Aug 31, 2011

I'm Going To Bring Down The GWA.

I'm a one man Rainbow PUSH coalition-the Rosa Parks of garden bloggers-waging a campaign to bring down the Garden Writers Association and ruin the business of vendors that participate at the next convention being held in Arizona in 2012. Or so, a thread in Fern Richardson's (Life on the Balcony) secret Facebook group for garden writers/bloggers would have you believe. What's the truth? A little more complicated than the following screen grabs of the thread in question will have you believe. You can click on them to enlarge them.

Danielle Smith Ernest, one-half of the social media team that handles the Proven Winners account on Twitter, is posting about how nice it was to attend the GWA convention in Indiana this past week. She quotes a tweet that reads "I'll be publicly boycotting any companies that participate in #GWA12" and expresses being torn about what to do for 2012.

Shirley Bovshow chimes in with: "Yes mr Brown Thumb and I were discussing #gwa2012 and he mentioned the boycott of garden products who sponsor it. Follow the teeets [SIC] between #edenmaker and him @gardenbloggers"

It should be pointed out that in my Twitter discussion with Shirley Bovshow at NO TIME DID I EVER MENTION A BOYCOTT OF GARDEN PRODUCTS who sponsor the GWA convention in Arizona. Not Once. Here's the screen grab of my exchange with Shirley Bovshow:

Do you see any mention of boycotting garden products sponsoring GWA or any mention of garden products at all? 

After reading her comment on the secret Facebook group for garden writers I asked her on Twitter to show me where I mentioned that people should boycott vendors/sponsors of the GWA. She replies with "That's unfortunate. I've been avoiding everything AZ since last year. I may have to add garden brands to my list. :(" 

This quote comes from a tweet I exchanged with @CobraHead, not with Shirley Bovshow, and here it is in full. 

This tweet of mine is apparently me calling for a boycott of garden products and the GWA. To see the stream of tweets for yourself you can read the Tweets at @GardenBloggers.

It doesn't matter what I actually said because Shirley's post, where she puts words in my mouth, set of a hilarious chain of comments all centering about what a horrible person I am in general and how horrible I am for calling for a boycott of the GWA and sponsors.

Here Mary Ann Newcomer goes on an epic rant against me. Anegla Treadwell-Palmer, of Plants Nouveau, says that it is a "nasty thing" for me to say in reference to the mention of a boycott. Even though I never made the tweet that Danielle quoted in the original post that started the discussion. Mary Ann Newcomer chimes in again to say that I did call for a boycott and how she hopes I don't join the GWA because it is for "kind and gracious people." Danielle once again chimes to explain that the particular tweet she quoted didn't come from me and for people to search for it on their own. The truth doesn't matter at this point. The narrative has been set. I'm trying to bring down the GWA all by myself.

Ivette Soler (Hi, I know you're reading this. You still owe me a deep dish pizza!) adds her incredulity to the chorus of people outraged that I'm starting a boycott of the GWA and goes on a huge rant about how people shouldn't pay attention to me because I don't matter in the gardening world. There are also some references made to garden blogging in general that try to paint me as being anti-commercialized garden blogs. It's clear she's either making things up or misunderstood something because I'm been a proponent of commercialized blogs since I started blogging. 

Honestly, I was taken aback by the comments in this thread by Mary Ann Newcomer. Mostly because I had no idea who she was but she seemed to know A LOT about me. From her quoting from my Google+ bio I take it she's spent some time reading what I've been posting online for a while. I had to be reminded that I have had the misforutune of meeting this lady, and I use the term loosely, about three years ago when I was part of the organizing committee of garden bloggers that arranged for the second annual national meetup in Chicago. The only interaction I've ever had with her was her yelling at me when I was trying to collect the money so we could pay for one of our group lunches during the three-day weekend. Never spoke with or at her since that one instance in the restaurant. I later learned from another organizer that she snapped at her too  when the organizer suggested that Mary Ann Newcomer not jaywalk while getting on our tour bus. So, I find her comments about the GWA being for gracious and kind people particularly funny. She certainly was anything but kind and gracious to strangers who spent months organizing a three-day weekend for her and her friends to attend.  

The thread tapers off here with Danielle trying to walk away from the hornets nest she has unwittingly stirred up. 

What's funny, at least to me, here is that there's so much outrage and condemnation for something I never said or proposed that anyone else do. Contrary to Steve Asbell's (TheRainforestGarden) certitude that I was behind the quote that started this thread on Facebook, I wasn't. The tweet in question didn't even originate from one of my accounts, nor did I retweet it, or address even address it. You have a bunch of garden communicators and garden professionals misquoting and misrepresenting what I did say, and that was that I've been avoiding everything to do with Arizona for the past year and will continue to do so. This isn't anything new, I've mentioned this on Twitter many times since the initial boycott. Once I joked on Twitter that the boycott had dried up my supply of turquoise bolo ties. As someone who has lived in the state I've seen firsthand the good and the bad  Arizona has to offer. The bad was enough to cause me to pack my bags and move back to inner-city Chicago.  

I really wish that this thread hadn't taken place today because by the time my real thoughts on the matter of GWA going to Arizona are revealed everyone will be out of outrage. I guess it's only fitting that after trolling I was super-trolled and robbed of my thunder. 

TL;DR I did not call for a boycott of the Garden Writers Association contrary to what Shirley Bovshow, Marry Anne Newcomer, Steve Asbell, Anegla Treadwell-Palmer and Ivette Soler claim. If they had practiced due diligence they would've known that. Instead they gave me a hilarious look at what happens when garden "communicators" don't do their homework and stop pretending to be nice. :0) Also, I have gang of followers on social media who don't have opinions of their own and do everything I say they should. Perhaps I should use my influence for good? If only there was a social issue that I could rally the troops around. Hmm....

Update: Fern Richardson  (of Life on the Balcony)  has commented below to say that the Facebook group, where the discussion screen grabbed from) is not private. Well, I have to differ.

Fern Richardson Life on the Balcony

When something is public it isn't kept behind a lock, is it?

Fern Richardson, Life on the Balcony, Plants Nouveau

Here's another screen grab of the same thread which has now topped 100+ comments where they're still discussing me. This one starts with Angela Treadwell-Palmer, one of the proprietors of Plants Nouveau Nursery, wonder how it's possible that I'm reading what they're saying about me and asking if the group is not in fact private. Fern Richardson says she has an idea of who is copying the thread and sharing it with me, but that she's giving them an opportunity to "out themselves." Does this sound like a group that's "public" as Fern claimed in the comment below?

She goes on to say in the thread that I'm not a credible voice for garden writers as a whole. I'm not sure where she gets that I'm trying to set myself up a voice of garden bloggers besides in her own head.

This whole situation has reached a new height of absurdity. We have Fern Richardson who when she was called out for not disclosing receiving a free trip that she was blogging about went into her blog and edited the post in question and claimed that she had disclosed the financial aspect of it. Fern Richardson came clean with the lie she tried to slip past the blogger who called her out only when she was confronted with a Google cache of her blog showing that she had recently edited it. And she's questioning my credibility? Good lord. LOL. There isn't one instance that she, or anyone else, can point to where I was proven a liar or tried to pull the wool of people's eyes in the manner she did.

But it gets better. Ivette Soler's comment in this snippet reads in part, "It isn't about being a "boycotting" or "not boycotting" type-it is about respecting the freedom of choice we all have to express our political beliefs the way we feel best, and not making people feel uncomfortable because of those choice."

I'm not going to lie, I golf-clapped at what I quoted there, but if these "women" really believed that would the thread I've documented in this post have happened? I don't see where anyone was respecting anyone's freedom of choice. Instead, what I saw was me being attacked for something I never even said.

Another interesting thing to note here is Angela Treadwell-Palmer's involvement in this whole mess. I really had no idea who she was until in mid-August when while I was attending the Independent Garden Center Show I received some tweets by her asking me about my name and why I didn't use my legal name on Twitter or on my blog. At the time I gave her my usual "What does it matter? I'm not famous" song and dance that I give the nosy and creepers until I could get home and Google who she was. I learned that she was one of the two women behind the Plants Nouveau nursery and promptly forgot about her. Today, I see her participating in the witch hunt against me over a statement I never even made and I have to wonder, "Is this good social media marketing?" Well, it certainly isn't the best way to get me to recommend your brand and plants to gardeners.


  1. Tempest in a teapot

  2. I did see the original facebook message several days ago, and it was not from you, Mr. BrownThumb. I did not make a copy of the message but know exactly where it came from. I won't name names here, but I read it and thought it was rather bold and brazen to state such a thing so publicly. Sorry this has turned into such a mess for you. I have had nothing but positive interactions with you so count me as one in your corner; however, I do have my own opinions and will not do anything you say;-)

  3. I just want to state for the record that I was the one that tweeted that I'd be boycotting companies involved in GWA12, and I meant it. I also said the same thing last night on Facebook, on my personal feed and on my In the Garden Online page. I don't have to say things in a secret FB group. I say them out in the open, and no one has to guess about where I stand. Way to do your due diligence, garden writers!

  4. @Martha, LOL. It always is, but it's cool to see people passionate about something that involves gardening.

    @Jan, I'm sure there's a couple of people in that thread who would be surprised to learn that people are autonomous and can have beliefs that I don't force them too. :0)

  5. Hi Ramon,
    My misquote of you on Facebook got the ball rolling for an avalanche of comments against you. I don't know you personally and had no bad intentions against you when chiming in, I apologize for my oversight.

    I put words in your mouth. You never said "boycott garden products" on Twitter.

    Here's how it began. You caught my attention with this Tweet:

    GardenBloggers Garden Bloggers
    Are any of you GWA members not happy with your convention being held in Arizona next year on account of lasts year's immigration law?

    Then I "eavesdropped" (as we all do on Twitter) your conversation with @CobraHead where you mentioned:

    GardenBloggers Garden Bloggers
    @CobraHead That's unfortunate. I've been avoiding everything AZ since last year. I may have to add garden brands to my list. :(

    When I read your "I may have to add garden brands to my list" I chimed in.

    After a long Twitter discussion with you about the pros and cons of boycotting Arizona and the businesses there, I came away with the conclusion that you were personally, conscientiously boycotting "all things AZ. This included the GWA meeting there and related businesses.

    Is that an accurate conclusion?

    My mistake was when I described our conversation as including a statement you didn't make explicitly (although at the end of our Twitter dialog, I believe you meant it implicitly).

    I will be more careful of attributing quotes to people that are actually a paraphrase of my conclusions. I was irresponsible.

    BTW, I didn't know you were such a controversial personality! Next time I hear thunder on Twitter and Facebook, should I look in your direction?

    Shirley Bovshow

  6. Anonymous8/31/2011

    Social media is a double-edged sword. This is a high tech version of the telephone game. So unfortunately, the damage can be worse and further flung.
    Also let me say, having met you in person more than once, you may be one of the kindest, most gentle people I have met in a long time. Certainly a sincere garden geek who wears his ethics on his sleeve.


  7. Danielle8/31/2011

    Ramon -

    I am very sorry for what happened in the facebook group. The main reason that I posted the initial post was to see if writers would be attending the show or not based on this. As I am torn on what to do for 2012.

    I do think that it is unfair to boycott companies just because of the tradeshow being in a specific part of the country which was decided on 3 years ago when the law wasn't even in place. At this point, it is too late to change the location due to all of the planning.

    I do understand if someone has an issue with a specific company to contact that company and take it up with them. I am all for one's freedom of deciding which products to buy.

    But does it make much sense to boycott garden products because they want to help sponsor an association that they have been working with for over 20 years?

    And if you aren't a fan of that company why not help the association to find new sponsors by becoming an active member of that association?

    I know you didn't send out the tweet, but I am rhetorically asking these questions internally.


  8. Some people seek single-handed power, others have it thrust upon them!

  9. There OS nothing secret about the garden writing group. You yourself were a member until you voluntarily quit, and the group has been shared on blogs, newsletters, and messageboards. Moreover, the admins of the group, of which I am one, accept everyone into the group so long as they have some connection to the garden writing world.

    Try to be less predictable. The overly dramatic pot stirring is getting boring.

  10. I can't believe how senseless you're being. I was just stating the obvious, as in 'sounds like something Mr. Brown Thumb would do!' because it's just your style. You've already made your opinions known on the topic, so why would you lash out at me for stating the obvious? This post in itself shows how much you like to sensationalize things and make a big deal out of nothing. This is so high school.

  11. Seriously, this is better than Coronation Street.

  12. What's so "high school" about a discussion of human rights? Arizona's SB 1070 ( ) law is currently on hold due to a federal court injunction. And rightly so. Anyone who looks like a Mexican or Latino in Arizona is subject to police interrogation "when there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual is an illegal alien" (wow. how do you do that?) It also subjects anyone who shelters, hires or transports illegal aliens to misdemeanor or felony charges.
    Crack down on illegal aliens like this and you are closing down the horticulture industry. Who the Hell do you think is potting up those free plants you get every spring? Who do you think is propagating those plants?
    News flash: white people don't flock to farm labor jobs. If you want your plants, and your food, at reasonable prices, there needs to be a law in place that allows these people, hungry for work, any work, to make a living. The Bracero Program of the 1940's-1960's was well-intentioned, but was fraught with problems. There needs to be a serious discussion of allowing an immigrant labor force to work in this country legally. I sure would not want to be a grower in Arizona now. "High school"? Hardly. Boycotts of Arizona tourism is a tool currently being used by many city and state governments to express their distaste for Arizona's attempted violations of individual liberties.

  13. "What's so "high school" about a discussion of human rights?" Thank you Fred. I was wondering the same thing. If standing up for one's principles is 'stirring the pot,' then let's all get a-stirring.

    I've been observing this situation for a bit now, and the most glaring things high school . . . well, let's be real - jr. high school, have been the personal attacks made on someone who was actually misquoted in the first place.

    Kudos to Shirley for setting the record straight.

    Kudos to folks who stand up for their principles.

    There are plenty of GWA members who are wonderful folks and I know many of them personally. I've also been on the receiving end of garden writer meanness.

    Kindness and graciousness are not the first words that come to mind when reading some of the comments in the facebook screen shots, and they are clearly not requirements for GWA membership.

  14. Fred, thanks. I brought up this point in a thread elsewhere, but not as eloquently as you did here. Also, thanks, Linda, for, as always, being a voice of reason, and finding words I lacked.

  15. @COLLEEN, So what that you did? You're not allowed to have an opinion that others won't agree with? I'm glad these garden "communicators" botched it up so bad and attacked me instead of you because they really showed their true colors. They behaved even more unreasonable than what they were so riled up about.


    That's pretty close. I said on Twitter and above that I've been avoiding everything associated with the state since groups that I support called for a boycott. considering that I'm not a member of the GWA I don't see how it would be possible to boycott it or their event. I guess I should fill out a member application and tear it up before sending it? Three years ago I was offered sponsorship into the organization and I didn't follow-up with it. NOW I'm wishing I had so I could throw a hissy fit over the Arizona location. LOL. I appreciate you admitting making a mistake and coming here to point it out. It means a lot.

    (Why do I have the scene from Airplane going through my head?)

    SHHHHHHHHHHHH! I have a bad reputation to maintain and people like you aren't helping my case.

    Don't apologize, I don't think you did anything wrong. You never indicated that I was the source of the tweet you quoted. You never even hinted at it being me. The people who responded to the thread by attacking me jumped to the conclusion on their own or didn't bother to research what you were talking about. Even after you mentioned that it wasn't me, people didn't care they'd made up their minds by then.

    So far I don't see anything about a boycott. We've had one person express her thoughts on the subject, which is her right, to call it a boycott is premature. The funny thing about all this blowing up is that earlier today I co-authored and signed my name to a letter respectfully asking the incoming GWA President to reconsider the location. In the letter I even proposed using this blog as a recruitment vehicle for GWA membership, an organization I have no interest in being part of, if the orgs social conscious saw fit to move the location. Other organizations did it last summer, at great cost to them and their memberships. I hope to publish the letter here if there's a response. This is why I saw that it's funny that the outrage happened over something I didn't do, instead over something I DID do.

    Your internal questions are good and they're something that should be discussed openly. I was hoping to use this blog as a vehicle for people from various opinions on the subject to comment and create a dialog where all voices (from the hard line boycotts to people like Shirley who want to support the designers and companies like you) could be heard and maybe some understanding could be reached. Do people involved in garden blogging, writing and marketing ever pay much attention to the people who are out there installing gardens, propagating plants, planting trees and everything that comes along with them? At least in my case that's a resounding "NO." It wasn't until these past two days when people started talking about this issue that I ever gave them a second thought, and these are my neighbors, literally.

  16. @MONICA, LOL. Now don't get any ideas and try to copy me and get people to accuse you of saying something you never said.

    @FERN, Let's keep it real. Before I quit the group you tried to lay down the law after someone added a garden blogger who used a pseudonym on Facebook instead of her real name. Do you remember that day? If you don't remember it maybe you can ask Steve to refresh your memory because that day he FB messaged me to say "Whats up with Fern? She started the group as a place for garden writers and bloggers inexperienced and otherwise to learn from each other... and now she's got something up her butt." about your behavior that day in the group and wanting to lock it down. If neither of you can remember what I'm talking about I can provide a screen grab of my Facebook message box with Steve's message. Also, a public group isn't closed and doesn't require authentication. I provided a screen grab above for you to show you that there's a lock on the group and it says "closed." So, the group isn't as public as you're trying to make it seem.

    If this is so boring then why are you here? How sad is your life that you're commenting on something that by your own admission is boring? You were part of the thread in your secret Facebook group, then you jumped into the discussion on Steve's wall, and now you're here commenting on my blog.

    @STEVE,Let's review what you said in the thread: "How did I KNOW MrBT was behind that tweet? Predictable." to what you're saying now, "sounds like something Mr. Brown Thumb would do!" What's the obvious were you stating in your reply to the thread? Because from where I'm sitting it looks like you claimed I that the tweet in Danielle's OP was something I said. Which, again for the record, wasn't. Your interpretation of what you said when you thought I wasn't reading is very generous. Now that's High School.

  17. Fred Hoffman & Garden Girl: here, here! You've brought this back to the original point of the conversation, which was about the GWA keeping the conference in Arizona (despite the fact that other conferences have pulled out of the state. But it's too expensive! perhaps Monsanto can help buffer the financial blow?) and completely neglecting to see the relationship that gardening and garden writing has with migrant workers. Some stated that it is more important that we support our colleagues in certain segments of the industry, but I believe we can't support some while completely dismissing the basic rights of others. Everyone in the gardening and agricultural fields is technically our colleague.

    What probably confounds me most about this entire kerfuffle (and there are many aspects to be confounded by) is the misplaced notion that having opinions and expressing them makes one a rabble-rouser, a BULLY (has no one here heard of Dooce or gleaned an ounce from that very public incident?), irresponsible even (irresponsible to whom?). Of course, the first tactic used to dismiss any opinion is to say that the person doesn't really mean it -- that they're only doing it for negative attention. Or worse still, they're just a MEANY (why can't we all just get along?).

    All of this is disingenuous. We all have opinions, whether we express them publicly or not. It seems that many don't express them due to some misguided notion that staying on the fence is the "professional" thing to do. Or they hope that by remaining neutral on all topics that they can glean a larger audience. Or perhaps if they take a position on hotbed topics then they will lose sponsors or the opportunity for potential sponsors? I find this notion strange since many very successful writers and bloggers who also happen to work with sponsors for very good pay also happen to be very outspoken and impassioned. The two can coexist harmoniously.

    Some say that as garden writers/bloggers we should just stick to gardening -- that there is no place for discussion of politics. Is gardening or garden writing that homogeneous? I think not. It is as unique as each individuals' experiences and there are countless ways to approach it and equally countless possibilities for mixing it up with other fields of interest, especially politics.

    Funny that there is a collective agreement to stay silent about such things, when in most other fields being outspoken is applauded and appreciated not derided and attacked. Here we are in a field that is loaded with so much passion, power, and fire yet we sit in our safe corners like cardboard cutouts, rehashing the same topics in the same ways; leaving out our personalities, our convictions, and our stories; claiming to be supportive when our nicey-niceness hides (though not very well) our self-serving motivations; accepting a pittance from big chemical companies and smiling widely while they threaten to annihilate us.

    I am not claiming to be excluded from any of this. I used "we" for a reason. I am as fallible as the next person. I have silenced myself too often. But I strongly believe that the expression of personal opinion is critical to the work we do. It matters.

    To everything else I say, No thank you. And good day.

  18. There are several things that are "so high school" about this, and they have nothing to do with an individual taking a stance on what the believe is an important issue:

    1. Supposedly professional communicators chiming in on something they know nothing about and presenting it as though they have all the facts. Is this how you all approach your professional work as well? Shoddy research and word of mouth? I hope not.

    2. Forming a little "mean girl" clique to gossip about someone who wasn't there to speak for himself.

    3. Seeing anyone who has a different point of view than you do as a threat somehow. People disagree all the time. It's what our society was built on. Dissent is good, if uncomfortable at times. Discussing issues that are negative is not "being negative" -- it is just that: discussing a negative issue. Are we supposed to sweep things under the rug and pretend they don't matter? As professional communicators, that is dangerous ground to tread.

  19. These are all excellent points Colleen. Especially #3. Discussing negative things that happen in this industry is equally important to discussing the good. It is how we maintain balance and clarity. Gardening is not all sunshine and rose. Not in the least.

  20. @GARDEN GIRL & @FRED HOFFMAN, Thank you both for your thoughts on the real issue here.

    @GAYLA & @COLLEEN, Do not get me started on #3. I recently removed someone from my social media life who didn't seem to be a big fan of my mentioning (or focusing on) negative stuff within the garden blogging sphere. I didn't remove this person because I didn't like 'em, but because everytime I blogged about something negative there would be some passive-aggresive tweets that seemed to coincide with what I had just blogged about. Maybe it was all in my head and the passive aggressive reponses weren't really there. There were a couple of exchanges expressing how people should focus on the positive and all that jazz. That's great, if someone wants to do that, but to tell others how to blog really takes the cake. I don't tell people who are "positive" to go negative in order to strike a balance and show both sides. So, where do these people get off feeling like they can lecture others about the tones of their blogs? Who the f'k pays the bills around here?-Like my dad used to say.

    Anyway, since it seemed like this person wasn't a big fan of what I was focusing on, or the style I was using, I decided to cut all ties so the other person could then do the same. Hope they're happier now that they don't feel like they're obligated to follow back or anything like that. Which brings up another issue: Don't follow/friend (and I guess, now, Circle) people who you do not like. I don't understand this fakeness in the gardening world where people put up with following people they don't like. If something doesn't make you happy-cut it out of your life. What's the worst that could happen? Don't sit there and stew over something that isnt making you happy.It's just the Internet people.

    If anyone who follows me comes to realize one day that I'm not fun to follow-they should just unfollow me that instant. My feelings won't get hurt and I won't say anything about it.

  21. I apologize to everyone who has read the grammatical mess that is this post. I got lazy and slapped it together in this little box instead of sitting down with a text editor and proofing it. I was in a hurry and sloppy and this post really deserved better, but I needed to get it out.

  22. I always come late to these parties, but here's my take:

    It's not about GWA, their brands, members or sponsors. It's about pressuring the Arizona legislature to treat human beings fairly, to not pass, enact or carry out racist laws.

    Boycotts hurt business. This is why it's effective--it takes the issue out of the political arena and dumps it squarely into peoples lives. If you choose to do business at a place that is under the threat of boycott for reasons entirely unrelated to your business, this is the risk you take. Frankly, I was appalled when I learned that GWA was scheduling their conference in AZ, and wondered if they knew about the boycott.

    Ramon, you have nothing to apologize for, or rationalize, or even backtrack as you have. It is your right, and even responsibility as a citizen of a democracy to take the steps you deem appropriate to enact social change that you support.

    Not everyone wins. But everyone's got the right to try and no one has a right to misrepresent someone's political or economic actions or convictions.

  23. Anonymous9/02/2011

    Fred makes excellent points as usual. If I were a non-white member of GWA, I would probably not step foot in Arizona for any reason for fear of being targeted based on my appearance.

    Gayle, will you be my mommy?

  24. "If something doesn't make you happy-cut it out of your life. What's the worst that could happen? Don't sit there and stew over something that isnt making you happy.It's just the Internet people."
    That's a great point and pretty much states my personal philosophy regarding blogging and life in general. There are many garden bloggers out there I've never linked to or un-linked after I realized that I disagree with their take on things and don't enjoy their writing. And I never look back.

    I admire and respect your stand against AZ, and applaud your willingness to talk about it. That is my own opinion, and you did not tell me to say that :)


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