Gardeners Gardeners

On the Value(s) of Gardeners

In the bustling whirlwind of consultations, crisis meetings, and design festivals that have marked my calendar over the last 10 days, a resounding theme has emerged – the undervaluation of the guardians of our urban green havens, the gardeners. From water crisis responses to landscape architecture degree closures and discussions on environmental preservation, the professionals steering the ship consistently underscored the critical role of green spaces in our cities.

Co-Create Design Festival

It is disheartening to observe that, despite the rhetoric surrounding sustainability, ecological services, and climate change in our media and political arenas, there remains a profound disconnect in society’s recognition of the individuals and professions dedicating themselves to nurturing and managing these vital components of our urban fabric. The discrepancy in acknowledgment and compensation echoes the lamentable plight of other essential service providers like nurses and police officers.

Georgina Reid’s piece on The Plant Hunter echoes a similar sentiment, shedding light on the global struggle faced by those in the gardening profession. This brings me to ponder – where is the true value of gardeners, and why does our society fail to grasp it?

Reflecting on my journey into the green industry, I recall a time when I shied away from being labeled a ‘gardener.’ The misguided belief that gardening was merely unskilled manual labor or a hobby rather than a vocation clouded my perception. I now recognize this as a symptom of a more profound crisis – a crisis of perception with far-reaching social and environmental implications.

As we grapple with a changing climate and a world in flux, the devaluation of horticulture and gardening education becomes increasingly evident. Australian universities, for instance, have witnessed a staggering decline in horticulture graduates over the years, reflecting a pervasive societal attitude that dismisses gardening as a low-paying, low-status endeavor.

Yet, in the face of this decline, the importance of gardening has never been more significant. Urban planners and councils now acknowledge the need for ‘green infrastructure,’ incorporating trees, gardens, green roofs, wetlands, and more into our future cities. The challenge lies in enticing a new generation to embrace horticulture as a career path.

Daniel Ewings, national Operations manager at Andreasens Green Wholesale Nurseries, highlights the industry’s struggle with recruitment, noting the preference of school leavers for trades like carpentry that offer higher pay. The irony is palpable – as the importance of horticulture grows, the workforce shrinks.

Enter the Global Gardening Trust, founded by a passionate group of professionals determined to redefine the narrative around gardening. Offering a three-month internship at the historic De Wiersse garden in the Netherlands, the trust emphasizes the role of gardeners as infrastructure caretakers, not mere maintainers.

Thomas Gooch, a trustee of the Global Gardening Trust, articulates the distinction between gardening and maintenance. Gardening involves investing time and materials into planting, managing plant and soil health, and understanding the rhythms of nature. It goes beyond the surface to create landscapes that are adaptable to climate changes.

The trust places immense value on the gardener’s role in sustaining beauty and life, rejecting the romantic narrative in favor of hard work, discipline, and a commitment to understanding nature’s patterns. By placing a tangible value on gardening, the trust aspires to shape a society that intelligently supports all life instead of inadvertently destroying it.

As I celebrate one year of exploring diverse perspectives and knowledge, this journey has reinforced the significance of reshaping narratives. Today, let’s celebrate the unsung heroes – the gardeners – and recognize the profound impact they have on our collective well-being and the resilience of our urban environments.

value of infrastructure

At the heart of the Global Gardening Trust lies a profound conviction – that in the face of a shifting climate, gardening must be acknowledged as a critical component of our infrastructure. This visionary trust, conceived by a dynamic group of young professionals deeply immersed in the gardening realm, presently extends an enticing opportunity: a three-month internship at the illustrious De Wiersse, a historic 38-acre garden nestled in the Netherlands. According to Thomas, a trustee of the trust, this program is designed to both support and glean insights from well-established gardens like De Wiersse, emphasizing practices such as succession planting, synchronized gardening with the natural rhythms of plants, and adherence to seasonality.

The evolving and transformative essence our cities desperately need, as they progressively move towards a greener future, requires a paradigm shift – from mere maintenance to genuine cultivation. Thomas underscores the distinction between gardening and maintenance, asserting that while the latter aims for the bare minimum to sustain greenery, gardening involves substantial investments of time and resources into planting, meticulous plant and soil management, gradual pruning, and providing plants the space to flourish. This distinction forms the cornerstone of the trust’s philosophy, positioning itself at the intersection where the art of gardening flourishes.

Investing in humans as gardeners, according to Thomas, promises a bounty of benefits, including enhanced plant diversity, heightened pollen stocks, and robust insect health. This, in turn, leads to landscapes that boast increased adaptability to the challenges posed by climate fluctuations, as gardeners comprehend and harmonize with the intricate rhythms and patterns of nature.

The Global Gardening Trust is resolute in assigning great value to the gardener’s role in not only creating and sustaining beauty but also nurturing and sustaining life. Thomas dispels any notion of the trust falling into a romantic narrative, clarifying that it’s about recognizing and appreciating the inherent rhythms of nature and elevating gardening to the status of a respected profession. This paradigm, he insists, demands unwavering commitment, discipline, and a dedication to executing the art of gardening with finesse. While romance remains an inspiration for many in the garden, it is, as Thomas emphasizes, just the beginning – a prelude to a broader understanding.

In Thomas’s words, putting a tangible value on gardening transcends the realm of aesthetics; it becomes a compass guiding society towards a future where plants and ecological systems are esteemed. This, he argues, is the hallmark of a clever society – one intricately integrated with nature, fostering a support system for all life rather than inadvertently contributing to its destruction.

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