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Road trip to Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery and quite a Gingko.

Guest Rant by Scott Beuerlein, who insists the end is not nigh. Gardeners join together.

One of my very favorite quotes came from a supervisor I had many years ago in what seems like a previous life. He said: “It’s not that I want to be an asshole, it’s just that I don’t mind it very much.” The most honest thing I think I’ve ever heard anyone say.

So picture this. You’re young. You’ve got a spouse. You both work. Two kids. Homework. Soccer. Swimming. Band. Two cars and a house. Somewhere in the cracks you find an interest in gardening, but you know little about it. You think joining a garden club or a plant society might help you along. Plus, you can use an occasional fun night out. So you go to a meeting. It’s in some church basement. After an hour of a treasurer’s report, old business, new business, and one codger arguing with another codger over some stupid little detail in the minutes, you eat cake off a paper plate balanced on your knee and drink a Dixie cup of Hi-C. Driving home, how do you feel? Like maybe the only reason you’d go back is to satisfy some morbid incredulity of just how badly your time had been wasted?

The geeks are welcomed to an event.

Now, I don’t want to be an asshole, but I feel the need to state that it isn’t just the internet and Xboxes that are to blame for the aging and dwindling memberships of many of these groups.

About ten years ago a few Hort friends and I formed a group called Tree Geeks. Roughly once a month we tour a garden, have dinner, and drink a few beers. In the colder months, we have to get a little more creative, but the main thing is we have no minutes, no bylaws, and—for God’s sake—no damned Roberts Rules of Order! It’s loose, it’s fun, and, most of all, it’s extremely popular. To keep things manageable, we’ve become a (semi) secret society. Every member wants to invite new members, but we just can’t. We’ve got well over 100 on the email list now. Average age is somewhere around 45.

The magic of sharing plants with others.

No serious horticulturist would ever argue that Garden Clubs and Plant Societies are not repositories—sanctuaries even—of tremendous horticultural knowledge. They contain some of the most committed, experienced, and knowledgeable gardeners in the world. As such, they are extremely and indeed increasingly valuable, and, yes, they’re dying off—literally—one member at a time. H.G. Wells said, “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” Garden clubs and plant societies need to get out of their ruts. Actually, some may need to find entirely different paths. Bold strokes. Make the meetings fun. Get them out of rooms and into gardens. Focus on plants. Include humor and beer. Move all the business to email or blow it the hell up. Establish a social media presence. Acknowledge that times have changed, reach out to young people, and respect the fact that they need concentrated rewards. A lot has to happen (learning, fun, engagement) in a short amount of time to make it conscionable for them to break away from all their other commitments.

The fun factor.

Likewise, young horticulturists and gardeners need to join and support these important groups and take on leadership positions. Usher them away from “the way they’ve always done it” and into a future with a future. And, if necessary, throw out the killjoy codgers who only come to argue. Some people might not mind being assholes, but few people actually want to hang out with them.


Scott is a Horticulturist at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, working primarily on educational symposiums, trialing, and outreach. He is Chair of the Taking Root tree planting initiative and President of the Cincinnati Flower Growers Association. His home garden, after four years of editing, is only now recovering from years of crazed collecting and over-planting.

Posted by

Scott Beuerlein

on December 29, 2016 at 7:39 am, in the category Guest Rants, Ministry of Controversy, What’s Happening.