Monday, January 28, 2013

What happened to gardening?

Why do we garden?  It's a reasonable question to ask and it seems that many have.  Tongues have been wagging recently around the internet asking the same question, with many providing answers too.  But gardening for a past time has slipped into a downward spiral, maybe a reflection of the current economy or maybe just a sign of the times.  It appears that the message of why we garden maybe clouded that its lost its relevancy in this day and age.

Oh you didn't just say that!
Just the other day I caught a commercial on TV for Ty Pennington's Home and Remodeling show at the local expo center.  Home and Remodeling?  It used to be called Home and Garden show!  It appears that even Ty Pennington has turned his back on the whole gardening industry.  I seem to remember some pretty good gardens being installed when the show was in its infancy, until they did away with a garden designer in favor of highly emotional interior designers.  Seeing grown men cry makes better TV I'm sure!

I know I'm ragging on Ty for something that probably out of his hands but, gardening doesn't carry the same glamour anymore as reflected in a trade publication, 'Grower Talks'.  They recently published an article called 'Why doesn't she garden?', highlighting a survey carried out by an industry giant, Ball Horticultural Company.  The survey was to discover why the common gardening demographic, 'the white 40 or so female', has decided not to garden.  This was backed up by numbers from the National Gardening Association, that produced data showing gardening had dropped from 41% to 29% in the past 6 years.  Scary stuff.

But who out there is promoting gardening anymore?  Television has turned its back on us gardening folk as I've written about before in  'The other garden makeover' post.  I was brought up in a society where parents and grandparents all gardened and passed the knowledge on.  Schools had gardening clubs and every Friday night, 'Gardeners World' (for those in the UK) came on and exposed us to the joys of gardening.  There was even an after school children's show called 'Blue Peter' that had the presenters working in the studio's garden under the direction of the head gardener.  How does the younger generation these day get introduced into gardening when so many of the resources that we relied on have gone?

Percy Thrower - Introduced many children to gardening and the joys of a good pipe! 
Of course the demographic is very restricted to just white females being the core customer. It fails to take into consideration males or any of the vast ethnic groups that live in this great land.  Still this is a troubling trend that we in the industry need have to change.  The big question is how do we change peoples perspective on gardening and encourage them back into their yards?

Any thoughts? Write and leave your comments, maybe we can start a growing revolution!


  1. Any thoughts? I could write a book! :o)

    We live in a society that wants instant gratification for minimal work. I've seen people gripe because they had to wait longer than 90 seconds for their mega calorie, overpriced coffee. Digging up garden beds and then spending time designing a garden that later requires care doesn't fit into their schedule. It's also hard physical work which our obese society rejects. Gardens are viewed as an improvement to a public space or the pet project of the eccentric.

    Most people just want basic, boring shrubs that they don't know the name of and a few annuals in the summer. To change our attitudes towards gardening, we need to change the larger issues that create/affect our perspectives. To sell gardening in the US, we'd need to sex it up. We need the Nigella Lawson of gardening to make it cool. So sad...

    1. Sadly sex does sell and gardening doesn't appeal to the youth of today. It is a image problem but the older generation gets it. Young people often don't have the time or patience to make it work and give up too easily. However, what about the other forgotten demographic's? There a huge source that needs tapping if we only change the message of what gardening means. Right now its geared for the demographic that is changing priories. Thanks as always for your comments

  2. You make really good points here, and I have wondered about the same things. I am in that core group of white, older, middle class females, and I wonder where all the other groups are in gardening. Gardening shows certainly could have all the intrigue and competition and personal back stories that food or decorating or cars or dancing have, and they could get serious about such a rich topic too. But for some reason it is never promoted.

    It's frustrating to someone trapped in a shrinking, aging demographic of gardeners.

    1. Working in a garden center I can say your not in a shrinking group, but it would be nice to have some more people come to the party! Hopefully its like a fashion and we need to wait for the cycle to come back! We do need to speak up and let TV networks know that we're still hear and we still garden regardless of what they think the trends are. Maybe the answer lies in renegade shows broadcasted on the web. Build enough followers and the networks will listen!
      Thanks for your comments

  3. I'm a white, female gardener so I'm not sure I should answer! Based on what I see in my own small neighborhood, there is interest in gardening but not many people really have the time and resources or enough of an interest to devote to maintaining a garden. I'm a very amateur gardener and I get pretty good feedback from friends and neighbors because I am actually growing something - but I also get comments about how I am always seen outside weeding, watering, trimming, etc. I think landscapers have made it easy enough for people to have something basic that is zero maintenance and most people are not willing to put more effort into it than that. It can also be very expensive and lots of people I know want to devote their resources to other activities/hobbies.

    My mother is a huge gardener and I learned what I know from her and from other relatives. I grew up in a rural area and most everyone had a large veggie garden and canned from it to supplement their pantry year round. I don't find most people that I know in NoVA have had that same childhood experience. Farmer's markets also make it easy for people to eat fresh with little effort (which is a good thing!). I am actually launching a gardening club for our homeschool group for the grades 1-5 kids this spring, so hopefully I can help spark interest. If kids are interested that sometimes nudges parents to getting going as well.

    There is very little community support in PWC for community gardens - and HOAs can make gardening an overwhelming ordeal. My mother got cited by her HOA a few years ago because her sunflowers were too tall. :-/ The same year she won a town beautification award for her garden! Crazy.

  4. We're all caught up in the complexities of modern life, that sometimes we forget to stop and smell the roses. I'm glad you're not one to turn your back on the garden. I'm sure your mothers influence has something to do with you gardening. I'm worried that with the drop in gardeners, we're seeing a missing link that would of inspired children to get gardening. If you ever need help with your endeavors setting up a garden club, let me know. Your commitment will inspire others to get back into the garden. Thanks for your comments.

  5. Robert, that is a very generous offer - I'd appreciate it! I'm giving the club kids my own raised beds this summer because we have not been able find anywhere else to build raised beds. PWC and the extension office has not been as helpful as I'd hoped. We are planning a couple field trips and hoping to have some guest speaker/hands on demo people come in to work with the kids a bit. Email me if you have any ideas or contacts that you think would be helpful for us. The kids are young 6-10 years old. The club will meet from March through Sept. Thanks!

  6. Before all these hype in technology many people enjoys gardening but now only few spare some time to redecorate or maintain their garden. I think this program of yours is a good idea, we should teach our kids about the beauty of gardening at early age.

  7. I'll add some thoughts that no one has mentioned. How about the plants themselves. #1, they're boring, by which I mean, the hort. industry has become increasingly homogenized with most of the plants found at retailers being produced by the same few growers and the 'production retailer' business model nearly extinct (except for mail-order specialty nurseries, which are increasingly marginalized by the conventional end of the industry, IMHO); and, #2, gardeners don't trust the plants to perform, since a lot of the new hybrids that come out, well, don't fulfill expectations for many gardeners. Perhaps it's different where you are, I don't know, but that's my perception from the great Pacific Northwest.

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