lawn every afternoon. No, I'm talking about men who enjoy the open, uncluttered (in their minds) expanse where a man can walk (or mow) freely, without watching his step, where he can feel like a part of the neighborhood, with its expected swathe of manicured green. It's a vision deeply embedded in the American male psyche -- house, with a few trees and shrubs, driveway and lawn. Think about the pictures children draw of a house. It invariably is square, with four windows, a door in the middle and a chimney on top. And in front of the house there is green, a lawn. Oddly, this is a near universal phenomenon; children around the world draw the exact same picture. Is it any wonder that a man who is not a gardener will resist a threatened encroachment on that domain?
Forget logic, forget trying to argue that a lawn is a waste of fuel, a source of air and water pollution, a sterile monoculture. While the husband's brain may accept and even agree with these points, in his heart, in the place where the boy still lives, he will balk. So we must accept this need for lawn and make compromises as we have learned to do in other areas of married life.
Making the mowing easier by installing a flat mowing strip can help, agreeing to limit the size and location of beds is another option.

Status quo: the 2 driveway beds; across the driveway one small bed (at far left), a bed under the trees, and foundation beds.

Designing our gardens to include a continuous open area of lawn, bounded by beds is probably the best solution to the conflicting needs and desires of spouses, with generous use of containers filled to the brim and overflowing with all the plants we need to grow.

View of the back lawn and border, end of May 2011.

Rose, I hope that helps answer your query. It is the solution on which my husband and I have achieved detente in the Lawn Wars.

*I hope Hortense Hoelove doesn't mind.

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Too Many Flowers? + water