Gardening guru Minter coming to town
Within the world of gardening, Brian Minter is a rock star. Recognized in Canada from his books, TV appearances and syndicated columns, his voice is also well known around the globe to listeners of the BBC.
A recipient of the Order of Canada, Minter is known for developing Minter Gardens in Chilliwack, B.C. Until it closed in 2013, his beloved 32-acre horticultural shangri-la was a world-class mecca for garden lovers and is listed among Rae Spencer-Jones’ 1,000 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.
Considering Minter’s resume, it was a real coup for the Edmonton Horticultural Society to bring him to Edmonton as their guest speaker.
His presentation, which is open to the public, will be on June 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Central Lions Senior Citizens Recreation Centre, located at 11113 113th Street.
The Edmonton Journal caught up with Minter to ask him about the state of gardening in North America and to let him share some tips on how to deal with our parched gardens. EJ: For many years gardening was the top outdoor pastime of North Americans. How has this evolved? BM: The 1980s and ’90s saw incredible growth in the gardening industry, with average annual increases of 15 per cent in the ’80s and 9.6 per cent in the ’90s. That’s why there are now so many players in the marketplace and why the big box stores got involved.
But all that growth levelled off in 2000, and actually now we’re seeing a significant decline. EJ: That’s hard to believe. What happened? BM: There are three main factors that brought about the change and eventual decline of gardening.
The growth began with the boomers’ move into the suburbs, where there was lots of room for gardening, so the industry flourished. But by 2000 the boomers had begun to retire. With that came the trend of downsizing and a shift in interest to travel. At the same time, in North America, there was a move to higher density living as the condo lifestyle emerged. The result was less space for gardening.
Finally, the newest generation of gardeners, the millennials, are not as engaged in gardening as their parents were. Many had not been taught to garden and their interests have been more focused on technology. EJ: Is there hope for resurgence? BM: As it turns out, the millennials have discovered an interest in growing things, but not the flowers their parents grew. For them it’s about growing food. And they’re good at it. If there’s any hope for the industry to bounce back, they need to find connecting points with the new generation of gardeners, and growing food is one of them. The environment is another. EJ: Does this mean the death of flowers? BM: Certainly it means a repositioning of product and priorities. Millennials want innovation and they want more value for their effort. So what the industry offers them has to be gorgeous, easy to grow, and with added benefits, like longer blooming times, higher yields in less space, and the ability to clean the air and make us well.
For example, we need to develop perennials that behave more like annuals, by blooming for longer periods, and trees that can remove toxins from the air, as well as healthy food that can be grown in tight spaces. We also need to challenge all generations of gardeners to elevate gardening as an art form. EJ: This has been a very dry spring in Edmonton. Do you have any tips for our parched gardens? BM: The biggest mistake people make is watering too much or too little. You need to encourage deep root systems that resist drought, first of all by preparing the soil properly with mixes that contain moisture-retaining materials. And second it’s important to water deeply and slowly. The best way to do that is watering by hand or through drip irrigation.