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Is The Future of Gardening Dead or Alive? A Question Posed By Guest Blogger and TV Personality, Joe Lamp’l

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inspirational gardener

Inspirational Gardener

Joe Lamp’l is a good friend of mine as well as an inspirational gardener and writer. “Joe Gardener’s” advice helps thousands of gardeners make a green difference. Below he poses an interesting question and we would love to hear what your answer is – so reply and let us know!

Any reader of the popular garden blog, Garden Rant, likely saw a recent post by the well loved and respected Allan Armitage. Entitled; Gardening is a four-letter word; “the education of a plant guy”, he expressed some concerns about it’s current popularity. In the end, he gave hope and encouragement to the future of plants and gardening.

I too have some of the same concerns, and like Allan, feel that gardening is too important to simply fade into the sunset. Unfortunately, I feel we have our work cut out for us to keep it higher on people’s priority list, at least for the near future. As a full-time gardening communicator, this is made apparent to me everyday.

Is gardening dead? No, but you’d never know that by trying to find a gardening show on television. Or, simply try to read up on a few gardening columns in your local paper. Many newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal had a dedicated, weekly section for “Home and Garden”, now relegated to just a few pages within another section. Layoffs, downsizing and cutbacks are epidemic right now and people that write or report on gardening are some of the first to go these days.

Unfortunately, many of the television networks, i.e. HGTV and DIY, have all but dropped gardening for two reasons. According to an HGTV exec-producer friend of mine, “gardening” isn’t on any network’s radar anymore. Landscaping maybe, but only if it’s a makeover show. Please not another one of those! The young network execs, don’t relate to “gardening” and their advertising-driven clients don’t see us as a lucrative target audience for their product.

Similarly, those same big money advertisers don’t seem to want television hosts over 30 hosting “their” shows since the viewers they want to attract are late teens to mid 20’s; sadly, a group not yet viewed as a target demographic for gardening, too busy to do it themselves and who doesn’t identify with “more mature” experts.

When I was picked to host Fresh from the Garden on DIY Network, they were looking for a “real”gardener between 35 and 45. Perfect, and it made sense. Now, 25 is pushing the upper limits! Just ask former “mature” TV Gardening hosts Joe Washington, Erica Glasener, Rebecca Kolls and most recently, Paul James. Not only did I learn a lot by watching these and other shows, they made me want to garden. Sadly, we have less of those opportunities than ever. Even the show Allan Armitage was a part of on PBS, was too short-lived and the one I host, constantly struggles with funding support. Advertisers we’ve relied on for years aren’t putting the money towards gardening.

So, maybe my perspective is a bit different, but I’m out there as much as anybody and I can tell you, although gardening is not a four letter word, we are having to work harder than ever to convince people of that. As avid gardeners, educators, and communicators, I believe we all need to cast a spotlight on the “importance of gardening”. We already know what it does for us mentally and physically, but done properly, it helps the environment, promotes nutrition and health, teaches our children, unites strangers and nurtures our souls”.

What do you think? Is gardening alive and well, or are we losing ground to a world of increasing demands for our time and resources?

Joe Lamp’l, (aka joe gardener®) is the host of two National television shows: GardenSMART on PBS and DIY Network’s Fresh from the Garden. He’s also a syndicated columnist and author, including his latest book; The Green Gardener’s Guide; simple significant actions to protect and preserve the planet. Joe’s passion and work related to gardening and environmental stewardship through multiple media platforms has positioned him as one of the most recognized personalities in the “green” sector today. For more information:

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  1. Vegetable gardening is exploding! I write articles on gardening, and my articles on veggie gardening, especially growing tomatoes, get more views than anything else.

    No, gardening is making a comeback, as people who are laid off have more time to do what they love, and are trying to supplement by feeding themselves. It’s a good thing!

  2. If twentysomethings think gardening isn’t for them, maybe it is because all they are exposed to are these landscape makeovers that leave them feeling “I can’t afford tens of thousands of dollars to hire someone to do that!” These shows lead them to believe THAT is what they are supposed to do! Keep up with the Jones, overextend yourself financially and hire someone to do it. (And WHY again, are we in this recession?!)

    Yet because that is what TV execs think people want, that is what they give them. Don’t forget, the execs are in that age group as well. Left out are the nuts and bolts of DIY gardening. Left out is the education.

    Now, more than ever, people need the stress-relief, the simplicity that gardening can bring (gardening, not necessarily “landscaping”), the “therapy” if you will of connecting with the earth, with nature, getting dirty ourselves.

    I certainly hope gardening is not dead, is not a 4-letter word and I am doing my part to inspire a love of it in young people. Sure, it may lie latent for awhile but maybe someday they will remember what they learned, remember what it felt like to garden, and begin.

    That is my hope. That we will not let gardening fall into obscurity but instead, keep it ALIVE by our sharing, by mentoring, by raising awareness, by doing.

    We gardeners will not go quietly into the night. We gardeners are not quitting.

  3. Here! Here! Garden Chick! Loved that comment.

    This year I am building a veggie garden in my front yard to show the world it IS possible to do something simple and easy to help the world and your family.

    A garden is the simplest way to accomplish that, don’t you think?

  4. I agree 100% with you on being frustrated with “real” gardening shows and the lack there of. I’ve been wondering myself what has been going on and here’s my take:

    1. The age group the media is trying to target has been highly influenced by mostly indoor activity due to electronics, including gaming, movies, internet etc. So anything outdoor is foreign unless its an organized sport for youth. The desire and connection to be outdoors is rare.

    2. The instant gratification that our society has become accustomed to seems counter to investing real time in a project outside that may not have the “wow” factor as a makeover landscaping show.

    3. Real gardening doesn’t drive consumerism and sell big ticket items like full size makeovers. So I can definitely see less advertisers there.

    The thing is, we NEED to be outside. Our health demands it.

    I’m a master gardener in Texas and we too find a big gap in who we are reaching as far as age groups. We either have the 50+ year olds or we find children interested in gardening. I don’t think I’ve seen many in their 20’s and early 30’s participate in activities much except on garden tours.

    My personal focus has been on children, because that is our next generation to be the ones to hand the torch off to. They love to be digging in the dirt anyway and to teach them the importance in the process creates some treasured memories like I have.

    Maybe gardening shows would be better served on the internet now. I’ve noticed that a lot of gardeners have moved to this media. In fact, with the decline of magazines and such, I think it’s the direction to work in. IMHO, with streaming video as efficient as it is today, a website that hosted gardening shows is doable, similar to

    As far as hgtv and even diy channel, I’ve lost a lot of respect for their choices in good program anyway. It just makes me feel bad about myself and what I have when I can’t afford the 50-100,000 dollar makeovers. The shows are also becoming redundant– you see one you’ve seen ’em all. I rarely learn a thing.

    With times getting tough in our economy, I really believe we may see a change in people. The need to learn to do some basic skills themselves will hopefully open the door for a comeback in gardening. So, I’m staying positive and looking forward to the possible change.

    –now, I’m off to work on my newspaper article on school gardens. 🙂


  5. I think what people forget is that the need to garden increases with maturity. I thought of myself as a person who had a garden when I was younger, but it is nothing like it is now. Today I am a gardener. But without books, magazines, TV shows, then, I would not be doing what I’m doing now. At 20, it was work, college, getting through the next exam or to the next paycheck. We may have had a garden, but don’t yet think of themselves as gardeners.

    I too am putting in a front yard veggie garden. In the past my veggies were mixed in with perennials. This year, I coming out front and center. I’ve always maintained a dedicated herb garden, but primarily, I grow ornamentals.

    I want to learn from someone who is entertaining and confident. Not old and stoggy. You can be old at 30 or young and entertaining at 60.

  6. I’ve ranted about how HGTV needs to drop the “G” to satisfy truth in advertising. Gardening isn’t dead, but the commercial interests that control mass media outlets are woefully out of touch and solely concerned with profits, not information. As others have noted, vegetable gardening is now the hot new trend, and it’s only a short hop from there to the desire to grow ornamentals as well. In addition, many elementary and middle schools incorporate gardening into their curricula, and some schools have rain gardens on site, nuturing students’ interests in gardening and in stewardship for the environment. In 10 years, those children will be the coveted demographic, and I doubt whether they will bother with TV programs about instant landcape renovations.

  7. Wow! You guys are nailing it! I’m not surprised but what a contrast to how mainstream media views it. Gardening is way more important than simply what we do as a hobby and that’s my next challenge. But with such great feedback like this, I want to take it all and deliver it to the laps of every TV Exec in America. It’s more than that of course but we all have to roll up our sleeves and mount this campaign now. I feel like this is really building the momentum to do just that. Thanks all for chiming in!

  8. Wow, I was so surprised to read this – I was thinking just the opposite was happening! I keep hearing/reading in the news that seed sales are up, people are growing their own vegetables and other food, the baby boomers are more active and are gardening, Richard Louv’s No Child Left Inside movement is encouraging parents to get outdoors, including into the garden, with their kids. I also heard somewhere recently that gardening is one of the areas of the economy that has slowed less; people are still spending money on either plants or supplies or design or all three. But are they spending it on tools and leaf-blowers and lawn care rather than hard-core dig-in-the-dirt and know-your-latin-names gardening? Perhaps. Maybe that’s why (in a addition to a really sucky economy) so many of the garden shows are falling by the wayside. Maybe the 20-somethings just haven’t come around yet. After all, most people don’t really start gardening until they own or at least rent a home with some space – that’s when I started, and I was in my late 20’s. I’m not going to give up on the younger generation yet – in the art world, people love to talk about “is painting dead?” etc. and it never is, but things do happen in waves, and to keep with the water metaphor, there is ebb and flow to everything. Maybe now people are gardening more for food and less for ornament; maybe they are looking online more than in the newspaper; maybe they are doing it in a CSA or other local group rather than watching how to do it on TV. We’ll just have to wait and see, and maybe reach out more to high school and college kids to get them excited about what we take for granted as such a wonderful thing.

  9. Holding back a TV rant let me say that Gardening is more alive then I’ve seen it in years. I have more clients then ever asking me to include garden space in my designs. Most of them want and need garden advice and couching. I direct them to good local nurseries, internet blogs and local garden coaches. I think some of the new interest originates in the economy (Like the old Victory Gardens) but much of it is inspired by increased interest in sustainable concepts and permaculture. Just my opinion.

  10. If you look at the booming sales of seed companies you’ll see that gardening is truly making a comeback. Garden Chick is spot on. We don’t need a million shows that show us gardens of the rich and not-so-famous. I don’t care if you are putting in a $10,000 pool. I want to see someone building a vegetable garden that they plan to work with their children.

    The economy is such that the shows being produced should showcase gardening to survive. Backyard gardens are becoming a necessity rather than luxury these days.

  11. Gardening is certainly not dead! It is reinventing itself for the new media. I’m glad your keeping the conversation alive. As gardeners we enjoy learning from others who know what they are talking about. The garden has to look good, not necessarily the gardener! (Even though you are a cutie Joe!)


  12. I don’t think the issue is that gardening is dying, it just may be that it is moving off tv (as are a lot of things) and onto the internet. The number of gardening sites is exploding and great virtual gardening communities are blooming (forgive me, I couldn’t resist) everywhere.

  13. I’m really enjoying these latest comments. Just for the record, I’ve never said “gardening is dead”. But like many of you have noted, it is reinventing itself and being showcased in 21st century ways. Old media is turning its back on gardening, at least for now. But thank God for all the heros taking matters into their own hands and onto the internet! I think we’re starting a serious rally around gardening and I agree, its rebirth is coming from a completely different direction than the boomer generation. Sustainability and spending time in healthy outdoor spaces is a major driver. We are getting back to basics and growing a greener world encompasses a lot of things but gardening is a natural part of that and I think people are discovering that through the back door. Which is fine with me.

  14. As a Garden Coach and a Class Instructor I am torn on this issue more than ever.

    I have been researching and making active attempts to purchase my own nursery and cater to the needs of gardeners of all ages and skill levels. Without giving away any secrets it would have been a very unique and exciting place. But, alas the economy and other outside forces have made that goal less likely than ever.

    My in depth research into whether or not this was a valuable endeavor looked like this:
    1) There IS plenty of interest in ALL forms of gardening. Be it Vegetable, Ornamental, Container or any of the other million ways one can enjoy nature in the landscape.
    2) More and more nurseries and garden centers are becoming “lifestyle” destinations. Cafe’s, high end accessories and out of reach mark-up’s on plants has created a market for the younger set of potential gardeners to find a beautiful and inspirational place to have coffee, wander around for a couple hours and leave because they can’t afford any of the offerings. Older gardeners who are the TARGET MARKET for these retail garden destinations will spend money, but not nearly as much as they used to spend.
    3) The Big Box Store effect: lots of plants, really cheap, but no advice. And you won’t find the plants to necessarily be close to zone appropriate. The cheap plants die, leaving the gardener often feeling like it was their fault due to lack of experience, so they go back and buy more the next year. If I had a nickel for every person I see doing this!!!
    4) HGTV and the like make young and inexperienced gardeners feel as though they “should” have some kind of a grasp on their landscape through intimidating make-overs that are out of reach, as was stated very well in other comments. Much of my coaching has to do with explaining to clients that they are not expected to EVER know it all right away. That there is a learning curve that takes some experience over time and through trial and error.
    4) True garden shows are a rarity and are not allowed to take the time they need to truly focus on a garden in the making, much less new plant introductions and the fabulous growers who create them. Some of those people are near Rock Stars to those of us who follow!

    I think that the passion for working outdoors with plants will not die. It’s just evolving into a different form. I’m not sure if I’ve figured out what it will be or how my retail ambitions will play into it. But at this moment, I am not lacking for Personal Garden Coaching clients who love to learn. And my classes have continued to do well also.

    I’m optimistic about my hands continuing to be dirty, my farmer tan to remain from season to season and my landscape to continue to give back at least to my neighbors and my family!

  15. Instant gratification.

    The United States has become an “Instant Gratification” society.

    I agree with what Joe and all these wonderful gardeners are saying here, however, more importantly I feel it is not that gardening is “dead or alive” – it is more about humanity feeling they should and can get something for nothing.

    A garden is work. Hard work is good for the soul in my opinion. Yet, more and more in our society feel they should be handed life on a silver platter.

    The unique thing that gardening teaches a person is that all things happen in due time. That death is a part of life. That our souls and our hearts need to be tended the same as a delicate plant. That the essential quality of life is more than instantaneous gratification – – quality of life is definitely a journey, not a destination.

    I write about this in my book, and I say it now – – there is no substitute for building our souls by being in nature, being kind to others, and making a difference in our community.

    And there is no better way to do this then to tend a garden.


    Thanks for all your wonderful comments my friends!

    Shawna Coronado

  16. I echo everything Shawna says and I am moved by each of the comments added to this post. The eloquence that has come through here as each has shared their feelings and observations on this topic is priceless.

    Shawna, Your last comment is just a tiny sample of all the good things you have to say in your book. You are an excellent writer and a master at sharing your thoughts so that we can read them, wherever that many be.

  17. Joe,

    We read and hear gardening is dead, or on the back burner for many because of time, etc. but at our urban garden center, Bowood Farms, in the City of St. Louis has had a fabulous turnout for our Young Farmer Series. We had over 120 people many, many under 30 pack the house for our kick off speaker Jere Gettle, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Gere spoke on tomatoes, peppers and his heirloom vegetable plants. The second speaker, Brett Palmier, Biver Farms spoke on greens and cold crops and we had 60 people attend for his presentation using live product. Our next speaker Mac Condil, will present his new line of squash seeds, his ‘Squash Talk’ is sure to be interesting. Yes, the National TV shows, newspaper home and garden columns,have dried up. But, I have noticed many magazines have had Edible Ornamental Topics, a topic Allen Armitage hascovered many times. Local TV has added garden to table segments, or green segments. Even the cover of AARP had a cover story on Vegetable Gardening. I like to think there is hope for gardening to continue to grow.
    Ellen Barredo
    Bowood Farms

  18. I’m not sure you can necessarily gage gardening’s over all popularity by its populartity on TV or mags.

    In the last forty years, since I became an avid gardener, I have run into more and more gardeners each year.

    When I was beginning in gardening there were no gardening shows in the city’s mega domes or convention centers. Since they have started they have expanded their days and are now so crowded I choose not to go (went last year just to see how things were going, weekend crowds on a mid week day!)

    There are way more nurseries in our area than when I was young even if you consider the population growth, supermarkets did not carry plants on their front sidewalk, inside the supermarkets of my beginning days you might find Sunset and Better Homes and Gardens (which had mostly interior space articles) and on a wild occasion you might have seen a Fine Horticulture mag. Now? The racks are brimming over with garden mags. And other mags that are not specifically gardening certainly have a lot more articles on the subject than they used to.

    I see more and more gardens even driving through my old neighborhood. When I was a child, you owned a house put in “foundation” shrubs, which back then did not mean the foundation and begining structure or bones to your garden design it meant shrubs to cover the foundation, and that was the extent of people’s gardening back then. Also the extent of the afore mentioned articles in the mags. Occasionally you might find a mom who’s mom grew peonys and so she had one or two bushes in the back yard. You had to ride for blocks in my old neighborhood back then to find another “gardener” save for the old codgers who lived in the original farm houses before the streets divided the place like a checkerboard. (That was before the sweeping curving roads and culdesacs). We may be in a down turn in those support industries but no more so than for any other “hobby expenditures” but as for gardeners, people who stick seeds in the ground and watch them grow, not being active or making new gardeners? I’ll eat my ball cap if that is ever true again in my life time (and I’m planning on going to nintey plus so that’s….).

  19. I’m a gardener, I work part-time seasonally in a garden center. Most of my friends are gardeners and those that are not, wish they were. None of the gardeners I know have time to watch gardening shows on TV. We get our info from each other, garden centers, books and the Internet.

  20. fascists noticing increasing hysteria among pc blogger commentators, and attempts to work up bullying to equate with violence in comparison, i don’t see the big deal, to apply todays standards of behaviour to them old school teacher kick arse rules is pushing it, fascists support benson pope, whats sleazy about sorting out a bunch of bloody school kids, we need more of it,

  21. Nagyon érdekes a cikk, Karcsi!Köszönet érte! Figyeltük ám végig a varjúkamerát! Igen jók az animációk is! Így utólag is jó visszanézni ezeket a madarakat! Amúgy nekem még a kedvenceim is a varjak /is/ gyerekkorom óta.

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