The Making of A Gardener

When do you know that you’re living with a plant nerd?

When you borrow space in a neighbor’s refrigerator because your own is full of mail-order bulbs and bare?root plants waiting to be planted?

When you’re late picking up the soccer team – again – because you first had to help unload that person’s latest batch of shrubs or water garden accessories from the mini-van? When plant language creeps into your subconscious: when you hear an order for a “double” at a cocktail bar and the image of a fully double mum comes unbidden to your mind?

Ah. Plant nerds. Cutting edge of the country’s number one hobby, trendsetters in a field of green. We roll our eyes over their excesses, but we know they’re the ones to ask before we buy if the authentic Lutyens bench, Haws watering can or latest Blooms of Bressingham perennial is really better than the rest.

Living with a plant nerd has rewards – fresh flowers on the table, homegrown tomatoes to slice onto just-picked salad greens and floral scents tickling your nose through an open window.

It’s a healthy lifestyle, too. You’ve really started to notice how pale and flabby some folks are, and that your plant nerd never is.

Your nerd can’t be faulted for dedication. “Free time” means planting trees in the park, weeding flowerbeds at the library, building a bird-feeding station in the school courtyard, or organizing such events.

It seems that plant nerds are proliferating at the office and in the mall, as you overhear telltale phrases like “harden it off’ and “sterile potting mix.” Reading that two out of five adult Americans identified themselves as gardeners in a 1994 survey, 30 percent more than in 1992, you wonder – will we be a nation of plant nerds by 2010?

You don’t worry much about it, though. You just don’t worry much at all lately. You’ve started going into the yard after work several nights a week. Pulling a few weeds, cuffing flowers, watching with the kids as a butterfly or interesting bug makes its way through the beds.

It’s all so calming after a tough day. That plant nerd is probably right about how gardening lowers blood pressure, steadies heart rate and increases alpha brain waves, whatever those are.

Lately, that corner of the yard where the shrubs have gotten rangy has begun to attract your attention. Maybe this weekend you’ll call dibs on the van and go to the garden center for something new…

Janet Macunovich is a professional garden designer and writer from southeast Michigan. Her articles appear weekly in the Detroit News. She has written two books, “Easy Garden Design” and “Caring for Perennials” and has had articles in numerous horticultural publications.

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