The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

Ten signs you’re obsessed with the garden


Click for larger imageThis year I’ve put most of my gardening budget into a professional garden design, so I’m in retail shutdown and can’t buy any new plants – at all. But I’ve discovered there are plenty other signs of my garden obsession in my behaviour, even with plant-buying taken out of the equation. Any of this sound familiar?

  1. My beautiful baby (plants): I’ve more photos of my borders than my children. From their earliest seed leaves to when they’re big (they grow so fast), my plants dominate my Flickr albums.
  2. Tick tock, sun by the clock: I know precisely when each area of the garden gets sun, especially in nooks that see just an hour or two of direct light. This makes me very boring, but it also makes it easier to plan where to put seats, especially for winter sun.
  3. In my dreams: Dreams or nightmares about the garden are a regular thing for me. Whether it’s a chat with Alan Titchmarsh or a late frost that killed the hellebores, they’re always unlikely and always feel utterly real.
  4. Count plants, not sheep: If I want to distract myself – at the dentist, when swimming laps, or when trying to drop off to sleep – I recite an A-Z alphabet of plants (*has a realisation about the cause of #3 above*).
  5. Weather geek: I worry about and watch the forecasts for killing frosts, heavy snow and gales in a way I never did before the garden drew me in. I’m constantly amazed at the plants’ drive to grow, flower and set seed, regardless of the weather.
  6. Love the Latin: I now love and want to learn more Latin plant names, a transformation from my first impression of botanical nomenclature as a needlessly pretentious quirk of gardening. The folksy common names are interesting, but you can’t beat the precise, no-room-for-confusion Latin.
  7. Stand and stare: Standing outside – or, more usually, looking out a window – I may stay motionless for many minutes, imagining small or big changes I could make to the space. It looks like an absent seizure, but it’s just the gardening obsession.
  8. Not great company: Because gardening has taken over eleven-tenths of my brain and this is tedious for people around me, I strain to keep gardening out of conversation. But like any hobbyist, my obsession is how I make sense of the world. Or, more precisely, it is my mental release valve: the vocabulary, beauty and order of it are a great comfort to me. I do try to muster some small talk about holiday plans or current events, but really I’m just waiting for someone to talk about tulips.
  9. These are my people: Meeting another garden-obsessive is as good as it gets. The conversation doesn’t just flow, it pours – about everything from holiday plans (for our seedlings) to current events (Chelsea). We need some way to recognise each other faster, like the brooches the masons used to wear.
  10. Forever young: Surprises in the garden give me a regular supply of Christmas-morning wonder. The first snowdrop, germinating seeds, baby newts, self-seeded plants – all these first-time-discovery moments make me feel small, safe and sure that everything in the world is well.

Are you garden-obsessed? How can you tell? I’d like to hear about it.

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28 Comments to

“Ten signs you’re obsessed with the garden”

  1. On May 23rd, 2011 at 3:41 pm Janet Says:

    I’m worried nay frantic about the damage that that wind is doing to the garden. Can’t do very much about it so I’m looking at blog sand trying to be laid back about it.

    Talking of current events do you go to Gardening Scotland?

  2. On May 23rd, 2011 at 4:42 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Janet, I’m glad I’m not there to see the wind – am visiting my mom and sister in New Hampshire and going to my college reunion in Massachusetts this week. I’ve seen the tweets though about the wind and have everything crossed for my garden back home. When I return I’ll need to do some serious family time and don’t think I’ll get to Gardening Scotland; it’s also a bit beyond my nonexistent budget this year! But I’ve got some fab plants there in past; an astrantia roma, a tradescantia and a rhodo ‘purple splendour’ that are 3 of the best things in my garden.

  3. On May 23rd, 2011 at 4:54 pm Claire, Plantpassion Says:

    My son (7) summed it up for me a couple of weeks ago

    Mummy, gardening is your hobby not mine!

  4. On May 23rd, 2011 at 5:59 pm Karen - An Artist's Garden Says:

    This is such a funny post – I love it!
    Guilty from 1 – 10.
    I check 3 weather forecasts every morning (they all say different) but the one I most relate to is number 8 (Oh and 7 and 3 and 1)

  5. On May 23rd, 2011 at 8:19 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Claire — Your son should meet my son. When mine saw me crying about a dead rose, he said, “Mummy, it’s not like one of your children died.”

  6. On May 23rd, 2011 at 8:26 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Karen – I’m sitting in a cafe now with my mum and sister and they have both just refused to read this blog post. How can I be related to these people?!

  7. On May 28th, 2011 at 10:33 pm Christine Says:

    How funny. I think I’m more obsessed by knitting than I am by gardening, but the garden comes a close second. (Actually, I garden in two gardens – my own and the church garden, and my own suffers as a result…) I always joke with my downstairs neighbour that my garden is the most photographed in Britain. Yes, I have more pictures of my garden than of my children!

  8. On May 30th, 2011 at 6:41 pm Ronnie Tyler Says:

    Oh what does 6/10 make me – almost obsessed. Fun post, thank you.

  9. On May 31st, 2011 at 10:06 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    thanks Christine; my friend is a huge fan of knitting, and I have encouraged her to write a blog about it. my obsession is probably the only reason I started the blog; there was so much gardening in my head I needed to put it somewhere. I think I’ve become (marginally) less boring to my family since the blog has become my outlet.

  10. On May 31st, 2011 at 10:06 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    thanks Ronnie!

  11. On June 2nd, 2011 at 1:40 am Jean Says:

    Sheila, This very definitely resonated for me. I think one of the benefits of blogging is that I can share my gardening obsession with a virtual community of garden obsessives instead of boring my not-so-long-suffering non-gardening friends and relatives!

  12. On June 7th, 2011 at 5:06 am Lola Says:

    Yes!! That’s me to a T currently. My husband thinks plants are an addiction. I am not into the latin, but i do exhaustively research all the Plants i do not own, shark around the garden centers regularly, drive winding paths home to spot something cool planted in eye popping ways and then i imagine them in my landscape. My beds are crammed full and i am eyeing the back of the lawn for a new bed to “paint” in. Luckily my mother and best friend love gardening and they let me come over and work on their gardens. I’ve got a young child who loves to garden and play in the yard thankfully.

  13. On December 28th, 2011 at 5:14 pm Gareth Says:

    I know I’m obsessed for the pure and simple reason I’m never fully satisfied with my own garden. I’m always on the look out for new ideas and different plants that can add a new dimension to it.

  14. On January 23rd, 2012 at 8:54 pm SussexSarah Says:

    Oh oh oh. I laughed till I cried. I think I score 11 out of 10! Especially reciting plants when swimming laps – I never knew anyone else did that.

  15. On January 23rd, 2012 at 9:43 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Sarah – it’s funny that you should leave a comment on this post, as I was thinking about it only today, wondering if I should do another post about the fact that worried – really worried now – about the extent to which I’m thinking about the garden! But maybe that is just a function of it being January, the most awful month for gardeners with itchy fingers.

    I’m so thankful you left a comment, it makes me feel much better!

  16. On January 30th, 2012 at 4:01 pm SussexSarah Says:

    I love obsessions – how else to get through the boredom of a shopping queue, or a late train, and please dont get me started on the swimming lengths.
    One of my obsessions at the moment is how I am going to fit all my annuals in. I have three types of cosmos, four of sweetpeas, cleome nasturtiums, not to mention marigolds and all the veg. What was I thinking of?
    I spend all my free time in a logistical nightmare – if I just move that I could perhaps squeeze that in….

  17. On April 1st, 2012 at 7:03 am Heidi Says:

    Your site is hilarious and boy can I relate. Sometimes i just stare out at our windows for what seems like forever to hubbie, just imagining new ideas and things I want to add to the garden. I had a full day of gardening last week and I was in heaven. Re: the dreams, I had a nightmare that all of my plants and flowers were burned and I woke up practically hyperventilating, so happy that it wasn’t true! Gardening is one of the most rewarding hobbies I could ever imagine! Love your blog 🙂

  18. On April 1st, 2012 at 8:07 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Heidi — I have had exactly the same kind of dreams. Sometimes in my dreams I’m wondering about with a seedling I just dug up from the garden and I can’t find a pot to put it in. What are we like?! it’s so good to know I’m not alone, and wonderful to hear from another addict, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment!

  19. On April 2nd, 2012 at 7:52 am SussexSarah Says:

    I think we need a new word. Addict suggests we need curing. I think its more like being addicted to oxygen. If you aren’t you’ve got problems!

  20. On April 5th, 2012 at 4:30 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Sarah – Ooh good point! Gardening fanatic maybe? You have to admit there is an element of mania about it!

  21. On April 11th, 2012 at 7:14 pm SussexSarah Says:

    oh yes I sure admit that – hence the name of my most recent post
    “Tulip Mania”;postID=2202661866865286104

  22. On April 11th, 2012 at 7:15 pm SussexSarah Says:

    sorry let’s try that again – the real title for the blog is
    I just forgot where I was!

  23. On May 1st, 2012 at 8:38 am Gareth Says:

    Oh dear it appears I’ve got a problem by the sound of it. When I think back I started this obsession when I was around 12 years old when my dad gave me a corner of his garden do my own thing in. Is there a cure ? Or do I keep plugging away happily ?

  24. On June 23rd, 2012 at 5:15 pm kmf Says:

    I like the idea of brooches, but I do tend to look out for dirty fingernails and already met a few fellow gardeners this way! I realised the other afternoon at work that the grooves in my hands were still full of beautiful black dirt even after 10 minutes of scrubbing after my gardening that morning. Funny enough, instead of wanting to clean them, I loved how they reminded me of what still needed to be done that evening so I found myself glancing at them all day at work and daydreaming about the garden.

    It’s not all good though – when my husband came home after 2 weeks away and saw that I dug out a lot more of the lawn for planting, all he said was ‘why?!’. Poor thing – it’s good to know there are more ‘obsessed’ people out there!

  25. On August 17th, 2013 at 2:18 pm Katherine Says:

    You forgot to mention the fact obsessed gardeners have email addresses with flowers or gardening inspired! Also that we name our children, pets after our favorites! That’s obsessed! BTW my daughter laughed when I read her this column and said “Mom that’s SO you!”

  26. On August 17th, 2013 at 5:21 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    All excellent points. No matter how weird we are, we still have each other! Katherine thanks for taking the time to comment, always delightful to meet fellow gardening addicts.

  27. On April 11th, 2017 at 10:04 pm Sumi Banna Says:

    I have suddenly grown a green thumb…..I had a completely ignored my balcony garden in the last 10 yrs I’ve been married…All of a sudden I seem to be so excited about propagation and pruning and repotting and buying new plants and memorizing ther names…I even have urges of stealing plant cutting from my neighborhood..this morning while walking up the stairs to my house I’m thinking maybe I should start putting pots on my neighbor’s bald balcony and do him a favor….What has happened to me?!!

  28. On April 25th, 2018 at 9:52 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    I find it hard to pass a plant I love without grabbing a piece of it — but only if it’s actually growing on the street or hanging onto the sidewalk!

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