Allan Becker, Garden Guru posed the question "Are there garden experts out there that resent the abundance of horticultural advice that is posted online?", sparking a great conversation about the legitimacy of what amateur garden bloggers have to say.
This got me thinking. Are we really taking our roles as informers seriously enough? Read the long post and tell me what you think.
Anyone can write a garden blog, and all it takes is enough enthusiasm to write about gardening in the first place. We garden bloggers are very lucky to have the opportunity to share our excitement over gardening with the world, and many of our blogs started life out of the simple desire to share what brings us so much joy.
Eventually that habit sticks and friends are made who encourage us to cultivate our gardens and our blogs too, and I'm sure that many of you have also made the comparison... that our blogs are our gardens. We first plant some seeds of passion that soon grow rampant like passionflower vines, and we realize that a good design is in order. We artfully arrange and curate what we find to be beautiful, editing our posts and maybe adding a little decoration here and there. Sometimes our blogs get more attention than our gardens!
As our passion for horticulture spreads like wildfire, we inevitably learn more and more and want to share our lessons 'over the fence' to our new-found friends, as well as visitors who happened upon your page rather than the local extension agent's. If our advice shows up first in the search engine rankings, its not for our degrees and qualifications, its because we post often and provide tons of relevant content. As anyone into search engine optimization will admit, content really is king.
Horticulture is an enormously vast field, and sometimes expert advice is simply lacking online or in print. Take cold hardy bromeliads for example. So few people have tested the limits and each and every freeze is unique, so even the 'experts' are still learning whats possible in a temperate environment. I have grown so many tropicals through 20 degrees nights, and if I just went by the books and online resources, I would have never tried.
Out of all 50 some-odd gardening and botany books in my collection, I have found little errors in many of them. For example, I'm always seeing mixups between colocasia, alocasia and xanthosoma, as well as books that misidentify white bird of paradise as a banana. I'm not nitpicking at all, only saying that everybody makes mistakes.
In a web 2.0 world, garden bloggers occupy a niche somewhere between garden writers, nurserymen and the everyday consumer. We represent the consumer, as well as provide information and occasionally misinformation to that consumer. We are curators and editors of our own little magazines and some of us take it more seriously than others. As silly as I can be, I still take it pretty seriously. I still spend a lot of time researching and double checking my facts before I post something, and if I'm not sure about something, I'm sure to say so.
As seriously as I take my own blog, a blog is more than simply a manual or a reference. Garden blogs are an ongoing conversation. Its a dialogue between generous, thoughtful and caring individuals that simply make you happy to be in this beautiful world. These passionate gardeners do provide a whole lot of information too, and not just on "How to make compost!" (like one commenter on Allan Becker's post) but they provide fascinating resources on diverse and obscure topics that are just too specific to be found elsewhere.
Garden blogs are yet another thing. They are a vehicle to pursue a passion. On a personal note, I'll tell you that not everyone's able to get the education of a landscape architect, designer or writer. I received my a, but I love writing, designing and gardening to the point of obsession, and The Rainforest Garden is not only an outlet, but rather my purpose. Its a second full time job that consists of research, networking, more research, note taking, gardening, and designing, and only a small portion of that time is actually spent blogging.
I'm saving up to be a Master Gardener so I can share what I learn, and I've officially decided to take the plunge and take garden writing more seriously, making it a real job. Wish me luck!