I’ve had a fascination with consumer trends in gardening for several years. I think it’s because I’m so involved in what people are doing in and around their gardens. It helps to know how they believe they’ll spend their time and money in the future.
I don’t like what I see. Although gardening is still America’s number one pastime, nurseries have reported a decline in sales in the past few years. The media along with consumer trade groups and others have taken note. I serve on a committee for The Garden Writers Association that studies these trends and develops questions to anticipate future behavior.
Millions of dollars are spent each year researching the reasons why gardening sales are flat or declining and why gardening shows and books aren’t as popular as before. To me, one answer stands out. We’re far too busy. People are not as interested in gardening because they feel they don’t have the time anymore TO garden. Former avid gardeners are throwing in the trowel on existing gardens and potential gardeners are shying away from any outdoor activity that is associated with the word maintenance.
I believe being too busy is exactly the reason we NEED to garden. These days we want everything now so we can get on to the next task. Even microwave popcorn that only took three minutes has a new and improved version to pop more quickly.
This quick fix, results-oriented mentality that has taken over our lives has now found its way into gardening. Plants are being developed that are considered goof proof, so we don’t have to take the time to water or care for them. There’s even a seed company that now offers a line of pre-hardened off seedlings, so we don’t have to bother with acclimating them to your environment before planting.
As a passionate gardener who never seems to have any spare time, I should be thrilled with this news. And yet, I find it sad. To me, one of the greatest pleasures of gardening is in the process. It’s the act of gardening, not so much as the results.
I understand and in some ways appreciate the efforts to make gardening easier and more convenient. It at least allows some to garden who would otherwise choose another activity. But I hope we all slow done enough to appreciate the subtleties of gardening. That’s where the real beauty is. In fact, the slowness of gardening is what allows me to catch my breath and to escape the otherwise crazy pace on any given day.
I need gardening to remain slow and not so convenient. I don’t mind the labor it sometimes requires. At least it reminds me to get out and pay a visit. I don’t look at gardening as a chore. I look at it as an opportunity. Let’s find ways to save time in other areas of our lives, so we can spend more time in the garden, enjoying the process.