Friday, December 03, 2010

Is gardening only a hobby?

This is it. I have no lawn.

Well, in the USA it's hard to think of it in any other way, isn't it? Just check iTunes for garden podcasts, or any media directory. What category do you find "gardening" in?

I was listening to Ken Druse's Real Dirt podcast recently. I always enjoy Ken's podcasts, especially his interviews. Last week he talked to Bart Ziegler, gardening columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Ziegler's is a thoroughly enjoyable gardening column, far superior, in fact, to most available in US media. I like the guy, so please don't think this is an attack on him, or on Ken.

But at the end of the interview, Ziegler's closing remarks just set my teeth on edge. Well, actually, it started earlier. Ziegler talked about his "yard," not about his "garden." Not a mortal sin, I suppose, but so revealing about American attitudes toward gardening.

Okay, the offending words that set me off:

"Learn to relax. It's only a garden. This is not brain surgery. It's supposed to be a hobby, it's supposed to be enjoyable, and if you end up driving yourself crazy, it's neither of those..."

In context, there's nothing wrong with this, I agree. But in the US, it's come to be almost the only acceptable attitude toward gardening. We mow our lawns (we all have lawns, don't we?), we spray Roundup on the dandelions, we grow native plants if we're of a certain political persuasion, we grow vegetables to feed ourselves (the newest widely condoned fad), we may even weed if we're "serious" gardeners. Hell, we may even sit and take pleasure in our yards (or gardens ... but most of us think using the word "garden" may be pretentious).

There's far more to it than this. Gardening has a long and illustrious history--thousands of years--as a very important part of human culture, often as the place for practice or contemplation of spirituality, aesthetics, philosophy (the "good life"), even politics--yet our culture relegates it to the "hobby" category. What happened?

Can anything be done? If you're interested, take a look at this website:  thinkinGardens. The people here are at least trying to change things. The site is British, of course, but gardening is much more highly valued there than here. So take it where you can get it.


  1. Oh man, James...I'm there with you, there's nothing quite as dismissive as having a passion called a "hobby". It's a weird time to be a gardener who really love "GARDENING", who loves plants and flowers for the sheer joy of it...who loves them for just what they are. In Portland, although there are a lot of beautiful gardens, it's become increasingly popular to grow your own a town of foodies, it's practically expected. If you tell someone you garden, the first thing they say is "oh yeah, fresh veggies!" or "do you grow leeks". I always feel a little sheepish to admit I don't grow ANY veggies. I grew some tomatoes this year out of guilt...and didn't eat any of them :-( I just don't care about growing food, aside from herbs). I want a garden that is a garden...not a produce aisle. People look at me in a dazed manner when I say I garden for the joy of it, because without the ability to brag about eating my very own organically-grown brussel sprouts, what's the point?

  2. Hmm, I think I agree with you about Mr Ziegler. Those words set my teeth on edge as well. I get the feeling, though, that he was aiming at a slightly different audience from you, James - one that perhaps feels a little insecure. He was probably trying to jolly people along and not scare them off with Latin names and esoteric knowledge.
    But that's enough of me being charitable. Because I think that the idea that gardening should be relaxing is bollocks, if you'll excuse my Anglo-Saxon.
    I wouldn't call gardening my hobby because I think that conveys completely the wrong impression of what it means to me. It's a passion, an obsession, a lifetime's study, if that doesn't sound too pretentious. It's hard physical work, too.
    It's only because it engages my brain that it takes me out of my everyday stressful world and into a place where I have the luxury to think for myself about what I'm going to do and how and where I'm going to do it.
    If I wanted to relax, I'd go and lie in a bath.

  3. 'It is only a garden' So what does he take seriously? While earning money writing/talking about 'gardening'?! (I have to remember, across the pond, a yard is a garden. Hope it is longer/wider than 3 feet tho! And dirt, is the stuff they plant in. Yuck!)

  4. James,

    Gardening is, for some, a hobby. For me it is a passion. It is an art. I read that "gardening is the slowest moving of the performing arts." That says it perfectly.

    I also get frustrated when gardening gets watered down for general consumption. In America, there aren't enough books, magazines or articals that are inspiring on the highest level. Maybe there isn't enough interest, I don't know.

  5. Scott -
    I'm so glad you agree. We need to do something about this. I know, a voice crying in the wilderness, what can so few people do? Well, I think the first step is to find each other. Then we try to figure out the next step.

  6. Victoria -
    Bollocks, yes it is. Not relaxing at all, sometimes not a pleasure at all. For me it's a place where I find much of the meaning of this life, something that, as you say, engages my brain ... in a way nothing else does (for me). That can sound rather pretentious in our present culture but so be it. I agree that Mr. Ziegler's target audience was the people who are afraid of gardening because they are in a state of fear and ignorance, so I'm placing no blame on him. Beginning gardeners do need "how to" books and a helping hand. But on this side of the Atlantic, there's nothing more ... if you depend on the media. You're very fortunate to live in a country with such a long history, and a massive national preoccupation with, gardening (I suppose Anne Wareham might disagree with me on that one.).

  7. Elephant's Eye -
    Your comment gives me hope since you represent the third continent I've heard from. (For others who don't know, Elephant's Eye is in South Africa.) You let me know what we are doing is a universal urge. We're everywhere.

  8. Michael -
    Yes, I think we certainly strive to make it art. And meaning in some deep way. I agree we have few, if any, publications worth the time or money. Certainly there are major exceptions, such as the writings of Rick Darke, who has few peers in the world, in my opinion. Little interest, too, among the general population, except in terms of lawn and "yard" upkeep. Is there anything we can do about it?

  9. Dear James, it's so good to hear this, being a fellow sufferer..

    You may be encouraged to hear that the Garden Media Guild gave the thinkingardens website the 'website of the year award'yesterday =

    I'm boasting about it, of course - but it may be a small indication that our crying in the wilderness is making a little impression somewhere. And don't ever tell yourself that things are better generally in the UK - your comments could just as well have been written here except for the use of the word 'yard' - see this, for example, more sophisticated perhaps but identical in message:

    You cheer me up!


  10. Anne -
    Congratulations on the GMG award to thinkinGardens for website of the year. My views of things in the UK are, I'm afraid, a little slanted since I select my own "chinks in the wall" to keep up with happenings over there. I can't see the BBC gardening programs I hear so much about, and I select the blogs I read (and books). I'm thoroughly absorbed in Tim Richardson's The Arcadian Friends right now (it's a revelation), and I don't imagine that tome is widely read, even in the UK (pity)!

  11. Dear oh dear oh dear..I was offered (after I requested) less than $300 from one of our main TV orgs to come film my yard for a wizz bang garden special..I told em no thanks..that just about sums it up methinks!
    Stop Press: the honorable (I think) Tim Richardson will be speaking in my state capital Melbourne next September..sadly I will not hear him as the conference cost is considerably more than the fee i did not accept above. I will just have to put up with his prattle in-situ.....

  12. Are you an expat in the making? I like Victoria's comment above--gardens are hard work, physically and mentally--and your comment about it engaging your brain (and I suspect on many good levels, as it does for me). This whole conversation smells of elitism, but I suppose it has to. Right? I'm more upset by the absence of any tree or shrub or even pot most of my neighbors lack. I drive by houses everyday and keep myself from getting out, ringing the doorbell, and offering my services (or advice, or snooty haute culture). Gardens are hobbies, just as writing a book or playing in a band or painting a landscape are. Having children is a hobby. Teaching is a hobby. These things may be on the far end of the specturm very near "work" or something more "meaningful," but I suppose I define a hobby as something which is not full time, something you enjoy beyond measure, something that fulfills you on multiple levels at once (spiritual, philosophical, physical), and something you couldn't see yourself doing without.

    Of course, if anyone told me my writing was a hobby I might get my underwear in a bunch, but then again I'm not a consistent, everyday writer, so I couldn't really disagree, either. Writing is one aspect of who I am, one moment among many--like gardening (though I take all aspects very / too seriously). How's that for you?

  13. Benjamin -
    Maybe I am an expat in the making (just kidding). So if you like the work "hobby," use it. This seems to be a semantic disagreement, if I understand you.

    On hobbies, you sent me to Frost:

    My object in living is to unite
    My avocation and my vocation
    As my two eyes make one in sight.
    Only where love and need are one,
    And the work is play for mortal stakes,
    Is the deed ever really done
    For Heaven and the future's sakes.

    I disagree that the argument "smells of elitism." The point isn't that there should be no gardeners who enjoy gardening as a hobby, but that there are many of us who want more than that, and our culture, every which way you turn, denies that. You're a poet (among other things, I know.) Would you say more than an infinitesimal percentage of the population could understand your poems, even if they had a wish too (which is doubtful)? True, a few poets speak in a popular voice, but a very few, so isn't most poetry elitist too, in that sense? That isn't bad. Perhaps I misunderstand your point.

  14. Dear Wiggers -
    I know you don't have much appreciation for Mr. Richardson. I myself thought he almost went off the deep end with Avant Gardeners, except for a few gardens such as yours. But generally, I've found his books to be creative, learned, well researched, well written, even with a great sense of humor when writing about what could be rather dull stuff. Fortunately for him, he's found a way to live within the gardening "establishment." I do agree with you that that "establishment" both in the UK and here in the USA (and probably Australia) can be highly elitist, maddeningly bureaucratic, and certainly unfair.

  15. James, how unfair of you to use Frost! I can't argue against Frost! :) Does our culture deny gardening as more than a hobby (a term which I think will always exist in this context, semantics indeed), or does our culture deny so many things in having a more connected, deeper, resonate balance with ourselves, each other, and the places we exist with / in? (I was just reading today about Plains agriculture, and how hard we work, how much money we spend, to force nature to keep from healing itself, which is all it wants to do. By extension, we work hard to keep ourselves from healing ourselves.)

    As for poetry, let me put it this way--which is how I put it to my students: if you read a poem and don't get it, if its syntax is so ivory tower you can't get anything on any level from it, the poem is junk, ignore it, move on quickly. I am very anti language school--you know, the overly-academic poets who frame meaning exclusively from sound and how letters and words appear on the page. That's not poetry's intent in any definition. Art / poetry is communication, sharing, it is tea and empathy to a large degree. Poetry comes from the oral tradition, not the "stick up the butt" tradition (can I say that?). Poetry should not be elitist--the best poetry is not elitist, lasting poetry is not elitist (and good god I hope my poetry isn't elitist and is easy enough on the brain for the .00001% who care to read it). I'd like to think the same for other arts, hobbies, profressions, avocations, and vocations--such as gardening.

  16. Once again you have opened a delightful can of worms. I can not speak for other people, but for me gardening is way beyond a hobby, it is something I grew up with, something I enjoy and an integral part of life (and the source of my income, but that is down the list). Like good food and wine, music and art, it should be part of everyone's life. Along with Ben I am amazed at the number of people who do little in their "yards" beyond mowing the lawn, and I would fully expect to see nothing on their walls and shelves devoid of books if I should ever want to see inside their homes. At the least some people are compelled to garden out of a sense of community pride or percieved pressure that they need to hold up their end of the contract by keeping things look nice and tidy. Now if could just push people beyond that point.

  17. I wrote a post along the same lines the other week Whilst I was lamenting the banality of some of the Uk media I became intensely aware from comments from your countrymen that by comparison to the US we have it good. I think that there are more and more of us demanding better and insisting that gardening is more than a hobby. I pointed out your post to Anne and I see she has commented. I have been aware of Anne and her views for about a year now and I have noticed in that time that she is being taken more and more seriously. Heres hoping that the thinkin gardens website may be a precusor to a change in attitude by both our medias

  18. AH James don't get me wrong..Timmo is an invaluable being in the 'garden' world..he has raised quite a few bars and I have no truck with that! It will be interesting to have him call next year..thus far i have only dealt with him on his own patch (so to speak) and that patch was gardenless.... As Neil Young once wrote "All you critics stand alone, you're no different from what you've shown"

  19. AND finally..All life is a hobby (or is it folly)


  20. Time out! I didn't realize I'd stirred such a pot of brew. So I've been looking into the origin of the word "hobby," and it is indeed a very convoluted and strange origin. See this link for the full explanation:

  21. Benjamin -
    I think we're on the same side of the fence. You're taking a very big picture view (the environment, physical and everything else, the whole world, I think), and I agree we're not repairing the world (as the Jews say, tikkun olam), except in little individual ways. Speaking of agriculture, we're raping, actually destroying, the land, literally sending it into the Gulf of Mexico, and doing a lot of damage in between. What I'm bemoaning is much more limited, but also part of the larger picture too. I'd like people to share my interests with, more really good gardening magazines of interest to me, better television shows full of ideas, other people to talk to about these interests, not simplistic, stupid diversions. What I want is selfish in a way, but also not selfish. The Frost words aren't meant as a rebuke. I've carried those lines in my head for many years because I've never loved my work, only loved my avocation, and always wished I could join the two.

  22. Les -
    It's interesting you say gardening is far more important to you as a source of some kind of meaning or sustenance, than the fact that it's also the source of your income. That's how I feel (though my income comes from working in an office, not a nursery or a garden). For me, it's a source of immense enrichment in my life. Hope you can persuade some of those customers to do more than make their yards neat and tidy. Perhaps to even think of them as gardens.

  23. patientgardener -
    I share your hopes for thinkinGardens, but I fear it has little effect over here. Maybe that will change since Anne is working hard to extend its international reach. Anne disagrees with me that you have it better in the UK, but I have can't yet say that is so. I hope to be able to come over for a couple of months, garden visiting, of course, just to get my fill of the broad sweep of garden history on the European side.

  24. Martin the Anonymous -
    Sorry to have misrepresented your stance re: "Timmo." I agree he's raised several bars. All life's a hobby? Well, if you define it so, it's so.

  25. James, gardening is an art form to me, as it is for any number of others. Anyone who does what they do from inner instinct and craftsmanship, and who is delving deeper as they express themselves would be horrified or saddened to hear their life's work described as a hobby. Much of the rest of life is a hobby if you ask me!

  26. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog -it is good to connect

  27. St. Andrews Bower -
    Faisal, I agree with you. At least that's what I set as my goal. My pay check is my hobby, it's not my heart.

  28. I just have to chime in here and say how much I absolutely disagree with Benjamin Vogt's theory about how poetry and art should be instantly accessible to any and every everyman. It's exactly this sort of attitude that keeps culture from moving forward, that encourages the idiots who think gardening is and should only be merely a hobby. How lame. Artists have a responsibility to challenge preconceptions and knee-jerk ignorance - and the most valuable art experiences that I've had have almost always involved being forced to grow to understand it. Just because his midwestern American highschool students or undergrads or whatever don't understand Ezra Pound or ee cummings or whoever without having to learn some things to do so doesn't make their (brilliant) life's work 'junk' and their 'educator' should NOT be encouraging that opinion.

  29. Peter, good to hear from you.

    Ezra Pound, Canto LXXXI

    (verbal music, and with study, meaning)

    'What thou lovest well remains,
    the rest is dross
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
    What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
    Whose world, or mine or theirs
    or is it of none?
    First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
    What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
    The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world.
    Pull down thy vanity, it is not man
    Made courage, or made order, or made grace,
    Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.
    Learn of the green world what can be thy place
    In scaled invention or true artistry,
    Pull down thy vanity,
    Paquin pull down!
    The green casque has outdone your elegance.
    “Master thyself, then others shall thee bear”
    Pull down thy vanity
    Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail,
    A swollen magpie in a fitful sun,
    Half black half white
    Nor knowst’ou wing from tail
    Pull down thy vanity
    How mean thy hates
    Fostered in falsity,
    Pull down thy vanity,
    Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity,
    Pull down thy vanity,
    I say pull down.

    But to have done instead of not doing
    This is not vanity
    To have, with decency, knocked
    That a Blunt should open
    To have gathered from the air a live tradition
    or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame
    this is not vanity.
    Here error is all in the not done,
    all in the diffidence that faltered . . .'

  30. Surely the delicious thing about gardens and gardening is that they/it can be what we choose to make it.Like all the best things in life!
    Gardening has been a hobby/passion/intellectual pursuit for many hundreds of years. It has been pursued on all those levels because we are all various people, thank god!
    I don't think anything has changed and hopefully it won't. When it comes to personal taste and space I abhor the stalinist creed that things should be like this or that.
    Lost all my feeds in death of old hard drive, but you are now in the new one!

  31. Robert -
    I can't disagree. But it's a matter of degree. In our (USA) culture, gardening--as are many other subjects to be sure--is inevitably relegated to an unimportant category called "hobby," or perhaps what Les refers to as "neat and tidy yard maintenance" (except when paired with sustainability in some form, which seems to give it a certain aura of significance). I see this as part of a much broader "flattening" of our culture, and elimination of diversity and depth of understanding, as our media focus on the lowest common denominator to the exclusion of everything else. Good to hear from you.

  32. It's odd that asking for gardens to be taken seriously always raises this one about it taking something away from someone else.

    I've never understood how that could happen, but on that logic all those other sorts of gardeners must be taking seriousness away from us. Bring it back!!

  33. Anne -
    As I read over these comments, I find I'm pleased that some people got upset, even angry. So different from the mutual compliments we usually get in the blogosphere.

  34. Must. Comment. Must.

    Well, as usual I don't have this very well thought out but I'm certainly bothered. Maybe earth-centered and essentially democratic activities like gardening still suffer--certainly in the US--from being feminized and trivialized. Essentially competitive, human-centered and stratified activities like NASCAR and sports (even amateur sports) by contrast seem to rise to a higher status. Art-making seems to suffer along with garden-making unless the artist plugs into the social mechanisms that elevate the work's status. Possibly you could point to a somewhat parallel case for an elevation of gardeners, but I'm having a hard time thinking of a case. (The Martha Stewarts of the world don't count; I'd argue that they made their mark as meta-gardeners, people trafficking in aspirations about gardens and lifestyles, not as gardeners.) Gender does get touched on in the gardening literature but I wonder if anyone's done a more thorough feminist/class-conscious analysis of the topic. Maybe there we'll find insights into why we're all seen as rocking away on our hobbyhorses in our gardens.

  35. James -
    Thank you. Your entirely new take on this issue is the first I've seen on the related feminization and trivialization of gardening. I'm not used to thinking of gardening within the context of NASCAR or professional football because they hardly exist in my world. You obviously have identified a very important idea or group of related ideas worthy of further study. At the moment, I can only think of one example. Gardening in the form of locally gworn food (perhaps organic, certainly sustainably grown) shares some of the limelight with celebrity chefs among foodies, who mostly come from a higher social status in our culture. But this is a very complex issue. Our culture gives certain activities status, others not. Look at this You Tube interview on the High Line in NYC:

    Note that the interview is with the architect (architects hold high social status). The landscape design architect (a highly respected one, James Corner Field Operations) is at least mentioned. But there is not a single word about the plantings that really make the High Line, and not a single mention of Piet Oudolf, who designed the plantings. No mention of the actually experience of the plantings. How strange. The wild plants that self-seeded and grew on the original railroad trestle were the whole reason for saving the structure from demolition, and for spending some $80+ million to create the new park. I find this omission astounding, and it's a common one.

    You've identified a great subject for someone's PhD dissertation, or even a book, though I doubt it would sell many copies.

  36. I'm not sure I'm in a position to comment. I don't have a proper yard/garden. Just a perimeter of cement with potted and aerial plants. That said, I think I am just as passionate about my collection of plants as the rest of you are about your gardens.

    I don't need to learn to relax because the rote in gardening such as weeding and watering relaxes me. It is not "only" a garden. My plants mean almost as much to me as family. No it is not brain surgery but that doesn't mean caring for plants is a no-brainer. Yes, it's supposed to be enjoyable but I derive enjoyment not because it is easy or simple but because of the self-fulfillment and pleasure I feel with every minute evidence of growth, of lushness, of blooming.

    I've heard from gardeners in both the US and UK complaining about how media depicts gardening and horticulture. You might even have it good, you know? Apart from the occasional agriculture show, I don't even have sufficient media coverage of anything "flora" to complain about. Good luck with changing the "establishments". I wish you only the best.

  37. Bom - What a refreshing comment. You remind me that this all began, for me, with a love of plants. Before I had a garden, I was an avid orchid grower, but a careful selector of orchids because they had to like living in a Brownstone in Brooklyn. Now that I have a garden, I don't have the indoor conditions to grow orchids. But you also remind I love certain specialized plants--such as Lithops. I think I'll renew my acquaintance with Lithops. Thanks.

  38. A mini greenhouse perhaps? Good luck with your Lithops and hopefully someday your orchids as well. Now that I have discovered your blog, I will look forward to your updates.

  39. And I'll look forward to learning about your plant travels in a part of the world that's new and strange to me.

  40. I take offense to Peter Holt. You hear me Peter? Apologies to James, but sheesh, this whole post is a hornets nest, so might as well add some more hornets. Peter, I'm not asking anyone to ignore or trivialize avant garde art, or "difficult" art. I'm talking about attempting to make the whole damn thing somewhat accessible, to help people gain ENTRY into "Art." Look, I've taught writing for 10 years, and I can tell you not one of my average students has even read ee cummings. And let's not mention their perceptions of ANY art being alienating and for "smart" people. Holy shit. That's what people think of art, and that's what people think of Gardening with a big G. Poetry is less and less read, I wonder what's happening to other art forms and what will happen, especially to non digital art forms? Rhetorical question. "If you don't get it, toss it aside and move on" is more an appeal to urgency on my part to get a student to something they can lash on to.

    I'm not saying dumb down art, I'm saying help students and people find an IN to the art, no matter what, for heaven's sake. I think that's why we see so many school gardens cropping up--trying to make it accessible, which means we must realize on some level that it isn't accessible for some reason (as is nature, in general). Perhaps that reason is cost, or the overly academic nature art (and now nature) tends to take, or the universities it tends to shelter itself within and then complain no one is paying any attention. I should quit. But I could go on and on and on like aphids on milkweed. James, I hope I tied this idea of art into gardens a little, I tried; of course, it's not a hard thing to do.

  41. Our problem is that we're all just a little late to the party.

    The cultivation of plants was one of humanity's earliest and most profound innovations, and the individual practice of gardening remained critical to human survival up until the birth of Big Agriculture after World War I.

    Look at the heroes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries--Edison was a hero then the way Steve Jobs or Mark Zukerberg is today. But we forget that Luther Burbank (look him up) was considered to be as much of a wizard and an innovator as Edison or Jobs.

    We've merely hit a patch of history when the plant has taken a back seat to every thing else.

    No need to worry--it will come back eventually. As civilizations fall, those who garden will regain their honored place. We gardeners are trivialized now, but we're keeping a craft alive for the far future.

    Humanity will always need to eat.

  42. Thanks Benjamin, for clarifying your meaning, and HB for a new take on this.

    I think my intent is just to get room for people who share a serious interest in gardening (and serious interest can include humor, among many other things) to share a space in our culture, and in our media.

    As with any such discussion, people are taking the initial question in many different directions. The variety of human thought and ingenuity is truly amazing.

    James over at [lost in the landscape] promises to carry this further with a new blog post. I'll be looking for it. Here is his most recent:

  43. Yes, thanks for clarifying, Benjamin Vogt. This more recent explanation is much more reassuring. It seems to me, though, that shit-talking difficult art in front of your students may not help your cause in the end.

    Maybe an IN might be to try to see and take advantage of what THEY value as being word art instead of forcing alien cultures onto them (and failing)? Poetry is alive and well and some people call it HIP HOP. But probably that's just a naive, cheesy idea thrown in from the distant ivory-towered sidelines that really has nothing to do with what goes on in the front lines.

    Speaking of which: thank you Benjamin Vogt for doing what you do on those front lines despite the minor shit-talking. It really is an unenviable, admirable cause and I should be much more sensitive to the challenges than I was when your earlier post spurred to me boorish, humourless ranting.

    Oh and hello, Good James - thanks for letting us argue like dumb hornets here in your holy garden comment zone. It's a wonderful place.

  44. Reading all this and the other James (lost in the landscape)I wonder how informed your feelings and thoughts on this in the US are informed by the fact that it's a more private activity there than in the UK?

    I'm thinking of opening and visiting gardens.In the UK we tend to ignore the differences between making a garden for an audience and making a strictly private garden, but the differences are important.

    If you do 'lag behind' in the way gardens are seen and portrayed in the US,is this part of the reason?

  45. Anne -
    Because we have so few public gardens relative to the UK (x public gardens per million population), I tend to lump them all together, to not make a distinction between public and private. But I see your point; a private garden is more likely to fall into the hobby category than a public garden. But in the US we have nothing to compare to the British tradition of visiting great houses and their gardens; it's all on a much smaller scale over here(Garden Conservancy Open Days, for example, are the closest we come to that tradition) and the resulting context/outlook/way of thinking about gardens is entirely different, I think. I'm looking for a word similar to weltanschauung, but more limited. Our "garden-world-view" exists within a much larger and much more varied social context. In other words, you have many more gardeners compared to total population than we do, so we're greatly outnumbered and more easily marginalized.

  46. Hobby, HOBBY, how can this be? certainly feels like the worth has been diminished.

    Truth is Ziegler's probably correct to refer to it as such. A simple one liner to get people to have a go. A lot of people must get scared or feel foolish because they're led to believe they should garden this way or that.

    There's a veritable rats maze of 'right' way information out there, enough to make you sigh and want to leave it. But surely it IS a hobby, a hobby that often leads to a better understanding of our environment and heightened appreciation levels, much the same way as music can, or judging from reading here, poetry definitely does.

    We'd all have to be deficient of sensory apparatus not to have been moved at times whilst out in the 'yard'. I want to say it's more than a hobby, but then what is it? It ain't my principle occupation but it's certainly where I spend the majority of the rest of my time, quality time, time frequently in too short supply, the precious stuff.

  47. Rob -
    It may not be true in your case, but I think many in our society live very alienated work lives (there are many exceptions, I'm sure). The modern corporation, at least in my experience, can be a very alienating, soul-killing thing to live and work in every day. So my avocation of gardening (as I've mentioned to Benjamin above) is far more meaningful to me than my work for money. Perhaps that feeling of alienation is what makes me react so powerfully to hearing such an important thing in my life called a hobby. Yes, to my ears, it has a dismissive sound. But apparently many others don't have this problem with the word (or don't share my neuroses).

  48. Gardening is not just a hobby.
    It also can be a business.
    Just ignore bad things. =)

  49. For an enlightening look at the garden-culture differences between the US and UK just do a garden book search on any garden topic, but particularly something in mid level horticulture, first on, then on

    And then there is proximity: dozens of gardens contained in just a few hours driving distance in the UK, compared to needing to travel over many states in the US, even 15-20 hours, in order to reach the same number of gardens, which are also far inferior. There is a synergy in the UK that we just cannot recreate here in the US for many reasons... though maybe we will have a chance many years from now?

    1. I think you're right about distance in the US. It's simply much harder to see many gardens in here. The gardening culture is diluted, but it's also different in other ways that have to do with our culture.



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