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Connecting Greenery Uses Technology to Connect with Nature

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

Eight trends are featured in this year's 2016 Garden Media Group garden trend report. I'll write about each trend sometime this year.

The 2016 trend report is titled Syncing with Nature. I agree with the report's findings that people are connecting with Mother Nature in natural ways as well as in a connected state using technology. I use technology every time I hike, camp, or garden. GPS on my Smartphone helps me find new hiking locations, and nature apps assist with plant identification, star gazing, and so much more.

The first garden trend for 2016 is Connecting Greenery, which is all about using technology to help grow plants, connect with other gardeners, and learn in new and exciting ways.

I am continually amazed at how social media has helped me connect with old friends and meet new ones. I especially enjoy connecting with new gardening friends on Facebook. Last year I started a new daily feature on my social media sites called "Plant of the day." I get comments regularly about how much people enjoy reading my plant posts. I sometimes use themes, such as holiday plants in December, or I use random pictures I've taken on my nature and garden travels.

I have found that using technology to disseminate gardening knowledge is a great way to reach the generations. The younger generation isn't usually taught how to garden in school anymore, so they use newly enhanced digital tools to learn. The biggest user of my ILRiverHort social media sites are 45 – 65 year old women. In fact, boomers spend more money on technology than any other demographic group.

To help those that want to stay plugged-in outside, I have a Pinterest board featuring gardening and nature apps. My most viewed Pinterest pin from 2015 was for GardenMinder, an app used for creating and designing vegetables gardens. To help pinners sort through the myriad of apps available, I also have a link to University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Chris Enroth's blog that evaluates several gardening apps.

One my favorite ways to plug-in outdoors is with QR codes. QR codes are those square matrix barcodes that are found on many plant labels and more. A phone app QR reader takes a picture of the barcode and, if your phone has internet capability, immediately opens a corresponding website with more information. You'll also find QR codes on nature trails and in demonstration gardens.

Connecting Greenery is making gardening easier for many people. The challenge is sorting through the multitude of information out there to find the right answer from a reputable source. I hope you will start with our University of Illinois Extension website at Click on the social media icons for a direct link to all of my ILRiverHort sites. See you in cyberspace!



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.