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Generation Y – The Future of Gardening, or the End?

Here’s my take: we recognize that GenY wants to cut to the chase and start gardening now – they don’t feel the need to master the subject matter before jumping in.  It’s life as one big Nike commercial, come on, let’s all just do it! Growing your own food is cool; being lectured about it, not so much. As one GenYer said at GWA, why read a gardening book when I can just Google my question and get an answer right away? 

 

Generation Y is not only embracing a new way of learning; they are also redefining what a garden is.  My interest in gardening began when I bought my first home and had an empty yard to fill, but some of the most popular blogs around right now have nothing to do with the suburban dream, and instead focus on balcony gardening, community gardens and urban homesteading, to name just a few. To be successful, the designer/nursery professional/garden writer of the future will need to rethink traditional teaching methods and topics and instead create engaging, personal gardening experiences. As Katie Elzer-Peters puts it in this post, her GenY husband is more excited that he’s growing his own food than he is to actually eat it.

 

In my design practice, I see a difference between younger and older clients.  While roughly the same proportion of people interested or not interested in gardening exists in all generations, older gardeners often view gardening as a hobby.  A hobby they are passionate and knowledgeable about, yes, but still a distinct activity separate from the rest of their life.  In contrast, GenY clients approach their gardens as an integral part of who they are.  They are eager to tell me how they want their gardens to support their lifestyles, whether that means space for organic edibles, a dog run where their pets can still be a part of the family, or a request for kid-friendly plants designed to appeal to toddlers. They understand that their little patch of earth is part of a much bigger environment, and they are respectful of that. Perfect roses aren’t the goal. Some want a garden to nurture while others just want to hang out in one.  Regardless, they all want to experience their gardens, not turn them into plant museums, or worse, treat them as simply a space to walk through on their way to their real lives.

 

This idea is not new. Before I became a garden designer, I was heavily influenced by the book The Experience Economy, which proposes that consumers no longer purchase products, but instead search out experiences. Why settle for a plain old cup of coffee, when you can relax in a sleek coffee bar and sip an exotic coffee beverage, secure in the knowledge that your fair trade beans are an environmentally sound choice?

 

What is new is GenY’s expectation that these experiences will be both highly personal and available on demand. By 2014, GenY will make up 47% of the workforce, a larger generation than the Baby Boomers. And like the Boomers in their heyday, their view of the world is quickly influencing other generations.  Depending on what source you use, I am either a young Boomer or an old GenXer, but I find myself absorbing GenY attitudes more and more all the time. The other day I was struggling to come up with a group of coral plants for a garden design. I could have called a colleague or asked for suggestions on my professional design forum, but either option meant effort and time. Instead I posted my question on Twitter and almost immediately great suggestions were pouring in, including some from one of my favorite growers.  Hurray for my instant gratification, self-referential network!  GenY isn’t just adopting a new platform for interacting with the world; they are encouraging the rest of us to adopt it too.  And I for one couldn’t be happier.

 

If you’d like to read what others are saying on this topic, check out Garden Variety, Go Organic Gardening, GardenPunk, and Miss Rumphius’ Rules. 

 

When she isn’t blogging, tweeting, or updating her Facebook page, Susan Morrison can be found designing gardens in Northern California.

Posted by on October 8, 2009 at 5:07 am, in the category Uncategorized.
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61 Responses to “Generation Y – The Future of Gardening, or the End?”

  1. greg draiss says:

    So let the GEN Y-ers prove their commitment to community and the earth by putting down those “have to be seen drinking $4 lattes’” and put down some roots into a garden.

    If one is philanthropic but self centered at the same time they are nothing new, they are modern day pharisees from the Old Testament.

    “I care so much about the earth, so watch as I make my donation to the cause”.

    I, a last of the baby boomers, will stick with better tasting good old coffee while paddling my kayak on the Hudson River seeing what is beautiful instead of wanting to bee seen by the “so called” beautiful………….

    The TROLL

  2. Steph says:

    Wow! What a philosophical post! It really made me think…

    I think there has always been a tension in the middle class between the aspiration to have the trappings of the truly wealthy (lawns, couches with plastic wrap, granite countertops), and the realities of what is useful and sustainable. If there’s a movement to reject some of that aspiration, I think that’s a really good thing.

    But what I didn’t hear mentioned in the post was any analysis of the economics of the phenomena. My theory is that people want gardens to fit their lifestyles because property/homes are now a much greater percentage of income, and many of my generation are coming to see that they will never be able to afford the big house and yard in the burbs, or if they do, they don’t have the expendable income for luxuries like second homes or trips abroad. I know exactly how much I paid for a square foot of my yard, and I want to get every cent out of it, hence gardening, which I love, a place for the dogs to roam, a place to hang and drink some wine, and a spot for growing vegetables.

    Another pet theory I have is that due to global climate change, its getting warmer in places and people want to be outside more.

    And BTW, no one I know twitters! It’s for movie stars and people selling crap.

  3. Hee hee. The troll has a “kids these days” rant – what a surprise.

    Excellent post, Susan. I am GenY, and your post describes my gardening life perfectly.

  4. Susan–I agree with what you’ve said. I teach Gen Ys. and I have great hope for our future, gardening and otherwise. They are on the ball and good-hearted–in the end, though they may access information differently, they are not so different from you and me. In fact, I have learned a thing or two from adopting some of their ways.

  5. angelchrome says:

    Plenty of Gen Y already gardens in a serious way and the worst thing you can do is start imposing learning plans like we’re students.

    Let us discover it like the Gen Xers did. We’re part of the same society you’re part of. While some are never gonna shake their need for instant gratification and expect gardening to happen like magic, but plenty are going to find a passion, read the old masters, start swapping and going to garden clubs and integrate just fine.

  6. VP says:

    Susan has hit the nail on the head – ‘they are not so different from you and me’. That’s why I get a tad fed up with all this generalising and go and talk to real people of all ages instead.

    Sorry for the mini rant – but it needs to be said!

  7. simultaneously self-absorbed yet philanthropic, craves information and connectedness, but seeks out only self-referential sources, is materialistic, impatient and in search of instant gratification yet feels a deep and genuine connection to the planet.

    Aha! They are Americans! Marketing victory shall be ours!

  8. Leslee says:

    After reading this I think I am a baby boomer that thinks like a generation Y. Now I know why my garden has always been different then my neigbors..Very interesting article..something to think about but not to me a generalization just an observation.

  9. Carri says:

    Nicely put Susan. I teeter-totter Gen X/Gen Y (based on who you ask). It’s nice to have someone recognize that we ARE gardening, despite what some Baby Boomers claim. We’re just gardening differently than the people before us. I would have to say we’re gardening smarter too, as most Gen Y gardeners I know are all organic or at least trying to be water-wise. There is a balance between having a garden that is functional, comfortable, beautiful- AND have it easy enough to maintain so that it can fit into our busy lifetstyles. As yes, we require dog & kid friendly gardens as well!

  10. tenderleaf says:

    I’m 30 and I’ve been gardening for 10 years, passionately. Just sayin.

  11. Holly says:

    We see a lot of GenY gardeners at http://www.dinnergarden.org. They are mostly gardeners who got hooked on gardening when they grew a bean plant from a seed in kindergarten.

  12. Great post, Susan. Very interesting for me to hear this and I’m so glad you elaborated on this topic (I heard a bit of this on your GWA podcast). I think people are just asking for a fight when they start classifying themselves in one group versus another. The banter on Twitter this week was getting silly and I still can’t figure out where it was going and why it was going there. As Patrick Fitzgerald said so beautifully: ” I was never very good at Algebra, but as I recall GenX + GenY = We all love plants so it’s all Good! ”

    As my teenage daughter would say to those folks “Don’t be a Player Hater”….

    p.s. in response to Steph’s comment above: I’m not a movie star and I’m not selling crap, and I love Twitter. Don’t be so quick to rule it out & put others down who use it.

  13. Willi says:

    I’m 29 and I really enjoyed your post and your perspective…but not Norris’. I’m not sure why many baby boomers have such disdain for my generation. Instead of schizophrenic how about curious? And why is impatience a bad quality? There is a lot we can do to make our communities better places to live, and life is short.

    I know so many passionate people my age who are digging up parking lots and installing community gardens, creating community canning kitchens, and who have embraced vegetable gardening–not just because it is more instantly gratifying than ornamental gardening–but because they think growing food is a better use of space.

    I think that people my age are searching for authentic experiences, and having an emerald green carpet of a lawn and filling pots with annuals just doesn’t ring true (though it does make cash registers ring).

    My hope is that people recognize that there is room for all sorts of gardeners, whether you come at it as a 20-something apartment dweller interested in local food or a retiree who wants to create a peaceful garden. Forming a connection to the earth is always a good thing. I’ve learned a lot from Baby Boomer (and older) gardeners, and I’m so glad you recognize that you can learn a thing or two from us too.

  14. Katie says:

    Great post, Susan! Nicely sums up what I’ve been thinking.

    As the “Katie” mentioned in the post, I’ll say that it makes sense to me that your clients are asking you for gardens that fit their overall life styles. As I wrote in my post, I have noticed that most people my age are flat-out hammered in terms of work, family and other commitments. I have a house, a mortgage, a car payment, husband’s student debt, my own business, and a LOT of work. I might have an hour or two a day for actual “fun.” Everything else has to somehow fit with work. Hopefully, I’m building a business that will allow more breathing room soon.

    I simply don’t have *time* for things that I can’t integrate into the rest of my existence. And, my entire life experience is integrated more than ever before because of the online resources available. I think this makes me a better writer.

    So, I think you have hit the nail on the head re: make gardening fit with my life. That was my comment during Kelly’s session. Whatever I do, I want to be able to mine it for something. Gardening and surfing are exercise. Reading leads to better writing. My bike ride is a chance to get some sun and think. Vacations give me fodder for new projects.

    When two incomes are needed to keep a house running, leisure time is at a premium, for everyone involved. Gardening has to be more than leisure. For MOST, though not ALL gen Ys, two incomes are needed. Not because we are trying to have so much stuff, but because wages are falling and prices are rising.

    I routinely argue with my mom over topics that are entirely related to my current need to work, one or two jobs, rather than staying home. I know that PLENTY of boomer households have two income earners. My family did not. There are as many differences between those two groups as there are between different ages. Ditto for married vs. unmarried, kids or no kids, etc.

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the debate! Debate is healthy!

  15. 'nora says:

    I’m Gen X, not Y, but I still turn to Google when I need a quick answer.

    I turn to books when I want a nuanced discussion and good writing (crazy, I know).

    I haven’t met a human being yet who didn’t like instant gratification. Liking instant gratification does not make the camellias mature faster, though. Eventually most of us learn to strike a balance, no matter what generation we’re in.

  16. Marte says:

    Good comment, Nora. I’m an “old boomer” and I call google my “new best friend.”

  17. Ira Mann says:

    Great Post! I didn’t know I was a Generation Y Gardener, but low an behold that is just what I am. Loved your post. Keep up the good work. Thanks!

  18. Mandy says:

    Very interesting! I’m a 28 year old gardener here raised from a long line of people who love their gardens.

    Although I agree that how we learn is incredibly different–owing much to the internet life we’ve grown used to–for me at least I consider myself an old timer type of garden.

    Just bought a house with a blank canvas backyard. I’m incredibly excited to get in there and get some perennials going.

    I’ve got my own personal reference library towards gardening and I utilize all sorts of networking skills to get my info.

    I actually work very heavily in nurseries and greenhouses so I try to not only get info from internet/books but from all the wise advice I come across.

    I remember as a kid mom growing plants from seed and I’m finally going to have the space to give it a try.

    So we’re not all youngins looking for instant gratification. I’m looking to save my own seeds, propagate the hell out of whatever I can, etc.

    I want as my garden to be my baby and nurse it through all it’s stage over the years. And raising a child take a LONG time…

    My favorite part of gardening is honestly getting outdoors, getting dirty, and doing this as much as possible.

  19. Kristina says:

    I’m towards the tail end of Gen-Y, but have found a love for gardening that sprouted from the same love of learning that our generation has in common. With so much information at our fingertips, the world has opened up to us, yet, somehow we are still disconnected with it. I love gardening because it’s not simply heady-intellectual knowledge, but is tangible and useful and teaches me the patience that every generation seems to lack.

  20. Susan says:

    My two cents: I’m a mid-Boomer with a Gen X, two Gen Y and a World War II baby husband. (Still waiting [do you hear me boys?] for generation whatever grandbabies! I love them all, learn from them, argue with them and sometimes garden with them. We all grow up with different experiences,schooling, economic life etc. that shape our thoughts on gardening among all the other pieces of our lives. We each bring something different to the table. Different not better, not worse.
    I won’t argue about the generalizations that are out there about each generation. We are each individuals no matter which group we are placed in by others. How we approach gardening is also individual.
    Happily, there is room for everyone in the watermelon patch.

  21. Gayla says:

    Thank you for writing a thoughtful post about this.

    I often wonder if the technology/impatience topic is a chicken or egg thing? Is it really that younger generations are more impatient, or is it simply that the technology is now available to create products that cultivate impatience and younger people just happen to be more comfortable with that technology on the whole because they’ve grown up with it to varying degrees?

    Seems like all of us, regardless of age, live within a wider cultural framework of impatience/convenience.

    I mean, wasn’t it older generations who embraced chemical fertilizers and products like Miracle Gro meant to grow plants bigger faster, easier? I don’t mean to point the finger, just making the point that impatience is a condition of our overall cultural condition and not the problem of any one age group.

    I like that Willi used “curious” in place of “impatient.”

    The good thing is that gardening cultivates both curiosity and patience.

  22. Well, how’s this for a generalization? People who were introduced to plants, gardens and gardening when children are far more inclined to like plants, gardens and gardening as adults.

    As a garden photojournalist, I often visit great gardens, and invariably the owner reminisces about his or her grandmother’s garden.

    On the other hand, there are people like my neighbor, whom I asked why I never saw her in her yard. She shrugged and replied, “Dirt and bugs.” You guessed it: She had grown up with no gardening influences.

    So, maybe the XYZ of the generation doesn’t matter as much as this universal truth: Gardening is like camping or music or sailing. If you want your kids and grandkids to love it, share with them your own passion for it.

  23. Tibs says:

    I don’t think being exposed to gardens and gardening when young will necessarily make you more likely to garden as an adult . My sister and I were both surrounded by gardening and gardeners. I have alwasy loved it, she has never had an interest. My own children have always been exposed to gardening. One, a very late gen y’er has a gardening interest, the younger (gen Z?) has absolutely no interest. You either have a gardening bug or you don’t.

  24. Joe Lamp'l says:

    This was a great post. I’m fascinated by this topic as I work to create a new gardening / sustainability TV series that addresses issues that are more pertinent to gen Y & X yet still interesting and informative to boomers plus. I don’t have any episodes planned to show you the next great rose garden, but we are going to talk a lot about urban farming and backyard homesteading and stewardship issues and always around gardening.

  25. Katie says:

    Everyone is still seizing on the “Impatience” issue. Did everybody miss this section of Susan’s post?

    “In contrast, GenY clients approach their gardens as an integral part of who they are. They are eager to tell me how they want their gardens to support their lifestyles, whether that means space for organic edibles, a dog run where their pets can still be a part of the family, or a request for kid-friendly plants designed to appeal to toddlers. They understand that their little patch of earth is part of a much bigger environment, and they are respectful of that. Perfect roses aren’t the goal. Some want a garden to nurture while others just want to hang out in one. Regardless, they all want to experience their gardens, not turn them into plant museums, or worse, treat them as simply a space to walk through on their way to their real lives.”

    To me, that is the most important part. My mom is 58, and she is the most impatient person I know. It has nothing to do with her age. She also loves to garden and gave me her green thumb.

    The point isn’t whether we have a short attention span or not. I think the IMPORTANT point for people reaching out to new gardeners is the quoted passage above: INTEGRATE

    Integrate gardening with everything else. Make it indispensable–like the GWA keynote speaker said “Once people get used to trees and plants and flowers, they WON’T want to go back.” Hook people. Reach the newbies where they are hanging out, which appears to be the internet. Give them resources.

    I can’t wait for Joe’s new show. He sounds like he gets it! It isn’t about impatience, or an older generation trying to tell the younger generation what to do or vice versa. It is the experience, and, speaking for myself, all of my experiences stem from and feed into everything else I am doing. That’s the nature of being online so much.

    INTEGRATE!

    And, Gayla’s right: synthetic fertilizers came into widespread use right after World War II, when the Haber-Bosch process was perfected.

  26. Fig Tree says:

    I really loved this post and remember Kelly’s rocking talk at the symposium. All the Gen-Y’s I hang out with actually seem to feel that saving the planet is part of their responsibility, and with that seems to be an interest in gardening for the sustainability of themselves and the hip factor of it is a bonus.

    The economy has given us all a big kick in the butt to see that we need to be able to rely on ourselves a little more for basic needs- but let’s keep a balance! I think you can have your urban garden and sip your latte too.

  27. Back when I designed gardens professionally, the first thing I did was try to figure out how to integrate the landscape with the client’s daily lifestyle — to do so often meant reading between the lines, but it is paramount.

    That is the essence of a “good” design — the foundation on which to create something functional as well as attractive and aesthetically pleasing.

    Good grief! Why is this a radical idea??

  28. Wow, I thought my mouse scroller would overheat getting to the bottom of this comment stream! Brava my friend and cohort, now everyone knows what a REAL smartypants you are!

    Personally, still bummed that I’m considered a baby boomer. I would prefer to be the ‘classic rock’ generation, an age that remembers “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in” but didn’t get most of the jokes.

    I agree most heartily that GenX & GenY are showing us how to be fluent in the latest technology. You can dismiss it without knowing much about it (harrumph, Steph-at-the-top) or ignore it, but you will be missing out on rich connections and conversation.

    I used to have the Western Garden Book, the bible for western gardeners since the 1960s, open on my desk all the time. I would read Sunset Magazine and Fine Gardening every month, cover to cover.

    Now I go to Sunset.com or FineGardening.com, where I get the freshest information PLUS the benefit of all their archived content. And even better, I can even have a personal connection with them!

    When I want an opinion, feedback or sanity check, I can quickly reach hundreds of Facebook and Twitter friends. Each of them equally fresh, with their own rich archives.

    And I certainly appreciate my GenY friends on Facebook and Twitter. They really helped me get up to speed on this BlackBerry thingie!

  29. Plantanista (Maureen D) says:

    Fantastic post, Susan, and one I’ll be thinking about for some time. Feeling like a Gen Y gardener in a Boomer body, (oh, that it were the other way ’round-think of all the projects I could tackle!)

    Perhaps the Gen Y gardeners represent an evolution of technology as it integrates into the garden. As a designer, I once relied on a massive store of books, vellum, drafting table, T-square, etc. Now I can function strictly with a laptop, internet access and Vectorworks Landmark.

    Furthermore, I curate my sources of information more than ever before, and like you, rely on a set of twitter, facebook, and yahoo group friends to answer questions and round out the research conducted on Google. Does this mean I’m letting my computer tell me how to design? No, but if it could do a better job, I’d be more than happy to let it take care of the dirty work like site measurement. Self referential? Perhaps, but I like to think of it as a time-saver.

    Wearing my design hat, I work best when I use my direct experience of the world to identify my passions and solutions, confirm them with people I trust and respect, and then implement based on a balance of inputs.

    When I have the opportunity to work with Gen Y clients, I feel an immediate affinity, and if I can open up the process to bring them into the research and exploration, it enhances the experience for all of us. I enjoy this collaboration, and in my own experience, have found it more difficult to achieve this camaraderie with X and Boomer clients.

    Another “given” with Y clients is a commitment beyond simple awareness of the ecological footprint of a garden, with a greater willingness to invest now in soil preparation, rain catchment, etc, *as long* as I can make a valid pitch for the solution, and preferably, show my clients a real-life (not internet) portrayal of its success.

    That’s more about process than results. In the end, we all want meaning, beauty, function and sanctuary from our gardens.

    My fave takeaway from obsessively observing the GWA from afar was Ros Creasy’s statement that “Gardening is caught, not taught”. Having had great garden vectors myself, when I was very, very young, I can assure you that I did not learn things the way they did, nor did I always understand or value what they were “teaching” me at the time. I’m sure that there were times when my dogmatic position on organics, for instance, caused the generous gardeners who surrounded me a wry combination of self doubt and amusement (hard to describe that feeling, but I live in it now all the time). But they stuck with me and showed me how they do things.

    Now, having reached an age where I recognize it is incumbent upon me to spread the virus as far and wide as I can, I embrace the opportunity to see the garden through the Y set of eyes. Wow, sorry to go on so long, this obviously struck a cord.

  30. zephyr says:

    I love reading the posts from people who are actually part of the generation that too many of us older people are scared of. For too many years I worked with a famous and influential garden journalist who is convinced that young people don’t care about gardening–and it influenced all of his/her work. It’s one of the reasons I stopped working with this person–because I knew he/she was wrong and was furiously digging his/her own grave.

    Gardening is alive and well–more alive and exciting than it has been in decades, in my opinion–despite the severe decline in the “huge sales” numbers. The “old hort INDUSTRY” machine is dead–and I, for one, say good riddance. It was becoming as bloated, self-righteous and self-serving as “the establishment” was that we boomers rebelled against in the 60s. And I have no doubt that something very new and exciting is beginning to take its place…and yes, right now it’s on the Internet.

    I am also very glad to see the big shake down happening in garden publishing as a result of the Internet and other factors–and most especially thrilled that the GWA gave their prestigeous award to a book with REAL CONTENT instead of another one that’s filled with mostly beautiful photographs, costs $50 if you want to support a local shop, and doesn’t give much more than $5 worth of real education that you can use in the garden.

    And, let’s face it–it is fool hardy to believe that one garden magazine can publish info relevant to all the gardeners in every amazing corner of this massive country…so I am also glad to see the majority of them disappearing. Well written blogs are taking their place…and may one day spawn–gasp!–wonderful, small, well-written publications dedicated to specific locales.

    In my experience of listening to and reading the blogs of and watching this next, very influential group of folks I’ve come to believe that a very large number of genY care more about the heart of gardening than so many garden celebrities I’ve heard, read and met over the past 20 years–who have been preaching to and courting an elitist crowd far too long.

    And what really makes me laugh is that so many of these baby boomers who think that the world is doomed in the hands of genY actually do not hear the hypocrisy in their own words as they brag about their rebellious life during the 60s!!–while “tsk-tsking and wagging their heads just like their parents did!!

    Yes. The world is changing…just like it does every few decades…and I think some exciting and inspiring things in the hort world will sprout up and thrive as a result.

  31. Great post Susan. My response was too big for the comment section so I put it in a post

    ….. I didn’t feel the pangs of hunger that motivated him. That was his thing, give me ornamentals; give me peace and love. Peace and love are priceless. I can buy a tomato……

    http://gardensgardens.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/world-events-make-garden-trends-follow-the-tomato-to-understand/

  32. Catherine says:

    That was a very interesting post. I’m in agreement with Nora. I love being able to get on the internet and find a quick answer when in comes to gardening. As much as I love my garden and enjoying watching things grow, it’s also nice to find out things about plants in advance. Like that something will take over my whole yard if I plant it where I live. I don’t think going straight to the internet is impatient, it can save me a lot work in the future too, like trying to figure out how to get rid of that plant that took over my whole yard.

  33. “So let the GEN Y-ers prove their commitment to community and the earth by putting down those “have to be seen drinking $4 lattes’” and put down some roots into a garden.”

    Troll, I spearheaded development of the Wrigley Village Community Garden in my underserved neighborhood of Long Beach, CA. The endeavor took me almost 2 years; I’ve been living in my neighborhood for less than 3 years. I was the chair of the community garden committee and I now manage the garden. Kids of all ages are growing food! I have volunteered at several tree planting events with at-risk youth and participated in many neighborhood clean-ups. I am also a guerrilla gardener and planted two gardens in medians. Yeah, not looking to be seen by the beautiful but I certainly made my neighborhood beautiful for others to look at.

    I’m also a horticulture student, author a widely read blog and write for Long Beach Magazine. My mission through the garden is to inspire and empower people of all ages. My latest goal: 4-H Camp fundraising for some of the kids that garden at Wrigley Village Community Garden. My donation to the cause has been blood, sweat, and tears.

  34. I am going to play the curmudgeon here. That is a different beast than the hysterical reactionary Troll. The only thing remotely different about the Gen alphabet gardeners that I read in Susan’s post was the way they acquire their information. It can be faster, more precise and has a worldwide reach. Everything else – same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

  35. Matt Moore says:

    One of the things I like best about this post is how it inspired so many good responses and maybe 1 or 2 not so, but as Katie said, “debate is healthy”. Very nicely done Susan.

    Like others here, I am a late boomer, but I have the attention span of a gnat. I always liked the idea of having a garden, especially a veggie garden, but lacked the know-how or the patience to read the books. Thank God for Google, Twitter, the online magazines that Laura mentioned & all the quality blogs out there. I’m now in my second season of container gardening. I’m constantly learning and loving every minute of it.

    I don’t see where gardening has ever been the generational thing some are making it out to be. Like most things, there will always be mentors out there who will inspire their children, students or younger friends to pick up a shovel or a trowel. I believe the current sentiment toward greening our environment, plus the excellent & easily accessible information, coupled with the energy & passion of today’s 20 & 30-somethings bodes very well for the gardening world.

    I’ve been working on the supply-side of the landscape industry for over 20 years and these are some of the most exciting times I’ve seen.

  36. greg draiss says:

    To Anarchy and Christpher C NC (who never understands my satire)

    The comment about GEN Y-ers being philanthropic and self centered at the same time came right out of Susan’s post. I was commenting on the pretentious labeling of Gen Y-ers in the post. I hate lables being put on people like this. It is not my opinion of anyone. Such a comment as in the post makes Gen Y-ers out to be all they are over the road indecisive and wandering aimlessly about.

    There are of course modern day Pharisees in any group of people.

    Anarchy: you are a roll model for one of any age getting involved with community gardens as you have. You have gotten your hands dirty and put down some good roots.

    Now as for Christopher C NC:

    RELAX and look up the definition of satire in the dictionary. They should have those in the Carolinas by now since so many yankees have moved there bringing culture with them

    The TROLL

  37. Troll you may call it satire if it suits you. It is still rooted in a misogynistic, reactionary, fringe mode of thinking. The bottom line, you are not connecting with the audience here. That small group you aspire to entertain is found in the dark fetid recesses of the web.

  38. Garden Market says:

    Like everything else in life, gardening is trending heavy right now. It is indeed cool to say you are a gardener, or an urban …

    Every young person I know in the Gen Y category in the last few years is suddenly in on this and now needing to be known as an authority even though they have just been gardening in the last few years. The social networks make it simple for people to connect, promote, exploit and also make it easy for people who have a need to be fabulously famous to now say that a few gardening moments, or being associated with the right people, qualify them to have their own notoriety. Frankly, it is self-serving.

    As a much older gardener, I find the Gen Y every bit as impatient and as ADD as they have been with other things. A need for entitled recognition. Gardening is just the new toy to do it with. In another year, it will be something else.

    “simultaneously self-absorbed yet philanthropic, craves information and connectedness, but seeks out only self-referential sources, is materialistic, impatient and in search of instant gratification yet feels a deep and genuine connection to the planet.”

    Exactly.

    That is truly, through no fault of their own, what we have with the Gen Y look at me and what all I do, while I go and consume much more than those old farts. (And we thank them for that, by the way. They can drive an economy).

    Save the planet, but fire up the jet please because I (emphasis I) need to go plant a tree.

    Who created that dichotomy in them? Their parents? society? circumstances? or horrors, media itself?

    I just hope that the good grows up and leaves the all about me behind and we can then aspire to have yet another “great generation”.

    I am a marketing consultant. I study these things intently. They have good intentions I am sure, they just cannot help themselves, that need to make it all about them.

    Advertisers do respond to that great need. And if the green (hopefully, not greenwashed) Y’s can up the numbers, then amen for self-absorption to turn around an economy.

    If a must-have “I am not a plastic bag” by Anya Hindmarch designer bag and the like is what it might take, alright then.

    Shame that Gen Y did not jump on board faster and save Smith and Hawken from itself.

    I do welcome the true Gen Y gardeners, just don’t try to pull the wooly blue curls over my old eyes.

    Time will tell us how true Gen Y is.

  39. Katie says:

    Wow, Garden Market. That was nasty. And I, yes “I,” am not a “garden trend” gardener. I’ve been tinkering outside since I could walk. I had my own garden at 6. I have a master’s in horticulture. This ain’t no trend.

  40. Whoa. Let me go grab my hair from the next block over.

  41. Garden Market:

    What in the hell is wrong with you?

  42. Garden Market says:

    Get real. A few great Gen Y gardeners who have been gardening since they were little are not the bulk of the whole. You are the exception right now. Maybe in a few years the rest of the Gen Yers will follow suit.

    Realistically, they are steeped in the fashion of it all right now.

    Again, time will tell.

    I am pulling for Gen Y to truly get in to it and be the next great generation. But for now, it’s just a new fancy. Great for marketing, great for self discovery and promotion, but not yet proven to be a sustainabile, integral part of their lives.

    Hopefully, it will be.

  43. TomAlex says:

    At the risk of being on the receiving end of wrath from the do-gooders… Gen Y is gardening more than anyone knows… they just can’t admit to anybody about what they are actually growing since loose lips sink ships. So they don’t talk about gardening to anybody. In fact, they will probably deny they garden or grow anything creating the false impression that they aren’t into gardening.
    Most are growing the evil weed MJ for the money involved and have learned advanced horticultural techniques, both in soil and hydroponically, in the process. They have acquired enough knowledge in their illegal pursuit, that they can grow anything and probably will once the evil weed is legalized; which, given the bankrupt state of affairs of our federal and state government, should only be a few more years away. Then the Gen Y gardeners will come out of the raised bed woodwork and actually admit they do garden and the wringing of everybody’s hands can cease.

  44. Gayla says:

    TomAlex: I love the idea of growing pot as the gateway drug to other, legal types of gardening! And you are right: I learned some excellent tips about tomato cultivation talking to pot growers. Good growers know their stuff.

    We all have experiences worth sharing and receiving. It’s not just about superficial pursuit of superstar platform and attaining false presentation of “authority” as Garden Market so negatively assumes. I actually abhor that word and the connotation.

    We are each authorities in our own experiences, yet eternal students. The way we sometimes interpret authority these days is a conservative model for teaching rooted in fear.

    Zephyr’s comment is insightful and thought provoking. Right on!

  45. Plantanista (Maureen D) says:

    I’m pulling for *all* of us to get it together and stop destroying this planet. (and maybe show a little plant love to each other?)

    Every single garden matters, no matter what year you were born or how early in your life you started gardening, or even *why* you garden.

    If I’d been expected to muster to Garden Market’s standards, I would have left gardening behind long ago. Feeling very lucky for the generous gardeners who shared so much with my callow self in my late teens and twenties, even when I *didn’t* deserve their time or attention.

  46. Old Kim says:

    The majority of people go to Walmart or Home Depot because they got flashy stuff. They want a bite of it. Sexy hot wares on the main aisles. Shiny barbeques or fancy G strings.
    Walmart’s gonna save us money after investing millions in telling us what to do.

  47. Regardless of the generation, when they start gardening, they should visit http://www.AmpleHarvest.org to learn about a nationwide campaign to diminish hunger in America by enabling backyard gardeners to share their crops with neighborhood food pantries.

  48. Kat says:

    Great article Susan. Honestly, I grow weary of generations pointing fingers at each other. On a daily basis I help new gardeners of all ages discover what might become an obsession for them. Even college kids who are here for a mere 5 years plant gardens as soon as they rent a home with some friends. Sure, the younger generations may access information differently, but they would be stupid if they didn’t. How many libraries are open 24 hours a day? How many are even open 8 anymore? That they still want the information is key. I think that is what really matters.

  49. Tibs says:

    Maybe I have a lack of sensibility, but I didn’t get any nasty tone from Garden Market’s post. Gardening and Green is the current thing right now. There are people in every generation be it boomers, xyz or the greatest, that always jump on the current bandwagon. Some stay on, some jump off for the next trend. I just hope lots of people of all ages stay on the garden bandwagon.

  50. greg draiss says:

    Hey Christopher C NC!!!!!

    How come no diatribe on Market Gardens comments which only echoed my satire??????

    Just as I thought…………….

    The TROLL

  51. Garden Market says:

    Lastly, I want to add (and thank you to Tibs and Kat, and certainly Susan) that I am in no way anti-Gen Y.

    The numbers just say that you all, as writers, bloggers, gardeners of long standing, have a lot of work ahead of you. Gen Y, as far as gardening is concerned is barely jumping on board. If they had, as a whole, not as a singular one of you exception to the rule Ys, been into gardening longer than the last 2 years and certainly since the WH Garden went in, we would not be losing independent garden centers at such an amazing rate (granted the economy as a whole contributed to this), nor would strong Gen Y marketer Greatland Target stores be shutting down their nursery areas bit by bit in most major markets, nor would Wal-Mart be downsizing the same. Even HGTV, simply because advertisers do not see garden as pulling in the Gen Y consumers, whose age at this time should be the highest priority target for ad dollars.

    The numbers of Gen Y garden interest, as a whole, are just not there. Not for gardening, not now. Yes there are a lot of them, they just are not buying in to garden as many of us would like. There are too many other options, to many other ways of being green. As I said in my first post, designer bags being one of the things competing, and winning, possible garden dollars.

    In a recent search for a Gen Y spokesperson for a national brand, we had a hell of time finding anyone who could speak on the subject without actually telling us they could google or twitter if need be. Really? what about needing to know the subject at a trade show? What, you will excuse yourself, turn around and ask your Blackberry or iPhone? One candidate considered herself an arborist because she had planted at two tree plantings. Seriously folks, it was like Jay Leno’s Jaywalk segments. I actually think we should broadcast the what is compost? answers someday. The answers were amazngly funny. But everyone of those kids felt they deserved to speak for a national brand. We needed more than cute. We needed more than “today I will be a gardener” or “my mom had a garden” (did you help her? Hmmm, not much when I was little. At that time I did not like to get dirty).

    Those of you immersed in gardening and media have a lot of work to do to get these kids involved and I am not speaking to any of you kids that already are, have been, or just started and are very gung ho.

    The young man with the upcoming television show, wonderful. If you can get your target to sit and watch PBS television, it will be grand.

    I think that the Gen Y kids are a bit delayed getting to gardening, having been so completely distracted and washed in electronic innovation for all of their lives and parents who were subjected to the rat race imposed on them once the dual income family became a necessity, or when a one parent situation also became a norm. Who had time to garden with their kids from late 70′s disco to “greed is good” 80′s.

    If Gen Y takes this trend and makes it a habit we will all be better for it, and perhaps the Gen Y’s children will really be the high impact.

    Enough said. Godspeed.

  52. No one I know who gardens sees it as something outside themselves, it is part of who they are and how they live, no matter what their paying job may be. It might be more fun for all of us and also useful for the planet if we could see that we are all on the same side — the green side. Who are the folks who got DDT banned in Wisconsin (the first state to do so) and started natural lawn campaigns 30 years ago? The post WWII gang and Boomers …. Every generation learns as they go and sometimes they make mistakes and then try to right them. It’s a waste of time and energy to be pointing fingers.

  53. Garden Market I would like to ask you is there any point in the green industry marketing history in which 20 somethings were a large demographic of the buying public? If not, why is Gen Y now to blame for the demise of independent garden centers, Target nurseries and Walmart’s? Walmart is a hub of Gen Y buyers? I think they will be shocked to hear this.

    I think a lot of talking past each other is going on in this conversation. I get the impression the marketing folks are looking at the very large Gen Y demographic to save their horticultural hinnies when other much stronger forces are at work here like declining real incomes across the board for all Americans. In the process this apparent lack of over whelming interest in gardening across the entire spectrum of Gen XY is used to make them feel like there is something wrong with them.

    There isn’t. Gardeners are an odd and rare lot. We are not now and never will be a majority of any demographic. Homeowners I am willing to bet are by far the biggest chunk of buyers in the green industry and sorry to tell you this, but they are broke or foreclosed. It has nothing to do with Gen Y. Those that find an interest in gardening will get there. The next generation of gardeners will be just fine if not better. With far more access to knowledge and a better understanding of the impacts we all have on the environment they are poised to make great improvements to the art of gardening.

    If you’re lucky they might even buy stuff.

  54. Katie says:

    I love it that being broke/ not CHOOSING to buy a lot of gardening stuff = no interest in gardening according to gardenmarket.

  55. bev says:

    Wow, I thought I was reading comments on the wrong blog here for a minute! GARDENERS having such a dust-up? Peace, people; go put your hands in the real dirt!

    Full disclosure: I did not read all 54 comments; just enough to get the gist.

  56. katy says:

    I’m also a GenY gardener.

    If anything, gardening has taught me patience. When I see those baby green tomatoes forming instead of counting down the days to maturity, I rejoice in the incremental steps it takes them to get there. I’ve learned that gardening, like life, is such a lovely journey. It’d be a shame to skip to the end!

    As the post, and some commenters point out, GenYers are different. But different isn’t always bad.

  57. I just don’t get this ageist thing.
    Or perhaps I just don’t care.
    Yeah, that’s probably it. I don’t care if your 2 or 92 and your gardening or not.
    Big deal.
    There are lots of things in life to be into. Gardening is just one of them.

  58. VW says:

    I guess I barely make it into GenY. I’m a garden nut, but it comes to me in the genes from my dad and grandmother. I think one reason my generation gardens is because life is so transitory and disconnected nowadays. We move all over the place instead of sticking around our hometowns, change jobs and even careers regularly, and accomplish so much of our lives by computer instead of by person (or even by phone – I always order stuff online now instead of calling and placing an order with a real person). It feels really good to do something so real, to put down roots somehow, to plant a seed and watch it grow to maturity. And $4 lattes seem ridiculous to me, but I’m just a tightwad at heart.

  59. Jappers all that happened a month ago and I missed it. I winder in 12 months time will we be wondering generation what who where huh?

  60. Congratulations on winning a position in the Top Rants of 2009 – this was a definite thought provoker and I’m glad you guest posted. Great job!

    Shawna

  61. Craig says:

    I’m a 23 year of horticulturist/garden designer. I have the best job in the world. When I tell people my own age what I do I often get looks of surprise, even indignation. I have a friend who did naught but rib me when I undertook my Bachelors degree in horticulture. He kept saying how I wasn’t going to make any money, the work would be back breaking and dirty – I should be studying economics, like him, instead. Fast forward 5 years and I’m making double what he does, work half his weekly hours, and love coming home filthy every day. When I think of him, stuck behind his desk for 10 hours a day, sometimes up to 7 days a week, I know he’s the one who has the shit job! Haha!

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