Where Are the Gen X & Y Gardeners?

The Gardenist

There's been a lot of talk lately in the Garden and Horticulture industries about the perceived lack of up and coming gardeners. I have personally been faced with defending my generation (Gen X) more times that I care to from the laments of those ahead of me. Seems that the perception among Boomers and Veterans is that Gen X and Gen Y aren't getting it.

Let's accept that there are basically four generations in play when it comes to potential garden enthusiasts. Veterans (1922 - 1945), Boomers (1946 - 1964), Gen Xers (1965- 1980) and Gen Yers (1981- 2000). The garden industry is convinced that Gen X and Gen Y are sorely under-represented, especially compared to Veterans and Boomers, and more often than not, this under-representation is presented as the result of some fatal flaw in these groups of people. (I have been told that everything from video games to sweeping generational issues with ADD are to blame).

Personally, I'm not sure it's even a completely well founded premise. I've been a gardening Gen Xer since my 20's (having graduated from a gardening family) — but with a little discussion amongst peers I may be willing to admit that my 'gardening-my-b**t-off' viewpoint may be skewed.

I am super proud of a few of my friends (all of whom represent the Gen X and Gen Y generations) who just released the first of a two part podcast discussing the issue. (It is part of a series that is sponsored by Fine Gardening Magazine, where you can listen to part 1 now — part 2 will be out soon).

They discuss the issue and the general perceptions of Gen X and Gen Y gardeners, and in part 2 plan to explore what the industry can do to draw more of us in. I can't wait to hear what they have to say! I've got a few opinions of my own....(and the first is to stop blathering on about how no one in Gen X and Gen Y garden...it's annoying and off putting for those of us that do)...but I'd like to hear some of yours!

Admittedly, as I look across the landscape (pun intended) of garden writing peers....I am one of the few 'kids' in the room. There are a handful of other younglings (i.e. under 40...or even 45!) but the vast majority is older. Are we few representative of the market? I suspect more so that I care to admit.

Personally, I find that the industry does a terrible job of marketing to me. Stores like Terrain or Flora Grubb aside...(these are places I will actually plan whole road trips to visit), I generally don't do garden centers. They are full of garden junk that holds little appeal (I love how Amanda dubs the junk 'garden tchotchkes' in Andrew's podcast), so I happily stick to wholesale markets that are simply plants and materials. But I really do miss the creative layer that retail can and should add to the buying experience.

Obviously there are some of you with an interest....or else I doubt that Maxwell and Janel and fabulous editorial team here at Apartment Therapy would give me the privilege of writing this column. So let's hear it.

I am curious, what defines Gen X and Gen Y gardeners? Are you out there, and what do you want from the garden industry that you aren't getting? What would bring you to the garden and the garden center? Or would you rather not go to a garden center at all? Is it a time issue? Do you need better retail? More space? More ideas? More information? Different information? Information in a different form? What entices you? (Or conversely, what puts you off?)

Do you garden? If you don't, do you wish you could? What is stopping you? I'd love for you to weigh in, so the next time I am in a room with industry people and the typical dithering about the 'kids these days' starts up, I have more than just my own (strong) opinions about what Gen X and Gen Y are all about when it comes to gardens and outdoor design.

If you are interested in more reading on this subject, check out this article, 'Greening up the Slackers', by Scott Calhoun, who proposes the answers lie in bold paint colors and wild plants. I like this kind of thinking...but wonder what else.

And my favorite response to this whole notion has to be this piece: 'Talkin 'Bout My Generation' at Garden Rant.

(Image: fan pop)

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