As the old saying goes, "out of adversity comes opportunity (attributed to Benjamin Franklin)" and innovations have been plentiful during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last year and three quarters has been a time of deep change and adaptation, not least of which is the way people relate to gardening. According to horticultural trend spotters, the particular nuance of the recent pandemic experience is that individuals have been at the heart of all of this creativity, as we each try to bring a little control into our "new normal", as opposed to industry driving the innovations. DIY at its best!
Of course, there is actually a lot of intersection between industry, technology and individual adaptation. Social media has perhaps been the top technological game-changer amongst gardeners, accelerating the sharing of everyday gardening experiences and education that has inspired millions of non-gardeners to discover a new passion for growing things. But it is the creative and personal ways that tools such as social media have been applied to gardening life that speaks to the personal innovation being highlighted here.
In many ways, a message that I hear from all of this is that gardeners are feeling both unstoppable and humble at the same time. Unlimited access to ideas and shared experiences via social media has encouraged many gardeners to try new things (or even start their very first garden), collect rare plants, geek out on botany, plant crops not normally grown in their climate, create more efficient spaces and techniques etc. At the same time, it is common to see "honesty" posts about the effort and commitment that gardening typically requires and the highs and lows of what works and what has failed.
Discovering personal treasures has been a big part of the energy motivating many gardeners in 2020 - 2021; for example, finding a variegated sport among your houseplants and cultivating it!
Realistically, none of this is all that new. Gardeners have always been prone to creativity, and many current trends such as year-round growing, food gardening, sustainable gardening, rare plant collecting and gardening communities are longstanding themes; they have just become amplified as we hunkered down during COVID, sharing everything online while finding extra space in our day-to-day to focus on growing things. However, it is possible that the meaning that we each get from our gardening experience has genuinely changed through the course of the pandemic. Connecting with nature, engaging with plants and following our creative selves has been a truly important part of coping and getting through the pandemic for a very large number of people. We know that gardening is good for us, and our recent collective experience reinforces this; perhaps the deepest innovation to emerge here is a kind of personal resilience, where following our hearts, what inspires us personally, has helped more than we ever knew it would.
Looking forward to the ongoing creative energy of gardeners as we head into a new season.