Last summer I noticed that my cats prefer the flower garden to the vegetable patch. The former’s superior canopy and fortress-like qualities, as well as the feline sense of style, spur the attraction. However, the “keeks” seem also to share a deep sympathy with flowers—“uber” as well as “unten”. I think it’s in their eyes.
Everyone in the flower business agrees that “the eyes have it”, so to speak. It is so obvious that folks forget it. Paradoxically, the visual sense fades from view in the flower industry. Also, there are many distracting categories now, such as home décor, organics and natives. And “bridal” is a separate industry by itself. The simple, undiluted beauty that ordinary, unadorned flowers possess gets lost in the clutter. However, if a plant or garden bed is not visually appealing on a basic, unconscious level, it is not going to survive. Perhaps the Europeans haven’t forgotten this yet, but Americans have. Our tumultuous markets are dynamic and volatile, and customers are quickly lured by novelty. But the sense of sight wins in the end, as it must.
Returning to cats: although I adore them all, I prefer the compelling ones. My eyes dictate the choice. The mere appearance of a cat is seductive. I take special care of the cats particularly so that they look as good as possible, or at least unblemished and healthy. The same rule applies to the flower garden.
On the other hand, the dogs prefer the kitchen garden. They visit the flower beds and borders from time to time, digging, hunting and breaking labels. But the veggies enchant them. Their many shapes and sizes amuse them and, at harvest, their smells attract them. The dogs fit well among the mounds, towers, fences and vines. Their aggressive natures find expression amidst the blocks and rows of beans, tomatoes and squash. Their best portraits are taken there, as they lounge in strategic spots after sticking their noses in the harvest bushels and gardeners’ aprons.
My opinions are biased by a preference in pet gender. My dogs are male, cats are female. Interestingly, this clicks with human garden gender orientation as well, with the exception of Great Britain, where the masculine, “home as castle” principle and aesthetic are very strong. Men are the flower gardeners in the UK. They dominate the front and side yards. On the other hand, the vegetable garden is an extension of the woman’s traditional indoor domain.
These customary garden gender roles have been the opposite in the US, where the men raise the crops and the women grow the flowers. I’ve always thought it was the pervasive effect of rural culture in our recent, land-rich past, in contrast to England’s industrial urban population and limited private land—a matter of consciousness and attention to surroundings. We have never put such a premium on privacy, nor on residences as refuges, as the British have. We’ve been able to keep the monarchy out for over 230 years—more than 11 generations living in relative freedom. Americans have always been public with our homes—loose, informal and rustic. Our “garden design” sensibility, if we really had one, would originate in the poor, remote, rural areas of the UK, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Europe. We have a simple (not simplistic) foundation—not fancy, sophisticated or especially profound, such as one finds in the high cultures of Europe and Asia. It may be a cliché, but we’re from peasant stock. When we imitate the aristocracy, we hunt and fish.
In conclusion, vegetables = nose = dogs; flowers = eyes = cats. I’m going to try to get a dog and cat from the UK. I’ll see how they sort out and report back. I certainly hope they assimilate.