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8.12.07

Younger Gardeners-Older Gardeners

I came across this entry by Katie at GardenPunks.com about leaving a comment on this entry by Kathy Purdy at ColdClimateGardening.com. The two posts touch on the observation that older gardeners don't blog much and that we're missing out on the information they have to pass on.



I typed out a long response filled with typos and grammatical errors over Kathy's blog but the power went and I lost my comment. When I got back on line I figured I'd just post my thoughts on the subject here and not stink up Kathy's blog.

Katie raises a good point on her blog by wondering where the younger gardeners are. I've often wondered where they're hiding myself but in a different way. I spend enough time on gardening forums and around the internet to know that there are younger gardeners to be found. Since youth and early adaptation of technology are so intertwined you'd think there would be more younger gardeners blogging about their gardens. Last month I hit the big 3-0 and while Kathy wonders where her elders are on-line I'm wondering where my juniors are. If youth and early adaptation of technology are a given so why aren't the younger gardeners blogging?

Someone is pushing garden, nature, ecology and green living articles to the top of social bookmarking and social networking sites. If you believe that youth equals early adaptation of technology (or you're asking yourself what a social networking/bookmarking site is) then you should be wondering why this younger audience isn't garden blogging. This younger generation cares enough to digg a story about new plants being discovered or post their plant photos to flickr but it doesn't seem they care enough to write about their own experiences in the garden.

Perhaps, after spending their free time browsing top stories or seeing the latest hot tags on technorati and commenting on flickr they're suffering from gardening fatigue. Maybe to them blogging is played out and they're all on twitter.

While we ponder losing the knowledge held by a demographic of gardeners, who are probably resistant to technology or are busy spending the money their kids think they're getting in the will, we're missing out on a younger generation who has already embraced this technology. Of what value is the knowledge that we'll lose if there isn't someone to pass it to who will then pass it on to the next generation?

The other thing about garden blogging that has me scratching my head is how it is dominated by English speaking people/countries. When I look at my visitor map (located lower right hand corner) on my blog I see that people have come here from all over the world. If I leave out the people who land here because they've injured their thumb and it is turning a bizarre color most of these people are looking for plant related information or photos. They're gardeners and they're obviously on-line so why aren't more garden blogs in languages other than English? I sometimes comment on a few garden blogs written in German or Swedish but that's about it. Most of the time I don't understand the text but I understand pictures and can appreciate the aesthetic quality of their garden plans and plant choices.

On top of wondering why the older generation of gardeners isn't garden blogging we should ask ourselves why the younger generation isn't doing it. And since we all speak the same plant language we should seek out gardeners outside of our garden-comfort zone who don't blog in English* and see what we can learn from them.

While I'm on the subject of older gardeners I want to share a link I came across recently. I was searching for information on Amaryllids and found a page about a gardener named Elizabeth Lawrence. She's a new discovery for this younger (can I call myself that?) gardener and I'm hoping to pass on her great writing to someone like (young and old alike) me who had never heard of her.

"Miss Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985) is one of the American South's classic garden writers. She promoted the use of heirloom plants, experimented with hithertofore untried selections of choice garden material from other regions, and was one of the first to incorporate native plants from our forests and meadows into her garden schemes..."

"Although Elizabeth Lawrence passed away in 1986, she is still fondly remembered by older generations of gardeners, as well as by those who have had the occasion to add her books to their libraries. It is hoped that by placing her bulb essay on the web, an entirely new body of bulb and garden enthusiasts will have an opportunity to know and enjoy her work..."


You can read the selection of her writings on the page Amaryllids In A Southern Garden.

*seeing how bad I butcher the language I'm counting my garden blog as a non English blog. ;0)

-------------------------------Edit------------------------------------

A comment by Annie in Austin has given me an idea that I'll put out there. Since the idea for this post came from the concerns that we would one day lose garden knowledge when older generations of gardeners passed away I'm wondering if people would be interested in a new meme of sorts. What if on Wednesdays we took the opportunity to pass on gardening knowledge to a younger generation? One day we'll all be of a certain age and there will be some younger gardener in our place wondering what we know that will be lost when we're gone. You don't have to necessarily be "older" to participate- just have some tidbit of information to pass onto a younger/newer gardener. It could be called Garden Wisdom Wednesday or something silly like that, there doesn't have to be a blogroll (but there could be) and it doesn't have to be done all the time maybe just add (Garden Wisdom Wednesday) as a label/tag to the posts. Would any older gardeners be up for sharing their garden wisdom and archiving it on the net?

20 comments:

  1. My mother can not blog even if her life depends on it. Her typing skills are atrocious. At most, she plays on pogo and doesn't even chat in the rooms provided.

    She grew up on a farm with 7 younger siblings. She probably has tons of stories she can tell me but never has until I mention something. I remember reading from .. I think Backyard Gardening? Something about someone ripping out a plant and hanging it upside down on a hook over winter and then planting it in spring - and it miraculously grows back. Once I mentioned that, my mother nodded with a smile and said, "My mother used to do that, too."

    But she doesn't blog because I don't think she knows what to talk about. I'd have to teach her how to upload images and .. the list goes on and on.

    As for the younger generation.. Maybe their interests are more of a hobby - or maybe they can't figure out what else to say except one thing - and it gets lost in their blog that is full of their life stories.

    I don't know. It's just how it is. hehe.

    You know why I disappeared. The heat. :p

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  2. DS,

    Well her typing skills can't be worse than mine. LOL.

    I'm on my fourth year of trying to show my dad how to send an e-mail. He's not that old either.

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  3. Mr Brown Thumb,
    I had to smile when I read that you wonder where the "younger" bloggers are, and you are only 30! It's a real snap for me to find younger bloggers--seems they are all younger than me!
    Aiyana

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  4. I'm one of those "younger" garden bloggers that Annie listed in the comments of Kathy's post, and I have to admit that I've been wondering where we all are. I knew Katie and Kim were both around my age, but I didn't know of any others. There was a valid point raised by one of the commenters over there, that many younger people don't necessarily even have a house/garden yet. Maybe that's why we see so many more 40 and 50 year old garden bloggers---they are more likely to have gardens. I know plenty of people my age who are still in apartments, so, even though they're interested in gardening, and would be very likely to vote for a gardening/green living story on Digg, they aren't able to blog about it yet.

    As for "older" gardeners, I really think it's a lack of comfort with the technology, as well as a concern about sharing any kind of personal information online.

    On a side note, I was surprised to see that you were one of us "youngsters." I don't know why, but I assumed you were older. Hopefully we'll start discovering more younger garden bloggers now. There have to be at least a few more out there :-)

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  5. Well, MBT, as you and I know its just amazing that in a city the size of Chicago that there's just a handful of us garden bloggers.

    For us old geezers technology is probably a large part of the problem but it didn't stop me. I may be of the old school but I like to explore new avenues.

    My son was actually the one who encouraged me to start blogging and I've learned a lot from him but still have a long way to go.

    I do think that those of my generation have a lot to pass on to the younger ones. My childhood in the rural South was the complete opposite of my own children's in the city and they are often astonished at some of my experiences.

    I personally think that many of the younger generation is so busy with their life they have little time to devote to blogging or gardening. Those that do are very passionate about it and it thrills me to see that.

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  6. Hi Mr Brown,
    I read you regularly although I am french speaking (so evident when reading me! ).

    English is dominant on the web and when I started my blog 2 months ago I ,with no hesitation made it bilingual, even though it is mostly my drawings and very few words.

    So many understant english but dont feel good enough to write in english. To bad to miss all these interesting blogs from other countries. As you say photos speak for themselves but a few english words would add a lot.

    Thanks to you, I have a beautiful ZZ plant in my kitchen, and just view the Millenium Park in Chicago, never heard of both of these things before.

    And to keep you all trying explaining to your parents, my Mom ,86, is e-mailing every day and have an address book much bigger than mine.

    bon jardinage,

    Bénédicte

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  7. I think there are three reasons why there don't seem to be so many international garden blogs.

    Firstly, gardening is not culturally as important in many countries as it is in the UK/US. Here in Italy for example there's a large population packed into a small amount of land (most of Italy is mountainous and relatively sparsely populated). This means that for most people the normal home is a flat with at the most a balcony (and the majority don't have even that. You have to be fairly rich to have a house and garden. but even then, as gardening and spending time in the garden is not an important part of italian life, many people who could afford a garden don't actually want one.

    The second reason is also cultural - the idea of blogging is not nearly as widespread here as in the UK/US. Not garden blogging - just blogging. I recently gave a talk on the use of blogs in education to a large audience of Italian teachers. At the beginning I asked how many people would know how where to go on the web to set up a blog. Not one hand went up. (They knew by the end of the talk though :) )

    And finally the language issue does influence which blogs you find. Most of the foreign language blogs which I've found also blog in English - they tend to be bilingual rather than monolingual and therefore get discovered and "publicised" by the blogosphere. If you go into the Google page for Italy (www.google.it) and search the blogs for "giardinaggio" you'll probably see a number which you didn't know existed.

    sorry this is so long. I think I should have followed your example and turned it into a post of my own .... :(

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  8. @ Aiyana Maybe I should just wait a few years and everyone will seem younger than me. ;0)

    @Collen
    Funny you should mention that but Kim also thought I was older.

    When I go to forum like YouGrowGirl.com I see lots of younger women, college/grad school age gardening, and doing so in small space. They know about blogs because there are a few of them who do it.

    @Carolyn
    Maybe we should join forces and see if we can get the city to pass a resolution naming a specific day "Garden Bloggers Day" to bring awareness to garden blogging. We have official days for all kinds of things here and since Da Mayor loves gardening maybe they'd go for it.

    @Ben

    It is great to hear that you've started a garden blog. I'd love to see it if you ever want to share it. BTW you do you see the flags on the side of my blog? That's an easy way for people to translate your blog if you don't want to write in English. Thanks for reading.

    @Sue Swift
    Don't apologize I started this one to start a discussion and a long reply is fine. Thanks for the info on Italy. On flickr I have a couple of Italian contacts and they have one of the best cacti and succulent collections I've ever seen.

    While watching cooking shows on TV I get the impression that fresh ingredients are a necessity in Italian cooking. I guess I assumed that translated into growing their own herbs and veggies.

    And one thing you gave me to ponder is how something (like gardening) that may be seen as a necessity in some parts of the world may not move over into the hobby realm.

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  9. Girl Gone Gardening in Indiana and Rachel at In Bloom in Austin are also younger bloggers -I inadvertently left them off that list.

    It was pretty exciting to see you've found Elizabeth Lawrence, Mr Brown Thumb. What a great garden writer she was! A book of letters sent between her and Katherine S White was chosen last February for the Garden Bloggers' book club at May Dreams.

    http://maydreamsgardens.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  10. I'm only nineteen, but I'm proud to say that I am a gardener. I'd wanted to start a blog for a while as well, and I finally started one just recently.

    As for younger people blogging, there may be a few reasons why there are not so many. I know of a few people who keep blogs, and fewer who maintain and add to them regularly. They are mostly just for ruminating on life and events/grievances in their lives, and for therapeutic ranting. But most people I know simply do not have time to maintain a blog because of school or other related events; most of them, when given an iota of free time, usually just stick to other social networking media like Facebook and instant messaging.

    As to the lack of younger gardeners, I don't, and wouldn't, know as to why it is so. As I don't attend a college with a horticulture department (i.e., associated with the state cooperative extension), I don't know of too many people my age who garden. I had actually wanted to ask around campus, looking for student gardeners, to possibly start a gardening club of some sort. My guess as to why there are not very many gardeners my age is that gardening is associated with being old and awkward, and that it is difficult to do.

    Hope this helps in this discussion.

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  11. Shucks. Thanks for the post. I merely raised my concern and BAM! People came out of the woodwork. I am so happy to find people close to my age so I don't feel like such a kid all the time. Glad to see I'm not the youngest out there either!

    Katie at GardenPunks

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  12. I am not so sure I accept the premise that blogging is mostly limited to the younger crowd. I would like to see some statistics to support that. I am a baby boomer myself and the majority of blogs that I read are written by people in their 50's and 60's. I don't think people in this age group are unfamiliar with the technology. After all computers have been ubiquitous in the business world for over 20 years and in the home for over 10. If you are talking about people in their 70's and older, then technology does begin to be an issue.

    As I have written in the comments at Kathy's blog, I believe the biggest stumbling block to blogging for all age groups is the process of writing and communicating. Most people just aren't comfortable with writing, regardless of whether they are doing it on a computer or with pen and ink.

    As for the percentage of blogs that concern themelves with the hobby of gardening, walk into any bookstore or library and ask yourself how many of these books are about gardening. Not very many. Personally it seems to me that if anything gardening may actually be over-represented in the blogging world.

    bill at prairie point

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  13. Bill,

    Whoa, hold the horses there-gardening over represented in the blogging world ? You're speaking of the number one leisure pastime in America ?? The one which Time magazine once featured in a cover story because so much money is spent on it every year ?

    I don't know which book stores you've been visiting but there's a wide selection on gardening in the ones that I go to . Not to mention the extensive selection online. And, the many fine gardening magazines.

    I was just lamenting to Mr. Brownthumb that there's very few garden bloggers in a city the size of Chicago !

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  14. @ annie

    Thats hilarious. I commented on that entry for your book club. So I guess I've discovered her twice. ;0)

    @John

    Thanks for commenting and reminding me that I left out facebook! How could I have forgotten about FB? Anyway I think it is great that you're interested in plants at your age.

    @Katie
    Isn't it funny how an offhanded comment can create so much discussion?


    @Bill

    If you do a search for bloggig+age demographics you can find a lot of stats on the subject. One site I found reports 73% of bloggers are under 30.

    contactomagazine.com/computers/agebloggers1106.htm

    Another source from '04 gives these stats

    20-29 39.6%
    30-30 5.8%
    40-49 1.0%
    50-59 .4%
    60-69 .3%
    clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3438891

    And I'm not that the availability of books can be used as a measuring tool. In Chicago I have no problem finding books in Bookstores like Borders, B&N, B.A.M plus the many used and discount bookstores around. Now, buying them is a different matter...I rarely buy a book especially a general gardening book. I'm more likely to pick them up from the library or buy a niche gardening book. Or I wait until I can get them in the bargain section/stores.

    If the consumption of books and media where a good indication of people partaking in it wouldn't more people show up to vote on election day? With all of the political books, television shows, television stations, magazines, forums, websites and blogs devoted to politics shouldn't we have more people voting at every election than we do?

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  15. The statistics are fascinating, Mr Brown Thumb but one thing puzzles me - how do the people compiling the numbers know who's 30 or 40 or 50 or 60?

    Some of the garden bloggers just happened to mention their ages so I listed them at Kathy's... but others chimed in after they were not included. Does age even come up on most garden blogs?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  16. @Annie

    I'm thinking maybe a phone or e-mail survey. I wouldn't be surprised if the creators of blogging platforms (Blogger, WordPress, TypePad) have our ages on record but I'm not sure they'd release it for surveys like this.

    Technorati does a "State of The Blogosphere" but I don't think they collect age info and I haven't seen any age stats from them.

    But You've given me an idea that I'll edit into the bottom of this entry. I'll leave a comment on your blog too to see if it is something that would interest you.

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  17. I don't want to take too much of your band-width, but I would like to elaborate on and/or defend a few of my points if there is no objection.

    As to the age of bloggers there is also this survey by Blogads which suggests that 37% of blog readers, if not bloggers themselves, are between the ages of 40 and 60. It's true that readers could be older than writers, but it does indicate that people in that age group are familiar with blogging.

    At any rate the main thing I was trying to do is cast doubt on the "old gardener"/"young blogger" dichotomy. I believe that the main reason you don't have more old gardeners blogging is because they don't like to _write_ not because of any unfamilarity with the tool of blogging.

    As to whether "a section" of gardening books in a 10,000 sq foot bookstore constitutes a lot of gardening books, this is one of those half-full, half-empty, arguments. That may seem like a lot to some, but to me it describes a "small percentage." And, yes, comparing books and magazines to blogs is not exactly right, but I don't know what else to use as a comparison.

    Gardening the number one leisure pastime of Americans? Are you serious? Compared to watching football on TV? Anyway I wonder if they are talking about money spent at garden centers which is mostly money spent on landscaping and lawn maintenance, as opposed to gardening.

    bill from prairie point

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  18. @Bill

    LOL, don't worry about the bandwidth Google is paying for it. ;0)

    I don't know if the book comparison is all that good either but I understood what you were trying to say.

    How about the "ease" with which you can participate in gardening as an indicator of popularity?

    Where I live I can find seeds, tools, pots, plants etc in garden centers, nurseries, home improvement stores, drug stores, grocery stores just to name a few. I think for something that may not be so popular the market is pretty well covered and participants can find goods for it.

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  19. Now, I can't speak for everyone else in my age bracket I'm 22 and a gardener (or at least I'd like to be) and I have an inkling for why my friends and I don't have a garden blog.
    I love plants and I love planting but transitioning back and forth between college and my home town a couple of times a year makes it really tough. At school I can only plant things that will be ready to harvest in between the last frost and the end of finals and at home there's only the summer. I've even tried hauling small container gardens back and forth with limited success.
    I think that serious gardening is kind of limited to those who have settled down a bit and most of the people my age just aren't settled yet. And you kind of have to be serious about gardening before you start a blog about it.
    So for the time being I'm betting that I, and others like myself, will read blogs of experienced gardeners and experiment and in a few years you'll see a new crop of garden bloggers emerge.

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  20. I'm a preschool teacher and our school provided each class a long plant box (approx 10 feet long, 3 feet high) so that children can enjoy growing their vegetables, flowers and herbs. They enjoy eating ripe cherry tomatoes straight from the vines, hopefully they will start gardening in their own homes and grow up to be the young blogger that you speak of ;)

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