Last week I read The United States of Arugula by David Kamp. It is a fun little history of the rise of the food movement in the US -- starting with the early ground breakers like Julia Child and James Beard all the way to today's world of foodies and celebrity chefs.
While reading it, I kept thinking: When is this going to happen to the plant world? When will we be talking about celebrity gardeners?
In the early pages of the book, it was almost the same story over and over: the future food world star grows up never really having thought about food, only to discover (usually on a trip to France) this whole other universe: food not just as a source of calories, but rather Food as Art. Food as something important to be thought about, talked about, and lived for. As the movement matures, people have the same epiphany all over this country as they discover for the first time that there is something beyond canned vegetables and processed cheese food product -- food that is worth being passionate about.
What I realized is this: people in the pre-Julia Child James Beard US didn't ignore food because they weren't interested -- they had simply never thought of it, had never had it presented to them quite that way. The same is true for gardening. This country is full of people who are not passionate gardeners simply because they've never thought of gardening as something to be passionate about. All over this country, people are living with the gardening equivalent kraft macaroni and cheese -- chemical soaked, unnaturally green lawns and a few pots of uninteresting, scentless petunias -- when they could be reveling in the joyous wonders found in the pages of catalogs of companies like Plant Delights, Arrowhead Alpines, and Annie's Annuals.
It is time we gardeners stood and up and showed the rest of the country what they are missing. Time we declared that a horticultural masterpiece like the Lurie Garden in Chicago is every bit as significant a piece of art as the paintings housed in the more traditional art museum next door. Time we spoke of gardening as a passion for a life time, as the way to live connected with and supporting nature rather than destroying and abusing it. Time we said the word "gardener" with every bit of smug self-satisfaction heard in the voices of people calling themselves "foodies."
I think the time is right. The food movement itself, combined with the economic troubles, are funneling more and more people into vegetable gardening -- a gateway drug to the other wonders of the gardening life. We have wonderful crop of gardening spokes people -- nursery men like Tony Avent whose politically incorrect catalog covers and plant descriptions state loud and clear that gardening is hip, writers and communicators like Ken Druse and Dan Hinkley who speak loud and clear about gardening and plants in all their complex, marvelous, endlessly entrancing glory. Here on the blogosphere, gardening is ranting, dangerous, punk, strange, quirky, funny, and just feakin' cool.
The revolution is coming.