In August, I attended the Independent Garden Center Show 2009 (links open in a new window) with a fellow garden blogger from the Chicago area. While walking the exhibition hall we visited the Terra Nova booth after spotting the foliage of a hardy cyclamen. As we talked about the cyclamen amongst ourselves, a gentleman working the booth asked us if we were members of the Garden Writers Association as he was handing out plant plugs to visitors of the booth. We explained to him that we were garden bloggers, but not members of the GWA. “Oh,” was his response as he turned away from us and ignored our presence as we continued to talk about his plants on display. As we walked away from the Terra Nova booth, I could not help but think we were “dissed” for not being members of the GWA.
I compared that experience with the one I had at the Hort Couture booth when I stopped by and spoke to the rep there. At the booth, I met Jim Monroe, owner of Hort Couture, who approached me, introduced himself, and talked to me about the plants on display, their marketing campaign and garden blogging. When I finished taking pictures and writing my notes, I started to walk away when I spotted someone jogging towards me from halfway down the exhibition hall waving enthusiastically. It was Jim Monroe, who wanted to make sure he said goodbye and thank me for stopping by the Hort Couture booth.
Can you guess what plants I wrote about on my garden blog?
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, Troy-Bilt and Proven Winners are three large companies that I have encountered this year doing a great job of creating relationships with garden bloggers. From the publishing industry, I can name Random House, Inc., Workman Publishing and Penguin Group, Inc. Why are these companies sponsoring garden blogger events and or providing garden bloggers with products to review? They understand garden bloggers are influencers and that they now have less garden “communicators” to turn to in the print world. When I talk about garden bloggers, I am referring to people who blog about gardening because they want to; not because it is part of marketing tool to sell books, products or services. There is a vibrant community of people writing about plants and gardening on the internet and most of them are not members of the GWA or even professional writers.
This past spring I met Robert LaGasse, Executive Director Garden Writers Association, who was in Chicago for the dedication ceremony of a community garden. We talked about the GWA, garden blogging and garden writing/publishing in the digital age. After meeting with him, I was interested in the GWA, mostly because he was such a good ambassador. When the GWA symposium was held this summer, some of the writers I follow on Twitter were tweeting about the workshops and lectures they were attending. There was a session on the importance of social media and participating in the conversations online. I grimaced when I searched and discovered someone on the panel was only followed a handful of Twitter accounts and did so with a locked account. The company the person represented also had an account, but had fewer followers than most of the writers who were tweeting about being there.
I was-- as they say-- smh.
A few months ago I was talking with an individual who did not understand how someone could be a garden blogger and not a professional writer with ties to the GWA. “Oh, so you guys are rogue garden writers,” he said when he finally got it. I guess so. Our numbers and readers are increasing every year. I am not a member of the GWA. I am a garden blogger with a garden patch all of my own on the internet, where I sow the seeds of information that people are looking for because they are not turning to books, magazines and newspapers as much. Since many companies are beginning to understand that garden bloggers have influence I will remain a rogue garden “writer,” until there is a group that is ahead of the curb and can teach me some new tricks with this blogging, Twitter and Facebook thingie.
I'm a garden blogger and you'll find we're black, brown, white and colors in between. We're old and we're young. We're renters and homeowners with large gardens and small ones. We're married and we're single. We're gay and we're straight. We're religious and non-believers. We speak English and other languages too. We're males and we're females. We look just like yours customers-we are your customers- and our numbers are increasing.
Update: A perfect example of why I'm not a member of the GWA and don't fancy myself a "writer" comes from Torontoist . If I were to attempt to write professionally, notes from an editor would look just like that, ha! Thanks, to everyone who commented on this post, Twitter and on Facebook- the conversation was lively. Monica is getting the last word, but if you come across this post at a later date and have something to say, you can write about it on your blog and I'll direct people there.