The changing face of garden ‘clubs’
I have found myself pondering a lot recently on how I appear to be inhabiting two very different garden club worlds, which to me seem as though they will never come together.
The first garden club is a local club which is part of a national society. I joined the society about 4 or 5 years ago at a point in time where I was trying to connect with a gardening community instead of gardening in isolation. I quickly joined the local group in the hope that I would make real connections. However, a lot of preconceptions caused me to hesitate in deciding to join the local group. The main one being age. I know in this age of political correctness we aren’t meant to prejudge people based on age, race, sexuality etc etc etc and I do like to think that I am a very open-minded person but if I am honest I was pretty certain that the average age would be much older than mine (mid 40s) and that this would have some impact on how the club worked. I wasn’t wrong, I suspect the average age of the group is 65 and after 4 years as a member, the last 3 on the committee I do think that this has an influence on how the club works and where it is (or isn’t going).
I have become increasingly discouraged, particularly at a national level, at the intransigent nature of many of the members and the complete resistence to change. Now I’m not one of those people who believes that things should be changed for the sake of it but I do get frustrated when people say they want change but when opportunities to bring about that change are presented to them, they have 100 excuses not to take up the ideas. My society has very vocally declared that it wants to attract younger members, after all these, they say, are the members of the future. However, there is a reluctance to embrace modern technology, beyond a dated web-site and the regular magazine is more like a parish magazine. There have been attempts to bring about change but they are met with brick-walls. Locally, whilst members of the committee strive to bring the group into the 21st century, it is one of the few groups that has its own web-site, few of the members engage with the website and a recent questionnaire showed that they were happy to continue with visits to gardens within a small radius and have talks some of which are little more than slide shows set to music.
In the last two and half years I have wandered into a different garden club – a virtual one. It started with me writing a gardening blog, more as a way of keeping a record of what was happening in my garden. Then I encountered Blotanical where there are literally 1000s of garden blogs from all around the world. Here, over the last two years I have encountered many enthusiastic gardeners, some I would count now as real friends, others I don’t read so often but pop in from time to time. I am constantly exploring new blogs as my interests in gardening and horticulture develop. As I have recorded on this blog I have met quite a few of my blogging friends, to start with on a one to one basis and then more recently en mass at the Meet@Malvern extraveganza. It is to these friends I turn for advice and encouragement especially as many of them are on Twitter. This virtual ‘garden club’ satisfies my inquisitiveness to know more about horticulture than the real garden club.
I have chatted about this with a few people, some of them garden bloggers, and I suspect that as I only really got into horticulture about 10 years ago and am passionate about plants that my hunger for knowledge is very different to what the majority of my real garden club members are looking for. They are looking for an afternoon out, where they meet up with friends and have a chat about something they enjoy. This is great and don’t get me wrong I am not deriding it in any way. However, I suspect that many people my age and younger who have embraced horticulture, and there are lots of 30-something newbie veg growers out there, are looking for more than the traditional garden club can offer, they want information. We are after all the information generation and we know how to access it and we want the information now!
This leaves me wondering what will happen to the traditional garden clubs. I don’t know – I suspect they will continue on much as they are now, after all some of them have been going for a very long time and they do fill a need for a lot of people. Personally, I have got so frustrated with the society I belong to at a national level that I won’t be renewing my membership this year instead I am hoping to do a RHS certificate which will give me the information and knowledge that I am so thirsty for and I will continue to belong to the virtual garden club with a worldwide membership including some very knowledgeable, clever and most importantly humourous people, who are only to happy to share and pass on what they know.