Just what you need: more social media. We should all ditch our phones, step outside into the fresh air and do one real thing to make the planet healthier: garden.
Yet we all have low moments, or twitchy distractible ones, moments standing in lines or at home alone when we swipe for a snoop on Facebook. Rather than cure my clicky/cliquey addiction I’ve transferred it to a healthier platform: Instagram, where I’ve found a wonderful community of knowledgable plant people. As a primarily visual medium, Instagram eschews politics and offers beauty with few beasts.
Here’s how it works: people upload photos and hashtag them (they put one of these # symbols before the subject of their photo). This makes the app searchable. So say you’re gearing up to plant sweet peas (which you should be right now), you can search under #sweetpeas to see pictures of varieties you might like, learn where to find interesting seeds and discover cultivation tips. All of the above might be available at a garden centre, but I guarantee the diversity of information is not. Instagram is global and depending on who you follow, highly collegial and professional as well.
Have a thing for alpines? Formal gardens? English borders? Old roses? Topiary? Instagram has it. Your ‘feed’ is set by you: what matters is not who you know, only your own taste.
Instagram is also free. You can use it to chronicle your garden over time and set your account to private. You need not even post a picture at all – you can use it for research searching #gardenersworld, #botany, or #horticulture for starters, then narrow down by subjects of interest.
For English gardens (always good choice given our climate) try The Royal Horticultural Society @the_rhs; London’s Garden Museum @gardenmuseum; The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew @kewgardens; @gardens_illustrated magazine and the National Trust @nationaltrust.
For garden design @debbytenquist does a grand job of locating pictures of famous gardens and describing why they are significant. Trending designers such as Dan Pearson @coyotewillow and @pietoudolf regularly post, but people also post about luminaries using their names as hashtags. For example, you might follow Great Dixter, but you can also see what head gardener #fergusgarrett is up to.
For tropicals try @rbgsydney, for succulents @succulove and for roses @david_austin_roses. @botanicaetcetera serves up wonderful historical and artistic miscellany.
Two local hashtags to try are #yyjgardens and #yyjflowers. My own account @cultivatedbychristin just hit 10,000 followers. I post pictures of my own flowers, but also chronicle my botanical trips and feature other gardeners. Since joining in 2015, I can’t count the number of new plants I’ve discovered, not to mention the gardens I’ve visited and plantswomen I’ve now met face-to-face. Occasionally I worry over my penchant for esthetics over politics, but it’s not just beauty I’m after online: for me, education simply trumps Facebook’s anger and ennui.
Christin Geall teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Victoria and is an avid gardener.