Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seeking Advice from Hortense Hoelove

For those of you unfamiliar with the name Hortense Hoelove, Hortense is often a guest blogger at May Dreams Gardens, answering gardening questions.  I'm not sure what Hortense's credentials are, but if Carol thinks she's qualifed enough to take over her blog once in awhile, then that's good enough for me.   She was the logical person to go to for the answer to a question that has been bugging me for over a year.

Dear Ms. Hoelove,

Something has been nagging at me for some time now, and I hope that you can help me.  A year ago I decided to dig up another area of the back lawn to create a new flowerbed.  Usually I don't consult with my husband before doing such things, but I thought it would be courteous of me to mention it to him since he is the head of lawn mowing here.  To my surprise, he wasn't very thrilled with the idea and told me, "You have enough flowers."  "Enough flowers"??  I've never heard this phrase before and wondered if there was such a concept.

When I created the new lily bed, I kindly made it longer than intended for ease in mowing around it.

I do believe what my husband was thinking was "Great--another doggone flowerbed to have to mow around," but that is not how he voiced his objection.  Fortunately, he eventually changed his mind (after some subtle persuasion that included a promise by me to mow this whole area) and even was helpful enough to help me spread compost all over the new garden area last fall.  But his comment still haunts me--did I miss something in my MG classes two years ago?  Is there a book or magazine article that explains this gardening theory?  Are there bloggers out there who have posted about their finished gardens with just the right amount of flowers?? 

Without the new Arbor Bed, I never would have had the space to plant more than one phlox.

Now I understand that there may be people who have turned every square inch of their lawn into a garden and really don't have room to add one more plant without taking something else out first.  But space is not an issue for me.  I developed this obsession with gardening only a few years ago, and my garden is very small compared to others I have seen.  I still have a few acres of virgin soil here, and unless I win the lottery and can afford outside help to remove all the lawn, I'll never run out of room for gardening!

OK, I admit it--I'm addicted to heucheras . . . and hydrangeas . . . and daylilies . . .

Perhaps my husband was thinking I have become too obsessed with gardening.  I suppose some people might even call me a plant "addict."  During the long winter months I get my garden fix by looking at books and thumbing through plant catalogs.  By spring I have a long list of new plants that I really must have in my own garden.  As if that wasn't enough, when I read garden blogs, I'll see photos of other plants that I don't have and that the writer is raving about.  If I had the time and energy to double or triple the size of my garden, I still wouldn't have room for all the gorgeous plants that I want!

Not a penny was spent on these ruby-red lilies, passalongs from my aunt.

Some family members (who shall remain nameless here to protect the guilty) think my addiction may be going too far and that I'm investing their inheritance in flowers and foliage instead of mutual funds. True, I do get a little carried away each spring, buying trunkloads of annuals, as well as new perennials.  And, of course, how can anyone pass up the fall clearance sales?  But I do try to save some money by starting some plants from seed, and then there are the free passalongs I get from friends and other gardeners.  Besides, my needs have changed in recent years, and I very seldom go clothes shopping anymore.  The money I once spent on clothes goes to plants instead, and plant shopping is so much more fun--almost everything comes in my size!  Another point I make to those non-gardening family members is that everyone needs a hobby; mine happens to be gardening.   I would bet that if I were a golfer, I would probably spend twice as much just on green fees alone.

I can never have too many coneflowers!

Dear Hortense, if you can find the time to answer this pressing question soon, I would appreciate it. If there is such a thing as "too many flowers,"  perhaps you could suggest a 12-step program for plant addicts like me.  The new garden catalogs are coming in every day, and I'm already developing plant lust--Help!! 



Update:  Hortense Hoelove has kindly answered my question and given some wise advice, which you can read here, if you are having similar concerns.  Mr. McGregor's Daughter also gave some keen insight into the male psyche of those non-gardening spouses, which can be read here.  Thank you, ladies!  I feel so much better now--let the dreaming and garden planning begin!


  1. I'm going to be very curious to hear Hortense's answer, because the same malady appears to be afflicting me - with a very similar response from the masculine half of our dynamic duo! (I must say that you seem to have assimilated your addiction with particular charm, by the way! Your gardens are gorgeous!)

  2. Hi Rose,

    Such a fun post. Can a girl have too many flowers, of course not.
    The world would be far less colourful without us gardeners:)

    Mr P's favourite phrase is
    'You've created a monster.'
    meaning something far too big for me to handle. I don't think so darling...........

  3. This is right on. As a retiree, I have often justified all the expense and time in my garden by saying "but I don't golf!" So glad to find you make the same excuse, er, rationale.

  4. A very fun post, Rose!

    Now my husband encourages me to create more and more gardens --in fact, I've had to stop him from turning the side 2 acres into a prairie garden. And his reasoning is just the opposite of your husbands. The more gardens I create, the less lawn there is to mow! :-)

  5. I'm of no help because I too suffer from this same affliction, addiction, or obsession. I love your rational for not giving in to those who say you are spending too much time, energy, and money on plants. I will use your excuses: not buying clothes or shoes, so now I can buy plants.

    Your addiction brings beauty into the world and provides a place for the bees and butterflies to do their thing.

    You can never have too many flowers.

  6. Dear Rose, Very fun posting. But to attempt an answer: 'Time and energy' are the key words you use. You will know when you have created enough gardens when it takes too much time to care for them and you no longer have the energy. Of course, some of believe (or hope) this will never happen. P. x

  7. I can't wait to see what Hortense tells you in reply! My husband complained a few years back about having to lift the mower so many times because there was no contiguous access to the lawn areas. I made it easier for him by eliminating more lawn!

  8. This addiction must be catching because we all have it. LOL!
    Too many flowers? Are you nuts? I don't think so. LOL!
    What a fun post, Rose.

    Oh, I quite agree with you on the costs too. Hobbies are a natural part of life, particularly once the kids have grown up and gone. And your rationale is sound. Golf, skiing, scuba-diving and a host of other hobbies can be far more expensive. Ha!

    And don't forget how much your gardening benefits the environment. Now that's priceless!

  9. Enough plants???? ahahhahahahahahaha I think he was just being funny ---right? Gardens evovle...and new plants are ALWAYS needed to fill the spaces.

  10. Hortense thinks this is an excellent question and will answer soon. She may consult with Dr. Hortfreud because she can also provide some insight.

  11. Ha! There can never be too many flowers. Keep digging.

  12. I'm afraid that I gave up all my grass bit by bit in my tiny garden, over the years to make more room for things I wanted to add and now? It looks like *The Day Of The Triffids! I am being taken over. That reminds me I need to sharpen my machete.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  13. What a delightful, fun post! My husband never says that I have enough flowers, but he does say, "You don't have the time to take care of the ones you already have." Sadly, there is some truth to that.

    I plan to just keep on planting!


  14. Gaia, Thank you! I think the male half of our household duo was feeling a bit grumpy when he said this:)

    Cheryl, Love Mr. P's comment! I do think my Mr. P was thinking something similar, because there are times I can't seem to keep up with it all.

    Laurrie, I thought this reasoning was something that non-gardeners could relate to. I could be a lot more frivolous with my hard-earned money than planting flowers!

    Renee, that is exactly what I've tried to convince me husband of--I'm actually doing him a favor:) I've got two acres of side yard, too, that I would love to turn into a mini-prairie, but I know that would be a big job to tackle!

    RET, At one time I was a shoe addict, so it seems to me plants are a much more environmentally friendly alternative:)

    Pam, You're so right, and I think in the back of his mind this is what my husband was thinking. I have this vision of making each of the flowerbeds more low-maintenance so I can keep up with it all. May we all be gardening till the day we die!

    Cindy, My plan--little does he know--is to turn this whole area into a garden with paths in-between. That will solve the mowing problem!

    Wendy, I like your thinking! I could be blowing money on far less useful things.

    Janet, Unfortunately, I think he was being somewhat of a curmudgeon that day:) Now if I had suggested expanding the vegetable garden--which I want to do--he would be all for it.

  15. Carol, Thanks so much for forwarding this on to Hortense, and I could definitely use Dr. Hortfreud's analysis, too. I do hope I don't have a serious addiction. I look forward to their advice!

    Sarah, My thoughts exactly!

    Maggie, I think this might be what my husband is worried about--that one day I'll lose interest, and there will be this monster to deal with. But as long as I am able, I don't intend to give up. Now I'm going to have to look up the "Triffids":)

    Donna, I know that this is exactly what my husband meant, too. Somedays it seems I can't keep up with it all, but I keep trying...and planting.

  16. Alas, this is the best kind of addiction to have--one that benefits you, your family (even though they might deny it), the world around you, and visitors who come to witness your beautiful habitat. Can a person have too many flowers? How can that ever be possible?

  17. I may not be Hortense Hoelove, but I have experience with this issue. My husband has said the same thing to me, only it was "Don't you have enough garden?" To which I immediately responded, "Of course not." Not that there is no such thing. The definition of "too many flowers" and "too much garden" is when it's more than you can take care of or when it becomes a burden rather than a joy. That said, the deeper issue here is not about how much money or time you spend, it's about the male need for lawn. True, not all men exhibit this trait, but it is fairly common. This comment is getting too long, so I must ponder further and post a reply.

  18. Rose, Mr I never says, "Don't you have enough flowers?" He asks a sneakier question, "Have you ever made a list of all the plants you have?" He doesn't fool me! he thinks I will be shocked by what I have and stop adding. All that aside~I agree with Barbara/Mr McGregor's Daughter. The definition of "too many flowers" and "too much garden" is when it's more than you can take care of or when it becomes a burden rather than a joy. Have fun adding more plants to you garden. xogail PS Mr I isn't afflicted with the need to have lawn and mow!

  19. Sometimes I think I have enough flowers but only when I realize that what is needed is actually more trees and shrubs instead. You could tell your husband that flowers are cheaper and smaller than evergreens :)

  20. Oh my, Rose, what a thoroughly entertaining question! I loved the response by Hortense, as well. You are both very sensible and thrifty gardeners, obviously. Tell anyone worried about inheritance that the return rate on mutual funds is so low right now, investing in plants that can be shared with future hardcore gardeners is a much better expenditure. This comes from years of tightwad accounting wisdom, and should not be challenged! HA

  21. I agree with Hortense. Grass is there to simply accent the flowers.~~Dee

  22. Hi, Rose;
    Loved this post, very cute. I'll have to pop over to see what Hortense has to say about the matter. I have been accused of the same, dang thing! The concept of having 'enough flowers' seems a bit outrageous to me! :)))

  23. Never too many flowers....
    Never.....it's my job to provide food for the bugs!
    fun post.
    Happy planning...

  24. A garden addiction, it seems to me, is a pleasant ailment or obsession or addiction. What harm does it do? Enjoy your gardening addiction!

  25. I love the fact that all plants come in your size! What a wonderful quote!

    And of course you can't have too many flowers. I wish you would come and plant my garden too as my attempts just don't match up to my hopes.

    And for some reason reading about your husband and mowing around the flower bed reminded me of the couple in the carpet shop this afternoon. They have a water bed that is too heavy to move and they wanted carpet to fit around it!

  26. I had to laugh at the guilty family members worried about their inheritance. Tell them that these plants will be worth a lot some day and are well worth the investment!

  27. I so enjoyed your post and the other two that followed. I am very lucky in that, though not an avid gardener, my husband appreciates plants and could care less about the lawn. He has helped me to remove about 1/4 acre of it or more. I wrote a post on 5/2/11 about this called Letting Go: The Lawn and was besieged with comments and emails from women married to lawn lovers. Although there are never enough flowers, there is the concept of too much garden to care for but it doesn't sound like you are there yet.

  28. Wonderful post! I, too, am consumed with plant lust and bloom envy at this time of year when all those beautiful seed catalogs turn up in my mailbox. Hortense can provide guidance and reassurance for all of us suffering this malady.

  29. Dear Rose, love the post and the responses too! While I don't advise divorce, there have been benefits. I recently moved to a house with no lawn whatsoever and am happy as a hopelessly plantaholic clam :)

  30. We must make sure our spouses never meet Rose!

    Fortunately I do still have some space here (though not the acres you have - I'm jealous,) that isn't covered with lawn. Once I run out of that space though, he'd better watch out!

  31. Plant Postings, I've come to the same conclusion!

    MMD, This is an intersting insight, and I think you may be right. Thanks for the excellent follow-up article!

    Gail, Usually, my Mr. P asks "Are you sure you can keep up with all of this?" I'm hoping that time doesn't come for a long time!

    Marguerite, I've been going about gardening all backwards--only lately have I realized I need to add more shrubs. Shhh--don't tell my husband the price of shrubs:)

    Frances, You're absolutely right--my small investments aren't doing well at all, so I might as well invest in something I can enjoy!

    Dee--love your answer!

  32. Kate, Fortunately, it seems that my husband was wrong, though men never like to admit that. Research shows there can never be too many flowers:)

    Sherry, I wish I had thought of this reasoning when talking to my husband. I should have said I'm helping preserve the ecosystem here.

    Sage, You're absolutely right--this is a harmless addiction, and one that others can enjoy as well.

    Liz, Ha! Your story made me laugh. Carpeting around a heavy piece of furniture sounds like something my husband would do:)

    Sweetbay, The flowers are certainly doing better right now than any investments I have!

    Carolyn, I'm always a bit jealous of those whose spouses are fellow gardeners. Then again, I'm not sure I want my husband digging around in MY garden:)

    Dorothy, If I purchased all the plants I've marked in the catalogs, I'd need to take out a loan:)

    Cyndy, I'm glad to know I'm not the only plantaholic!

    Linda, We will definitely have to keep our meetings gardeners-only:)

  33. I love this post, Rose, and as you know, can relate to it. Not only does my husband not think the same way I do about flowers, I also would rather buy plants than clothes and what not. I don't think one can have too many flowers.

    Larry rarely comments on my blog posts, and I was surprised at his comment about the leaves. There are lots of bare spots, so we clearly don't perceive things the same way as each other. I do think, though, that I have run out of spaces for new flower beds. I may want to widen the beds on the east side a bit, but will do that a little at a time, thinking Larry may not notice.

  34. I love coral bells. They are the best. I know many couples who renegotiate the concepts of "too many flowers" and "too much lawn." :)


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