Guest post by Aurelia C. Scott

I used to think that a passion for plants was always good.  I mean, what can be wrong with loving green growing things?  But in the last few years, I’ve met men and women who have gone around the floral bend.  I know women more aroused by rose-gardens than by their beloveds; men who sacrifice relationships to a fascination with
floribundas; parents who remember the purchase-dates for two hundred hybrid teas more clearly than their children’s birthdays; couples who talk about roses, and – well, that’s it – roses. 

Tommy Cairns and Luis Desamero have surrounded their California home with 1,000 container-raised plants.  If they aren’t pruning their roses, they’re disbudding them, or spraying, fertilizing, repotting, and generally examining them.  As Tommy says, “A mania for roses transcends all strata of living.  I mean, Luis and I even buy toilet paper with roses on it.  We can’t help it.”

Can’t help it.  Horticultural obsession is as powerful and dangerous as a fairy-tale aphrodisiac.  And in the Brothers Grimm, at least, quaffing one always had disastrous consequences.

Steve Jones, current President of the American Rose Society, lost a marriage to the tug-of-war between flowers and wife.  So did Bob Martin, an Arizona lawyer whose ex-wife described his love of exhibiting roses as an “unhealthy passion.”

Yet, rose people credit the Queen of Flowers with giving them purpose and love, even as she sometimes withdraws it.  Tommy recovered from heart surgery among his flowers.  “They are always beautiful, always interesting, often challenging,” he explains.  “But that is fine because I would rather walk into a rose garden and deadhead than take blood-pressure medication.”

South Carolina exhibitor Satish Prabhu actually won his wife’s heart with his roses – they were all he
had to give, and, said his wife, Vijaya, “They were exactly what I wanted.”  Steve and Bob have each remarried women who accept their extracurricular passion.  As Maine rosarian Sari Hou says, “There’s a sad story behind every rose garden, and sadness becomes happiness in that garden.”

After spending time with these people, I have realized that I’m too easily distracted to experience obsession, horticultural or otherwise. My garden will always comprise a ridiculous variety of plants in not quite the right locations.

I am, at once, relieved and disappointed.  The intensity of true devotion is a bit unnerving.  Yet, the rosarians I’ve met are some of the most energetic, enthusiastic, purely happy people I’ve ever known. They’ve found faith in one true plant.  So, while I am an agnostic, I have ordered five new roses, just in case.