Do men and women garden differently?

Men and women have different takes on plants and garden tools.

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Does your sex have anything to do with how you garden? Are males and females drawn to different plants? Do they approach how they garden in different ways? Sometimes it would certainly seem so.

OK, I recognize that the following statements are gross simplifications and some of both sexes are interested in each. Still, in my long experience, more men than women seem to be interested in growing dahlias the size of dinner plates, and more women than men love herbs.

And while I know some dedicated female hybridizers, the field seems -- for some reason I don't quite understand -- filled with men. I can't recall the last All-America Rose Selections winner that was hybridized by a woman.

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What brought on this train of thought was reading Charlie Nardozzi's interesting article about the five essential tools for gardeners. While I recognize their usefulness, I've never owned two of the items on his list -- a cultivator and a cart -- and I've been gardening for umpteen years.

I'll admit to having a long-handled shovel in the household -- but I never use it. It's strictly in my husband's domain. He loves it. He's also more than 6 feet tall. I'm 5-foot-3, so long-handled shovels are unwieldy for me. I simply can't dig with them. Some I've tried are also too heavy for me.

But years ago, I spent what seemed at the time like way too much money on a small, sturdy spade from Smith & Hawken. It was called an English poacher's spade, and it was just the right length and heft for a short woman. I like it so well that when we've moved, I've made sure it goes with us in the car, along with the other "valuables," not trusting it to the moving van.

I can't disagree with Nardozzi about the necessity of a trowel. You can't garden without one. (Hint to new gardeners: Always buy two. One will always get left in the grass or behind a foundation shrub and turn up weeks later.) I probably own more trowels than most people, and I suspect that my favorite probably would never be chosen by a man because it's narrow, just a few inches across.

Yes, I own wide trowels, but the narrow one is perfect for transplanting, and somehow it's always the one I pick up.

My views on hand pruners vary from the norm, too. It has nothing to do with male-female, I'm sure, but is a personal idiosyncrasy. I know that professionals tell you that bypass pruners are the only kind to buy but I regularly rotate among several pairs of pruners and my favorites are really the anvil pruners.

I often read that they crush stems, but it's never happened to me. So my advice on pruning is to go with what seems most comfortable to you.

I would add a pair of loppers to the essential gardening tools list for anyone with mature shrubs in their yard, especially the newer types of loppers, which have gears. You won't believe how easy they make pruning.

That's just my personal take on garden tools. What are the tools you use over and over and can't live without? And do you think that men and women sometimes approach gardening in different ways?

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