Here’s to all the working dads who garden—and blog (or at least write)


Susan received this comment after her post yesterday on working moms (like Michele Owens and Kathy Purdy) who garden and blog. After compliments, “Brent” added:

However, I do have to let you know that I’m feeling a little left out. What about the working dads who garden and blog about it? Are we in short supply?

Hard to say. There are, of course, men garden bloggers, though I suspect fewer men than women. We had only about 5-6 in our group of 38 during the Austin meet-up. While not a scientific standard, it does seem to be at least an indication. But not that less men garden, far from it.

Mainstream garden media seems to want to stereotype the man who gardens (and I count ALL so-called yardwork as gardening because that’s what it is). Here’s an egregious example of that stereotyping, from a media “lead” site.

From USA Weekend: If you are a guy or know a very ‘guy’-like guy who has found one or more great ways to cut down on lawn/yard/flowerbed work so you can have more time for poker, fantasy leagues and beer-league softball on weekends, send me your tips. No attachments, please. E-mail responses only, and send only one e-mail with no follow-ups.

The above description does not fit any male gardener I know and most of the gardeners I know are men. A few of them are dads. Granted, I really do not know that many “guy”-like guys, if that’s what a “guy”-like guy does. But I do know some great working dad gardeners who garden and write about it. One blogs; the other has written about gardening for the magazine I edit. So—fair is fair—let’s salute them and their efforts.

Above (photo by Michele), you see Bruce Adams, husband of Renée and father of Aiden and Garret. Ok, Adams doesn’t blog, but he is a fulltime teacher, an active and constantly-exhibiting painter, a magician, an art critic, and, of course, a gardener whose garden is featured in the Garden Walk Buffalo book and one of the highlights of the annual walk. It’s also an inspiration, because in spite of the fact that this garden is about as big as my office at work, it contains bulbs, perennials, shrubs, a marvelously engineered pond and waterfall, a spa, and a seating area. Though Renée fully participates, Bruce is the master designer and pondsman. He’s also written about the evolution of the garden and the value of gardening as exercise, and those articles are collected on his website.

One of my favorite passages from his “Urban Oasis” details the type of planning only a meticulous artist would do (all this changes, of course): On paper I carved the expanded lot into Mondrian-like flowerbeds, walkways, and patio space, opting for orderly geometric structure over fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants organic uncertainty. Gazing from our attic windows I contemplated such critical matters as projected traffic flow and barbecue dynamics. If I had known how to use a slide rule, no doubt I would have.

Then we have a working dad gardener whom many of you already know: Jim Charlier/Art of Gardening. Jim, husband of Leslie and father of Margaux, is self-employed (full-time) as a one-man ad/pr/marketing agency (with many prominent clients). He also sits on several community boards, is the board president/PR chair of Garden Walk, designed the Garden Walk book, and, of course, gardens. He’s transformed a front lawn into a grassless perennial/annual garden and created a kitchen garden, arbor, play area, and Harry Potter garden in the side/back. Here’s an excerpt from a description of the Potter garden from his blog. It was also published in People, Places and Plants.

A redbud becomes the wand-making hornbeam, an over-wintering cactus becomes stinksap-spewing mimbulus mimbletonia. Morning glories become devil’s snare – which seems a more appropriate name for them anyway. Add in some fluxweed, scurvy grass, venomous tentacula, gurdyroot and a puffapod and we have well-labeled and documented plantings. The best part is to see people (muggles) reading the tags and taking notes and photos during Garden Walk; one person even asked where they could buy them. That’s when I have to break it to them that this is a fictional garden.

So there you have it: two of my very favorite working dad/gardeners/writers/bloggers. Never let it be said that we’re sexist here at the Rant.

Though I would like to see more of my male gardener friends blogging. I’d like to see more WNY gardeners blogging, period. Jim and I are getting lonely.

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Thanks for the nod, ya’ll. We dirt-luvin’ dude dads don’t ask for much and don’t mind working in semi-obscurity, but it is nice to be acknowledged from time to time too. Course, mine are fledged now, but I was just as much a gardener when they were full of questions and fully underfoot, passing on the love . . . and one of ’em now grows flowers for a living. Imagine.

  2. We tried to recruit a few more male bloggers to come to the Spring Fling, but you’re right, the disparity was big. I didn’t know whether to attribute it to the theory that more women than men keep garden blogs or that women bloggers want to take advantage of social/networking opportunities more than men.

    Any male bloggers care to weigh in on why they didn’t come to the Spring Fling? Also, I’d like to know what the guys who did come really thought about hanging out with a bunch of other bloggers—mostly women. Worth the trouble and can’t wait for next year, or wouldn’t bother again?

    Now that I think about it, this might be a good topic for a post, rather than your comment field. 😉

  3. Pam that would be a good topic for a post. There is a male/female difference in garden blogging and very much of a difference in commenting behavior in the garden blogosphere. I don’t think Spring Fling could have turned out any other way in the male/female ratio.

    It probably has a lot to do with the Mars/Venus thing. It just is, so it isn’t a bad thing or even anything that needs fixing.

    As for me, was there a mention of the residents of Pluto in that social theory?

  4. I’ve been told that I’m a “guy-like” guy, yet have no knowledge of, let alone interest in, “poker, fantasy leagues and beer-league softball.” I am nevertheless a “lazy” (I prefer “efficient”) gardener. So where does that leave me?

  5. Hey – thanks for the plug (if anyone’s still reading this thread!) I’m back in from vacationing and trying to catch up on my blog reading & responding.

    I’d like to see more WNY bloggers too. When I first heard of the Spring get-together in Austin, i thought, “What’s so special about Austin?” Come to find out that there’s LOTS of bloggers in Austin. That’s what makes it special. Why is that? How did it happen that a good number of garden bloggers are centered around Austin? Did many know each other before they started blogging?

    How to encourage a gardener to start blogging?


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