Friday, May 13, 2016

Macho Gardening

Gardening a macho pastime? I don't think so. Lots of men must garden, of course, but you wouldn't think so judging by the people passing through the garden centers and nurseries. I've been spending a fair bit of time in them this spring and they're always packed with women.

I'm often the only guy in the place. Oh, there's the odd man present — dragged there against his will. I usually spot him kicking the tires on the wheelbarrows, or browsing the tool display, checking out all that tungsten steel and carbon fiber — macho materials. He won't go near the flowers and vegetables; they're just not tough enough.

You can hardly blame the guys. They're overloaded with genes that attract them to power equipment like slugs to hostas. Give a guy a garden job and he'll find the horsepower to accomplish it, and with as much noise as possible. Mowers and blowers, chippers and clippers — that's gardening! What's the use of a lawn if it's not big enough to handle a riding mower? Garden work to men is spreading fertilizer, tuning up the tools, hosing down the patio, even painting the driveway. Definitely not fiddling with flowers.

Gardening has traditionally been the women's job — something to keep her busy between fixing meals and doing laundry by hand for a family of fifteen. Man's thing was ploughing fields and felling trees — a different kind of nurturing. Just don’t call it that.

The fundamentals are all there; it's just a matter of redirecting their focus, and it's happening. Men are beginning to reveal their nurturing side. They're changing diapers and hugging their kids, even ordering the pizza. With a little re-training they might enjoy tending a garden. They already appreciate a nice landscape; they just don't know it.

Every weekend golf courses are crowded with guys whacking little balls around a vista that could have been designed by Capability Brown, except I'm not sure they even notice it. They're too busy getting terribly frustrated because the ball never goes where they want it to go. It must be so stressful. If it weren't for the calming effect of the pastoral scene they'd be whacking each other around (green rage).

I've nothing against golf. It's just that men need to learn that gardening is healthier, more fulfilling. Once that ball is dropped in the cup, that's it! Nothing else happens. It's non-productive, and they always come home disappointed. If they tried dropping little plants into holes, instead of little balls, then watching them grow, they'd be winners every time.

So how are you going to bring out the gardening nature in a man? You could take advantage of his competitive instinct by giving him a packet of monster pumpkin seeds and telling him nobody's ever grown one bigger than fifty pounds. You know, plant the seed! I know one woman who had great success using a subliminal technique. She cut pictures out of garden magazines and pasted them into her husband's copy of Sports Illustrated. I'm not sure what the pictures were, but the following week he went out and switched his subscription to Roots and Fruits.

I think the marketing people could help a lot too. If they can convince a whole nation to tune in to the Stanley Cup in the middle of June, then surely they can turn men on to gardening. They're missing a huge opportunity.

Can you imagine the effect of placing a picture of Rory McIlroy on every packet of pansy seed? What would happen if Captain America was a guest host discussing delphiniums on the Martha Stewart show? I know it's a bit sexist, but how about using the Beyonce or Kim Kardashian (never thought I’d ever write that name) to sell bedding plants. Men would be browsing seed catalogs all winter.

Think of it, though, a world full of gardeners. Flowers everywhere. Macho male world leaders getting together for a photo opportunity as they turn a compost heap. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Everyone growing — happier, healthier, and peacefully.

So here's your chance to change the world. Father's day is coming up. Instead of the hardware store, why not drop into the garden center. Forget the aftershave — give dad a sunflower seed in a pot and challenge him to grow one bigger than his buddy can. Manipulate his machismo!