Today’s New York Times contains an article titled “Botanical Gardens Are Turning Away from Flowers”. The reporter claims that:
Among the long-term factors diminishing their traditional appeal are fewer women at home and less interest in flower-gardening among younger fickle, multitasking generations.
Women at home are the base? Considering that gardening is the number one hobby of doctors, I think this reporter is conjuring up a 1950’s image, when garden clubs were more social networks than serious horticultural societies, and meetings took place at 11:00 in the morning. Still, the idea that a younger generation is unable to put down the cell phone long enough to enjoy the beauties of nature suggests that we need to reconsider the many negative implications that technology can have when we allow it to become an addiction.
The article goes on to say: “Food festivals are becoming a large part of the year-round programming that gardens view as important to winning repeat visitors,” which makes me wonder why food needs to be an ever-present feature of our activities. Have you ever seen a dedicated gardener who is overweight? Probably not, because that person is burning up calories working outdoors. And then we wonder why we have a problem with obesity in this country.
Gardens may be museums, as the article claims, but, if so, they should be the Art Institute of Chicago, not the Museum of Science and Industry. A garden is a work of art, created by artists. It renews and refreshes the spirit in a way that only great art achieves. A garden is visual, and olfactory, and sensory; if water is added as a feature, it can even be musical.
Our public gardens serve as a source of inspiration for gardeners. Where else can you go to actually view plants that might do well in your own garden? Sometimes we notice that certain public garden plants are struggling, and that, too, is a valuable piece of information for the home artist. But a Chocolate Festival? Must we be constantly entertained? At what point does the relationship between public and private gardens become equivalent to the relationship between elevator music and a Mendelssohn symphony? Are flowers and shrubs and trees only to serve as backdrops for never-ending amusement? Not for me, at any rate, and I hope not for the readers of this blog.