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Promoting our industry to the next generation

For some time now, industry people have theorised about the possibility of gardeners of the future losing the art of gardening, simply because the fundamental skills are not being passed down by the traditional methods. In days gone by, parents educated their children about gardening by having them help around the home and out in the garden.

These days there are so many more appealing hobbies vying for children’s time such as computer games, television and sport. Most younger generations today view gardening as a chore rather than a hobby, possibly due to the fact that much of their gardening experiences growing up would be mowing lawns for pocket money - hardly an experience likely to make them take up gardening later in life as an enjoyable recreational hobby.

I don’t think this necessarily means that we have lost the art of gardening, rather that the next generation of gardeners will be introduced to gardening in different ways. They will still want to enjoy the benefits that a garden can bring them, although they probably won’t know how to go about achieving it. This in turn has brought about the ‘do it for me’ attitude rather than the more traditional ‘do it for yourself’, and that means that our industry will be dealing with a changing customer base in the future. Accordingly it will be the responsibility of nurseries, garden centres and landscapers to educate this new breed of potential new gen gardeners.

Different expectations

These same new generation gardeners will have different expectations of our services as an industry, and they will expect to get the same level of sales service, advice and knowledge they expect when they shop for computers or Plasma televisions at Harvey Norman.

I find it interesting to see how some of my friends have developed their interest in gardening. I am currently 24, and friends of mine are at the stage of their lives where they are moving out or buying their first homes, and it is encouraging to see the way in which plants and gardening fit into their priorities of setting up their homes for a comfortable life. They consider plants and gardens as necessary adjuncts to their homes, in much the same way as renovating a kitchen or a bathroom.

Today’s gardens need to be ‘trendy and cool’

These new gen gardeners consider their plants and gardens to be trendy, cool and a fashionable addition to their homes, in addition to the garden’s role as an essential element of their outdoor entertaining area. They also see planting plants and gardens around their homes as the one of the cheapest improvements they can make to their new investment.

Because so many ‘trendies’ today are concerned with environmental issues concerning our country and the planet, we also need to educate them on the many environmental benefits gardens can bring, firstly to Planet Earth by processing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; and secondly the benefits to their homes through energy conservation achieved by smart planting for shade in summer, and the simple benefits of attracting birds and other wildlife to their homes.

A need to educate the media

Although the younger gen has developed a small interest in plants and gardening, I feel they are unlikely to rush out and buy gardening magazines just yet. So we need to look to advertising on the same mainstream media sources more frequently favoured by next gen gardeners. Clearly there are substantial costs that prohibit the use of mainstream media, and so we need to look at more widespread use of the internet, much favoured by the younger generation.

I think most of us realise that simply by ‘Googling’ almost anything of which we are uncertain, within seconds we have access to endless pages of relative information. Every day we are bombarded with advertisements and promotions from every other industry; so why not promote our industry through this medium to develop a positive image for our industry and what we are all about?

So what do we need to advertise?

Most of my friends have no idea where their local nursery, garden centre or landscaper resides, let alone the many services our collective industry can offer. We need to advertise the stylish, and the trendy plants on offer, and most importantly we need to advertise the benefits of a garden rather than the work required to go into it.

We need to promote services such as garden consultation and installation services, as well as on-going garden maintenance packages, water saving and irrigation ideas, as well as outdoor accessories that can transform a ‘yard’ into an enjoyable sanctuary. With a less gardening-oriented market to sell to in the future, we need to offer a more professional and total service package to our customers. After all, we are the professionals from whom they will seek advice when making these decisions.

In conclusion, I feel the next generation of gardeners will grow to enjoy gardening and the benefits we all know it can bring to their lives. Then as they grow and develop their lives, hopefully they will increase their knowledge and confidence and develop the same love of gardening enjoyed by their parents and gardeners of the old generation.

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