I have been accused of being an overthinker. And it’s true, I psych myself out. It’s what happens to a person who grew up introvert in a family full of extroverts, and who learned how to read before she talked very much.
Overthinking can have its benefits — most decisions are weighed carefully, and I can often empathize with both sides of any story (probably helps that I’m also a diplomatic Libra). But this state of mind also has its consequences when it comes to productivity, in deciding how to attack a story or a project, and in making buying decisions. Being faced with too many things to do, or too many choices from which to select, results in a kind of paralysis. That feeling of overwhelming pressure causes me to procrastinate or just shut down altogether.
Why am I using this column like an in-print therapy session? Because while I would never go so far as to assume that my own struggles are the same as what others my age go through, I do feel that there is some validity to the theory that being overstressed, overwhelmed, and taxed for time is a reason that many Gen Xers and now Millennials just haven’t bothered to take the time to learn about plants and, by extension, gardening. But interestingly, many of us who suffer from a lack of leisure time and too much on our plates, can actually benefit from the proven therapeutic benefits that plants and gardening offer.
It seems there is an ongoing internal debate within the industry. We are collectively becoming overthinkers (we should start a club!) when it comes to how we can best market to consumers in younger demographics. On one hand, we feel that we need to make it as easy as possible to garden — or decorate with plants. Think HGTV’s One Step Style, or The Home Depot’s Drop & Grow. Both are programs that provide colorful, pre-made combos that can be dropped into a consumer’s choice of decorative container.
The other side of this is slowly cultivating plant knowledge and gardening skills. Right now, beginning Gen X and Millennial gardeners want things to be as easy as pie, and perhaps they have limited space and buying power. But eventually (we hope) they’ll have patios and landscape beds of their own, so we also need to develop that inherent want and need to connect with the earth and the soil, and the feeling that comes along with being successful in growing their own food, and decorating their homes with beautiful plants and flowers.
Consider food delivery programs like Blue Apron, which save time and offer ultimate convenience by delivering fresh groceries — everything that’s needed for three meals, plus the recipes — right to a customer’s doorstep. All the recipients have to do is follow the recipe, put the ingredients together, and they have a fresh, home-cooked, healthy meal. No muss, no fuss. But they still have the experience of putting the meal together, with a partner, as a family, or on their own. Even though all the work has been taken out of the equation, they’re also learning at least basic cooking skills that will translate when they’re ready to tackle a bigger challenge.
We should promote plants and gardening in a similar way, with bite-size, approachable pieces that allow our target customers to build skills and confidence with experience.
We are already pretty good at rolling out tried-and-true varieties that consumers know will perform. Eventually, they’ll recommend these favorites to their family, friends, and neighbors, and perhaps also purchase products recommended by others, to expand their gardening repertoire and knowledge of plants.
But we need to get them there first, by providing an easy vehicle that takes all the hassle out of learning what, when, and how to buy, and delivers plants and recipes to consumers’ collective doorsteps. Give them the experience, not all the drama it takes to prepare for it. It seems like an idea whose time has come. And I don’t feel like I’m overthinking this one.