"We are Luddites" - Peter George's article in RGQ 70 #1

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Fermi
Fermi's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-03-03
"We are Luddites" - Peter George's article in RGQ 70 #1

Having just received the latest RGQ I was very interested to read the President's piece in the NARGS Bulletin Board.
Peter raises some interesting points and I'm reminded of something we were told when our (non-gardening) group was facing similar issues: the death of any group starts with seven words: "We've never done it that way before".
Although Peter asked for members to e-mail him their feedback I wondered if it would be appropriate to discuss it on the Forum.
In that case I just wanted to get the ball rolling.
cheers
fermi

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

I agree strongly with Peter George's analysis of the problems facing specialist plant societies like the NARGS, and have tried to initiate a debate about this on the AGS website with pretty limited success. I think debate is important because it brings more people together to think of new initiatives and focusses attention on what it is that is so important to us about the societies we belong to, which for me is stimulating new people to share in them. I disagree with Peter about the NARGS website which I find very stimulating and well put together and has enabled me to learn a lot about the plants and gardening that occurs in the States. The problem can be with new people coming in to such a site (forum), but whereas this is a valid criticism of the AGS site I don't think it is here - those who contribute have very varied experience and expertise and I for one have found that very inspiring.

The AGS and NARGS are very different; the former has a very strong ethos of exhibiting plants and a much lower profile on the value of our gardens. I have tried to argue that the latter are a strong resource and that more energy put into opening them around the country would begin to raise the profile of our more specialised form of gardening amongst gardeners in general. Even more effective would be combining efforts to fund and produce far better television programmes on plants in wild habitats like the mountains and deserts, showing the great drama of such places, which we all appreciate, with the often unexpected beauty and variety of the plant life. This is long term but I think has to come as a means of showing far more people in general of the wonders of the botanical world.

I am less convinced of the long term value of investing effort in the electronic communication that occurs between younger people - this is really somethng they create partly as a place for themselves away from the overriding strictures of an older generation. So any such adjunct to the NARGS really needs to come about by and for a younger group of members who are convinced of the value of the Society as it is now. More important is convincing people in general what a sensible activity gardening is (and especially linked to learning about plants in the wider world), and that actually getting your hands dirty has a lot more about it than spending too much time on the computer.

As Peter says once you start it is difficult to know where to stop! There is a nice article Lincoln Foster wrote in the AGS Bulletin Vol. 27, p.187 (1959), where he compares rock gardening in Britain and America, and it could easily be written now as then. At one point he comes up with the rather wonderfully worded sentence 'Serious horticulture is a form of sophisticated behaviour rather out of keeping with American enthusiasms.' But there must be scope to increase the sophistication of American gardeners!

Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

An interesting topic.  I have not received my NARGS Quarterly with Peter's article in it, so I will reserve offering much feedback until the Quarterly arrives.  I have however, read a version of the article in one of the Berkshire Chapter NARGS newsletters.  I'm not sure what the thoughts and arguments are relative to using social network media to connect with younger people to potentially spark of interest in plants. Although as one who has young adult daughters who obviously do favor such communication venues, and with first hand observations on Facebook, I do believe it is worthwile to invest some time in these areas.

Some of you reading this are also Facebook (FB for short) "friends" of mine, others might use FB but we haven't yet connected. I have a love-hate relationship with FB (I will spare you the details why), but after almost dumping FB entirely, I finally acquiesced to its existence, popularity, and favored usage by both young and older participants.  There is much to interest rock gardeners and plant lovers of all types, albeit usually with less depth of meaningful discussion, but still a worthwhile avenue of communication.

Facebook has lots of "Open Groups" that can be joined; here are some that I joined or "subscribe" to.  I'm noticing a number of young people participating in these Groups!

Delosperma and other cold hardy mesembs
166 Members, 463 Photos  (relative young group, some familiar faces here, such as Panayoti Kelaidis, the FB maven that he is :D )
http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/304702516852/

Kniphofia
37 Members, 79 Photos  (PK is a familiar face over in this group too)
http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/267448319972883/

California Native Plant Society
2,282 Members, 233 Photos
http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/38417209275/

Flores Silvestres de Chile • Wildflowers of Chile
2,873 Members, 1,515 Photos
http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/47405455016/

Facebook also has "Secret Groups" that can be joined if one gets invited to join, or create your own group and invite friends, or make it an Open Group if desired.  I'm thinking of starting one on Epimedium (an Open Group).  Also, when using FB, it is very easy when opportunities arise to augment a particular discussion or photo-comment-thread, to post a NARGS Forum link that'll bring a larger audience into NARGS fray.  

NARGS does have a FB "page", it is here:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/North-American-Rock-Garden-Society/232300658503
...but it is not very active.  It would be better that it be a FB "Group" where people could belong to the group, with an active ongoing presence to a mega audience.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

Quick correction to how I worded my above reply - where I said 'The problem can be with new people coming in to such a site (forum)', I meant 'for' new people... The big problem for the AGS, I think, is the strong expertise of the exhibiting community within the Society, which while it has always been such an essential feature of the Society is also intimidating and rather exclusive. The same is not true of the NARGS where expertise seems very freely shared. I think we have more to learn from gardeners in the States than vice versa.

Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.
 

Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03

I am really quite pleased that the discussion is now on the Forum. I have received about 25 email responses so far, and they have been both varied and interesting, as well as unusually helpful to me. I'll try to address all of the issues over the next few days, but today I'll start with the website.

The problems with the website are less it's current 'state' and capacity, as its lack of ability to accept change/upgrades. In simple terms, what we have is a site that simply cannot be upgraded without a 'redo,' and without the ability to upgrade the Joomla Content Management System, which is the 'bones' of our site, we are simply stuck. In addition, as the technology changes, we won't be able to add functionality without the probable destabilization of the site, leading eventually to a full fledged collapse.

So if we are to do the responsible thing with our internet presence, we must build a new site on a more robust (and upgradable!) CMS. I've asked for 10k in our 2012 budget for a new website, which if approved, will give us enough to do it right.

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.

Allison
Allison's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-04-08

Tim wrote:

....Even more effective would be combining efforts to fund and produce far better television programs on plants in wild habitats like the mountains and deserts, showing the great drama of such places, which we all appreciate, with the often unexpected beauty and variety of the plant life. This is long term but I think has to come as a means of showing far more people in general of the wonders of the botanical world.

....

What a great idea. Programs like that would be wonderful - existing gardeners would enjoy them, and they might interest not-yet-gardeners. Just making it sound as though 'they' (the great 'they') value gardens, gardening, plants, habitats etc. will raise gardening's profile and increase its appeal. I wonder if some could be done locally by small TV stations? But let's not have those 'garden-makeover-in-half-an-hour' programs! Heck, I might even buy a TV!

Gardening on a wooded rocky ridge in the Ottawa Valley, Canada. Cold winters (-30C) and hot, humid summers. Nuts about native plants, ferns, pottery, my family, and Border Collies.

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

One of the younger members of the AGS strongly favours using Facebook for more communication with younger gardeners. After reading Mark's comments above I can see that it could be especially valuable for more specific discussion on particular groups of plants, and that would actually be a good way of drawing people into the much wider aspects of gardening we share on the NARGS Forum. I would also favour more information on propagation, perhaps with short videos, as I have seen elsewhere on the web, since this lies so much at the heart of gardening and yet is rarely examined in some detail.

Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.
 

IMYoung
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-31

One of the difficulties with FaceBook is shown by an attempt to follow some of Peter's links.... one can only view them if one is a registered user of FaceBook.

The problems of a site that needs upgrading to be "future proof" to some extent is one that many will sympathise with.... and one that the SRGC is also addressing.

Ian  and/or Margaret Young ( -here it is usually Margaret)

Aberdeen , North East Scotland, UK
Zone 8a

www.srgc.net

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

IMYoung wrote:

One of the difficulties with FaceBook is shown by an attempt to follow some of Peter's links.... one can only view them if one is a registered user of FaceBook.

Maggi, I think you are referring to my FaceBook links  ;) 

Yes, it is true, you can only follow some FB links if you are a registered FB user.  Just checked the stats on FB membership, and they report over 800 million!  The point of the links, for those who have FB, is to illustrate the fact there is a growing community of plant-related topics out there, some of it certainly in the ballpark of expert rock gardening, and with some specialized topics, it could be embraced as a way to draw in young people who swear by FB... already seeing that happening.

Also, I keep finding truly amazing photo galleries on Picasa and Flickr, found one today from a woman in Korea that posted exquisite photos of many native Korean plants; exploring, linking, and engaging with these sites too, may draw in people from around the globe who have a love of nature, the mountains, and the wild plants they encounter.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

IMYoung
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-31

McDonough wrote:

IMYoung wrote:

One of the difficulties with FaceBook is shown by an attempt to follow some of Peter's links.... one can only view them if one is a registered user of FaceBook.

Maggi, I think you are referring to my FaceBook links  ;) 

Yes, it is true, you can only follow some FB links if you are a registered FB user.  Just checked the stats on FB membership, and they report over 800 million!  The point of the links, for those who have FB, is to illustrate the fact there is a growing community of plant-related topics out there, some of it certainly in the ballpark of expert rock gardening, and with some specialized topics, it could be embraced as a way to draw in young people who swear by FB... already seeing that happening.

Also, I keep finding truly amazing photo galleries on Picasa and Flickr, found one today from a woman in Korea that posted exquisite photos of many native Korean plants; exploring, linking, and engaging with these sites too, may draw in people from around the globe who have a love of nature, the mountains, and the wild plants they encounter.

Oops, yes, they were yours, not Peter's.  :-[

Most Picasa and Flickr galleries are open to all, I think.

Ian  and/or Margaret Young ( -here it is usually Margaret)

Aberdeen , North East Scotland, UK
Zone 8a

www.srgc.net

Sellars
Sellars's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-29

Peter's article in the Quarterly has many good ideas.  I particularly like digitizing the entire collection of the NARGS Quarterly.  The SRGC has done this and I have found the resource invaluable looking up old articles on plant exploration.

I do not think that the young people referred to "love plants and rock gardening as much as we do".  They are too busy communicating with each other and knocking into people on the street while they do it.  Gardeners are "doers" first and communicators second.  As we know, it takes a great deal of focus to be a successful rock gardener and there are so many competing alternatives these days for the attention of the younger generation.  That said, there now appears to be a swing back to real live events which may be positive for the appeal of the reality of gardens and participation at chapter meetings:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/01/post-digital-world-web

Personally I find the current NARGS web site excellent, especially compared with the former version. Members can interact on the wiki or the forum, post pictures and video and thereby create an online community and it is becoming more and more active. I am actually pleasantly surprised there are so many non-Luddites in NARGS.  If members want to start using Facebook they will and as Mark noted above the NARGS Facebook should be a "group".

In general I think we worry too much about expanding membership.  Either you want to join or you don't. One of the "complaints" from prospective members about our local club is that we use Latin names for plants.  It would be rather like someone complaining that a rowing club is always using boats.

David Sellars
From the Wet Coast of British Columbia, Canada

Feature your favourite hikes at:
www.mountainflora.ca
MountainFlora videos:
http://www.youtube.com/user/MountainFlora

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