The Future.....

Diana Chapman
Tue, 02 Oct 2012 10:58:51 PDT
Maybe the emphasis should be on recruiting the middle aged, not young 
people.  Middle aged people are reaching the end of their commitment to 
raising a family, usually have a home, and may be looking for something 
to fire their imagination, having, perhaps for the first time, leisure 
time on their hands.  Life for young people is very different that it 
was for my generation, with overwhelming problems with employment and 
financial insecurity.  It is not surprising to me that their focus would 
be elsewhere.
I belong to another community besides the plant community -- the dog 
sports community.  This is growing astronomically.  Twenty years ago the 
sport of dog agility (my sport) did not exist. Today, there are 
literally hundreds of thousands of aficionados in this country alone, 
and it is a sport that takes enormous commitment and is also an 
expensive hobby.  Who is flocking to dog sports?  The middle aged, 
especially middle aged women.  There are few young people in dog 
agility, something we worry about too, but it is unrealistic to expect 
young people to have the time and money to get involved.  I can't get 
into why people are drawn to this sport and not to gardening, but for 
me, besides the pleasure of training my dogs, I very much enjoy the 
social aspect, and it is very, very social.  I love my garden, and I 
love my bulbs, but gardening for me is a bit lonely, living in a rather 
remote county with no real possibility of a gardening community here.


> AS President of the Nerine and Amaryllid Society here in the UK this is one of the questions that continually concern us as a society: How on earth do we attract younger members? It is an uphill struggle indeed. We have a stand at the annual RHS Autumn Show where we show off nerines and the idea of a society which organises trips to collections, has a bulb exchange, and generally promotes the genus with a bulletin every quarter (though this is possibly slipping to twice a year.)
> Those who run the society are all generally all retired and in our 60s upwards. Some of the membership are younger. The problem, however, is a fundamental one. When we were young and TV was poor and limited and there were no computers or the Internet, we collected things: stamps, cigarette cards, tea cards, we read our encyclopedias to garner knowledge, we had much more freedom to explore the great outdoors and come into contact with nature. Today's children and youth have a completely different set of experiences, they don't collect, they socialise electronically, outdoors has become more constrained by health and safety, plant collecting from the wild is frowned upon, and collecting material from abroad is subject to customs harassment, biodiversity issues etc, etc, etc.
> The ready availability of house-plant product as a supermarket item has made for another throw-away industry, where the mass grower really hopes that the plant he has sold you will die and be replaced, rather than nurtured in a greenhouse and propagated from. The education system in most countries now plays to the lowest common denominator so there is no longer any in depth knowledge of plants and speciation. Here it is cyclamen season where it is the showiest hybrids that win the day, no one cares where the plant originally came from or that there are x number of fascinating species.
> We are showing off our collection of nerine sarniensis hybrids in our gallery at Exbury Gardens and make sure we integrate informational displays about where the plants come from and how the hybrids were arrived at.  Our public likes that. But to get someone who then says, "Oh I'd like to start a collection." That we have yet to have.  We get given plant and bulb collections as people get old and wonder what to do with what they have spent a lifetime assembling simply because their children say that they'd put it all on the bonfire.   Greenhouses are old peoples' toys or confined to botanical gardens, (there are, of course, exceptions), or are in the domain of the rich who can afford the luxury of a proper gardener.
> How will the Facebook Generation grow up? Will they look for old-fashioned pleasures like pottering about tending rare and wonderful plants? Sadly I doubt it.
> All we can do is keep casting our net upon the waters and hope we will snare enough 'fish' to keep the accumulated knowledge of the past alive. So much proper knowledge of common sense and the world we live in has been lost for ever.
> Yrs gloomily
> Nick de Rothschild
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