She Looks, She Shops, She Buys, He Pays


It’s the end of the world, and garden photographer Saxon Holt documents it all in a post over at Gardening Gone Wild.  (go check out the photos there.) At the California Pack Trials, an annual nursery industry event, banners hung above the booth of The John Henry Company with these slogans.

She Looks

She Shops

She Buys

He Pays

Yeah.  It’s bad enough that horticultural marketing gurus are telling garden center owners not to refer to their customers as "gardeners."  Apparently the new generation of garden center customer considers a "gardener" to be someone who is paid to work in a garden (and that would somehow, be an insult, sort of like being mistaken for the butler in your own home just because you’re standing near the front door in a tuxedo, I suppose).   No, this new generation of customer considers herself to be a decorator who is at the garden center to pick up plant-shaped decorations for her outdoor living room.

And now we have this new piece of information, about the handsome fellow who follows her around the garden center and reaches into his overstuffed wallet to pick up the tab. Women, as we all know, are fragile and pretty things who can hardly be expected to earn a living on their own, but fortunately there’s a good-natured fellow with a credit card ready to indulge her whims.

I’m so glad the horticultural industry has such a firm grasp  on reality.  Next time I’m at the garden center,  I’m going to bring my purchases to the front and just stand there, smiling helplessly, waiting for that friendly gent with money to burn who, I have now learned, pays for my stuff. 

If only someone had told me about him when I started gardening fifteen years ago!  When I think of all the years I’ve wasted actually earning money….


  1. I just want you to know that there are still guys out there who will gladly allow, no insist, that women pay for their own purchases. I don’t want to stand in the way of progrees and gender equality, and I know many other men feel the same. I even make sure that, to make up for millenia of injustice, that my wife pays for my dinners and plant purchases–I mean, that’s the only reason I bring her to the nursery, in order for us to heal history.

  2. My first thought is: WTF? My second thought is, I’d be happy to let a man off the hook for following me around a garden center (actually, I prefer shopping alone). He can always just leave me his credit card. My third thought is: No, really. WTF?

  3. If “he pays” I’m not getting anything because he’s cheap!

    The worst marketing ever, if you ask me.

  4. let see I look, I shop, I buy and I pay…AND..I dig, I plant, I water, I weed and I enjoy what I do…but I am a guy…and now you tell me I can not call myself a gardener–so what am I?

  5. I (The Troll since reformed)agree with AMY on this one. In my garden center the men who shop, choose, buy, carry and pay are terrific gardeners. Most of the time the men who come in with their girlfriends, wives etc run off to the grill department, lawn care section, power equipment division or the deli while the ladies shop, carry, and pay for their own stuff. I (the he man troll) have been turned down many times by ladies young and old when I ask if they need help lifting a fifty pound bag or just look like they need a shopping cart. But instead of being femi-nazi about it they actually thank me for the offer of assistance but want to do it on their own.

    I consider ALL of my customers gardeners especially the Gen X-ers who most of the time prefer the box stores to a real garden center. It is difficult to win their loyalty because Gen X-ers do not have the same brand loyalty their parents have. But I find once you have their trust (and you MUST REALLY REALLY EARN IT) they become customers for life. I cannot blame them for not trusting the “establishment” though. Look at all the bills we as a nation have left for them to pay let alone getting a good job a house and social secuirty if they can retire.
    Unfortunately Madison Avenue has penetrated the garden Industry with a one size fits all marketing approach. That is the unique thing about garden centers:

  6. Yup, they must of been in my neighborhood while doing their market research.
    Nailed it squarely on the leather gucci billfold.

    PS. – went on the Garden Conservancy’s tour of Marin County this past weekend.
    Just another day amongst the Rolls Royce’s, Mercedes Benz and BMW ( which stands for basic marin wheels ) , with plants neatly packaged up in the back seats.

  7. Amy, one of the best posts ever. If the guy from Henry Cabot Company with a fat wallet wanted to pay for my stuff, I’d probably say, sure, I’ll put the money I save into my investment portfolio.
    Greg, yesh! Way to go, my friend. Glad to have the real you. But about that femi-nazi word, it was invented by a man who swiped his doctor’s telephone identity, and called in controlled drug orders a bunch of times, then told fibs about it and did it all over again. We no likey that word.

  8. Greg, I live between two master gardeners–both male. On our most recent neighborhood garden tour, the gender breakdown was 50-50.

    Sometimes, when it comes to flowers, my hub is not the least bit interested. When purchasing our Japanese maple, however, he became obsessed. He had to look at every tree in the nursery.

  9. Oh, you have got to be kidding. I just came in from the garden, excuse me, outdoor living room, and I am covered in dirt and sweat. I am so offended. Don’t even get me started on the Hubby/Boyfriend pays thing.~~Dee

  10. My favorite nursery pulls my wife’s name off the checks (with both our names) and sends the newsletters and coupons to her. She has never been there. I find there are numerous gender faux pas committed by everyone on both sides of the x y divide.

  11. Yes, and did you see the posters that went with that particular marketing stunt – enough to give gardening a bad name!

  12. The ads are also appearing in garden trade journals like Nursery Retailer, Garden Retailing etc. I found the ads really offensive.
    Like women don’t have their own money and need to ask hubby for their allowance.

    The industry is still male dominated but we are not all chauvinists.

    The (male chauvinist) Troll

  13. OH NO! I am posting here more than on my own blogs……………

    Does that mean I have joined a revolution I was/am determined to resist?

    The red hot pokers are coming
    The red hot pokers are coming

    Does that make me
    Benedict Artimisia?

  14. I can’t even begin to imagine who those ads are supposed to appeal to. Recreational shoppers? Not when the purchases are live plants that need to be put in the ground. “She” who lives with “he” who holds the purse strings? A guy that controlling isn’t going to let “her” shop ’til she drops.

    Wow. That is just so… wow.

  15. I find it very amusing that when I ask for assistance with large, heavy objects at a local or a big box garden center, the guys sort of look down their nose at me, clearly thinking “Weak, lazy woman!” as I explain that I was able to get the heavy objects into the cart, but that I need a bit of assistance getting them from the cart into the trunk with the rolling wheels and all. I’m a big, strapping (okay, fat) 5’7″ woman, and I don’t wear anything other than jeans and tees or sweatshirts with running shoes or work boots, so I know nobody would think I’m afraid of getting dirty. But men have always perceived me as frail, lazy or both, even when I was in great shape in the Army, so I’m kinda used to being seen that way.

    What’s funny is that then and now, these men who see me as weak for asking for “a little help” suddenly change their tune when they try to LIFT the heavy object I managed to wrestle into my cart in the first place. If they don’t actually say “HOLY CRAP!”, their faces say it for them. And that somehow just makes it all better for me–knowing that they met one “weak” woman who is at least as strong as they are.

    As for the John Henry promotion, geez, that’s offensive! I’m divorced (and single for 12 years now, by choice), and I’ve had no choice but to make my financial and horticultural way on my own. There isn’t, and never will be, some guy (or significant other gal, for that matter) ready to whip out a credit card to pay for my six-pack of posies, much less plant the things.

    And finally, to Greg, if I ever turn up in your nursery and you offer me assistance rasslin’ big, heavy stuff, I’ll be happy to accept your assistance. But be warned that you will probably be too late to prevent me from being covered down the front of me in soil or other bagged goods, too late to stop the huge water spots from dripping wet pots that conveniently dripped down the already soil-covered front of me, and that except for about 5 minutes after combing post-shower, my ponytailed hair ALWAYS looks like it was styled by an eggbeater. I just don’t stop to think about how my actions might ruin my appearance until it’s too late. Also, don’t feel bad if you don’t carry even 20% of the plants on my list. I’ll be visiting at least 6 nurseries and big box stores in an attempt to obtain at least 30% of the stuff on my now grubby, wrinkled, tattered sheet of paper. I accept that no one nursery can be expected to carry everything on my lists.

  16. I think of my sister calling her husband letting him know her water had broken. He rushed home, then panicked as he couldn’t find her for four hours. She showed up finally, covered in dirt, from a client’s garden where she’d finished the planting as she figured she wouldn’t get back for a while. Her contractions were getting closer, but she showered and then headed to the car, deadheading a few plants by the driveway. Her mentor, an old family friend, was a master in landscaping. He went back to college at 40 to get his degree in landscape architecture, and was one of the top in the field when he died. I sat by his bed as he was dying, and in his delirium he was ordering all in the room to dig the holes, put this plant there, wasn’t it going to be beautiful, yellow and blue. I took his hand, and he glared at me, “Get to work. The garden must be finished.” Just people, husbands, sisters, moms, old gay guys, getting those plants and making it nice to walk down streets, sit in back yards. I believe we all would gladly pay these people’s gardening bills.

  17. As a lesbian, I get REALLY annoyed at the invisibility of me and mine in this ad. I know, I know, nothing new in MSM, but this is really offensive!

  18. Grouchylisa you probably won’t even have the chance to begin lifting the heavy stuff. My goal is not to wait for a customer to start lifting in the first place.
    I will be on you with first class service like a stink on a monkey.
    That is unless you sneak by me without my noticing your pony tail

  19. Let me just say,the whole concept of using a significant other for their wallet is revolting,are they saying women all have a price?Bad,bad Marketing strategy,not funny at all.

  20. I am a very spoiled wife and a GARDENER. My husband is a lovely and understanding (most of the time) non-gardener. When we first started our family he bought me a very beautiful new car to replace my VW bug that would not fit a carseat (really, they don’t, we tried and tried). When he drove it home for me this is the exchange that followed:

    Me: Oh, honey! It’s beautiful, thank you so much!

    Him: I’m glad you like it, sweetie! Now, about the trunk…

    Me: Oooo! I could fit five gallon trees in that thing if I tilted them right! I won’t have to borrow your pick-up anymore when I go to the nursery!

    Him: You’re not really going to use this beautiful new car to haul around plants, are you?!!

    Me: (long silence, uncomprehending look)

    Him: It’s just…it’s so nice and clean…. Well, OK…just put those plastic sheets down, will you?

    Me: I thought that’s why you got me the tan interior, so it won’t show dirt.

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