Machismo in the Garden



Ah, the good old days of HGTV on Sunday mornings, when there were two whole shows worth watching – perennial favorite Paul James and the always interesting Landscaper's Challenge.  Now there's still Paul – one episode, not two – but no more Challenge.  In its place is Yard Crashers, a gardening show solidly in the mold of reality TV.  It stars Ahmed Hassan, a hunky and engaging landscaper somewhere in California.  That part is fine with me but you won't believe the concept:  he and his camera crew roam the aisles and parking lots of Home Depots on Saturday mornings asking customers to "Take me home with you and I'll do a makeover on your yard." 

Now as appealing a package as Ahmed clearly is, who among you would want to be on national TV looking like you look on Saturday morning at the hardware store?  So this gotcha trick is really awkward, with people pleading with him to get the camera away, or worrying about what their husband will say.  You know, the icky human drama of reality shows.  And when he finally nabs a willing customer the resulting two-day makeover is all hardscape and fire pits.  (I exaggerate but not by much.)

Now I was going to leave the charming Ahmed alone but the last episode crossed a line I didn't even know existed – gardening shows that are so macho as to actually offend women.  The willing homeowner in this episode is a young guy whose landscaping dream is a back yard so cool it'll attract girls.  So two days later he has a HUGE, hideous spa with built-in sound system, and a yard (not a garden by any stretch) strewn with places for stashing his brewskis.  All bad enough, but at the end of the show when he's asked how he likes his new yard he responds with a creepy grin, "It'll definitely help me bag some honeys."

HGTV has come to this.


  1. The appeal of hunky hosts is as ephemeral as the “landscapes” on these shows.

    My favorite such train-wreck – its name escapes me right now – pitted two teams against each other, racing the clock to “landscape” a yard to meet the desires of the lucky homeowners. All of it takes place, not in the real world, but on a set which recreates the yard. Plants are taken off the shelves like so much hardware. Even within the same team, interior designers clash with gardeners.

  2. I agree with you on all points. Unfortunately, for every person who is disappointed with the show there are 100 who eat it up. HGTV caters to the those 100 people.

  3. I hate hardscaping gardening shows under the best of circustances, for making people feel that unless they’re installing a new deck there’s really nothing worthwhile to do in a yard besides planting a couple trays of clashing annuals. But this? This is just vile.

    I don’t think the word you are looking for is “macho”. I think it’s more along the lines of “blatant, disgusting, sexism”.


  4. If I see Ahmed in my local Home Depot, he is coming home with me. I have a few hardscape projects that he could work on. My garden site would be a real challenge for the Yard Crashers. It’s not some namby pamby suburban back yard.

    After he has finished my hardscape to my satisfaction I will consider letting him build a real firepit. The wood is piled and ready to burn.

  5. I know Ahmed and he is a great guy. Unfortunately for the show hosts they are at the mercy of what the producers want. More frequently than not they have to film segments and episodes that would not be their choice were they given one.

    I don’t like the sound of the show, (I haven’t seen it), but you can’t blame the host, he’s just doing his job, and has a family to feed just like the rest of us.

    I don’t really like ‘reality’ tv in pretty much any form. My favorite HGTV lineup used to be when they had an entire morning (3-4) hours of really interesting gardening shows. I haven’t watched HGTV for a very, very long time, the ‘G’ all but disappeared quite some time ago, replaced by dozens of house flipping shows and other stuff I would never watch.

  6. Sounds to me like a product placement dream. Isn’t that what they build these shows around. C’mon -the Home Depot -first product placed. Producers like these shows because they can get easy sponsors because of the “product based concept”

    My garden, landscape books, parks, maps, the neighborhood, and the web are garden entertainment
    enough. Never look for it on TV.

  7. I can hear the HGTV management :
    Sex sells.
    Well thought out design and craftsmanship doesn’t.
    Get me a beef cake with a shovel and a truck, send him to a Home Depot parking lot and let the revenues begin.
    Yeee haaa !

    On the very few times that I have watched HGTV ( I don’t own a television of my own) I have never witnessed a episode that truly explores and educates the public about the full process of garden design and fine garden construction.

    The programs are always about how fast you can get it done, how cheap you can have it made for and how pedestrian it can look.

    Never have I seen anything truly original designed and built that had any meaningful quality attached to it.

    They should call it Slam Bam Here it is Ma’mam TV.

  8. This sounds horrible Susan, and I am sorry you had to waste your time watching it. What I really hate about these shows are the production values. They all look so cheap.

  9. Most of these shows tend to have “landscapers” building hardscape items- paths, fire pits, arbors, trellises, outdoor kitchens, cabanas, fountains and the like. That’s all fine & dandy, but I’ve yet to see a landscaper incorporate a real vegetable garden that is critter-proof, organic, and water-wise, into one of the weekend make-over spaces. And aren’t veg gardens, organic gardening, and xeriscaping genuine trends currently? Isn’t that what viewers want?

    These weekend makeover shows with large budgets & crews of helpers, seem sooo pre-economic meltdown. I’d be happy with an hour-long show on aphids. With a good-looking host, of course.

  10. I certainly wish there was even one good garden show in Canada – our HGTV was hijacked by twinky little decorators and realtors, with a rare mention of gardens – and then mostly to sell bricks or blocks of some sort. Repulsive!

  11. Well, it’s only following the dumbing down of TV in general – never watch the stuff. I tried HGTV for about 3 episodes about 3 years ago, and that was enough for me!


  12. Back in days when I used to still watch HGTV I used to love: Ground Breakers with Joe Washington – these were large landscape installations that were followed from start to finish, some would take more than a year to finish.

    Gardener’s Diary – she would visit some really interesting private gardens and interview the owners while walking through the garden.

    Curb Appeal – back when Rick Spence was still hosting it.

    Landscape Smart – back when Ken Bastida (the newsman) was hosting it.

    My all time number one favorite – Gardening by the Yard with Paul James. I LOVE him! Still watch him on the web. 🙂

  13. We each experience life in our own way. Others may do things is ways that do not appeal to you, just as you do things in ways that do not appeal to them.

    Leave them in peace and love them for what they are.

  14. I have no connections, but would someone please pass the word to Ahmed? I’ll be in the Ellicott City, Maryland Home Depot, you know, the one in Chatham Shopping Center, somewhere around the tomato plants tomorrow morning, Sunday April 26. Let’s say 0900. I’ll be a somewhat tired-looking middle aged woman with pretty cool salt and pepper hair, jeans and turquoise Slogger Uni Clogs. Oh, and a bright pink shirt. I’ll be looking for the yellow pear tomatoes.

    PLEASE, Ahmed, come help me with my hardscape. Susan Harris gave me some great ideas, and I’ve taken care of the dirt part. The hardscape part is beyond me.

    Don’t let me down, Ahmed. I’m counting on you!

  15. I confess that I watch this show, and I am not ashamed to admit it. Its been a long, cold Minnesota winter. The episode referred here was the worst one I had ever seen. It was yuck!!! There are better episodes out there. I like the different plants he use, tress, shrubs and even a no mow grass in last nights shows. I also love his lighting ideas. My husband and I have gotten some great ideas. What I really love about this show is that the homeowners must help out, not just hand over $60,000 to have someone else do the work. I am also pretty sure Ahmed was doing another garden show on HGTV that was sorta, something, kinda like Paul James. I only caught it a couple of times and then it vanished. Go figure. Like Jay said, each to their own and like Kim, I would welcome Ahmed to my yard!

  16. How could you possibly get to know a client and design and install a meaningful landscape layout in two days? I’m sure the clients are getting warmed-over out-of-the-box garden design.

    Even with Landscaper’s Challenge, I felt that these shows that deliver a new-born garden were a disappointment and often a bore. The hardscape on these shows probably looks as good as it ever will, but the plantings will take time to mature–unless they’re ridiculously overplanted.

  17. Thanks for sharing, I guess. One more reason not to go to Home Depot. Can’t stand the place! Of course I’m lucky and still have a choice of hardware stores. Also lucky to not have a TV… yes, I know, I miss all the educational programs, but somehow I cope.

  18. Hardscape can be great and we would have a lot more of it if it were not so expensive.

    I know – the rain can’t get into the water table but look at the trade offs – less carpet cleaning chemicals used due to less dirt tracked in.

    And, can we nominate neighbors’ landscapes for a do over? That we could all go for.

  19. This show is a copy of one I enjoy that has been on the Food channel for ages – ” Take Home Chef”… A rather yummy young chef lurks in the supermarket waiting for some confused person to happen by, and then he shops with them and goes home with them to create yummy food….. looks like TV land is running out of new ideas

  20. I’ve seen a couple of shows; they’re kinda’ fun to watch, with some neat ideas. A lot of hardscape, but some nice plantings too… but I doubt that he could do much to help out a vegetable gardener (but maybe he DOES have some ideas there?)

    But in my area he’s on the DIY network, not HGTV…

  21. I’m detecting a pretty strong anti – ‘outdoor living’ theme here on Garden Rant lately. While I agree that these cardboard cutout templates of ‘outdoor living’ cliches are trendy and annoying, the impulse behind wanting to expand our outdoor spaces to encompass our dining, relaxing, and daily activities isn’t something to turn your nose up at if you are someone who wants to encourage people to garden. Different people come to the garden in different ways, and not everyone is going to be a hardcore, fingers in the dirt everyday type of person. But if an ‘outdoor living-room’ encourages someone to spend more time looking at plants, and maybe start planting them – then that is a victory.
    I just can’t get behind a holier – than – thou, puritanical type of vibe. Isn’t ‘having a hell of alot of fun’ the last point on the Garden Rant manifesto? Sometime that means getting all dirty and ‘planting your ass off’, but sometimes it means kicking back at night and having drinks with your friends – around a firepit!

  22. “Holier – than – thou, puritanical type of vibe” on GardenRant? That’s NUTS! Note:
    We have a whole category of posts for drinking.
    And I’m pro-design as can be. See my recent rave review of Julie Moir Mesversy’s “Home Outside” – all about outdoor rooms. I’ve praised the landscape architect who helped me. Heck, I’m hired to help design outdoor rooms for people. My biggest goal for all my clients is that “outdoor living”.
    Now see how I rant when I feel misunderstood?
    But hey, you’re going to Chicago with the Flingers, right? Save a seat for me at the hotel bar, and I’ll tell you some anything-but-puritanical stories.

  23. I could not agree with you more! I just found your blog when I Googled Matt James. Finally! It’s not just me! Why is it called HGTV anyway? There are hardly any garden shows and so many “help me sell my house in this horrible economy” shows they really deserve their own dedicated network! My in-laws are from England. When we go to visit, and the rare chance I have to watch TV, I love, love, love all the gardening programs. Even the shows with hosts that are made fun of, like a woman who gardens without a bra! But they seriously know their stuff! It’s not just another “landscaping” show showing us how to landscape our yard just like a new home builder landscapes their homes to sell. Honestly! I’m so tired of most all of the gardening shows on HGTV. I really wish they would shake things up in that network.

  24. Think about this: Who are the major sponsors of these types of programs? Lowes & Home Depot. Next question: What is likelier to result in a larger profit? Plants and trees in 5 gal. containers OR a couple tons of landscaping rock, base sand/gravel, mortar, cement, polymer sand, level and other masonry tools, gas grill, landscaping lights and gas/electrical lines and pipes required to layout these features? Now tell me, which one will result in a bigger monetary outlay by the consumer? So what sort of programs do YOU think the sponsors want to show? Spending $5,000 for a hardscape project or $200 in pre-grown plants or $25 in seeds? Yeah, I think we can spot why HGTV doesn’t show any true gardening shows anymore.

  25. Oh, and if Ahmed wanted to come to my yard? I’d say not unless he is willing to pay for any damage he and his crew did to any of my bonsai. I can see it now. My prize Japanese maple bonsai. The one my bonsai teacher lusts after. Knocked over and a key branch snapped off this brittle tree. What was once a $600 tree is now just a broken twig. And that doesn’t even cover the cost of the pot and years of work I put into the tree.

    You know what? I like my yard just the way it is. Go terrorize someone else.

  26. I’m nothing but disappointed by the recent programming changes at HGTV. But I’m looking at this as a positive … instead of watching TV I spend even more time outdoors in my own garden or doing other things in my house. If HGTV’s intent is to turn people away, they are successful in my eyes.

  27. I just wish the hardscaping would stay more towards a gardening theme I would love a nice patio under a vine covered pergola but it seems that all the shows are about homeowners wanting to entertain guests.

    It’s always about showing off that full outdoor kitchen/bar with fireplace then planting the most “maintenance free plants” they can find in the nursery.

  28. Thanks for sharing your blog. I remember the day of Paul the gardner guy really enjoyed his program don’t see him much more but enjoyed watching him on the weekends. I have to say I have not been watching to much of HGTV anymore seems like all the shows are the same and they just get tiring after awhile. They need some variety and mix things up a little. Thanks for your article enjoyed it..

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