Togetherness

Reading time 6 minutes

Since my new fella has been on the scene, I have been enjoying an activity that I have rarely experienced before – gardening ‘à deux’. It’s an activity that I have never thought myself capable of participating in, so sure am I that I could not be compatible with another in the garden as well as in love. Turns out I might be wrong. Over Christmas The Beau (as he shall henceforth be known) and I have been scrambling to plant all the bulbs that I had neglected to tackle during the four months previous. To my shame he reckons there were at least 1000 of them, mainly tulips and narcissi. (We shall not speak of the further 50 or so I purchased last weekend when I fell for the 75% Off sign at Wyevale). Happily the majority were still in perfect condition despite having sat in crates in the workshop since September. The secret is to keep them somewhere dry, dark and very well ventilated. This weekend the final 200 or so bulbs went into brand-new terracotta pots, ready to put on a colourful display in March, April and May.

Without The Beau’s help bulb planting would have been a long, lonely and tedious chore. There was even a risk it might not have happened at all. Instead it’s been relatively quick and easy, to the extent that I wonder why I wasn’t able to do it in a more timely fashion. It seems that four hands make light work. I have not counted the number of pots we filled, but it must be over 70. Each was cleaned with a stiff brush before filling with fresh compost and plump bulbs, often planted in multiple layers to pack in as much flower-power as possible. Alongside overwintering gingers, cannas and dahlias, these pots are covering the floor of my workshop before being transferred out into the garden where I will arrange them theatre-style.

My conviction that it’s not possible for me to garden with another human being stems from not making a great deal of effort in the past. I am not as patient as I could be and in my heart-of-hearts I believe that no-one else could possibly do something the way I wanted it done. This is a foolish and silly way to approach work, but perhaps I am now discovering that I am capable of greater magnanimity. I have seen it done by couples such as Sarah and David Ash at Marshborough Farmhouse, and have marvelled at their ability to operate as co-creators, co-enthusiasts and co-workers in their beautiful garden, yet I never thought I could operate in the same way.

I have always regarded gardening as a solitary activity; a way to escape and unwind. I remain uncertain that I could ever garden cheek-by-jowl with another human being, nor relinquish the position of head gardener in my own patch, but the idea of having a companion to bounce ideas off, share the burden of work, learn things from and generally have a laugh with is an appealing one. I am already considering what more could be achieved and how much easier life might be with two of us working in the garden together. Only time will tell if I have the strength of character to ‘let go’. Hopefully The Beau will stick around for long enough to find out. TFG.

Do you garden with your significant other or, like Greta Garbo do you want to be alone? If you’re gardening’s answer to Phil and Holly, Ant and Dec or Mel and Sue, how do you achieve harmony and manage not to fall out? I’m sure many of us would love to know the secret of horticultural togetherness.

P.S. For more thoughts on how late one can plant spring bulbs and get away with it, take a look at my post ‘When is too late to plant spring bulbs?‘. This is one of my most read posts of the last seven years, so clearly it’s not just me who leaves this task until the last minute!

Categories: Bulbs, Container gardening, Musings

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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71 comments On "Togetherness"

  1. How wonderful to have found a Beau to share your passion, anyone willing to help out in the garden is a good catch!
    Mr TT confines himself to cutting the (significant amount of) grass, encouraging me, carrying plants and compost, agreeing to lots of trellis and providing sustenance to keep me going – that works for us!
    Looking forward to seeing the photos of all those blooming tulips.

    1. I think you are very lucky to have Mr TT. Us enthusiasts are hard to manage!! Did you manage to get all your bulbs in over Christmas? The weather has been so mild I am surprised they even know it’s winter!

  2. How fab that you have met someone who likes to get his hands dirty with you, and it makes lighter work too. And good looking like yourself, a double bonus 😜 I’m looking forward to what will be a spectacular spring display. Wishing you both a Happy New Year xxx

  3. I’m very glad that The Beau has entered your life and shares your passion for gardening. Perfect! I read your bulb theatre post as well as this one and was almost overwhelmed by the number of pots and glorious flowering bulbs. Makes my slow build-up of bulbs look very puny indeed! My (sometime) gardening partner, MrMG and I are reasonably compatible in the garden although he does stand in my way when I want to remove under performing plants, such as the mop top Robinia (big mistake), preferring to ‘just give it a bit more time’. Grrr!

    1. Well, sometimes it’s good to wait. I tend towards the hasty and intolerant when it comes to plants being in the wrong place or looking ugly. My garden is not big enough to host plants that don’t look reasonably attractive most of the time.

      As for the bulb theatre, that is a bit of a thing of mine, although I think it could be improved with more non-bulbous plants. I can worry about that now that I have the basics done. Hopefully I’ll get a good display this year. Dan

  4. I’m delighted that you and The Beau are able to work together so well. I garden with my husband and, even though I’m the self appointed Head Gardener, it is so helpful to have another set of hands, eyes, and ideas. I still potter around by myself out there and more often than not I get my way, but its been such a fun thing to do and create together- hooray! Happiest of New Years to you both!

    1. Thank you very much Cortney! We’re also trying to master the art of the long distance relationship so we won’t be gardening together full time for a little while. Short bursts will get me in training 😉 Happy New Year to you too!

      1. Oh, the husband and I did long-distance too- it isn’t always easy, but it sure does make you stronger as a couple (and in the garden I’d wager!). 🙂

  5. I am really happy to hear that you have met/found The Beau (= The Beauty) not only to help you plant , trim, cut, dig and whatever you do in the garden, but to be close to you and make your life complete in a magical way 🙂 Have lots of wonderful moments while gardening, working, travelling, having fun together or just being with each other .

    PS. I can’t wait to see the beauty of the spring flowers you both have planted, especially when The Beau has put some of his heart into it . Keep us informed and updated Dan, please.

    1. I certainly shall Paul. January is a tough month for me and the blog since not a lot is happening in the garden and mostly I see it (or don’t see it!) in the dark!! I can’t want for the mornings to get a little lighter. Dan

  6. Kudos to the Beau for pitching in on this tedious task. In my experience it will take time to figure out what will and will not happen in the garden together. When I first married my Dearly Beloved he told me ‘I don’t garden’. After he had been retired a few years I suppose he got a bit bored and he has started helping quite a bit on big jobs. During years when we mulch I call him the Mulch Nazi. He doesn’t want to quit until the job is finished fully. I would rather sling mulch a day or two and then rest a day or two. But no that is not what happens. I just suck it up and go with it in this regard.He is a perfectionist and I am laid back.He and I have different ways of doing things. Luckily he doesn’t try to introduce new projects. Now that I am older I do appreciate everything he does. Hopefully you and The Beau will work out what is good for you both in the garden. Best of luck.
    Can’t wait to see all of those pots bursting with blooms.

    1. Yes, I am sure we will find our rhythm in time Lisa. Your husband sounds very useful to have around!

      By the end of January I hope to have all the pots set-out, then I will move them into position according to which look the best at that moment. Some of my early daffodils are almost ready to bloom. It’s been a very mild Christmas and New Year period. Dan

  7. My partner of 46 years and I have an understanding. He is the brawn behind the gardening adventures and I am the brain! He is an engineer and I am an artist, left side vs right side of the brain. This way we can continue enjoying our rather large garden without feeling overwhelmed.

    1. Sounds like the ideal arrangement Linda. I certainly think a creative and a logical thinker working together creates a good balance as well as getting the job done. If it’s worked for you for 46 years that’s quite an endorsement. Dan

  8. Oh so envious of all those pots. Hw lovely to have some help with one of my least favorite jobs….scrubbing pots.

    D gets to move the sprinkler and help with the watering in summer, and of course operate the ride on…..thats it! xxx

  9. I am the gardener, the OH is the musician. We spend a lot of time in the same house in very different parts and it works very well. I can’t imagine sharing the garden with anyone. He did once mow the lawn in a previous garden when we first got together. I think 10 years of not having a garden cured him of that!! Best of luck with the new relationship.

  10. Great that you have someone to share gardening with – think of the joy Christopher Lloyd & Fergus Garrett had – I bet they didn’t see eye to eye all the time!
    My husband – survived 49 yrs gardening together so far! – does the veg plot, lawns,hedges, & generally what he is told …. , we get along fine!

    1. Sounds like the perfect arrangement. The Beau tells me he is always right, which can’t be correct since I am always right and we don’t agree on everything. Interesting times ahead methinks! Hats off to you and your husband for a most impressive and enduring gardening partnership. The arrangement of someone in charge with the other doing as they are told seems to be a popular one. Dan

  11. I’m smiling on two accounts: 1. I just planted the-last-of-the-season tulips; and I sometimes appreciate help from my husband because he’s willing to do the manual jobs I don’t care for or can no longer do, such as moving that 4’ tall stone retaining wall 1’ to widen a raised bed. Otherwise, I prefer to be alone in the garden as it’s such valuable stress relief.

    1. I agree, it’s the only time I have where I can get lost in my own thoughts, have ideas, let my mind wander. I could do with someone handy like your husband, but The Beau is into plants, like me, and not so fond of the manual work. To make matters worse he has a bad back so I don’t want him lifting and shifting for the moment.

      I hope your bulbs put on a super display in the spring. They won’t be any the less beautiful for planting late. Dan

  12. I need to do my gardening alone! Seriously, no one does it well enough. At work (at my former job that I have not yet returned to), 140 acres is not big enough for two of us. We do it all so differently.

      1. Oh, that is not the landscape,. It is at the farm, and much of it is unused forest. The production area is never organized enough. There is a lot of contention there.

  13. Warm welcome to M. le Beau, happy happy new year to you both, and many more to come. I sometimes garden with my cat who helpfully digs up the newly planted bulbs so I can check where they were, drinks from the birdbath, and tested the stability of a just-built retaining wall. Luckily it came up to scratch.

  14. Well done. It must be nice to have someone to help you with chores and to appreciate what you do in the garden. On the whole, I am glad to garden alone, I wouldn’t want anyone with opinions. Just sometimes though, I wish my OH would notice what I have done..

    1. I think that’s the least your OH could do! The problem with some non-gardeners is that they are completely blind to even the most remarkable feats of horticulture. Most of my friends, wonderful though they are, don’t pay my garden a lot of attention. My only advice would be to plant outlandish things such as echiums and gloriosas – these always seem to attract attention. Perhaps something heavily scented, pleasantly or otherwise, might also work? Dan

      1. Nope. He’s completely blind to anything floral. Whereas apparently I have cloth ears and don’t hear music. At least not in an educated way. Wagner will always sound like a cat trying to hang onto a window with its claws to me.

  15. We (I) have divided the garden into flowers (me) and food (Stevie). We do share spaces, e.g. I have planted wildflowers and bulbs along the edges of the veg patch, and there are fruit trees and grape vines in the flower garden, and we take an interest in one another’s work, but largely we come together for coffee and chats and then go back to our individual pursuits. It works for us!

  16. A Very Happy New Year to you and your Beau. Thank you for your wonderful blog; always very interesting with wide ranging subjects and wonderful photography. I garden alone though I’d love some help. My husband loved restoring old cars but mows the grass and my daughter, although growing up with fruit and veggies, is not interested in gardening, but she does like looking around gardens with me. Thank you again, and I look forward to seeing photos of your theatre of bulbs a bit later on.

    1. I am sure your daughter will come around to gardening in time Ginette. I’m amazed at how interested all the youngsters (by which I mean the under 25s) in my office are about plants and gardening. It would be sad if she didn’t pick up some of your enthusiasm, but in the meantime a garden visiting companion is well worth having!

  17. Well if The Beau can do tedious jobs like wash pots and fill with soil and bulbs he is a “keeper”! I am sure you will have many happy hours together lugging pots about and buying plants…you both look so happy together too! I am sure you will work well together…see it as “companion planting” !

  18. It is nice to be two and have someone to clean the pots 🙂 Great for you.
    We have each our jobs in the garden. It just happened naturally.
    The absolutely best thing about being two is that ideas are improved (each of us can veto). Eg. I have an idea. My husband says no! After some time he says: What if we…? Then I say no! After some time I say: What if we…? And so on till suddenly the perfect solution is there. Much better than any of us could conceive on our own. I hope you will experience the same. And if not: Clean pots are great too.

    1. They are! So true about building ideas together, provided both parties listen, take interest and speak up. I don’t think The Beau and I should have any issues there. It sounds like you have a strong gardening partnership with your husband and enough creative tension to come up with some good solutions. Dan

  19. I go out into the garden to be alone. I’ve never got on with working alongside someone and chatting. It means you have to be listening out all the time. I like the sound of silence and my own thoughts.

  20. Lovely to hear of le Beau and the companion planting. Not sure how gardening a deux works out without strict delineation of territory (my husband tends towards municipal bedding schemes; I do not. Lines have had to be laid down. Words have been exchanged). But I’m looking forward to hearing how the gardening progresses.

    1. In the short term there will only be occasional opportunities to garden together since we live on opposite coasts (The Beau is in Penzance of all places) so we have time to explore boundaries. I imagine having a large garden might help, but of course I don’t have one of those ….. not at the moment anyway 😉

  21. Ah there you go Dan – everything happens for a reason – even if we cant see it at the time and it is nearly two years down the line. Your beau was obviously worth waiting for. Am pleased for you and well done with all those pots. Phew!

  22. How lovely to have The Beau in your life and garden! A great adventure. I wish you both many happy hours of gardening, including making full use of the G & T garden! I don’t have anyone to help but paving, fencing, pruning, planting, pond care and everything else has kept me fit. Love your tulips and confess to planting my overlooked last ones on New Years Day! I also found some New Dawn daffs so they’ve gone in a pot with the tulips. Never too late for lots in life! I hope.

    1. I hope so too! So much still left to see and do!! I am sure the daffs and tulips will be fine. There’s not much going on above ground at the moment, that’s for sure. The weather forecasters say that the gloom might lift today. Hurrah.

  23. Mostly I am alone in the garden to do the gardening. But for bigger tasks I can always count on my two guys to help me out. Clear orders have to be given though 😄 And for even bigger jobs, my parents love to join the force, although they don’t live that close. Congretulations with the Beau. Lucky you he is into gardening 😉

  24. Based upon the comments, you certainly hit a hot topic – gardening alone or with a companion. 🙂 My hubby is not a gardener but some days he enjoys being out there so I usually give him some choices, he picks, and we each do our own thing. Happy gardening with your new Beau.

    1. I did hit a topic didn’t I Judy? Who knew? It’s given me all sorts of ideas. Are you back in New England now? I am busy planning a spring trip to Florida. Very exciting. Hoping to get lots of ideas for my garden whilst I am in Raymond Jungles’ territory. Dan

  25. I was looking for cobaea advice, & found your blog – how very interesting it is! I have just come in from the garden after spending a happy hour or so scrubbing pots. It’s one of my favourite so-called garden “chores”. Yes, it was cold out there, but sunny – and I do use warm water & wear Marigolds……..oh, and my other half is permitted to mow the lawn and cut the hedges (under supervision), and that’s it. Anything that flowers is mine and mine alone!!

    1. Quite right. I would be he same. I don’t generally wear gloves when I am gardening, but if my hands are in contact with water I generally do. Marigolds have the benefit of being quite ‘grippy’ too.

  26. Gardening is my passion really, and I make the creative decisions, but my husband does do specific jobs like keeping the pond clean and some of the pruning jobs, and weeding between the slabs on the patio, and he keeps an eye on the conservatory tomatoes in the summer. We work best if we have our own jobs and don’t try to interfere with what the other is doing. The allotment is all mine mine mine though! He tends to just stand around going ‘you don’t want to do it like that’ and isn’t all that interested anyway. TBH if I only had the garden I’d probably do that all myself and it would mostly be growing vegetables anyway, but it is a matter f time constraints with having the allotment as well. My priorities are very much allotment – back garden – and lastly very neglected front garden, in that order.

    1. There does seem to be a very clear pattern of creative masterminds being partnered with maintenance heroes in this comment thread. It sounds like you have reached a good understanding with your hubby Ruth. I suggest pelting him with tomatoes if he carries on with the ‘you don’t want to do it like that’ malarkey. He’ll soon desist. Dan

  27. My partner only wants to care for the lawn. That is cute and I guess it is a step in the right direction and therefore should be encouraged. It is a big dilemma though since I want to expropriate the whole lawn and grow cut flowers.

    1. Well, it’s a job that you don’t have to do, so don’t knock it. Chip away at the lawn a sliver at a time and your partner will not notice. One day the mower will come out and there will be nothing to mow, just the beautiful flowers that you have cultivated. Dan

  28. Hi Dan, I should elaborate about our arrangement. It has not always been smooth sailing. There was the time when my partner decided that the verbena topiary that I had trained for years to grow at an angle, would look much better growing upright. I was away and he “fixed” it. Then there was the time when he mowed my new crop of sweet cicely thinking it was just a weed. Pity, I was going to make him a lovely spring salad…I could go on….but that’s what compromise is about!

  29. Emma does not garden, mainly because I intimidate her. I have sometimes thought it would be good to share, but then I think that I love having control too much. Probably quite sad. Still, I am really happy for you and hope that the path of true love runs smoothly and amicably, in the garden and everywhere else.

    1. Thank you Tim! So long as you are both happy with that arrangement I think it’s fine. People often tell me that they find me intimidating. In some circumstances that can be quite useful! Hopefully The Beau will not find me too overbearing.

      When are you next in town? Would be nice to catch up. Dan

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