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Forget Gen Y. Make way for Generation G.

Guest post by Susan Morrison of Blue Planet Garden Blog 

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Inspired by a talk by Kelly Norris, in 2009 I contributed a guest rant that proposed Gen Yers have a different attitude to gardening and a different relationship with their gardens than previous generations have had.  You can read the post here, but in part, it postulated that Gen Yers are (sometimes impatient) DIYers who embrace gardening as an experience to be integrated with their beliefs and lifestyles, and for the most part, prefer to get their information online rather than from books and lectures.

At the time, my perspective was formed primarily by my experience as a residential landscape designer and my observations of my Gen Y clients.  Since then, along with co-author Rebecca Sweet, I’ve researched and written a book, Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces.  During the process, I spent a lot of time talking with and learning from gardeners from many different backgrounds and age groups who would no more hire a landscape designer than I would hire a personal stylist.  Which got me wondering: based on this new input, if I wrote a post on Gen Y gardeners today, would I reach the same conclusions?

The short answer is yes.  I feel even more strongly that many Gen Yers take a holistic approach to gardening and are comfortable reinterpreting the definition of what a garden can be.  For example, their commitment to the environment, their passion for figuring things out for themselves and their tendency to rely on the internet rather than on books is all evident in an edible gardMorrison2en created in a tiny shared space by twenty-something gardener Emily Goodman. Taking advantage of repurposed objects, she filled the walls of her apartment building’s paved-over courtyard with an inspired collection of edible containers, including a homemade upside-down tomato cage, old filing cabinet drawers repurposed into herb boxes and  two PVC pipes converted into overflowing strawberry towers.  And in true Gen Y fashion, when we asked where she got her ideas, she explained most came from browsing Flickr (which coincidentally, is where we found her).

But the long answer is no. My new sense is that it’s not so much Gen Yers approaching gardening differently as it is all gardeners looking at their gardens in new ways.  Lest I give the impression I spend all my time hanging out with the younger set, I’ve been a Master Gardener for eight years and while our county includes members of all ages – well, let’s just say I go to a lot more 70th birthday parties than most people my age.  As I paged through the book, I realized some of the most innovative vertical strategies we highlighted were from older gardeners.  Case in point is this ingenious idea for camouflaging a chain link fence from friend and fellow MG Kathy Mendenhall. She not only came up with the idea to transform inexpensive garden lattice into a decorative screen, but she cut the pattern, painted it and attached it herself. 

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Another example not in the book is Mary Lu Burchard, a lifelong gardener who traded in a mid-western garden of lawn and roses for a California paradise filled with native plants and salvaged items repurposed as garden art.  There’s nary a blade of grass in sight, and it is all maintained with only the help of her husband.

I could go on and on, but you get my drift.  Which leads me to the self-important announcement that I’m coining my own label:  Generation G for Generation Gardener. Whether it’s trading in lawn for meadows, ornamentals for edibles or chemicals for compost, the gardening world seems more open to change and innovation than ever before. And this new generation of gardeners, Generation G, isn’t defined by its age, but rather by its passion for learning, investment in new ways of sharing, and willingness to embrace change.

Susan Morrison is a landscape designer, garden writer and blogger in Northern California and the co-author of Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces.

Posted by on May 24, 2011 at 3:41 am, in the category Uncategorized.
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17 responses to “Forget Gen Y. Make way for Generation G.”

  1. commonweeder says:

    Gardening Up is a great idea for all generations, especially those with limited space, OR for those who are having more and more trouble getting down. I hope you didn’t hear my joints creaking.

  2. Sandra Knauf says:

    Wonderful post! Gardening’s renaissance comes with more enthusiasm and invention than ever on a multi-generational level. On Sunday I connected with some garden club members that I hadn’t seen in some time. Most are older, many much older, and I spoke at length with a woman who knows their club has to connect with younger gardeners to (literally) stay alive. She is trying to figure out just how to do that and I want to know too. How will it come together? Stay tuned. These are exciting times.

  3. patty craft says:

    Count me in as part of Generation G, Susan! Great post…thank you. peace on the path, my friend

  4. anne says:

    There’s something to learn from every generation and gardening has always been a great activity for sharing new ideas and passing on traditions.

    Sandra, it sounds from the above post like you need to find a computer-savvy youngster who’s willing to create an on-line presence for your club, in order to attract more youngsters (and maybe teach a few interested old-timers how to use the technology). I know young people around here would respond very well to that.

  5. Laura Bell says:

    Add me to the list of Generation G’ers. Definitely a cohort with whom I have lots in common. Besides, I never like the whole “Gen X” label anyway

  6. Pam/Digging says:

    Talking ’bout my generation! (Now that dates me.) Gardening is one of those rare passions that overcomes age differences. Here in Austin a group of about 30 garden bloggers regularly meets to share design advice, do plant swaps, and just talk gardening. Our ages range from 20s to 60s, and I’m happy to know now, Susan, that we’re all part of Generation G.

  7. Thank you for this! I get tired of generational labels… yeah, I’m a 20 something, but I absolutely have more in common with other people who are passionate about plants that people who simply happen to have been born around the same time as me!

  8. Sandra, I got involved with my garden club several years ago because they started an evening group. The older women were stuck in a rut of meeting at 10am on Tuesdays, but as soon as they heard how much fun we were having, they started infiltrating the younger evening group. It was a great mixed group, and we all got along wonderfully, but unfortunately, they couldn’t let go of their concept of a meeting, which involved agendas and minutes. (Our concept involved glasses of wine and slow, relaxed walking tours of each others gardens)Our attempts to loosen it up again didn’t work, and the evening group has since disappeared. But it was a step in the right direction!

  9. Ivette Soler says:

    HOLLA for Generation G!
    I have lots of young garden friends and your take is right on – they are hardcore jumper-inners, lets just do it-ers, let’s work with what we havers, and we’ll figure it out-ers. I love that energy!
    The great thing about gardening is that the time you put in DOES matter. No matter what the age, getting in the garden and doing it makes for a great gardeners. It isn’t the age, it’s the dirt under the fingernails, right?
    XOXOXO!!!

  10. JEBwrites says:

    Thank you! This “Gen Y” stuff divides us. We don’t need it. I have friends in their 20’s who are awesome gardeners; I belong to a gardening club where some members are in their 80’s. Gardening unites us. How about we do away with the Democrats and the Republicans and just have a Garden Party?

  11. Tara Dillard says:

    3 years ago I QUIT trying to attract a wider audience. Instead I went INTO the wider audience.

    What does that include? Unique to each of us. #1, for me, is FUN. Fun is always attractive.

    29 years in the business & the past 3 years have been the BEST of my career in horticulture.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  12. Regina says:

    LOVE this post. I have learned something from every gardener I know, regardless of age. Like previous posters I’ve always hated the generation monikers, but I’ll be a proud member of generation G. I think you just coined a term with some real traction and meaning.

  13. Plantanista says:

    Talking ’bout my GGgggg-gg-generation! This is the thing about Gen G- we defy boundaries, labels, politics, and all of the other things that wedge between people. Gen G is gardeners gathering gloriously, gleefully grousing and guffawing. I could go on, but you get the picture, I’m sure!

    Go Gen G!

  14. jeff z says:

    Gen G, eh? Like so many of the above commenters, I’m tired of generational labels, but I’ll live with this one. I’m in my 30’s and love to garden- and know plenty of others who are of the same mind.
    I think it’s a natural response to the cultural saturation by electronic gadgets and hyperactive media programming. Gardening is pretty much the polar opposite of sitting in front of the computer playing video games.

    Interestingly, the best gardeners I know are my grandpa and grandma. They farmed for 40+ years, and have been retired for decades now, but still maintain a gorgeous vegetable garden and fruit orchard on a remnant of the farm that they refused to sell. I try to live up to their standard.

    http://eighthacrefarm.blogspot.com

  15. Dave says:

    I hope that vertical gardening isn’t the only format that new gardeners are exposed to. The photo of clay pots suspended from a fence makes me cringe. How many times a day will they need to be watered? There’s no sign of irrigation, and even if the irrigation is well hidden these pots will consume many times the water needed for planting in the ground. It seems to me that this is a recipe for disappointment, with new gardeners quickly giving up.

  16. I’d like to see the public perceive gardening as something one does just because it’s an essential lifestyle enhancement. Your book shows how anyone, regardless of space, can have a garden—like the apartment dweller who appropriated a fence and created a vertical garden that engaged other residents.

    Say, Susan, why not design a Generation G pin and give it to her as an acknowledgement? And if you make the pin available (Zazzle?), those of us who want to can give it to passionate and creative gardeners we know and run across. I’ll keep some in my camera bag.

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