CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- F. Todd Lesseigne, Ph.D., loves plants so much he programs them into his GPS.
"There's 'Mom and Dad's house,' and then the next entry is a Louisiana iris that I saw on a trip. I don't want to miss it the next time I'm in that area," the garden guru said.
Lesseigne is the executive director of the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville, N.C. He spoke recently in Charleston, and while his background is horticulture, his vision is in sociology.
Lesseigne told the gathering of the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association they should put effort into wooing today's Generation Y -- the MTV/Internet/Millennial generation.
He called them digital natives. They've never known a time when there wasn't technology, and their brains are more comfortable with multitasking than are their elders'.
The garden expert said that the Baby Boomers have been a boon to the garden industry. They like to garden and they have been big spenders in garden centers across America for years now. Generation X, the 30- and 40-somethings, has not become a factor in the gardening industry.
"They are not as environmentally conscious as they are touted to be," Lesseigne said. "Generation Y cares about the environment because they've been hearing it all of their lives. They are sheltered, though, and they haven't gotten dirty. It will take a push to get them into the garden."
Lesseigne said he hopes Generation X will become gardeners once their children, Generation Y, leave the nest.
The Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden, where Lesseigne works, started as a gift of land.
"We had an abandoned Dairy Queen and 5 1/2 acres of kudzu," Lesseigne said. "Our first perennial border was Tree of Heaven and Japanese honeysuckle," he said, laughing, referring to the invasive weeds that covered the site. "Now we have a real perennial border."
Chip Callaway designed the formal gardens. Callaway is a renowned garden designer in North Carolina.
The TV show "This Old House" changed the way gardeners (and homeowners in general) look at things.