Scared? Please. Heart attacks are scary.


Here's another challenge to garden writers and editors:  When you picture that hypothetical beginning gardener who you believe to be 'scared' or 'intimidated' about starting a new garden, are you imagining a man or a woman?

Just wondering.


  1. My neighbors who would like to do something with their yards but have never gardened before are scared, I think. Scared to look like asses. I don’t think this is a gender-specific fear, either.

    And I don’t think the gardening literature helps.

    “No maintenance,” is of course a total lie, but so is a lot of fussy expert cultural advice.

    Here’s what I said to the intimidated: There, there, dears. Mulch and all will be well.

  2. I typically envision a woman, but I can’t give you a reason why. Perhaps it’s because most of the guys I know would just bulldoze ahead and plant things willy-nilly rather than ask for help. 🙂

  3. I don’t think people new to the yard thing who are rolling out the sod and plugging in the foundation plantings are scared. But when it comes to ripping that old stuff out, putting in drip (maybe), abandoning monoculture, and making a vital garden, that’s intimidating.
    When I had my big front and back lawns I mowed, edged, swept, fed, and unclogged sprinklers. It was yard work. Leaving that behind and moving on to a real garden was a ten year decision for me, and that’s no joke. I was overwhelmed by the thought. Finally I hired someone to do most of the grunt work. That was scary.
    Yep, I learned quickly about the myth of low or no maintenance. I’m out in the garden every day. When people walk by and say it looks like a lot of work, I reply that it’s my bliss.
    Before I say the next thing, I lead with the disclaimer that I’m a second generation feminist. Um, I think men and women sometimes experience the initial diving into gardening differently. The fear may be universal, but the kind of worries differ. One day when I was fretting to my ex-husband over potential plant placement errors and why my driveway still looked like a mini garden center, he said, “Oh, just dig some holes and stick the damn things in the ground already.” Then he quickly asked, “How much is this setting you back?”

  4. p.s. I should have also added this in my previous comment. I loved the “please, heart attacks are scary.” What finally pushed me past my fear about transforming my garden was getting cancer, serious bad-ass almost killed me with treatment kind of cancer. My garden is a survivor’s garden. It represents all the risks I never took before my illness.

  5. oh pluuueeze….*rolls eyes for effect*

    Carolyn understands the diff between real problems and minor annoyances.

    Real problems…cancer, buildings collapsing with people in them, your house on fire…..

    Minor annoyances….plants that overtake a garden, plants that don’t thrive where you put them, a lawn mower being run by a husband who doesn’t care and doesn’t notice the newly planted Something Special I Just Bought for a Gazillion dollars.

  6. Planting a legacy shade tree invoke a bit of fear because generations will have to live with your decision.

  7. You might have planted an awesome tree but some people don’t know the difference. It’s all about give a shit about me. I’ll do what I want in my backyard. I hate it when the neighbors complain.

  8. I don’t need to imagine them. I meet them a few times a week. They are all women. I help them get over it.

    I’ve never met a man intimidated by starting a garden or trying a new plant. They just do it and fail many times and imagine they succeeded.

    Like the guy who planted a happy little row of horrible gaudy marigolds recently while his wife struggles with perennials that for some inexplicable reason have stopped blooming after only a month. She felt like the failure because his plants bloomed longer.

    Nevermind that her plants will return next year all healthy and buff while his gaudy atrocities of stink and orange will be dead.

    Really, Amy, I’d like to think that these intimidated female gardeners are a figment of male imagination, but they are not. But the bright side is that ladies generally need more moral support in the garden because they choose loftier goals.

    Just my two cents.

  9. I see new gardeners as a parent sees a new baby. Bright eyed, wondering, trusting and wanting and even demanding attention. All of which I am happy to give.

    Look at all the joy a new child brings to the world. A new gardener brings that same sense of joy to me when they tell me about their first tomato, successful flower, fresh basil in the kitchen.

    That relationship you build with a new gardener is the most important asset in this business.

    I think Gen-Xers are a little less ready to “trust” their gardening adventures to someone they do not know. Their trust is harder to earn. Gen Xers are more skeptical of the “Madison Avenue Approach” and I do not blame them.

    However, once earned that trust is a lasting one.

    The TROLL

  10. The media creates its own reality. Set up an impossible standard, inform the rest of us that we are not worthy, and then offer to rescue us with pithy headlines.

    I’ve seen an equal share of men and women terrified of making a mistake in their garden. It is such a pleasure to become part of the process to help them enjoy and have fun. I have learned so much more from the plants I’ve killed or planted in the wrong place than any of my successes.

    I tell my students that they must kill at least 100 plants as quickly as possible if they are really serious about learning to garden. Gardening is a lifetime relationship with nature, not an airbrushed photo op, as some media would have us believe. There *are* some great resources out there, and some publications have come a long way, so there is hope.

    Bravo to GardenRant for throwing the straw men into the compost pile and seeking truth.

    If we all take one frightened newbie gardener by the hand and help them have fun, the world will be an infinitely better place.

  11. More than intimidation, the main difference I come across between male and female beginning gardeners is preparation. Men tend to dive straight in. Women like to test the waters first and do lots of research before putting spade to soil.

    I agree with Plantanista that the media tends to create impossible standards. My approach is to distance gardening from exterior decorating, ignore the style police, and encourage people to get stuck in and have a go.

  12. I see a female, probably because I see me. Aside from a few plants I have grown, I haven’t really grown a garden. This year I grew lettuce and was shocked to find tiny slugs when I was cleaning the lettuce. I couldn’t eat my salad at lunch. It just tasted nasty. (most likely due to the slug incident)

    Yes, I am a novice.

  13. I think we’re confusing “scared” with inexperienced. I see myself, twenty-five years ago in my first house with nil gardens, frustrated with my lack of knowledge and my desire for a beautiful yard. The drive was there, but I hadn’t a clue how to begin. I started with two containers of impatiens and a slim bed of marigolds. Gardening is like writing. Anyone can do it, but the best results come from experience and hard work.

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