"I'm thinking about gardening as a radical political act," said Fritz Haeg, 34, an architect who teaches in the environmental design program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. "It means completely questioning the way we live, the way we get our food, the way we use and abuse natural resources, the way we occupy public space." Mr. Haeg plays host at a monthly salon that draws a young, flamboyant crowd. Events are themed — "avant-garde knitting" was a recent topic.
While gardening has yet to reach critical mass among this group, it is beginning to make an impact. Peter Bosselmann, chairman of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley, said he has seen a bit of a shift among applicants for the graduate program over the last four years. Traditionally, students came with experience in horticulture, but now, Mr. Bosselmann said, they increasingly have art-related backgrounds.
"It's pretty clear that young people are decidedly interested in or concerned about the landscape," he said. "Most perceive it as chaotic or in need of care and health, in need of introducing ecological principles, in need of being more artful, more structured."
Ms. Drennon, 27, who calls herself "a typical L.A. indie walking stereotype" complete with art degree and tattoos, said her gardening habit began with "a pot of rosemary on a windowsill."
"Everything just sort of rolled from there," she said. Lured by a 2,000-square-foot yard, she moved from a funky Koreatown loft to leafier Venice. She also joined You Grow Girl, an online gardening site that says it "speaks to a new kind of gardener." The site, at www.yougrowgirl.com, is the brainchild of Gayla Sanders, 30, a graphic designer in Toronto, who started it out of frustration with other online gardening communities. To her, they all seemed aimed at an older suburban audience, with a significantly higher disposable income.
"There definitely is this stigma that gardening is something that women who are housewives do, or something that only goes on in the country," Ms. Drennon said.
On an April morning, seed packets spilled across her 40's-diner-style kitchen table. The seeds, for flowers and vegetables with names like papaya pear hybrid squash and Flaro-French flageolet, were booty from a seed swap organized by You Grow Girl. She said that members send around a big box of seeds they aren't going to use. Each takes what she wants, adds her own leftovers and mails the box to the next person on the list. "It's like Secret Santa in April," Ms. Drennon said."
Have you planted a garden? What are you growing to eat?