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Emma Cooper

It's a good job that plants come ready-made with built-in obsolescence. This would suggest a move towards more annuals and bedding plants, and away from long-term planting. Mind you, as houses are not being built with gardens the size of postage stamps (if you're lucky), that's all anyone has room for anyway.


Good point, Emma. Do we sniff a new fashion for Victorian carpet bedding?

Anna B

Hi Helen, how are you doing?! I found your post really interesting. Funny how when the government wants more people to work in certain industries that they start the propaganda. They did this recently with engineering and targeted women. They'll do anything to try and help with the shortfall. Unfortunately as they promote one industry others then suffer, they've done it for years and I guess they've now decided to promote horticulture as there's less people signing up to work in it- they've all signed up for engineering ;) As a kid I loved gardening and garden centres too. It was curiosity about plants and being lost in my own little world that did it, I'm still the same today. I've not met many kids who don't enjoy playing in the garden or who don't enjoy seeing a crop being pulled from the ground. I think they do find it exciting already, it's just a shame that the industry is suffering and they have to use rather false ways of promoting it.


Hi, Anna. Lovely to hear from you. I hadn't thought of the government as being behind this. I think the answer is proper careers advice, and ensuring that horticulture isn't regarded as the last resort of the sixth-form drop-out. Perhaps that image is also a result of pushing careers like engineering. I agree, there are lots of bits of gardening which are exciting, especially harvesting, but trying to give most people the impression that you should want to do it for the excitement seems to me to be a bit of a stretch.

Anne Wareham

I was just thinking of you - I just put up 'Hampton Court Health Warnings' as the old gold piece on thinkingardens this minute. This shows the same sharp thinking.

It's infantalising, isn't it? And it isn't just gardening, it's everywhere. I saw 5 mins of Countryfile the other day after years of not watching it. And found they were talking to me as if I was a brain dead three year old needing waking up.

And I found a notice in the loos at Hidcote this week, saying 'Out of Order. My lock is broken but we're hoping to have it mended soon'.

What the f..k? What does it mean that we're behaving this way?


It is infantilising, Anne, and it is everywhere. A couple of years ago I complained to Barclays about the new signs in their playgrounds - oh, sorry, banks. These included a "Nearly there!" notice at the front of the queueing area, which just made me boil at the attitude that apparently sees all its customers as toddlers. Apparently they were trying to be "friendly". The more you treat people like children, the more they'll behave like them and, I suggest, the less responsibility they take, and the less likely they are to challenge what goes on around them.

John Walker

Oh Helen, how I agree with you on what seems to be the latest fun-filled marketing lets-milk-gardeners-for-a-bit-more-cash trend - the Wongification of gardening. What fun it's not.

But then the gardening industry is never going to sing the fun-filled praises of anyone describing gardening as it actually is (as you do), rather than what the latest Horticultural Trades Association press release would like us to believe it is (fun-filled and on-profit 24/7, I guess).

We're in a dangerous zone now, where to question or challenge the fun-filled, exciting and cucumelon-fuelled world of Wong (and his ilk) is so frowned upon that to do so risks becoming a socially dysfunctional enemy of growth.

Long live gardening in the real world. Now that would be fun...


Thank you, John. The emphasis on growth seems to be moving out of the garden. I'm sure in the long-term it would be more productive for the industry to make gardening sound less like other pursuits and more as it really is. No one wants to be excited all the time. Though, that possibly nowadays does make one socially disfunctional.


What a refreshing read this is. I often feel like a 'miserable old sod', even though I am neither old or miserable, for not buying into the type of nonsense that James Wong and other celebrities peddle. This endless emphasis on excitement and fun, not only in gardening but other spheres, underestimates our intelligence and gets in the way of real slow-burn enjoyment, interest, passion...

Even if I were after excitement, I doubt I would be in the market for Mr Wong's take on excitement if he truly believes that our supermarkets are "innovative [supermarkets], who are constantly striving to surprise and excite an increasingly discerning customer,..."

Mike Roberts

Whilst I doubt that 'exciting' is the right adjective to describe gardening i do applaud James Wong and others for trying to engage with young people. As a lecturer in horticulture I am all too aware of the difficulty in trying to attract young people into our industry. It strikes me that we fail to make a distinction between gardening and horticulture - the former is viewed as a 'hobby' or 'pastime' whose public face is either the cuddly Alan Titmarsh, or the frankly bizarre Christine Walkden, neither of which is likely to appeal to the average 16 year old. Horticulture is a career with a multitude of opportunities. It involves science, technology, innovation and can indeed be exciting. If we want to encourage the younger generation into the industry it is these qualities that we should be promoting and a good place to start would be school careers officers who like many confuse gardening and horticulture.

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