The Spousal Problem

dreams and reality

Father Ted said it best.

My husband is frequently annoyed with me that I rarely indulge the ‘dreamer’ who lives deep inside of this pragmatic, 40-something frame. It’s one thing to remain practical over cars, electric bills and clothing budgets, he muses. But to apply such dull and dusty thinking to a garden is a crime against creative genius – tantamount perhaps to burning books or rubbishing Jackson Pollock after a second glass of wine.

As it happens, he wrongs me most grievously. Dreamers always do.

Those of us cursed with a practical nature are doomed to wander the earth switching off overhead lights and wiping shovels with oily rags in winter tool sheds. We cannot help it. We are always looking two steps ahead and squinting to see three.

We’re not the fun parents. We see only tired sulky children after hypothetical slumber parties and know that the purchase of a smart phone for a teenager is about as smart as making Paris Hilton an authorized user on our VISA card.

And when it comes to building rose and wisteria covered pergolas on a ten acre deer preserve when we can’t even find time to trim the viburnum – and our garden staff consists of said sulky teenagers threatening to form a labor union – our sensibility explodes in a maelstrom of self-righteous indignation, bluster, and finally, holier-than-thou contempt.

At least that’s what happened last night.

oregon 2015 055The great irony in life’s nonsensical game of meet-your-mate is that we realists are highly attracted to dreamers. The poetic soul, the carefree manner, the ability to play, makes our calculating minds tingle dangerously and we find ourselves seriously considering the possibility of living on a sailboat for the rest of our lives, penning free verse and waiting for manna to rain down from Heaven.

Conversely, the dreamers are inexplicably turned on by the lusty pleasures of maintenance, budgets, punctuality and clean socks.

Thus both parties find themselves on opposite ends of garden pergolas; one intoxicated by the promise of drooping blossoms, sensual fragrance and quite possibly, quick trysts in quiet overgrown corners; and one calculating timber costs and wondering when on earth there will be time to cut back that unkempt shrubbery.

As I said…it’s a nonsensical game – and one most frequently played by the young, when contemplating pergolas is as remote as contemplating hip replacements and lifestyle lifts. If I had a dollar for every dreamer/realist match I’ve encountered in my adulthood, I’d be living on that sailboat in a very realistic manner – no manna necessary.

All these silly matchmaking theories aside, and having been the target last night of such unjust and scurrilous phrases as ‘overly pedantic’ and ‘a big fat buzz kill,’ I feel compelled to challenge the assumption that a realistic nature precludes the existence of a creative spirit – particularly in horticultural endeavors where Nature acts as constant muse.

Certainly, there are pedantic gardeners and pedantic gardens, and God knows that the detestable predictability of the modern suburban landscape can be laid squarely at the door of marketing teams that use our pragmatic natures against us; but when a realist (who also happens to be a joyful gardener) closes her eyes and opens her heart to the hedonism of unfettered creativity, her dreamer spouse should put down his patchouli and pay attention. For not only will she create horticultural splendor, but it’s guaranteed to be accompanied by an annotated appendix of maintenance concerns and budgetary timelines.

And seriously, what could be sexier than creative genius AND a rock-solid plan? Makes me tingle dangerously just thinking about it.


About the Author:

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.


  1. Lena R May 29, 2015 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Great post, Marianne. “We are always looking two steps ahead and squinting to see three.” Indeed.

  2. Ehrika June 17, 2015 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    This is my husband and me exactly, but I am the essential oil wearing, poet/dreamer, and he the practical green thumb. Without the dreamers vision the planner wouldn’t have anything to prepare for, and without the practical visionary, the vision would not come true. Perfect match, and thank you for your blog. This is my first year gardening.I helped my mom every year growing up, but this is my first time planting and tending my own garden, with my husband’s expert eye and green thumb to guide me.

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      Marianne Willburn June 18, 2015 at 2:54 pm - Reply

      Another couple to add to my anecdotal evidence! 🙂 Enjoy this first year of your own garden and don’t struggle too hard against your husband’s practicality. After all, you’ve got to know what the rules are before you can break them successfully.

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