Cattiness between Gardeners

I’ve not seen this subject addressed much on-line or anywhere for that matter.  I guess this is because it’s akin to taking the family skeletons out of the closet and hanging them around the house for all to see.  (Hey, it’s Halloween and tomorrow is The Day of the Dead so this trite analogy is easy to come by!)

I’m gonna’ be brave and discuss this issue.  I’ll use my own skeletons as examples while you’re welcomed to keep your skeletons hidden.

I would hazard to guess, perhaps for laid-back gardening males, this subject isn’t one they encounter much unless they are in a competitive design business, but for female gardeners it can be an issue, and I don’t like it.

Let me state for the record, I don’t want to compete with anyone or to be catty when it comes to gardening.  I want to enjoy gardening.  I want to discuss it ad nauseam.

I want to delight in both my garden and your garden, and work with others toward the common goal of creating more gardens, which are beautiful or thought-provoking or whatever their creator wants them to be.

I’ve been told before I’m naïve when it comes to the ways of the world, and you know, the person who told me that was probably right.  This is why I don’t understand competitive or catty gardeners, and I don’t want to be one.

Garden cattiness hasn’t happened much on-line for me, but when it has, it was easy to dismiss because I didn’t know the person.  The truly hurtful cattiness has been more of a face-to-face kinda’ thing.  (Note: If I’ve ever come off in an on-line comment as being condescending or catty, I apologize here and now because I never meant to be that way.)

In Austin, I encountered cattiness in fellow gardeners on more than one occasion.  At one point, I worked full-time while managing a huge yard and garden by myself after my husband passed.

A fellow gardener who visited me lived in a one bedroom apartment.  When she visited, she would immediately criticize my garden, making comments such as, “You really need to cut back that rosemary. It looks bad.” Or “If you would do better maintenance, it might look nice.” Or “Why did you keep that ugly plant?”  (I explained it was covered with Monarch caterpillars.  Her response was, “Oh, YOU WOULD do that kind of thing.”)

Two years later, the same fellow gardener purchased an acre and was trying her best to keep up with the maintenance.  She also worked full-time, and it was an almost impossible task.  She complained loudly and finally hired the work out to her adult son who was in the landscape maintenance business.

In addition, this gardener would come to the house, ask the names of plants, and then plant the same things in her garden.  I could count on seeing the plants she’d asked me about in her garden within the next week or two.  I know this is a compliment of sorts, but after a couple of years it got old.

While that fellow gardener never said anything nice about my garden, when I moved, she wanted to buy every gardening item I owned.—plants, garden furniture, etc.  She even asked to dig up small trees and bushes from the yard.  I told her “no.”

Another gardening acquaintance came to my house and upon seeing the concrete angel statue in the garden commented, “Oh that’s a pretty angel.” I told her “thank you.”  She followed this by, “It looks as though it belongs in a cemetery.”  Gee, thanks.

I’ve encountered garden cattiness more recently in my new town. Is it contagious?  Is it a virus like Rose Rosette?

I’ve been told by one gardening family they want to set the garden standard for my area of town.  Okay. Hey, I’m not trying to compete with you.  I garden for my own enjoyment.  I won’t ever meet your standards.  I’m not even trying.

Some folks I know came over unannounced and pushed their way through my backyard gate without invitation.  I kid you not. I said, “Hey, the garden and yard aren’t finished and aren’t ready for viewing.”  They told me they didn’t care, and it was “okay.”  Did I say it was okay?

Two of these folks walked around commenting, “Look at that.” or “Did you see that, Gertrude?” Gertrude, not her real name, sat at my concrete table and looked around with her mouth held tightly shut.

Previously, I’d given many compliments to Gertrude about her garden and yard.

When they left, Gertrude offered in a cold tone, “Well, it’s nice you have a hobby.” I was crushed. Couldn’t she find ONE nice thing to say?

However, within 2 days (2 days!), Gertrude’s husband was laying a brick pathway in their backyard.  When I asked him about it, he told me, “Well, Gertrude wants it.  It’s kind of like yours.”

Since that time, I’ve had a few other folks over to the garden who were honestly complimentary, and I’ve shared plants with them and they with me, and we’ve all been left feeling happy.  This is the way it should be.  We gardeners should support each other and, by example, encourage others to be gardeners.  Being catty and competitive doesn’t accomplish this goal.

Lest you think this is only MY problem, I’ve heard similar stories about the catty-with-each-other gardening public from Master Gardeners.

Lastly, when I moved to my new little town, I considered joining one of the local garden clubs, but I didn’t know much about any of them.

I discussed this with a non-gardening friend, and she told me a close relative was a member of one of these clubs.  She went on to say they were a very competitive (with-each-other) group of women.  I decided not to join.

How to handle this?  I suppose you either develop a thick skin or try not to hang around these folks, which is what I’ve done. Or you find a sociable mellow group of gardeners (which I have) and hang out with them.

I’m now putting my skeletons back on their high shelf at the back of my closet.  Happy Halloween!

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