As they headed in from the loading area, past piles of mulch and tangles of yard decorations, Jenna looked at Gunny, and back at AJ. “Thank you for coming with us. I know you hate plants.”
Gunny snorted. “Doesn’t matter if he hates them or not. He’s the one who’s going to be doing the grunt work of digging the bed and putting them in. You get to do all the maintaining afterward, unless the chore requires enough muscle you need to call in backup. That’s what husbands are for.”
Jenna thought about that, and put a hand on Gunny’s arm. “I thought you liked roses? You grow such beautiful ones!”
“My late wife’s fault. I just put them where she told me, like he’s going to do for you.” Despite the disclaimer, there was a smile sparkling in his eyes that was working its way down to his mouth.
“I like plants fine. In their place. Properly controlled.” AJ replied. He was not a fan of mowing the lawn, but that came with the house, and damned if he’d let strangers go poking around and leaving gates unlocked for them, just because he didn’t want to deal with it. As they walked through the crowded shop, full of scents of earth and loam, pottery and greenery, he fought not to sneeze to clear his nose. And then they walked through the doors beyond. Warm, humid air wrapped him in its welcome, filled with the vibrant smell of lush growth and blooms. Light poured in from the translucent roof and wall panels, high overhead and braced with a minimum of framing, with dangling water lines run along the bracing… it felt like home, like the hydroponics sections of the larger space stations and mining habs, right down to the tables with all the greenery in their proper trays. “Oh. This is magnificent. Look at all the constant-g adaptations!”
An employee who’d come in on their heels giggled at him, and paused with her cart of things being returned. “Can I help you find anything?”
“Are you doing hydroponics sets on the tables? There aren’t nearly enough water lines…” AJ was still caught up in the overwhelming infrastructure, so very like what he knew, but so very different.
“No, no, they’re set in potting soil. Very controlled soil, lighting, and water mixtures, but not pure hydroponics. Are you looking for your ship’s greenbox? We cater to the general public who’s planting on planet, but our sister nursery specializes in spacefaring strains.”
“No, we’re here because my wife wants roses in her yard.” He looked up at the roof. “That’s cleverly passive. You don’t even have to run diurnal cycles, because the planet does it for you! How do you handle seasonality?”
“Carefully extended with heaters, but when it’s winter, we’re resting, too. Roses are this way! Do you want tea roses, rosebushes, or climbing roses?”
Jenna looked utterly confused. “Roses climb?”
AJ laughed. “Oh, do they ever! Given the faintest hint of the wrong genetics, and low gravity, and they will promptly try to take over the entire greenspace, and the tendrils, they get in everything…” He shook his head. “Given physical space and usefulness constraints, we never should have taken them to space in the first place. They’re finicky, prone to molds and blights, eaten by every bug out there, and will wilt at the drop of a degree. They’re volume hogs, picky with their chemical mix, and utterly inedible. They also all have thorns, to rip you open when you’re trying to maintain them!”
“Um…” Jenna was looking like she was questioning the wisdom of the whole madcap gardening adventure now.
As they came around the side, to another door, AJ’s nose told him what awaited beyond. His voice got soft. “And then they bloom, and you realize we no more could have left them behind and called ourselves human than if we hadn’t taken our shipcats and dogs.”
Before them was an entire greenhouse full of roses, in all their multicoloured, fragrant glory. And the look on his wife’s face… he knew why Gunny kept the yard full of roses alive. He’d learn, even in as messy an environment as in-atmo could be, to do the same.
(This is not in the next book. This is purely spawned by one of my alpha readers claiming that AJ hates plants. AJ, I protested, does not hate plants, when they’re in their proper place and controlled. Now I have two chapters, of which this is an excerpt, in which Jenna, AJ, and the resident expert on roses (well, Gunny has them, and they’re not dead) go shopping. He may have consulted with a certain widow hastily before the madcap adventure commenced. Something about digging in rosebushes recently because he lost a bet… but that’s a different story for another time.)