Thursday, 15 September 2016

Twenty-First-Century Gardeners

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the internet set me thinking about the ways in which technology has impacted gardeners' lives. Once upon a time I gardened in isolation and on occasions I was fortunate to share my enthusiasm for plants with 3 elderly gardeners. I will be forever grateful for their company, encouragement, advice, seeds and cuttings. Twenty-first-century gardening needs not be a solitary experience. I might garden alone, but within seconds I can share my latest horticultural triumph or crop failure with thousands of fellow gardeners and receive advice, support, sympathy, and on those rare occasions when the going is good, a virtual pat on the back.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
If your nearest and dearest are not nuts about gardening, meeting fellow gardeners and spending a few hours indulging in plant talk is a great luxury. In the UK, members of All Horts, an online group, arrange garden visits and invite fellow members to join them. It was during one such visit to Philippa Burrough’s wonderful garden at Ulting Wick in Essex, that I met Persicaria orientalis. I also met gardening enthusiast and fellow Twitterer, @ToBoldlyGrow, who admired the Persicaria in Philippa's garden and decided to start some from seed. Earlier this year, along with other wonderful plants which he had grown, he gave me some Persicaria orientalis.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
Persicaria orientalis is an annual with the splendid common name of kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate. I planted it opposite my garden gate, not because I was optimistic of a kiss, but because I wanted to see it every time I went out or arrived home. In any case, I would need a ladder for kissing because the gate is taller than me, and kissing atop a ladder is a folly even in the first throes of love. Persicaria orientalis' rate of growth is impressive. It has managed to reach at least 1.5 metres (around 5’) since I settled it into its new home in June. It likes full sun and well-drained, dry soil, which is as well, because the soil has most definitely been dry this summer. It will flower until the first frosts and I am hoping that it will do the decent thing and seed itself about.
Persicaria orientalis at Le Grys Farm
In return for Persicaria orientalis, I gave @ToBoldlyGrow some Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine' plants. I might not have grown Tithonia if it wasn’t for Jason, who blogs at Gardeninacity. Jason lives thousands of miles away from me. We have never met, but his enthusiasm for Tithonia is contagious, so I sowed some seeds. These wonderful bee magnets are now growing in my garden, in @ToBoldlyGrow's garden, and in his sister's garden too, both of which are over a hundred miles away from mine. Without the internet, none of this would have happened.
Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine' at Le Grys Farm
We might be aiming for a paperless society, but most companies continue to produce mouth-watering glossy photo-packed catalogues to be savoured and drooled over during those long dark days, when the sun barely shines and we are up to our crowns in thermals. Researching plants, whether on those pages or not, takes little effort these days. It certainly makes the quest for rarer varieties less arduous than it was in the last century. 
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
The search for a plant will often lead us to untried nurseries and should all go well (and in the history of my extensive shopping experience, it always has), a lifelong relationship with these nurseries will soon be formed. In the UK, we are blessed with the Independent Plant Nurseries Guide, an online resource which came about in response to a thoughtless, throwaway comment by a well-known gardening presenter earlier this year. Three passionate plants-people took action to repair any damage caused by his comment, and now we are blessed with an ever-increasing list of nurseries. How I would love to visit them all!
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
I recently had the pleasure of meeting some fellow garden bloggers. We are all members of the Twitter- and Facebook-based group, Garden Bloggers. We receive support from one another, discuss blogging issues and, as it turns out from our meeting, share seeds and books. I was delighted to receive Glass Gem Corn seed from James, who blogs at Reflections On The Dew Pond. Having never grown Glass Gem Corn, I am really looking forward to trying it next year.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
The first social media site was launched in 1997; blogging also dates back to the '90s. My children were born in the twenty-first century. They are teenagers who have never known a world without the internet, social media, or blogging. Like many families, we have rules about mobile phone manners, but at some time every day, I will see them with their heads bowed over their phones as they plan their social lives and share experiences with their friends far away, and I wonder how they could have ever managed without the internet. Then I look at myself and wonder how on earth I survived without it for so long.


I am linking this post to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day to share the joys of Persicaria orientalis and Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine', which are both blooming their socks off in my garden at the moment. Why not pop over to http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/ to see what is blooming elsewhere around the globe?

More information about the garden at Ulting Wick may be found at  http://www.ultingwickgarden.co.uk/
The Independent Plant Nurseries Guide: http://independentplantnurseriesguide.uk/
Jason blogs at https://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/ and James may be found at 
https://reflectionsonthedewpond.wordpress.com/

36 comments:

  1. The internet has revolutionised almost everything, even making gardening a very social endeavour when it is traditionally isolative.

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    1. It has... and I suspect that it has made us better gardeners, partly because we share our gardens more broadly, and also because there is so much information available to help us.

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  2. A very thoughtful, contemplative posting, Sarah. I didn't realize the internet is only 25 years old. Yet, when I think back to high school and college (a million years ago) and the hours spent in libraries researching for assignments, I recognize how far we have come. My grandchildren have no idea! I feel a little nostalgia for those days, but appreciate the convenience and community, especially in my garden endeavors. Happy GBBD! P. x

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    1. I know what you mean about nostalgia... There are some things I miss, for example, when someone is on TV and somebody asks a question about what else they've been in or how old they are, we would once have spent ages arguing about the answer, but these days, we know the answer within seconds. Where's the fun in that?!! On the other hand, we don't miss whatever it was we were watching in the first place because we're so busy arguing about the answer.

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  3. I remember the internet just taking off when I worked for a medical IT company, even the Dept of Health was still working on its website and I still had to write letters!
    Lovely blog post and agree we can do so much more, I've recently looked up moth caterpillars on the internet (just to double check my book pics and ID) and use websites such as Crocus to check on plants that are good in acid soil and which ones to avoid.
    Just realised my blog template is now the same as yours!

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    1. I regularly use the internet to check the spacing of plants. It's so quick. Once upon a time, I kept a list of plant dimensions. Nowadays, if my brain can't remember, the internet will.
      I didn't realise that the templates were the same! Great minds....!

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  4. I entered the internet in 1989 and could barely remember that difficult beginning - www. Great post!

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    1. I have just remembered that when people were on the internet at home, their phones would be engaged. I just explained this to my kids - they thought it was hilarious!

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  5. I started my garden blog in late December 2012 mainly to create a diary of my efforts renovating the garden I inherited (with house purchase). I was delighted to connect with other garden enthusiasts far and wide, especially as my local friends are generally non-gardeners. My garden world became a much larger place, almost instantly, for which I'm very grateful. The suggestions, critiques and support I've received is invaluable.

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    1. Your comment sums up exactly how I feel about the way in which the internet has enhanced my gardening life, Kris.

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  6. I was at my favourite garden centre earlier today, and spotted a plant on my wishlist. I was able to check out whether I could get it at a better price elsewhere by going online using my phone - later I looked up a very attractive shrub they were selling at half price, just to make sure it was suitable for the spot I had in mind for it. And as I left I posted a pic of my spoils to fb. I'm not sure what I would do without the internet nowadays, and it certainly makes finding out about plants, getting advice and sharing triumphs and disasters with fellow plant nuts a doddle. I love it!!!

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    1. That's brilliant! Also, I guess that the money you saved by checking everything there and then could be spent on one of the myriad must-have plants dangled daily in front of our noses via the internet!

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  7. I often wonder how I managed without the internet too, and it has certainly provided various channels for finding and exchanging info on gardening and making new gardening friends. Jason's enthusiasm got me growing Tithonia too, and I recently saw that gorgeous Persicaria on Chloris's blog, and the seeds are on my wishlist for next year! Great post Sarah!

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    1. Thank you. Jason is responsible for a global increase in Tithonia!
      It is a mighty Persicaria - and although it's tall, it's airy, which makes it very useful in the garden. I'll let you know if I manage to collect seed.

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  8. I've been exploring Central Asian mediterranean climate plants ... down the rabbit hole ... tulips and crown fritillaries! A journey begun on Thinking Gardens book review.

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    1. The internet has the power not only to inspire us, but to set us off on long journeys without having to leave the comfort of our own homes. I love the ThinkinGardens site.

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  9. Wonderful garden! I see that we have tithonia in common. Don't you love it?

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    1. It is a fabulous plant. So popular with bees too!

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  10. It seems like the internet has been around so much longer and I too wonder how we ever got by without it. I started blogging in 2010 and have met a wealth of garden bloggers through posts, which has indeed changed my life by deepening my love of the outdoors and enabling me to communicate with others who share the same passion. This was an interesting and very informative post Sarah. It really gets one thinking!

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  11. The internet has been wonderful place to share information and enthusiasms with like-minded people, for example, I didn't know about Ulting Wick garden! It looks lovely and now I'll have to make a visit there.

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  12. With the growth of the internet, we've gained faster broadband speeds (remember dial up?) and nicer computers. More computer use has promoted better technology and software. Result? I'd get a lot more done if I stepped away from the internet and didn't have a computer! I'd hate not to have the internet (and the connection to a broader world of gardening, bloggers, nurseries, knowledge, etc) but I often think what a dual edged sword it is.

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    1. There are undoubtedly downsides to the internet, but I do think that the positive impact of it outweighs the issues. That said, it takes a superhuman effort to keep time online under control. I try not to focus too much on the amount of things I would get done were I to restrict my internet use!

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  13. I love the internet for all kinds of reasons. Yes, sometimes it can be too distracting, but mostly it allows me to meet all kinds of people all over the world. From a gardening perspective it means I have gardening friends I can talk to, so my (landline?!) friends don't have to put up with my obsessive plant mutterings.

    Since becoming chronically ill with ME, the internet, Twitter and the Garden Bloggers group on Facebook, has become a lifeline. There are days when the only people I talk to are via these social media and it's makes a massive difference to me not feeling so isolated. And of course, I love the sharing of knowledge and all the plant porn photos!

    I love Persicarias though I don't have room for orientalis, and have been meaning to grow Tithonia (which I discovered on Twitter) for ages. Maybe I'll get around to it next year. If nothing else, I'll see gorgeous photos of it on the internet :)

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  14. I started reading garden blogs about the same time I took up gardening in earnest. What a difference it has been to have a garden community to share ideas with and to inspire me! I also planted Tithonia this year, thanks to Jason. I've also gotten starts of plants from fellow bloggers and so many great ideas for additions to my garden.There are many negatives to the internet, but the resources for gardening are definitely a positive!

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  15. The first social media site launched in 1997? I think you have forgotten Newsgroups, they predate the WWW and are found on Usenet which was originally set up so universities etc could converse. Unlike modern social media they are specific to a subject or interest. For us uk.rec.gardening has been around for ever, you just have to know how to get to read and post on Newsgroups.

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  16. Thanks for the kudos, and for the introduction to some new (to me) wonderful gardens.

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  17. A new persicaria that I didn't know about, what fun! I sometimes think I should have a computer screen outside somewhere, the number of times I find myself going to check the height of this or the optimal planting conditions for that. I suppose I could use a phone but I know what would happen to it if I did. No signal anyway. Technology has made it so easy it's no wonder we've all become dependent on it and that's without the additional benefit of new friends from across the globe.

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  18. Fabulous persicaria! I've been blogging for 6 months now and I love all the sharing which goes with posting and reading others' posts. I feel part of a community with other garden bloggers in a way I haven't before. It's a lovely way to share ideas and grow as a gardener :-)

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  19. I remember when Internet was first described; it was the same year I got a computer at home, a little machine that had Windows 3.1 – and a mouse, which was a big thing! That was in 1991 and many computers since, I could simply not manage a life on my own without the Internet, it makes me independent and capable and feeling free.
    Being online has also enabled me to meet a lot of nice people from all over the world, some of them in actual person – and I have also been introduced to a lot of plants I would never have thought of growing had it not been for blogging and the internet. I consider my plant collection quite an interesting one, you should have seen how boring my garden was 20 years ago….:-)
    And I have now put your Persicara on my very, very long wish-list!!

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  20. The banana trees look unusual for me

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  21. A great post Sarah which I just found. For some reason I have not being seeng your posts. The Wordpress reader often randomly drops people. I agree modern life makes contact with other gardeners so much easier, although I still haven' t got to grips with Twitter. Is that where you find All Horts? Ulting Wick is a fabulous garden. I saw it at tulip time and was bowled over. I' m not sure where in Norfolk you are, but do you know West Acre Nursery? It is one of my favourites; beautiful plants and very reasonable.

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  22. You're very right, Sara saying that we can share our horticultural experience with many gardeners from different countries. Now I can't imagine how live without internet communities, garden bloggers. Love your photos of Ulting Wick Garden, it will be in my 'next visit' list. I am also glad to learn this name of kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate. It's funny, we call this plant 'mountaineer'

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  23. You are so right about how the internet has expanded my gardening world. I love meeting gardeners all over the world and sharing our gardening experiences, though I have never seen most of them in person. The internet has made me a better gardener, and my garden is more beautiful and more ecologically friendly because of it.

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  24. I also like Persicaria, must stop calling it Polygonum. It would be really good to move next door to another gardening fanatic.

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  25. Hello Sarah, the internet has revolutionised gardening, not only by connecting gardeners locally and from all over the globe with each other, but it's enabled the sharing of gardening knowledge and experience, empowered the novice (and advanced) gardener to learn ever-more about plants and allowed rare, new and unusual plants to be sourced from remote nurseries and garden centres that would otherwise have been unheard of. It's not only changed the gardener, but then very gardens themselves!

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  26. it is place where people see and share with each other their experiences and get advantage of togetherness
    gardening is spiritual aspect of one's personalty .who live through souls loves to stay with nature anyway

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