July 27, 2010

"The Flower Show may come back someday, but it’s not where people are these days... Food is an easier sell."

Botanical gardens are turning away from flowers! 
Botanical gardens are experiencing an identity crisis, with chrysanthemum contests, horticultural lectures and garden-club ladies, once their main constituency, going the way of manual lawn mowers. Among the long-term factors diminishing their traditional appeal are fewer women at home and less interest in flower-gardening among younger fickle, multitasking generations.
Oh, lord. We don't indulge a love of pure beauty anymore? Because of careers and multitasking?
Forced to rethink and rebrand, gardens are appealing to visitors’ interests in nature, sustainability, cooking, health, family and the arts. 
Cooking, health, family... that sounds older and more traditional than flowers. We're all working, working constantly now, so we can't stroll through a flower garden. Even our optional activities must have a sharp cutting edge of functionality and hygiene.
Some are emphasizing their social role, erecting model green buildings, promoting wellness and staying open at night so people can mingle over cocktails like the Pollinator (green tea liqueur, soda water and Sprite). 
Oh, it's all so damned good for you. Wellness. Greenness. Liqueur and Sprite.
In May, the Atlanta garden opened an attraction that would fit right in at a jungle park: a “canopy walk” that twists and turns for 600 feet at a height of up to 45 feet, allowing visitors to trek through the treetops. Not far away, food enthusiasts can stop in at a new edible garden, with an outdoor kitchen frequently staffed by guest chefs creating dishes with fresh, healthy ingredients. Edible gardens are the fastest-growing trend at botanical gardens, consistently increasing attendance, experts say, along with cooking classes.
Can't we just eat our vegetables in private and not make a godawful show of it? Everyone must be instructed. And yet this is conceived of as the way to be young and popular.
“There’s a generation that will be less interested in gardens,” says Daniel J. Stark, executive director of the public gardens association, “but that generation is incredibly interested in what’s happening with the planet. Recently, my own two daughters, and a friend, were reading me the riot act about cutting down some trees.”

Mr. Stark’s daughters are 4 and 8.
So dad proclaims what his little daughters will be interested in. Incredibly interested in. They'll be all about saving the planet. Greenness! Wellness! Save that tree, but not because it is beautiful, so it can absorb the nefarious CO2.
Well, that's what Mr. Stark said. Here's hoping his little dears find some respite some day from the relentless pedantry of nutrition and ecology and, in some transformative, revelatory moment, stop and smell a rose.

DSC00204
(Photo taken on June 12th at Madison's beautiful botanic garden, Olbrich.)

Maybe the kids will rebel against the Puritans of the older generation who have misappropriated so much of their precious time with morality lessons. It could be a whole movement, returning to the hedonistic love of the beauty of nature. They might care about flowers again. I have a good name for this movement: Flower Children.

41 comments:

rhhardin said...

Common Sow Thistle.

Flowers investigated. No multitasking for dogs.

The garden club should admit dogs.

PatCA said...

I think people are interested in gardens, but institutions are interested in green-ness. (That's where the grant money is, for one thing.) And, after all, they know best what's good for us.

TosaGuy said...

"Everyone must be instructed."

And everyone must receive instruction. Gah! Some of my best memories as a kid and currently as a adult are when I was able to figure something new out for myself.

Undoubtedly, many of these people will do precisely that, but I have noticed a trend where people who want to do hands-on things have no confidence in themselves to figure it out -- they need formal instruction before they put seeds in the ground or put a hammer to a nail. Perhaps I am overly hard on folks like this because I grew up where I was around such things and such knowledge is now intrinsic, but I lament that fact that so may people feel they can't do it without formal, expensive instruction.....and don't experience the joy of figuring it out for themselves after failing a time or six.

ironrailsironweights said...

Perhaps with this back-to-primeval-nature trend, some women will opt for the natural look. We can only hope.

Peter

Skyler said...

In other news, Ann Althouse responds to the latest overhyped, NYC-centric, chicken-little story in the New York Times.

edutcher said...

I'm sure some of these institutions are angling for some of the cap-and-trade money they figure will come hemorrhaging out of the Zero and Pelosi Galore.

Ann Althouse said...

Everyone must be instructed. And yet this is conceived of as the way to be young and popular.

Nicely summed up. I'm sure the "Science is Settled" crowd wants the media to slant it that way, just as Dr Goebbels would have done.

Maybe the kids will rebel against the Puritans of the older generation who have misappropriated so much of their precious time with morality lessons. It could be a whole movement, returning to the hedonistic love of the beauty of nature. They might care about flowers again. I have a good name for this movement: Flower Children.

Very heady, Madame, very sensuous. I can only hope the new flower children show more sense than the last crew.

Ann Althouse said...

"NYC-centric"?

Obviously, you didn't read the article. It starts off talking about Cleveland. Then on to Atlanta. New York is in there, as is Washington and LA, but there's also Cheyenne and Coral Gables.

As for taking cues from the NYT, that's especially silly here. I'm a habituée of Olbrich Botanic Gardens here in Madison, and I'm married to a garden designer.

yashu said...

Peter (iron), I recommend for you Lee Friedlander's nudes.

Henry said...

I love it when opinion writers praise the wisdom of children. I recently did some pruning of our crab apple tree and my eight-year-old attacked the trunk with his hobby saw. If I listened to him, we'd cut the tree down and turn it into a catapult.

Big Mike said...

So now we can look forward to the day when the Green Police will come down the streets of suburbia, uprooting flower beds and handing out citations to people who are growing roses and crysanthemums instead of zucchini and tomatoes.

Organically, of course.

And all for our own good, of course.

MadisonMan said...

Recently, my own two daughters, and a friend, were reading me the riot act about cutting down some trees.

The appropriate response? When you own land, you can decide what to do with it. For now, I own this property, these trees are a nuisance/danger/old and dying, and I decide whether they stay or go. Now help me take the brush to the curb.

former law student said...

Botanical gardens are experiencing an identity crisis, with chrysanthemum contests, horticultural lectures and garden-club ladies, once their main constituency, going the way of manual lawn mowers.

Should be boom times for cc's, hl's, and g-cl's, in that case, because sales of manual lawnmowers are booming.

Busy people grow perennials, by the way, including flowering shrubs and trees. Roses are in no danger of extinction, although deadheading is a chore. Vegetables take a lot more work: tilling, amending, and fertilizing the soil, along with weeding weeding weeding and picking picking picking.

edutcher said...

Henry said...

I love it when opinion writers praise the wisdom of children.

They love the 'wisdom' of children because children are so easily manipulated.

virgil xenophon said...

I dunno about the "edible" trend bit, The "Edible Flowers" Flower Shop here on Lincoln in Venice just went Tango Uniform a month or so ago...

And if that concept can't make it in Venice it can't make it ANYWHERE..

Quayle said...

(Here is the first my my new, certain to be appreciated, two sentence comment policy.)

Flowers speak and teach plenty, but not with words.

As a decadent society losses its ability to feel, the volume of other things must be turned up to assure the people they are still alive.

Henry said...

@edutcher -- I enjoy it because my children so don't fit the bill. Makes me appreciate them all the more.

Luke Lea said...

As a professional gardener I must say I am tired of (most) flowers, non-native azaleas and most showy annuals especially. (Though up north I guess perennials do better -- hard not to like delphiniums!)

Anyway, foliage texture and composition are what I appreciate most nowadays. That and the overall layout, English naturalistic especially (as in Frederick Law Olmstead).

HKatz said...

We don't indulge a love of pure beauty anymore? Because of careers and multitasking?

I don't buy this either. I don't know enough about flower shows or the business of promoting them, but I suspect that no matter how busy we are we'll still want to seek out beauty and quiet, whether in a park, garden, even a graveyard (reminded of a couple of visits to Trinity Church at the end of Wall St., and seeing several multi-tasking businessmen sitting and quietly eating lunch, and looking out at the graves and the trees).

Skyler said...

Ann, it's the viewpoint that is NYC-centric. The story could take place in Timbuktu but the view point is still from NYC.

The economy sucks, and botanical gardens are having troubles. Boo hoo. It is not a sign of general decline in the culture or the character of people. Sheesh.

My point is that the NY Times loves to put out attention grabbing silly articles like this or about the latest dating habits in the mind of some 20 year old and they pump the idea for all it's worth. Such articles are not news and not worth paying attention to because the perspective is limited or biased to cause greater concern or alarm, or fascination with what should be mundane.

Pastafarian said...

I don't think that people are turning away from flower gardens and toward vegetable gardens because these people are "greener" or interested in healthier diets.

There might be a few such hippies, but most of them are too lazy to actually plant a garden, unless it includes pot.

It's probably happening for the same reason that gun sales are through the roof: People are planting Obama gardens (sort of the opposite of the "victory garden" concept) because they see a hard-line socialist ideologue in power, and they want to be ready for the apocalyptic collapse of the economy.

My tomatoes are doing great this year, by the way. And the first time I ever planted a vegetable garden: Spring of 2009.

traditionalguy said...

Flowers will never lose their power. The food preparation popularity may be a replacement for a community tradition that can be shared. Preparation and sharing of a meal is the first, and sometimes only, joint activity for families and social groups. A simple loaf of bread and jug of wine requires knowledge for proper preparation. Actually, bread making is not an easy to come up with process if you are not taught it by someone who learned it from someone.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

I'm about the furthest thing from an environmentalist/health nut there is, and I get Althouse's objections, but I'm all over this. I grow some veggies and herbs, and I'm not very good at it, but I love the results. Creating food from the ground up and incorporating it into your cooking? It's amazing, and eating a freshly picked tomato is no comparison to the ones at the store.

Maybe I'm just cold, but, I could never understand how anyone could be willing to put forth all of the effort required to create and maintain a garden, only to have it do nothing for you but just look pretty.

- Lyssa

Pogo said...

"I could never understand how anyone could be willing to put forth all of the effort required to create and maintain a garden..."

The effort by itself is therapeutic, even if no flowers were ever to arise. A form of meditation for those who can't sit still; the beauty is merely a bonus, not the reason.

David said...

Meade can fix this.

MadisonMan said...

My tomatoes are doing great this year, by the way.

I have one tomato plant that has died (wilt), but it yielded one or two dozen pingpong ball sized yellow globes of deliciousness. My other 5 are loaded with green tomatoes, esp. the San Marzano.

I just pulled up my two plantings of beans (delicious!) and will put in more beets where they were. Cilantro and lettuce plantings are doing well. Basil looks great. Peapods have been yanked up -- they were good, but it's too hot now.

I'll plant more lettuce and maybe some arugula soon. Next year I'm going to get a garden at one of the places around town where you can rent space. My present back-yard garden will become, slowly, a strawberry patch. But I can still plant spinach to overwinter.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Maybe I'm just cold, but, I could never understand how anyone could be willing to put forth all of the effort required to create and maintain a garden, only to have it do nothing for you but just look pretty.


I agree.

I just plant flowers and ornamentals that don't require much work. My theory on flower gardens and ornamental house plants....is they'd better cooperate and live without much work...or just die. I have no compunction about throwing them out or digging them up.

I have large vegetable garden in raised beds and this year am growing basil, tomatoes, italian peppers, cucumbers, summer squashes, fava beans, fennel, plus some perenial herbs. We just planted some rhubarb and next year will have that plus 6 half barrels full of strawberry plants.

We have apple trees, cherry trees (3 kinds) plum trees (2 kinds), peach trees and pears, grapes (concord), golden raspberries, blackberries, plus the wild plum trees.

Get me a few chickens and a couple of pigs....and we are set for the Obama economy. /wink

Flowers are nice, but the only reason I can see for them is to look pretty for a short period of time, but more importantly feed the bees and butterflies.

MadisonMan said...

Get me a few chickens

That means fences around the gardens. My neighbor's chickens love to eat emerging shoots.

I am jealous of your peach trees. Peaches. Yum.

ironrailsironweights said...

Peter (iron), I recommend for you Lee Friedlander's nudes.

Hmmm. His famous photo of Madonna is indeed a flavorful delight, but it was taken over 30 years ago. Madonna today surely has adopted the prepubescent look.

Also, I cannot begin to understand why almost all photographers feel compelled to use black-and-white film for dirty pictures.


Peter

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I am jealous of your peach trees. Peaches. Yum.

We have a rather short and fickle growing season. This year we had frost and hard freezes at night all the way into the end of May. As a result the peaches and the plums (not the wild ones though) didn't get a chance to set fruit. If we get peaches every 3rd year it's cause for celebration. The apples and pears are reliable however.

Tomatoes etc, we have to grow in a greenhouse or coldframe to protect from cold in order to get fruit before winter comes again and from the excessive heat in the summer.

Extreme gardening. ..Sigh

Palladian said...

The idea that beauty has no utility is a sign of spiritual poverty, either a mean, pinched-mouthed puritanism or a dissipated, nihilistic cretinism. Actually, we live in an age and culture where dissipation and puritanism have merged into a completely irrational, destructive complacency, so anesthetized by decadence, yet so guilt-ridden and dogmatic in search of a dogma, that beauty alone seems both deficient bore and an immoral waste of resources. The decadently puritanical want to cut down your rose bushes and plant an organic quinoa patch.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The idea that beauty has no utility is a sign of spiritual poverty

True. The utility of beauty is that it soothes the soul and spurs the imagination. You can have both. A quince tree (my next purchase for the garden) is beautiful and utilitarian.

I love my roses and flowering plants, but I don't have time to manicure the garden or pamper sensitive varieties. I tell myself that the natural wild overgrown look is beautiful. And it is.

Pogo said...

Perfect, Palladian.

I advise all to collect dog feces instead, and make methane from it.

Consider it penance to Gaia.

Synova said...

Perhaps it's just me, but when I think of people who grow roses or orchids or chrysanthemums competitively, I think primarily of older men. I'd be almost tempted to say nearly *exclusively* older men.

But, although people may not frequent botanical gardens as much as they used to (accepting that is true) we are pretty compulsive about our yards, aren't we? The "garden centers" do huge business and we watch Home and Garden television and those who might have gone to a botanical garden have a back yard greenhouse with orchids and a banana tree as well as tomato seedlings and maybe a koi pond.

"Even our optional activities must have a sharp cutting edge of functionality and hygiene."

Perhaps.

I've got no time to fuss over the morality of it all and little sympathy for demands to duty, but I like growing things myself, not just passively enjoying what I don't understand. When we lived near Berkeley we'd go to the botanical garden there and I would always read the plant labels and used to know quite a bit of the latin.

They had a garden of plants grown for dye that was interesting. It was cool to see a plant and think, "Wow, that's what woad looks like."

This sort of thing, growing both decorative and useful plants as specimens is what a botanical garden is for, isn't it?

A vanilla orchid isn't pretty at all, really, but it's incredible to see what one looks like.

Meade said...

Careful with that Flower Power, flower girl.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

The effort by itself is therapeutic, even if no flowers were ever to arise. A form of meditation for those who can't sit still; the beauty is merely a bonus, not the reason.

I guess that we all have different ideas of what consitutes theraputic. Of course, I live in the south, and it's bloody hot by the time you can plant anything.

*********

DBQ, your garden/orchard sounds wonderful! Mine is small- tomatoes, chili peppers, red peppers, zucchini, strawberries, blueberries (thus far, unsuccessful), and a container garden of herbs (mint, basil, Italian parsley, cilantro, and thyme.) I'm not willing to let my herbs go to frost in the winter, so they stay inside.

I have always wanted a cherry tree, but it seems like they only grow well further north. Am I right on that? I've been bugging my husband to get me a peach tree, though.

Deborah said...

"Actually, bread making is not an easy to come up with process if you are not taught it by someone who learned it from someone."

I taught myself to make bread. It's trial and error. Like gardening, you have to be willing to take dollar bills and set fire to them. Same thing.
I visited the Atlanta Botanical Gardens recently. The canopy walk is very beautiful and restful. Reminded me of the book The Wild Trees by Richard Preston.

former law student said...

lyssa -- contact your County Extension office to find out what fruit trees will grow well in your area. They will probably connect you to a Master Gardener -- ask to speak to one who grows their own fruits and nuts.

former law student said...

Can't we just eat our vegetables in private and not make a godawful show of it? Everyone must be instructed.

The problem is that lore is no longer being passed down. My g-grandmother had a lavish vegetable and flower garden, that my dad helped plant and weed as a little boy. My grandmother had a smaller one. Ours was more or less elaborate depending on the amount of time my parents had. My wife's family was the same way. I can easily picture one pressed-for-time generation skipping gardening altogether.

If, in addition, mealtime growing up involved mostly McDonald's or the microwave, I can see how young adults today, with no direct experience or path to follow, might want a class on growing (and cooking!) their own food.

Reminds me that while dating, as a young adult, I was surprised to meet women with no religious background whatever -- grandma was the last churchgoer in the family; mom and dad were too busy and didn't want to bother.

Julie C said...

I appreciate the beauty of flowers, but I'm with DBQ. If they require a lot of work on my part, I just don't have the interest.

When we redid our front yard recently, I told the landscape designer to please put in a fruit tree - I want my plants to provide something I can eat!

We have six raised beds in the back - tomatoes, lettuce, lots of herbs, beans, carrots, squash, onions and peppers. We also have a lime, lemon and orange tree. We're contemplating getting chickens - if the economy collapses under the weight of Obama's debt I want to provide food for my family from our own yard. My husband's getting concerned that he's going to come home from work one day and discover Bessie the cow in the backyard!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

contact your County Extension office to find out what fruit trees will grow well in your area. They will probably connect you to a Master Gardener

Good advice. I've used mine to help me identify plants in our property and get advice on pest and blight control.

A great example of our tax dollars actually working for us for a change.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"I've used mine "

Well, he isn't actually MINE. He belongs to the government, but we can sure use him.

LOL