You have seen them, and so have I.

They weave through chilly labyrinths forsaken by the sane. Merciless winds and unforgiving rain drench them, yet they refuse warmth and light. Glazed eyes sweep deceptively lovely surroundings, hungering for more. And more. And more.

Gardening addicts.

Never let them loose alone at Lowe’s. Or Menard’s. Especially, do not allow them in a nursery, where obliging, devious personnel help them take out a second mortgage to buy the last bougainvillea. This, despite the fact the tropical lovelies prefer Argentina over Indiana.

Gardening addiction can strike at any age. Younger junkies often fall victim to weekend binges. After watching alluring HGTV videos all week, these addicts appear in droves, naively assuming weekend consumption is something they can control. But green thumbs often inspire green envy. Competitive homeowners may be driven on a your-curb-appeal-attracts-more-Bambis-than-mine ride they never anticipated.

However, gardening addiction seems to do its worst damage in women of a certain age.

They should know better than to trust this mad urge to nurture. Most spent past decades caring for little humans. After their first babies, mamas generally repressed memories of endless feedings and the constant waterings with which the contrary little sprouts thanked them. Daily, these women dealt with mountains of fertilizer. But, generally speaking, after the second or third baby, they wised up. They limited the number of nurturees they would cultivate.

When it comes to nurturing gardens, however, these normally realistic people never learn. Every year, they can be found alone in garden centers, binging while spouses are at work or playing golf. Not content with dragging carts heavy as dinosaurs behind them, the women load up with 35 flats of annuals, 37 bags of potting soil and barrels of pansies, adding just one more hanging basket here. Another there. And can they pass up Mother’s Day clearance specials on wilted tomato seedlings? The poor little things look as if they belong in a plant ICU, but with extra TLC from these loving mamas, the sick plants will flourish. Of course, they will.

A clear picture of denial and delusion. Still, it helps us comprehend the seriousness of gardening addiction. To help prevent annual recurrence, I offer a list of signs to alert family and friends of its onset.

Early Signs of Gardening Addiction

Spending more than one hour in a garden center, wandering and pondering. (Spouses call it never-ending spending.)

Mid-shopping trip, switching from a regular-sized cart to the brontosaurus.

Bragging to strangers about how many green beans they grew and canned last year.

Fibbing about extra trips to the garden center.

Claiming the kids/grandkids are responsible for dirt in the car.

Level Two

Bragging to strangers about how many zucchini they forced on friends last year (though zucchini forced on enemies do not count).

Buying seeds by the pound over the Internet.

Claiming proud ownership of 234 flowerpots stacked in the garage.

Delighting in the $1000 tiller her husband gave her for their anniversary.

Level Three

Hijacking a dinosaur cart at gunpoint.

Shoplifting bags of manure.

Buying seeds by the barrel.

Buying a semi to haul mulch.

Claiming proud ownership of 9,781 flowerpots stacked in the garage.

Organizing the neighborhood kids for a dandelion-blowing party at a rival’s gardens.

Selling a kidney to finance a century-old pine bonsai.

Final Level

Buying an authentic Juliet Rose. The original plant sold for 15.8 million.

A firm believer in prevention, as well as treatment, I sincerely hope that during this critical season, the above information will assist family and friends of present and potential gardening addicts.

Having struggled with some aspects of gardening addiction in the past, I am proud to inform my readers, as well as my spouse, that during my most recent trip to a garden center, I did not brag to a single stranger about green beans or zucchini. I bypassed the needy tomato seedlings. A new record: I kept my regular cart and made a single purchase.

“Only one?” Hubby blinks in disbelief.

“Only one,” I assure him.

“A rosebush.”

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