We’re Not Normal (opinion)

Robin Siktberg

I am an unusual person, perhaps even a bit odd. I say this because by age 14, or maybe even earlier, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be an editor of a horticultural magazine. And, somehow, by a path that involved some twists and turns, I actually am.

I’m also unusual because I was gardening as a child and loved it, and with the exception of a small break during college when I owned no outdoor space, not even a balcony, I have always grown plants. And even then, I had houseplants.

I have always known that my passion for plants is stronger than that of the average consumer. By virtue of the fact that you are a greenhouse grower, operator, or are in some other way associated with this industry, chances are your interest in plants goes beyond the norm, too. So it’s important that we step outside of ourselves and listen to what “normal” people think about gardening and buying plants. That’s especially true for the Gen Y group we are all so concerned about in terms of our industry’s future.

When I was in my twenties, I was the only one of my friends who gardened or even thought about plants at all. Flash forward to today, and we are all homeowners and parents, and I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked for gardening advice. My friends are all more than interested in plants now — and they’re spending money.
So I was surprised when our assistant editor, Karli Petrovic, who also works for our sister retail magazine, Today’s Garden Center, stirred up a small firestorm of controversy when she wrote a column about why she and her generation are not gardening yet.

In her column, “Why I’m Not Gardening and No One Else My Age is Either,” Karli pointed out that she and her friends are not gardening for a number of reasons, including lack of time, money and space. She said her generation is more focused right now on building careers than buying plants, but said to give them time.

Several readers objected, saying they knew young people who garden— how could Karli speak for a whole generation? One reader said, “Really don’t understand their attitude. To me, coming home to water plants or garden was a stress-reliever when I was in my 20s.”

All of us could point to someone in their twenties who gardens. But is that the point? Those people, as much as we appreciate them, are not the norm for their age group.
Karli’s full opinion and all of the comments, both positive and negative, can be found at TodaysGardenCenter.com. And for those who find yourself upset with her honesty, I encourage you to sit back for a moment and listen, even if what you hear is uncomfortable. I believe she speaks for the majority of her generation, and we bury our heads in the sand at our peril. We need to find ways, even on a small scale, to appeal to people like her, who are not quite there, but will be soon. Because we’re not normal. They are.

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “We’re Not Normal (opinion)

  1. It is not her opinion that was disturbung, it is the fact she writes articles for the green industry…kind of a joke for Greenhouse Grower, in my opinion. Does she have any actual horticultural experience to validate her writing for a trade magazine?

  2. If you really want to see a shock, take a good look at our industry and see the ages of the folks in our industry and who is up and coming. I think you will see a gap between 25-40(?), sure there are a few of us, but not many of my friends I started in this industry with are still in the industry. I moved to sales when I saw I would have hard time making it ($) as a grower unless I started my own business. There is not much you can do about it, just realize it is going on good or bad.

  3. Speaking from experience, both as a retailer and as a member of Generation X, not only is Karli right, but Robin is right for emphasizing it. Yes, we all know twentysomethings who love to garden. Yes, we all know twentysomethings who get relaxation from watering their plants. I also know that these stand out because they're relatively rare. The emphasis on career over gardening is very valid, which is why we have to keep working on offering low-maintenance solutions for the individuals who have maybe one day per week to expend on their gardens or yards. We also have to remember that we're competing against so many distractions, many of them worthy and even laudable, that aren't so much of an issue when we get older. (Me, I got into serious gardening when I was 22, and I was an absolute freak among friends and co-workers who couldn't see why I'd waste my time on any plant that wasn't either immediately edible or smokable.) Most of all, we'd best listen, because the current arrogance I keep hearing in the plant trade, effectively acting as if these darn kids should get with the program and get off our lawns, will be a major dissuader from gardening in the future. I'm 46, and I still instinctively stay away from venues that treated me with disdain and vitriol when I was 22, as do a lot of my contemporaries, and the best way to guarantee that our kids will stay away from gardening is to be both dismissive and patronizing as to their needs from gardening right now.

Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More

December 6, 2016

America In Bloom Moves Forward With New Management Comp…

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, management of America In Bloom will transition from AmericanHort to Second Wind Management, which is owned by long-time AIB Executive Director Laura Kunkle.

Read More
bailey-nurseries-team-feature

December 5, 2016

How Bailey Nurseries Has Found Solutions To The Labor S…

A changing seasonal workforce led this Minnesota-based company to explore new labor sources through the H-2A program and refugee organizations, and it’s working out for the better.

Read More
mycoapply-from-mycorrhizal-applications-feature

December 5, 2016

New Growing Media Advancements Giving Growers More Opti…

With innovative, sustainable growing media components, growers will be able to improve plant health, achieve consistency among crops, save money, and reduce inputs, while saving space on storage.

Read More

December 5, 2016

Benary’s Jennifer Calhoun: How We Can Make Plants…

I see one main issue facing our industry in getting more people to buy plants — we assume that the way we used to sell plants is the way millennials will want to buy them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We sell plants in small packs that you plant in a hole in your garden, with a generic label that says “blooms all season.” Millennials don’t have gardens, so they want a plant they can put on their fourth floor apartment balcony, or better yet on a shelf in their living room near a window.  We give them too little information to help them be successful under those circumstances. But what we don’t realize is that if the plant dies, they feel personally responsible for killing another living thing which is so painful that they would prefer not to take the chance a second time. If we sold […]

Read More

December 5, 2016

A Visual Guide To Garden Retail Merchandising

Antje Verstl, a German visual merchandiser who has worked with many high level garden retailers in Europe, has a lot of practical, and inspirational advice on how to transform your plant yard into an exciting place to shop. Take a look at this gallery, and enjoy a visual guide from Verstl. Her book, “Eagle & Frog!,” is now available for purchase by an American market through her website.

Read More
mikaela-hermstedt-penn-state-university

December 4, 2016

Shinoda Foundation Names Penn State Horticulture Major …

Mikaela Hermstedt, a 21-year-old senior from Lincoln, DE, plans to pursue a career in commercial greenhouse production of flowering plants.

Read More
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More
mcconkey-plastic-shelves-feature

December 1, 2016

How Color Point Is Stopping Cart Theft With Plastic She…

Plastic shelving on carts acts as a deterrent to theft, and employees enjoy the benefits of being able to handle the racks without difficulty or injuries.

Read More
oasis-water-valve-feature

November 30, 2016

How You Can Water Plants Based On Basket Weight

The Oasis from Control Dekk is designed to reduce water use by giving baskets the exact amount of water they need.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Varie…

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

Read More
foxglove-aphid

November 29, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Manage The Foxglove Aphid

Recent research is shedding new light on the foxglove aphid. Understanding host plants, identification, and biology will help growers deal with this pest.

Read More
endless-summer

November 29, 2016

Endless Summer Hydrangeas Will Soon Feature New Identit…

Bailey Nurseries, which first introduced the reblooming hydrangea a decade ago, says the new identity will feature a more contemporary look to appeal to current and future gardeners.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How The Industry Is Ensuring Consumer Success With Plan…

Greenhouse Grower RETAILING reached out to growers and suppliers for their ideas on how to attract and keep new plant customers. Here's what they had to say about ensuring gardening success.

Read More

November 29, 2016

Heroes To Hives Seeks Veterans For Beekeeping Training

Michigan State University is bringing together two great causes of our times — supporting vets and boosting pollinators — in its new program aimed at teaching professional beekeeping to former soldiers.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]