I used to think that a passion for plants was always good. I mean,
what can be wrong with loving green growing things? But in the last
few years, I’ve met men and women who have gone around the floral
bend. I know women more aroused by rose-gardens than by their
beloveds; men who sacrifice relationships to a fascination with
floribundas; parents who remember the purchase-dates for two hundred
hybrid teas more clearly than their children’s birthdays; couples who
talk about roses, and – well, that’s it – roses.
Tommy Cairns and Luis Desamero have surrounded their California home
with 1,000 container-raised plants. If they aren’t pruning their
roses, they’re disbudding them, or spraying, fertilizing, repotting,
and generally examining them. As Tommy says, “A mania for roses
transcends all strata of living. I mean, Luis and I even buy toilet
paper with roses on it. We can’t help it.”
Can’t help it. Horticultural obsession is as powerful and dangerous
as a fairy-tale aphrodisiac. And in the Brothers Grimm, at least,
quaffing one always had disastrous consequences.
Steve Jones, current President of the American Rose Society, lost a
marriage to the tug-of-war between flowers and wife. So did Bob
Martin, an Arizona lawyer whose ex-wife described his love of
exhibiting roses as an “unhealthy passion.”
Yet, rose people credit the Queen of Flowers with giving them
purpose and love, even as she sometimes withdraws it. Tommy recovered
from heart surgery among his flowers. “They are always beautiful,
always interesting, often challenging,” he explains. “But that is fine
because I would rather walk into a rose garden and deadhead than take
South Carolina exhibitor Satish
Prabhu actually won his wife’s heart with his roses – they were all he
had to give, and, said his wife, Vijaya, “They were exactly what I
wanted.” Steve and Bob have each remarried women who accept their
extracurricular passion. As Maine rosarian Sari Hou says, “There’s a
sad story behind every rose garden, and sadness becomes happiness in
After spending time with these people, I have realized that I’m too
easily distracted to experience obsession, horticultural or otherwise.
My garden will always comprise a ridiculous variety of plants in not
quite the right locations.
I am, at once, relieved and disappointed. The intensity of true
devotion is a bit unnerving. Yet, the rosarians I’ve met are some of
the most energetic, enthusiastic, purely happy people I’ve ever known.
They’ve found faith in one true plant. So, while I am an agnostic, I
have ordered five new roses, just in case.
Wanna read the book? Post a comment (or put it on your blog and post a link in the comments) about your own experiences with gardening as a competitive sport. Come on, we know you’ve done it. Maybe you didn’t enter your pumpkin in the state fair, but we’re willing to bet you’ve dropped off a sack of early tomatoes at the neighbor’s house, with a sigh and a glance heavenward over the burden that such a bountiful harvest has imposed upon you. Or perhaps you’ve been a little too quick to jump in and supply a Latin name when a friend didn’t know the name of the Somethingia unknownus she paid twenty bucks for at the nursery last weekend and planted in the completely wrong spot (not that you’ll say anything to her about that–oh, well, yes you will.)
Yeah. You’re a show-off. We know you are. So just come clean. You’ll feel better.
Judging is entirely subject to my whims and moods, and I’ll announce a winner tonight. Meanwhile, check out Aurelia’s book tour schedule here, and go see her if you can. Trust me, having just a couple of GardenRant readers in the audience can really make the evening.