Gardening? Decorating? What’s the difference?

At left: an example of what’s wrong with American gardening: Is this gardening or a home decorating makeover?

Seed heiress Anna Ball has opened a 7.5 acre flower garden in Chicago to show off Ball Horticultural’s new introductions. The company that has given us decades of dull bedding plants is stopping short to wonder about the future.

“Its products decorate the decks, balconies and garden beds of anyone who has picked up a petunia at Home Depot or at the neighborhood garden center, but getting the flower to the consumer may be one of the most convoluted journeys in commerce. And as Anna Ball grapples with ways of reaching consumers, she is also preoccupied by more fundamental issues: Is America turning from a nation of gardeners to one of mere yard decorators? And will young homeowners, pressed for time and distracted by modern media, come to value this quieter pursuit?”

Anna Ball worries about overwhelming the consumer in choices, but she also laments the shift away from the process of gardening to the idea that plants are merely another product. Little annuals were a pain to extract from those 36-cell flats, but you could nurture them and see them grow through the summer, and that was therapy for the gardener as well as the plant. “It’s moving from gardening to decorating, she said. “I suppose some people think it’s a good idea, but we don’t.”

All right, then. Gardening is not decorating. It’s not a backyard makeover. It’s what you do. It’s getting outside and putting your hands in the dirt. It’s about spiders and honeybees, worms and ants. Compost. Roots. Dew. Sunshine. Wind. Frost.

Some plants will grow, and you’ll call that your garden. But gardening is more than that. Anna Ball, I’m with you.

Journal Gazette 10/24/2005 A gardening giant worries market could wilt