Gardening: A Four-Letter Word


My wife grew up in Nebraska where the word “garden” is a verb and crops are produced in neat and tidy rows. Her mother had a backyard garden and the neighbors did, too, and they traded seasonal fruits and vegetables among themselves, much like folks have done since woman first sat down and gnawed on an ear of corn.

To my utmost bewilderment, my wife continued to “garden” after we got married, despite Fraser’s climate. At 9,000-foot elevation, the thing that grows best here are the ice cubes in your glass when you’re outdoors at a party.

I’m from Los Angeles where “garden” is a noun and crops are produced in neat and tidy aisles. Many newlyweds argue over finances; our first marital spat was over fertilizer. I couldn’t believe anyone would pay that kind of money for bags of poop.

Be careful of what you say while the wife is holding a shovel!

Needless to say, the two viewpoints led to some interesting discussions. Live and learn, they say, and learn I have. In fact, I’ve learned so well that I’m somewhat renowned as a studied practitioner of the art of non-gardening. Many men have turned to me for advice on how to handle that awkward moment when their spouse first turns on them with a rake and a packet of turnip seeds.

Let’s try a little warmup. Suppose your wife comes at you with a menacing statement like, “We should get up early tomorrow to plant the radicchio.” I know, I know, her audacity leaves you breathless, but then she thumps you with the second whammy, “You’ll need to get the fertilizer out of the back of my car.”

You ask yourself in a big, dreamy thought balloon, “How come it doesn’t work the other way? How come this conversation didn’t start with me saying, ‘I’m going to sleep late tomorrow to be fully alert for the big game. After you get the kitchen under control from our late breakfast, be sure to turn on the TV for the pre-game warmup about 2 in the afternoon and then bring me a beer every 15 minutes for the next five hours. Thanks, Hon, you’re the best.’ ”

A simple question like “How much zucchini should I plant?” is enough to ruin a perfectly good nap.

Back in the land of reality, what to say? What to say? There’s a lot resting on this. The following is a clear example of a bad response:

“Uh, I hate radicchio. I hate saying the stupid word. What, I married you to scratch around in the dirt like a robin? Why can’t I sleep late like all my single friends? Oh, right, I remember, you chased them all off.”

While this may be just the thing we all want to say, prudence dictates that we must temper wit with wisdom. Consider an alternative like so: “Bummer, Honey, didn’t you see the notice where our wheelbarrow was recalled? I left it right here on the counter. Certain serial numbers of our exact model had been scientifically determined to cause abrupt and unexpected back pain, so I’ve hired the neighbor kid to do it.”

Or possibly, if you’re feeling particularly droll, perhaps a bit theatrical, you might say: “Oh, Darling, I love you immensely and so delight in anticipating your every need. I checked the air in the wheelbarrow tire yesterday ’ere you even awoke, just to be sure that sturdy contraption was ready to start hauling fertilizer to nourish our new, little radicchios. But guess what? The doggone tire was flat and the hardware store is totally out of inner tubes for at least two weeks past planting season. I was crushed, of course, but I’m holding up well. By the way, is that the TV guide next to you?”

Even a simple question like, “How many zucchini should I plant?” is enough to ruin a perfectly good nap. What to say?

“Uh, how about none? I’ve had enough green slimy bread to get me through two lifetimes.”

Again, we would find universal agreement among men that this is a wholesome, manly response. However, we would probably have to look through both those lifetimes to find a man

It would be a shame for a lady to take up a hobby that ruins her beautiful nails, or so says her non-gardening husband.

brave enough to actually say it out loud.

In the face of a gardening onslaught from the wife, we must gird our loins, do the manful thing and resort to trickery. This will usually do it: “Great idea, Hon, plant at least a couple of dozen vines. Zucchini is so good fried in butter and cheese like they do at Applebee’s. Say, did those pants shrink in the wash?”

Smartest response of all: “Oh, look, here’s a schedule of the Farmer’s Market in Granby. By the way, have I mentioned that your nails look lovely? Really, everyone admires them. Be a shame if you took up a hobby that ruined them. Hand me that remote, would you? Careful with those beautiful nails!”

The race doesn’t always go to the swiftest.

Jon de Vos, who lives near Fraser, took a one-month job at a ski lodge in Hideaway Park (now Winter Park), after graduating from Arizona State University in 1973. He intended to head for law school in the fall semester. That was 33 years ago. “Colorado saved my life,” he says.

From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.