Gardens and marriages both have to be nurtured in order to thrive. Some people nurture both at the same time.

After years of gardening as one half of a couple, I decided to find out how others organize their gardening as part of a team. What did I learn? Mostly that people who spend time tending plants seem to be easy to get along with and can figure out how to accommodate the people they care about. Also, that arrangements for gardening together probably vary as much as marriages do: Someone is always in charge, but it isn’t necessarily the same person all the time.

Some of the couples I interviewed garden side by side. In other cases, one person has prime responsibility for one part of the garden, the other has another area of responsibility. For big projects, they join forces. In one case, the couple never garden together at all.

Richard, who goes by Red, and Louise Sullivan’s Cape Elizabeth property is a small farm, with bee hives, a flock of 14 Barred Rock chickens, five ewes with lambs (raised for the meat), a big vegetable garden and extensive landscaping.

“We do divide the duties,” Louise said. “Red’s real passion and his real attention go to the vegetable garden. He does a great job, and keeps a journal and records from year to year.”

Red, a neurologist, works his part of the garden with a friend, Robert Russell, director of the choral music department at the University of Southern Maine. They grow enough vegetables on their 1-acre garden to keep both families in vegetables all year and to give produce to friends, neighbors and the South Portland Food Pantry.

Louise handles the landscaping, and is the prime decision maker there. She and Red work together at times, but with clearly defined roles: Louise is Red’s assistant in the vegetable garden, and he is her assistant in the flower gardens.

Abbey Forcier and Brian Steinert of Cape Elizabeth also have separate spherea. Brian grows and preserves the vegetables and handles maintenance of buildings, and she takes charge of the flowers.

But Tara Connor and Rich McCoy have a different arrangement. They garden side by side at their Gorham home, with their 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, too. Connor described the garden as “a lot of landscaping, a few raised beds and a completely out-of-control strawberry patch.”

They are new gardeners. She does all of the reading about gardens and passes what she learns on to him to see what he thinks.

But while some families might find close quarters in the garden a strain, not this one. “I really can’t see anyone fighting over a plant,” Connor said.

The most unusual arrangement I heard about was that of Roger and Ginny Bishop, both avid gardeners. The catch? They never garden together.

Their Cape Elizabeth home is located on ledge. Roger mows the front lawn, and Ginny tends the rock garden and herb beds. “My garden is basically a rock garden, and I tell my friends the rocks are doing very well,” Ginny said.

Roger worked in human resources all around the country, retiring as director of international human relations from Fairchild Semiconductor about five years ago. Although he was raised in a farm family, until he retired he never did more than mow the lawn. “Every once in while I’d look out the window at the office and say, ‘Darn, I wish I was out there rather than here.’ ”

But when he finally did retire, Ginny did not want him bothering her herb and rock gardens. Fortuitously, a friend asked if he’d help start a new community garden in Cape Elizabeth. He busted sod and put up fences, ultimately creating 54 garden plots behind the former Maxwell’s Farm Market (now a preschool). Now Roger uses one of the plots himself, for a traditional kitchen garden (and to stay out of Ginny’s hair, or at least her garden). Ginny also gardens away from home, volunteering in the historic gardens at the Tate House in Portland.

How do my wife Nancy and I garden together? Apparently, we’re pretty typical. These interviews are admittedly a limited sample, but from them it seems like males grow the vegetables and females grow the flowers. That is the case in our house.

If there is a disagreement, I defer to Nancy. She came into this marriage as an experienced gardener and has taken landscape design, horticulture and flower design classes. I came into the marriage knowing how to mow a lawn. Unless it is something I have researched for writing this column, we just assume she knows more than I do.

I turn over the soil in the vegetable garden, after she marks out self-seeded annuals and other plants she wants me to save, although after all these years I recognize most of them myself. I plant, weed to the best of my ability, harvest and clean up in the fall.

Nancy is the best, neatest weeder I have ever met. She does all the weeding in the flower beds and helps me weed the vegetable garden when I am falling behind or my weeding does not meet her standards.

Since our ornamental gardens are full, we do not buy new plants unless we both agree, and we discuss where to plant them – but sometimes not until we have shovels in hand. Once the decision is made, I am usually the one to dig out old shrubs and plant new ones.

The method seems to work well. At least, we’re still married and talking to each other after nearly 45 years.

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