Welcome to 2022: the dawn of the Gardening Age.
The boom you hear isn’t the launch of a billionaire’s ego-powered rocket or the crash of a cryptocurrency. Reverberating across the country is a revolution in American gardening.
In 2020 seed and plant sales increased more than 60%—a first in our company’s 145-year history. As that year’s garden season came to a close, skeptics shrugged off the bonanza. It was an anomaly, they said, a unicorn, a miracle in a singular year.
In 2021 it happened again. Sales grew by double digits over the previous year’s peak. And now the volume of orders from late 2021 and feedback from gardeners indicate that 2022 will be another double-digit record-breaker, the third miracle year in a row.
Our recent survey of more than 4,700 customers bears out these projections, with 86% saying they are excited to try new plant varieties and 92% planning to spend the same amount or more on their gardens in 2022.
For decades the Great American Garden Boom always seemed right around the corner. But it proved to be a horticultural sleeping giant no one could awaken. It took the Covid crisis to get the ranks of American gardeners multiplying and prospering.
The massive new interest in gardening demonstrates American ingenuity and determination amid a crisis. For much of 2020 and 2021, Covid precautions involved social distancing, masks, remote work, virtual schooling and millions of people sheltering in place.
Americans soon discovered a green new world in the backyard. Creating gardens gave stir-crazy individuals a fresh perspective and a break from stress and close quarters. In the garden they felt a sense of belonging and a measure of control.
The gardening surge is about more than monumental sales increases. Quantitative trends are about numbers, which can go up or down. Qualitative trends, by contrast, signify shifting cultural values, priorities and practices. This transformation will shape American culture for generations.
Gardening’s appeal crosses political lines. In red and blue states, our seed and plant growth figures are practically identical over the past two years, rising 77% in both.
The gardening revolution has allowed tens of millions of people to agree on at least one thing: that food for the body and beauty for the soul are within the grasp of a seed or a plant, and only a few steps from our door.
We have become a harmonious nation of gardeners. Fractiousness and conflict, begone. Goodbye, Digital Age. The Gardening Age has begun.
Mr. Ball is chairman of W. Atlee Burpee Co. and a former president of the American Horticultural Society.
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Appeared in the January 4, 2022, print edition as ‘Pandemic Isolation Sows a Gardening Boom.’