Patrick and Laurie Hamilton spent Saturday morning browsing rows of flowers and plants at Strawberry Hill Farms with their son, Josh. Like many other Columbians, the Hamiltons see gardening as a fun and therapeutic activity.
“It’s fun. It’s therapeutic,” Patrick Hamilton said.
“It’s cheaper than seeing a psychiatrist,” he added with a laugh.
The Hamiltons are in good company when it comes to gardening. An annual survey by the National Gardening Association shows that eight of 10 households gardened in 2002 and indicated consumers spent $39.6 billion in 2002 on lawn and garden supplies, a 5 percent increase from 2001.
The survey also showed that the most active gardeners were men, people between ages 35 and 44 or over 55, college graduates, residents of the South, Northeast and West, married couples, two-person households and families with annual incomes of more than $75,000.
Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing in Stevens, Pa., wrote about gardening trends in her book “Why People Buy Things They Don’t Need.” She wrote that an aging population and a rise in home ownership have contributed to increases in garden spending, but that the most important factor behind the growth of the lawn and garden industry is people’s desire to connect with the earth.
This is why some Columbians, such as Kerry Cornine, put their time, energy and money into gardening. Cornine, a horticulturalist, said she is passionate about land designing.
“It brings smiles to people’s faces,” Cornine said. “It’s nice to work with something living.”
Rhonda Brockman said she feels the same way.
“I’ve just always liked playing in the dirt,” Brockman said. “It’s just a natural thing to do. It’s calming and therapeutic to work with seeds and plants.”
In her book, Danziger suggests that as American culture becomes more computerized and technological, people have a need to break away and spend some time in the natural world. This has resulted in options that allow consumers to spice up their gardens to make them luxurious outdoor spaces.
For example, Lowe’s Garden Center in Columbia carries items such as fountains, wind sculptures and animal statues that can be used to add detail and turn a simple garden into an elaborate one.
Kevin Roethemeyer, an assistant department manager in the garden center, said he thinks luxury garden products are gaining popularity.
“There’s a lot of home building in Columbia, and a lot of people are investing money either in a home they’re building or in a home they’re trying to sell,” Roethemeyer said. “And that’s one of the ways to increase the value of a home, through landscaping and adding luxury items.”
Although such options are available to add beauty and detail to a garden, the flowers and plants themselves are the most beautiful and rewarding part for some Columbians.
“I enjoy watching it,” Julie Marrone said. “It makes you feel successful to see what you planted come up.”
Bonnie Caldwell also said she takes joy in the beauty of her flowers.
“I’d like to make my house the one on the street that makes everyone think, ‘Gosh, aren’t those flowers beautiful?’”