Wednesday Vignette – where are the young’uns?

This past weekend, the annual Hydrangea walk/talk took place at Joy Creek Nursery. Maurice – one of the co-owners, and Hydrangea connoisseur exceptionel – walked a rather large group of interested gardeners through the expansive collection of non-trademarked Hydrangeas, telling stories and offering tidbits of great advice as well as interesting trivia. I was there too. Even though I wrote a post about them a few years ago, I still felt like I knew pitifully little about what makes one Hydrangea different from another, so I figured I’d learn a thing or ten. I did.

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Do you notice anything peculiar about this picture?

Yup – I thought so. Me too. Very few – if any – were under 40. Which brings me to today’s conundrum… My question to you on this day of Worthy Vignettes – how can we bring young people into our merry fold? How can we show todays relatively nature averse youth the joy that can be had in being a gardener? Yes, I know gardens are not “natural”. In fact, they can even be thought of as being constructs of artifice. Even so, I like to think of them as our own little refuges – a place of solace where re-grounding of our scattered minds is allowed to take place. Maybe gardening is just something one adopts later in life? Either way, it just felt like there is no one to pass the baton to, and it made me sad. I’ll attach some shots from the tour as well, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter…

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About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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18 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – where are the young’uns?

  1. My youngest daughter is now 35. When she was little I gave her her own plot, in which everything soon withered and died. Four years ago, Jackie and I travelled to the home she shares with her husband and two daughters in Mapperley, Nottingham. This post shows what we did: https://derrickjknight.com/2013/06/16/nits-2/
    Louisa still phones with an update on the thriving garden which does include an hydrangea. Her girls are still involved.

    • annamadeit says:

      That is so wonderful, Derrick. Your story rings a bell, too. I also had a little designated plot when I was a kid, and – as I recall – not much ever grew out of it (other than weeds).

  2. Tracy says:

    Economics has a lot to do with it; not owning a house – so no place to garden, working long hours -no time. Low wages and student loans – no money.

    • annamadeit says:

      This is true… I gardened in pots when I was still in school. Mostly herbs for cooking. Would bring them with me every time I moved. It was a pain in the ass, but it worked for me. Seeds and soil are cheap, but I hear you about the time though – life tends to fill up quickly.

  3. cavershamjj says:

    I chair a local plant society. At 46, i am, by some distance, the youth wing! My goal in my tenure is to seek out and enrol younger members.

    • annamadeit says:

      Would love to hear your ideas for reaching the younger crowds, and wish you the best of luck in your endeavor. I know this is totally biased, but I always insist that if everyone was a gardener, the world would be a gentler, kinder place.

  4. Cathi Lamoreux says:

    I am a Master Gardener. I just returned from the International MG Conference. As I scanned the room it was definitely a) more female than male, b) more white than any other ethnicity, and, c) an over 40 crowd. There were younger people there but, those of us in the older generation were definitely in the majority. When I think about my gardening evolution, I realize that I, too, did not participate in any formal gardening activities until well into my 40’s. I grew up with parents who were gardeners and much of what I knew in order to get started was what I learned by watching/helping them. When I had my first house, I gardened by instinct as it never occurred to me to seek out resources. I had a young family and life was busy. That continued into my second and third houses. I envy those who know at a young age that they want to follow their passion and graduate with botany/horticulture/agriculture/landscaping degrees. But, for most of us, it seems to be a gradual process. My daughters are now those gardeners by instinct. Although, one daughter has an evolving home garden, helped plant and now maintains the school garden at her son’s school, and willingly takes nursery trips with me when I visit (including Joy Creek!). But, time for garden tours, gardening classes, even reading a book on gardening? No way! Maybe it is just one of those things that happens when the time is right.

    • annamadeit says:

      You are probably right – time and circumstances have to be right for it to happen – just like for a seed to sprout. I too envy those who knew from the beginning. I think about all the time I wasted, and it makes me mad with myself. Not that any of my background ever really hurt me (other than holding up the process), but the true bliss didn’t appear until I realized that it was time to move yet another step forward in my winding path. Hindsight really is 20/20.

  5. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Many children today have every minute of their lives scheduled: play dates, sports, music lessons, dance, etc. and spend a lot of time in the mom taxi being shuttled from one place to the next. Do kids have the chance to play in the mud, sail leaf boats down gutter riivers in the rain, or just go out and explore as long as they’re home before dark? Those moments of wandering around, seeing gardeners working, and visiting family members’ gardens were great influences on me as a child. My parents let me make whatever gardens I wanted and even had a space tilled for me to make a vegetable garden when I was 10. I know modern parents who get upset if their child gets dirty playing outside.
    The mindset of many young people has changed with regard to home and hearth. I’ve a friend who rents properties and frequently, tenants will move in, purchase everything they need for the space and upon ending their tenancy, leave everything behind from furniture to dishes. To me, gardens and garden making are about making a connection with a space; with the soil but more and more we see garden remodeling shows where it’s simply about decorating a space for outdoor entertaining. Maybe gardening does come with age, with settling into a space – putting down roots, but for many of us, we started young and made gardens wherever we found ourselves.
    Do you suppose that the resurgence in popularity of growing edibles will influence youth?

    On the bright side, I saw some younger plant grower/ vendors at a festival this spring.
    My WV is here: https://outlawgarden.blogspot.com/2017/07/wednesday-vignette-silent-noon.html

    • annamadeit says:

      You are absolutely right about over-scheduling our kids’ lives, Peter. I bet in your professional life, you see the effects of that all the time. 😦 Your observation about gardening having become more about outdoor entertaining is interesting, and enforces the scarcity of free time mentioned by someone earlier. Gardens, in the form that they may exist, seem to have the same expectations placed upon them as our children do – they need to perform – often without our involvement (hire a gardener or a tutor), and they can’t fail (low maintenance (preferably no-maintenance, if there was such a thing), and kids endure the constant pressure of perfect GPAs to get in to the perfect schools. I’m fine with being called an old fogey, but I think we need to teach our kids basic skills (sewing, wood working, cooking, tying knots, etc. as part of making them self-sustaining humans. It’s a very helpless, dependent thing to have to pay for every basic service – even if you can afford to. So yes, even if I don’t grow many edibles myself, I have high hopes that the surge in popularity of food production will provide a super-highway for generations of knowledge to reach those that get hooked. Fingers crossed!

  6. Kris P says:

    There’s a lot of competition for a child’s attention now and I agree with Peter that many children are over-scheduled, with little time left for aimless ramblings of discovery in the natural world. That said, I think early exposure is key. I’m pleased whenever I see a garden attached to a school – they should all have one! And, while I was initially distressed seeing my local botanic garden invaded by kids playing Pokemon Go, I quickly realized that too was a smart move – not only did the botanic garden collect a healthy sum in entrance fees but it gave kids exposure to the natural world. Similarly, the butterfly encounter exhibit at Brookside Gardens back east (which I visited as part of the Garden Bloggers’ Fling) was an excellent way to capture the interest and imagination of small children, as well as adults. And, when I attended a series of workshops (again at my local botanic garden), I noticed that the segments addressing sustainability pulled in a number of young adults so tying gardens into larger ecological movements may also have appeal.

    No WV from me this week. I’m still trying to process all the photos I took at the Fling. Today, I’m sharing Tammy Schmitt’s garden.

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh – I bet Tammy’s garden is beautiful – can’t wait to see it! I will definitely check your post out.
      I think you’re on to something with this one…”tying gardens into larger ecological movements may also have appeal”. My son surprised me the other day by stating a sudden interest in poisons, and asked me about which plants are poisonous. His question made me realize that other than a few obvious ones, I really don’t know the toxicity levels of most of my plants, but offered him a tour around the gardens, nonetheless. Isn’t it funny how one never knows what will trigger what?

  7. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Cathi and Tracy. The younger crowd is gardening. They just don’t have the time (or money, or desire?) to spend their Sunday afternoons walking though a nursery listening to a talk, or going to an HPSO speaker program. And they may not be gardening in the land. I didn’t have my own soil to plant in until I bought my first home at 35. Before then it was windowsills only, although I was on the wait list for a community garden plot in Seattle and I did take over a section of my grandmother’s veggie garden when I moved back to Spokane. It’s the cycle of life, as time and finances allow the younger crowd will step up. They will however be doing it their own way, reinventing gardening under their own terms. And they’ll be enjoying scenes like the one in my WV: http://www.thedangergarden.com/2017/07/wednesday-vignette-western-tiger.html

    • annamadeit says:

      I’m glad you’re seeing younger people gardening, Loree – that makes me happy. And, you are dead on about the time commitment of going to talks and events. To date, I have still not gone to ANY of HPSO’s open gardens, and I totally blame that on family life, busy schedules, other commitments, etc. So, I’m as much part of that as any 30-something. Your comment of “They will however be doing it their own way, reinventing gardening under their own terms.” is thrilling to me. I honestly can’t wait to see what they will do!

  8. Denise Maher says:

    What I’m seeing here in Los Angeles is a younger crowd enthused about edibles, cooking — not so much ornamentals. The specialties, like cactus and succulent shows and sales, do seem to be attracting a younger crowd through.

    • annamadeit says:

      You are right – I too have seen young people who want to grow their own fruits and veggies. I think that ties in with what Kris P said, about wrapping gardening into other sweeping movements, like farm to table, and environmental concerns. Same with the succulent craze, I think. A new store opened up up the street from us, across from the Community College, selling showy houseplants, succulents, and cool pots to display them in. It seems they are doing brisk business, but I think it’s more because they want their spaces to look like in the shelter mags than because they like to garden – which ties in with what Peter said. They choose plants like they choose furniture. I wonder how many actually manage to keep those plants alive… Nothing wrong with that – I’m not judging. I was exactly the same way when I started. Maybe those first steps eventually develop into something more substantial, something more existential… a more earthy connection that allows them to see that we are all part of an eco-system, however manipulated. Just wish I could transfer some of my enthusiasm to my own screen-bound kids… sigh!

  9. Rebecca says:

    I have gardened my entire life (even when it was just pots on my fire escape). Now my husband and I are trying to teach our daughter to love gardening. She’s only a toddler, but definitely knows how to play in the mud and get dirty.

    I have a lot of feelings about the subject of getting younger people involved in gardening. It has been a big topic in both of our local daylily societies.

    So often I see gardening groups who want to attract young people, who are still in the workforce and who have families, to their organizations. Then they schedule everything during the workday. People with jobs, need weekend and evening activities. People with families need family friendly activities. I belong to a local daylily society. I am only able to attend because they have evening meetings. I really enjoy going and connecting with other gardeners. I want my daughter to be part of this larger gardening community/culture.

    It’s also great when gardening events/clubs can become a family affair. Both of the local daylily societies have encouraged us to bring our daughter to appropriate activities (and even to some less appropriate activities because they wanted to see the baby). You want to inspire young people to garden. Include them in the cool stuff. My little family recently attend an AHS Summer meeting in our area. Our 18mo old daughter was the youngest attendee. The organizer was happy to have us because, as she said, it’s good for the kids to develop a passion for gardening and its good for the adults to pass on their passion. Our family had a blast, even if we didn’t ride the bus with the group and missed a few activities due to a toddler schedule.

    I also think sometimes we get so excited when we talk to new gardeners that we can be off-putting. Either with our need to give them all of the information right then, making them feel like we think they know nothing, or not valuing their opinions and ideas. Nobody wants to feel like they are stupid, especially since they can get gardening information from the internet and other places. They don’t NEED to participate in the larger gardening community.

  10. catmint says:

    I agree, passing the baton to the next gen is so important. We are rather well served here in Victoria (Australia) by a foundation devoted to establishing and maintaining kitchen gardens in schools: https://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au/.

    Coincidentally, my latest blog post is relevant to the question discussed. It’s about helping children to be in touch with nature, https://slowgardener.blogspot.com.au/2017/07/the-next-generation-learns-about-nature.html.

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