Feb 1, 2012

Garden Bloggers on the Cutting Edge: Example 192

In February of 2011 I blogged about the Global Garden Report of 2010 complied for Husqvarna and Gardena. The report attempts to categorize and contextualize garden bloggers and our role as garden communicators. At the time I highlighted a section of the report that reads in part, "Most often, garden bloggers do not represent the mainstream, but rather the cutting edge, showing the way to the future-though they would never admit that personally." They obviously didn't ask me because I will readily admit that garden bloggers are "the cutting edge." I mention that I'm a trend spotter all the time. Nobody takes me serious, but that doesn't stop me.

Yesterday I was linked by a friend to an article on the StarTribune titled, A growing divide on the gardening front. The article starts:

"Rhonda Hayes was scrolling through tweets when she linked to something that got under her skin. A young male blogger declared that he didn't consider himself a gardener because he wasn't "a middle-aged woman who's been doing it just for the beauty of it and not considering all the other aspects."

If the quote sounds familiar it may be because I created a post around it back in May 2011 that generated a big discussion about what a gardener was. What Rhonda Hayes is mentioned as linking to (although not noted) is my post here "Are "Gardeners" Middle-Aged Women?"

The article continues.

"I was like, 'Wait a minute, honey!'" said Hayes, who gardens in Wayzata. To her, the comment implied a dismissal of mature female gardeners as out-of-touch growers of pretty flowers, as opposed to trendy organic veggies. 
She fired off a tweet of her own, noting that she'd been "growing food before you were born." And she wasn't the only one who took offense. "Them's fightin' words," another reader commented."

If the "Them's fightin' words" quote sounds familiar it is because "the reader" is Katie and she said that it in the comments of the post.

The article goes on to flesh out the premise of the story by giving other examples of young gardeners gardening like this, and older gardeners gardening like that. The article ends with:

"Garden rifts can appear more heated online than they are in real life, McKusick said. “The blogosphere is different than the garden magazine world. The number of garden blogs has exploded, and people are competitive about their views, they want to get hits, so controversies happen as a way to stand apart. People are trying to be heard." 
But gardeners overall, and Minnesota gardeners in particular, are a tolerant bunch, preoccupied with their plants, not arguing in cyberspace. "Most gardeners aren't blogging," McKusick said. "They're too busy gardening.""

BUUUURN! Oh, wait a minute!

What are you suppose to be picking up here? What we have here is a sign of the outside world waking up and realizing what the Global Garden Report noted in 2010. Not only are we shaping gardening tastes, but our thoughts, observations, blog posts (and even comments left by our friends on our blogs) are now influencing the writings of professional garden writers and being repackaged for mainstream audiences. This is something that has been happening for years in celebrity gossip, technology, parenting, and fashion blogs. But is relatively new our corner of the Internet, and a sign of what was once a small niche is now being watched by many. These are exciting times.

I don't agree with the implication that garden bloggers aren't busy in Mr. McKusick's quote. To grow plants, photograph them, edit the photographs, blog about them, respond to comments, and answer follow-up questions is time consuming. Plus, many garden bloggers juggle real jobs and families. They're not blogging because they're not busy enough gardening, they're blogging because they have a passion for it.

This example of an article being inspired by a blog post follows on the heels of the attack launched on Colleen after her work and observations on the #OccupyGardens meme was copied by a garden writer and presented as her own. We just need one more example of a garden writer publishing an article inspired by a post on a garden blog without attributing it and we have ourselves an official trend to look for in 2012.

You heard is here first folks and you better source it.

Note: Mr. McKusick is the publisher of Northern Gardener. In 2010 I licensed two vermicomposting photographs to his publication. The author of the article linked above and Rhonda Hayes (also a contributor to the StarTribune) as of this writing as followers of mine on Twitter, though I've only had a limited number of interactions with Rhonda. After searching my social media stream I noticed the last time I was interested in talking about the growing divide on the gardening front trend was in November 2011. Now that it's been picked up by the mainstream media I think we can say the trend is on the decline or maybe even dead. Print media is always the last to notice trends.
Note2: If you're a big garden entity: I'm Garden Bloggers is still for sale. Call me, P.Allen Smith, Martha Stewart, Proven Winners before garden bloggers turn into the next mommy blogs.


  1. Careful there. Someone's going to compare you to a pitbull.

    I think that there are some garden writers out there who believe that garden blogs are their own personal idea file. And that if something came from a blog, it isn't "real" media, and therefore doesn't need to be cited. The fact that some of the people who do these things are bloggers as well just makes me wonder whether they're lazy or clueless. Maybe both.

    I agree with you. That comment about gardeners being too busy to blog got me, too. I blog about gardening because I'm obsessed, and I want to share it with as many people as possible. Gardening and blogging about it are tied together for me, and I find that I appreciate my garden even more because I blog about it.

    And yes, you're totally a trend spotter :-)

    1. But would I be compared to a K-9 like happened to you. Or pitbull, the Puerto Rican wrapper because we're both "urban" and lack hair.

      I don't know why people feel they shouldn't cite something. Isn't that someone they taught is in elementary or high school. Have I been wrong all these years in thinking that Chicago public school system failed me, when in reality it taught me basic skills that professional writers should know? Blogging even solidified for me that one should cite. When I wrote that post on the MrBrownThumb blog last year about about using radishes to test garden soil I cited the book and author I learned it from 15 years ago. It wasn't my idea or discovery, but one I've used for many years, so I felt that mentioning the author was the least I could do.

      The funny thing is that if the writer had bothered to contact me I would've given her more examples of young people, garden marketers and garden center owners who would've verified that young gardeners are trying to do away with the "gardener" label.

  2. Anonymous2/01/2012

    You really should complain to the newspaper and the reporter's boss. This is plagarism, pure and simple.

    1. Ooooh, the "P" word! I don't think I'll go that far. The only thing that was really "plagiarized" was a portion of Katie's comment on the original post in May of 2011.

  3. A short clarification...The gardening divide article was inspired by an essay of mine that was considered by the editor there, and then the idea was tossed to a staff reporter, at which point I became a source. The blog post that inspired it is here... http://ecosalon.com/manscaping-these-guys-have-stems-attached/
    I never read your middle aged women blog post. However as a middle aged woman gardener I have given lots of thought to my place in the gardening world and don''t know if you were the first person to ever address that issue.
    Thank you....Rhonda Hayes

    1. Hi Rhonda,

      Thanks for coming by clarify things. I know the article the quote came from because I linked it when I blogged about it in May. If you go to that EcoSalon article and read the comments (Ctrl+F to make it easier) is there anyone there that says "Them's fightin' words" as is quoted in the article by the StarTribune? I've read them several times and I've Ctrl+f'ed even more times, and I don't see where a reader says "them's fightin' words" other than in the comments of the original post here at this blog, as I pointed out and linked above.

      I don't know how to explain it other than maybe I'm missing it somehow. The way the article is worded it makes it sound like a real-time conversation that happened on Twitter, but as you point out it was born from an essay you submitted for consideration. It makes thing even more confusing when that "reader" is quoted but how is there a reader in a real-time Twitter conservation? And those words do not appear in the comments of the EcoSalon article?

      Since you have an intimate knowledge of the origins of the piece, can you shed some light as to where the mysterious quote comes from? I mean, down the punctuation it is what Katie said at this blog.

  4. Maybe Rhonda didn't read your blog post but Kim Palmer (the writer who wrote the article) did.

    1. That does seem like the only explanation for how a part of a comment here ended up in the article, doesn't it?

  5. So like garden bloggers are full of drama just like regular bloggers..mommy..food and otherwise. There are copycats as long as there are people. I've had my actual blog name ripped off. I've had people steal photos, recipes, and such. Get yourself a free copyright otherwise you don't really have a right to complain. As someone who is a trend spotter you sure are lagging behind in the times. Your intellectual property is protected under the law as long as you protect it. myfreecopyright.com is a good place to start.

    1. Hi Momma Cupcake.

      I guess. Garden bloggers are people just like the bloggers of other niches. I don't think this is an incident of copyright infringement. This post isn't about that, but rather, about how blogs influence traditional media. You don't have to get yourself a "free copyright" because the moment you create (words, images) something it is protected. You can strengthen your rights and raise the damages you could sue for by registering your creating with the U.S. Copyright Office. There's absolutely no need for anyone to waste their time with the website you mention.

  6. I provide citations and web addresses obsessively on my blog. It's a matter of professionalism and professional pride.

    1. It's a good practice and I wish everyone who publishes something online would do it all the time.

  7. I like blogging. I like gardening. I am fat, female, middle-aged, and I have two cats. My cliche' kicks your cliche's ass. (Comment directed at nobody in particular, it just seemed appropriate to my slightly demented mind :)

  8. Demented mind copyright protected!

  9. I've considered myself a gardener ever since I knew what the word meant...and I'm at 26 year old guy who lives in an apartment. I think people my age tend to prefer to think of themselves as "urban farmers" or some other stupid term because they're so busy trying to feel special and different... Also I think people just really like to argue.


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