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How Does Your Garden Grow?

When my wife and I bought our house almost three years ago, there were numerous features that made us go batty for the property. For one, it was within walking distance of both Erb Park’s waterslides and Dairy Queen, meaning that my lifelong love for eating Blizzards while wearing swimtrunks could continue unabated. For two, our neighbors were amazing: fellow newlyweds on one side, and a sweet older couple who had lived there since the Kennedy administration on the other.

But the biggest selling point was the garden, which occupies a full 70% of the yard. Chockablock with clematis vines and bleeding hearts and asiatic lilies, it’s a thing of pride and beauty in an already-lovely neighborhood. And then there was the convenience factor: the prior owners had done the considerable work of bringing it to life, and all we had to do was keep it healthy and growing.

During that first summer, everything went mostly according to plan. Between the two of us, no garden-related task went undone. We’d alternate with the watering and weeding, and shoehorn ourselves into roles that were best suited to our personalities. If it came to plotting and potting plants or pruning, that was well within my wife’s well-organized wheelhouse. Meanwhile, I christened myself “Director of Garden Kitsch,” with tasks such as “find an old hospital bedpan for housing pansies” and “locate gnomes that look demon-possessed” under my purview. The beauty of our teamwork would be surpassed only by that of our hydrangeas.

Last summer, though, this partnership was tested by a new sprout a’growing -- that is, we were pregnant. Throughout May and June, my wife was still guiding our garden as effectively as ever. But gradually, as the days got shorter and autumn set in, the backpain and general fatigue that accompanied the pregnancy meant that I’d be taking on more of the work in the garden, and we’d both focus more on what was happening inside our doors than outside them.

It was kind of fun becoming the de facto “garden dad.” I’d water and weed and primp and prune, and she’d offer direction from the hammock as our own little bulb continued to bloom. But as the season ended, an enormous undertaking loomed: the garden would soon need to be cut back, and we both agreed that this was a two-person job.

One day, as I was complaining in the days leading up to the cut-back, my wife reminded me of something from the previous summer.

“Ty,” she began, crossing feet that she could no longer see, “You were out of town for work when I cut back most of the garden last year. You did some of it, but I actually did a lot of that myself.” And when I thought about it, she was right; somehow, I’d managed to mentally excise this tidbit from our all-hands, team-gardening narrative.

It was only a few weeks later that I cut back the garden. My wife’s hammock had been replaced with near-constant bedrest by this point. And with each progressive wheelbarrow to the curb, I was reminded that 1) doing this work solo was a massive endeavor, and 2) that’s exactly what my wife had done the year before.

Within days of finishing the last stage of the cut-back, we were on our way to the hospital. We were terrified. But two seasons of gardening -- and more importantly, gardening without the help of the other -- had created a solid foundation how we’d care for our next project. We’d already done the considerable work of bringing him to life, after all, and all we had to do was keep him healthy and growing.

We both agreed that this was a two-person job.

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