First, the wardrobe differs drastically. Gardeners wear floppy straw hats, sturdy pants with big pockets and loops for hanging tools, and clogs. Yardeners work in the yard wearing a hat from Disney World, cut-off blue jeans, and the tennis shoes they bought the year they graduated from high school.
Then there are the tools themselves. Gardeners have tools with matching handles. Each tool has a special function—and a special spot in the wooden gardener’s bench at the end of the day. Yardeners are more likely to be out digging with an old serving spoon from the kitchen. They just toss it in the kids’ sandbox once they have the petunias in the ground.
Gardeners have a master calendar for all their gardening tasks, such as dividing seedlings, rotating rose bushes, whatever it is Martha Stewart finds to fill up her calendar even in the dead of winter. They wouldn’t dream of pulling weeds unless it was on the schedule.
Yardeners, on the other hand, may lapse into their yardening tasks quite spontaneously. I once talked to a freelance artist who explained she had missed her deadline because she went out to get the mail and noticed a few weeds growing by the mailbox. Naturally, she stopped to pull them up, and four hours later she was still out in the yard pulling weeds. I understood completely. That’s yardening at its best.
If you see people strolling their grounds, or setting up tents for a garden party, they are probably gardeners. Yardeners are more likely to be seen standing in their front yards on a Saturday morning drinking coffee, contemplating brown spots, and staring down the dandelions. The only grounds on their minds are the ones in the bottom of the coffee mug.
Of course gardeners don’t have to deal with dandelions because, you guessed it—they don’t have any. The anti-weed substance spread with their lawn fertilizer takes care of them. Yardeners, on the other hand, wield little spray bottles of environmentally friendly “Dandelion DOA,” and pop each stubborn dandelion root up with an old screwdriver. (The screwdriver conveniently fits in the back pocket of the cut-off jeans and is equally useful for setting the choke on the lawn mower.)
The aesthetic results differ, too. Gardeners carefully coordinate the shades of green they combine in any given area of the landscape, and are careful to plant flowers which bloom sequentially, clustered in color groups of cool or hot tones. Yardeners, however, are happy whenever anything turns green, and they’ve been known to water weeds for weeks before realizing they weren’t zinnias.
I have to admit I’m basically a yardener. Thinking I could actually improve my skills, however, I checked out a book on gardening from the library. Unfortunately it isn’t much help, as it was written by two perfectly lovely people in Pennsylvania who are completely spoiled by being able to plant with the assumption that whatever they plant will grow. The “casual gardens” in their yard, photographed for the book, could easily be paid-admission botanical gardens anywhere west of the Mississippi.
Gardener or yardener? Whichever you are, it’s time to get out there. And remember, those dandelions grow while you sleep.