March 22, 2015


Perennial Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' does make a good pot plant in a cold greenhouse.  This one was a gift from the gal's at Blythewold Mansion two years ago. So little in the greenhouse looks good enough to photograph - I have no idea how I am going to rescue it for our garden party on May 1st.

Fair warning  - you may want to read this post first before you decide to vote this week for this blog as your most favorite gardening blog (it's in that pink circle ad up there on the right hand side column). I do hate asking folks to do things like that, but, after all, blogs are social media, and good ratings sometimes count.

Thanks in advance.

(One more thing - apparently there are lot of grammar and spelling errors in this post - which I apologize for in advance Trying to catch them all tonight.)

Really, I am not being negative, either.
I'm just being honest.

A nice rant.

Gardening advice - beginners crave for guidance, experts seek new inspiration, and everyone else in-between just wants to loose themselves in some gorgeous imagery and text that will transport them into some fantastical garden in their mind. I've been wondering lately if all of the abundance of information - Facebook groups, blogs, magazines, tweets and gardening product companies just might be over-informing us? I'm not sure yet about Pinterest, as I too am addicted to it, but as many of you know, it too can be over-used, or at the very least - misused.

 I beg to ask the question - what is gardening today? I imagine that the answers can be many, a way to grow food, agriculture perhaps, potted plants and house plants certainly, but another definition might be emerging - that of gardening as a craft. A DIY craft project, which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all, as what's wrong with creative expression? Plus, a child making a fairie garden might one day discover that he or she has suddenly fallen in love with gardening. So what then is my concern?

I think what bothers me is more about incorrect information.
So much information today is shared by word-of-mouth, or instantly as a tweet - often without any thought to it's validity or regardless of any proof if the 'tip' or trick actually works.

I was reminded of this last week when a large branded outdoor tool company asked me if I would be interested in writing a sponsored post for them. Not something I am used to or even comfortable doing, but I asked them for more information.

Their social media person wrote me back and said this "Oh, don't worry, it should be something easy - like how egg shells if spread around your tomato plants will keep slugs away - that's what our readers want to hear".

I thought - "hmm, now this is getting a little weird. Content is being pre-edited for me by someone who doesn't even garden, and someone who probably doesn't even know if this trick would actually work or not".

I declined politely.

She then emailed me back and said:

"Cool, no prob - I can find someone else to write those gardening tips for us - have a great day!".


 Somewhere along the way, gardening has become very popular with young people - a face we all should be very pleased about, but something else has happened - advice and information about agricultural methods, horticultural expertise as essentially  morphed into something closer to what a gardener might find in a back yard in 'Lord of the Rings" than at a the local farm. I don't want to blame bloggers, as many are very informed - experts even, but as in any field, there are also some to be wary of - it should be obvious to you which ones promote tips that look more like"Magic Hair Tonic" and "Snake Oil".

We as a community need to remain cautious, naturally, but also we need to understand how difficult gardening can be sometimes for new gardeners. I feel that it is irresponsible to promote a distrust of proved horticultural expertise and practices unless they are indeed proven. New gardeners are vulnerable, and will always opt for the most organic or wholesome-sounding method - why wouldn't they? They've been raised in a world which is fearful of Big Food and Big Agribusiness, they have been raised with fears about everything from GMO's to Monsanto. The truth lies somewhere in-between the right and the left, organic seeds are fine, but telling gardeners that they must start their self-saved or non-gmo seed in organic egg shells  does go a little overboard. Bloggers need to relax a little, and so do gardeners.

II will admit, it is hard to not get scared - with info graphics appearing on Facebook and Pinterest with headlines like 'AMAZING HOME MADE FERTILIZER FROM YOUR PANTRY!" or "LASAGNA GARDENING WILL SAVE YOUR TOMATOES" , The gimmicks might seem irresistible, but often the don't provide the real story or optional, and often more practical solutions. Instead, it all comes off as crafty nonsense more than it does real science.

Of course some home remedies do work, but the truth is, few actually work well enough. I am not a disbeliever - I make home made chicken soup when I have a cold too, but I have stopped believing in Echinacea. Anyway, this isn't really a gripe about home remedies, my issue has more to do with originality and content - both are deficiencies in most of the gardening advice found today on some of the most popular gardening blogs and magazines.

I suppose that we can blame the Internet, but that really isn't fair, as although it has allowed endless streams of bad information to be both shared and downloaded in our minds, it may also be the single most important thing to happen in all of our lives. Has it killed the book store and the library? Perhaps, but the DVD didn't really kill the megaplex in the end, either. Maybe things just need to settle down get weeded out, find their own place to live ( like videos on Youtube) and then move on.

After all, there will always be experts in some specific field, and there will always be amateurs as well ( I hope!). The greater issue may just be where to they play, work and share information. In the blogging word and on websites - they are all jumbled up. I think there is a lot of room for improvement- in fact, I think that there is even more room here for businesses or organizations to lead this improvement Sorry, that's just my futurist side thinking.

So until someone figures out a way to curate all of the information out there about gardening on the inter web, you the reader is stuck - stuck with a few measly lifestyle magazines which you so desperately want to be awesome, but generally are not - stuck with a feeder or bookmark folder with your favorite garden bloggers, and TV that is, well, meh at best.

Blooming today in the greenhouse, this small, alpine post of Ornithogalum fimbriatum

As for me, and what I write? My mission is real - and I can't help that, as I am a plant nut, a plant geek, a collector, and a lifelong gardener who is more than an enthusiast. Sure, much of the information on this blog might target the more experienced plant person, but I really do try to straddle my audience base - a post on Asiatic Gentians in an alpine trough, followed up by a post about how to raise Shirley Poppies. I'm not sure that it all works, but in many ways, I don't see a difference between the expert and the curious. We don't talk down to our kids, so why should I tell you to pee on your tomatoes if I know that a little more calcium added to the soil in spring will do the trick?

Gardening is full of tricks, but the ones I would like you to look out for are the ones that provide helpful cultural tips such as" Scabiosa seed - should it be covered with a newspaper to germinated in complete darkness? (Nope - it need light to germinate, but if you want success with the rarely seen annual Salpiglossis, then yes, you must cover the seed with a total blackout material - a Sunday paper would work, until it germinates. Just don't cover the seed with soil - allow it to sit on top of the soil. ). One cannot over-simplify or even dumb down when it comes the plant life, especially if you are serious about it.

Tips should be useful ones ( Lettuce seed germinates best outdoors at 38º F, and cabbage best indoors at 85º F., while both should be moved to cooler conditions once germinated, to around 48º F - 55º F).  So maybe you can see why I get a little reactive when I see a mommy blogger sharing how she is showing her son how to sow broccoli in eggshells on the windowsill - great idea, just the wrong method. Believe me, her son would really love to know the real way too. As someone who works with children daily, science fascinates kids, and they often respond best to real facts, and not dumbed-down content. If they wanted dumbed down, they would only want to see goldfish and guppies when they go to the aquarium (that said, they will still want sharks - which may elevate one of my other gripes about nature shows, but I will save that one) (Ahhhh - but arent' sharks are the entry drug for the future ichthyologists). Indeed.

That said, every botanic garden should not be planting a vegetable garden for kids, but might do better by raising an Amorphophallis titanium. to impress the kids - They are the sharks of the plant world  (and perhaps for future horticulturists), and just as every large metropolitan Aquarium features shark week, a Dead Horse Arum may have just as much luck inspiring a young rebel. We all can trace our love for plants back to an inciting moment (mine was less exciting - Mrs. Carpenters red geranium plants in first grade but it worked).

We bloggers need to move forward from what many of us keep repeating and repeating.

I don't know if you remember this, but a couple of years ago, 'Martha Stewart  got herself into a bit of trouble in an interview on Bloomberg, do you remember how insane those news reports were? How mean the blogging community became toward the woman who started the brand that made so much of what we now take for granted, possible?  This article - 'Martha Stewart Speaks Out: Bloggers are not Experts". struck me - in a "Thank God someone finally just said it" way. I will say that the entire blogging world would probably not exist today, if it wasn't for Martha Stewart - but I will also say that she was pretty much, correct even though it's not exactly how she wanted the sentiment to be read. I want to believe that deep inside, she felt like ' there, I said it". After all, Martha doesn't hate bloggers, she only probably has some issues with the stupid ones. There. I said it.

She happens to be a great blogger, as well as a savvy tech  person, and even though she probably has little time to blog herself, the idea and authenticity of her original brand still exists in her blog.
(I secretly wish that Martha would go just out on her own too, but that is another tale). Then again - if I was Martha, I would just go to one of my homes and build 10 specialist greenhouses and have fun, and call it a day! She deserves to have some fun, don't you think? Cash it in, relax, enjoy life. I can't imagine the struggle of trying to balance it all - no, wait a minute, I sort of do it too. Maybe that explains this little ulcer pain I'm experiencing lately.

Look, in the end, those bloggers who have proven themselves and whom are considered experts will survive - it doesn't matter if you cook, garden or craft. originality and curiosity will lead the way to excellence.".

I hope that I am one of them.

The greenhouse is a mess! I just haven't found the energy to clean it out after the big freeze. Maybe once our snow melts here in the Boston area - when that will be? Who knows.

We also need to encourage new talent, if one wants to write about gardening expertise, they not only need to know what worked in the past, as well as what might work in the future. Of course, we all need great curators and greater editors to make these ideas relevant and to weed out the weeds. If I was a new gardener, I would like a knowledgeable plant person to curate all of the best techniques and plants to use for me. I would imagine that for a new gardener, the landscape is too crowded with poor information.

Source Information like a Chef

If I felt like baking Banana bread today, I know from experience that I will first need to filter through the most simple or paid-to-post recipes that appear first on sites like MyRecipes.com and FoodNetwork.com.

I then will need to edit out the brand name sites like Kingarthurflour and Bettycrocker, ( I know, lots of you experienced cooks do this too). I may eventually end up at a small micro bakery website with a blog, a site which could be from Belgium or Poland, but one that many have told me had the ultimate never fail and most importunity -delicious banana bread recipe. My point is that today -  it's more about editing and curating, than it is about anything else. Some of us will look for the easy way out and just make the first recipe we land on, while others will spend time sleuthing out for the most excellent recipe that they can find.

It' sad, but often the last place I seem to look anymore, is in my bookcase, I am sorry to admit. At least I still buy lots of gorgeous cookbooks! What's up with that? For the experience, my friends - the experience of reading them and dreaming. We can learn from this quirk.

Which is why I think the same thing is happening right now with gardening. Some books are being published which are amazing with hard covers and gorgeous typography. Nurseries are starting to carry incredible plants - hellebores and snowdrops are everywhere now. It just might be information which is easier to get, therefore I don't need it in a book. Let's say I was gifted a packet of some rareseed from Tibet - the first thing I think I would do would be to Google it, and see how I should grow it. Do I need to double stratify it? Should it sit in a pot of gravel out in the snow all winter?

That said .....

I promise to never write about:

1. Home made Fertilizer - Epsom salts, molasses, vinegar, human pee, etc. I will write about unique mixes, or formulas specific to particular species or plants, but never generalized nonsense like this.

2. Coffee Grounds  -as a good choice for compost pile - yes. For just adding to your garden? Why? I give you permission to just throw them out, for I am certain that you are wasting far better composting materials from your kitchen, but I also want you to be conscious about your soil acidity and pH before using any home remedy that will raise the ;acid or reduce it. I've seen people say "This is great! It will raise the acid in my soil!", but do they need to? If you cannot explain to someone what your soil analysis test has revealed to you then why are you adding chemicals? Just be smarter. OK, Coffee ground wont hurt your plants, but they probably aren't doing all that you think that they are either.

3a. Egg shells for starting seeds - Nothing against egg shells at all - but they are just about the worst thing to start any seeds in. Start wheat grass in them for the Easter table, but you are doing a disservice to your seedlings if you are starting vegetable seeds in them. Too small, and you risk damaging the roots.

3b. Eggshells for anything else too for that matter. Sure, they are shown to reduce blossom end-rot by adding calcium to the soil in some studies - but do know how often you need to add powdered shells to each plant and how much you need to achieve such results? Do you know how long it takes to extract the calcium from egg shells? Do you know if that Epsom salt drench affects how your eggshells decompose? Do your homework first. There are better ways. Just toss them in the compost and move on to watering your plants consistently while they are forming fruit. Boom. Solved.

4. No airplant ANYTHING -- People - nice idea, but they will die.  I even started a Pinterest board entitled " Best ways to kill Air plants - and people re-pinned them with notes like 'Great idea!' . Air plants are good in the ideal location, perhaps a steamy shower with a window? Sadly, air plants have become the goldfish-in-a-goldfish-bowl of today's generation. Most, if not all, will die. There are ways to successfully grow air plants, and none of them include a hot glue gun. Try some fresh sphagnum on an orchid mount and place them outdoors on a shady wall on your deck where you can mist them daily - you know - so that they will actually live? 

5. Fairie gardens - OK, OK, OK - I LOVE FAIRIE GARDENS! But if you are dude over 40, you might want to pass on this. Unless you use action figures perhaps! OK, Fairie gardens can stay.

6. Succulents  in a terrarium or orchids in a terrarium (unless it's an orchid that belongs in a terrarium - and sorry to tell you this, but no succulent belongs in a terrarium. It will rot, and then it will die.

7. Home-made seed tape
 (OK - - this trend just confounds me - really? Saving money? At $1.50 for 15 feet at most seed catalogs - you're welcome.

8.  Chalkboard plant labels - there is a really good reason why one cleans a chalk board with water.
Paint markers on black? Love it. Chalk board paint and chalk? Good luck with that.

9. Lasagna Gardening. If you really need to mulch you can use most anything - because mulching is a good thing (Thank you Ruth Stout!), but corrugate b-flute cardboard and newspaper with grass clippings is just asking for trouble. Stick to thick layers of straw or hay, and leave the sheets of board and newspaper along with grass clippings to the compost pile.  The same goes for wood bark mulch in the veg garden. Slugs, over-heating, mold, chemicals from the paper and inks, it has not place in good horticulture for so many reasons - It's a bad idea with a good name. I do encourage mulching however, for plant that appreciate mulch but remember, not all plants do. Some prefer that the soil is left alone to breath naturally, other plants do better wit gravel or stone, some do best with just leaves or pine duff. Know what your plants need first, and then, either learn to week, or much consciously with what works best for the plant - it may be fresh compost, or fresh or well rotted manure, straw or salt marsh hay for the best results. Best mulch ever? In the fall, save your leaves and shred them in a shredder. Make long piles along the edge of your garden, add manure if you can get it, and then add this after you perform a soil test in the spring. Stand back and let your tomatoes rejoice.

9. Wine Crate vegetable gardens - Look, I 'get it' - I love the look of many wine crates, but most will just fall apart in a few weeks once wet. There is a reason why most photos on Pinterest look as if they were just planted with a few 6 packs of lettuce. If you've ever tried to do this yourself, you know what will happen. Manufactures are not making good- quality wine crates, and most are just too small to do any good.  I can't remember that name of the blogger who had the guts to show what really happens to these containers after a couple on months, but believe me, it was anything by pretty.

If you feel that you really want to try this, either make a cover for your plastic tomato crate or container from the panels, or have someone make larger wooden boxes and then attach the panels to them with brass screws. Otherwise, unless you are just planning to write a post about what  great idea this is and just photographing your project expecting it to last for a few weeks, I advise you to move on.

10. Companion Planting - I know, it seems so nice and friendly, but there is no proof that Marigolds planted between tomatoes or cabbage will deter pests. I do it, because it looks good. Period.  The same goes for those Pelargoniums (Scented Geraniums) sold as 'Mosquito Repellent plants" - (you it's coming - great name, bad idea.


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  2. Thanks, Matt! I agree with most of this post. Much of my book, Coffee for Roses, deals with these myths that were once propagated over the back fence. Now that fence is world wide as these things get spread FOREVER on the Internet. Yikes.

    I disagree with your fairy garden opinion but think this an XY chromosome thing. We older females find miniature gardens combines our passion for plants AND our childhood love of doll houses. Think of something similar for guys and maybe you'll get it.

    As a garden communicator I have ambivalent feelings about things like blackboards, wine crates and "pallet gardens." On the one hand I, like you, see these are impractical, often unsuccessful and more to do with photos and fashion than reality. On the other hand, if these "pins" and blog posts get someone hooked, I'm all for that. The question is, are these gateway drugs or turn-off fantasies? Since all online activities and influences are so new, it's far too early to tell.

    All I can say is keep planting, keep planting, keep planting.

    1. Funny C.L - I knew that when I typed Fairie gardens, I should not have - as not only does Joe, my partner love them, as girls toy designer for Hasbro, I have designed my share of dollhouses! So much for the XY chromosome thing! It just may be my personal opinion and that's, that! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! Love your work, as always.

  3. For the most part I agree, and I especially empathize with the conflict between loving books yet getting almost all my information over the internet these days! Plant societies in particular seem to be in big trouble. But the truth is that there's a lot of crap and misinformation out there, and we need to be able to wade through it. What is a less experienced gardener to do? That's where books, magazines with EDITORS, and plant societies with bona fide experts can help. I think we do need identify the experts, and maybe that's where we bloggers can help. We can also help by emphasizing the basics--and common sense--over fads, but let's face it, fads are fun and if somebody is having fun gardening, who are we to criticize?

    Regarding coffee grounds, I've actually looked into it a bit. No, they don't perform any kind of miracles. For one thing, they provide virtually no nutrients; a bit of potassium, maybe a bit of nitrogen, but that's about it. But they also don't acidify the soil. As with most organic matter where they help is with tilth, and for those of us with heavy clay soil, we need all the help we can get! So yes, I do throw my used coffee grounds in the garden, filter and all, and don't give it much thought otherwise. (I feel guilty throwing away the kitchen scraps that would probably make better compost, but after having a bit of a rat problem a few years ago, I've had to cut back on that.)

    Finally, I would never criticize another blogger's spelling or grammar, but I have to take you to task on your proofreading for this post. (And I'm still trying to figure out what a "light-emitting container" is!)

    1. Yikes - light emitting container! LOL. Ok, look - it was late and almost 9:00 PM and I hadn't even started dinner yet, and I was getting blood clots in my leg and needed to get started for a long week at work - but I get it! Will go back now and see what I really wrote!

  4. Very interesting rant. Gardening information that comes from the Internet tends to be fragmented. It produces gardeners who will be very interested in rare cultivars of some plants but will have no idea of the basic plants that have traditionally been grown in their areas. They know new, glamorous plants, but have never heard of Annual Candytuft. They rarely do their homework - they will spend good money on half a dozen lupine plants not knowing that anyone with no experience can grow 100 from seed for pennies.
    I do get a great deal of information from the Internet, especially straightforward things like how do you spell Aubrieta - what is Calceolaria mexicana. But if I were to need a refresher on how to layer dianthus, or a general survey of a species I would probably go to back to my old Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening (bought at a garage sale) because I know the information will be holistic rather than bitsy, presented in a rational, logical way and I will quickly find exactly what I need.

    1. Well, I think you just inspired me to get that book. The classics never fail. Thanks! My dianthus thank you.

  5. This is a very honest post Matt. I like it. :) Bookmarked and shared with our followers.

  6. # 5 is a development opportunity. While the genre has devolved into a way to sell dollhouse furniture, there are some excellent spinoff possibilities.

    1. I think if the quality is good, the 'right' dollhouse furniture can be OK. I am more into the use of mushroom tables and woodland bits and pieces. There was this secret meadow near my house where my sister used to take me as a kid - we called it fairyland, and she would make me stay quiet as we neared the mossy opening which was at the end of a long, abandoned road ( sounds like a horror story, right?) Edged with ferns and a canopy of trees, it was a magical spot to me, with Indian Pipes, mossy rocks and wild foxgloves - the sun beams and light really made it look like an illustration straight out of Fantasia, it just didn't need any human construction of miniature furniture - maybe she was right - magical, real fairies lived there - we just didn't see them. I really believed it.

  7. Anonymous2:05 PM

    Hey Matt; I really enjoy your blog. That being said, I'm always slightly disappointed to see the endless spelling mistakes and poor grammar. Some constructive feedback.

    1. I don't disagree at all! I am well aware that I am not a great writer - I am probably a little better than I was in the beginning, but this is why I am not writing a book or magazine articles. If I had more time, I could carefully craft each article, and be more thoughtful about typos - that said, I did take 4 hours yesterday to tap this out, and I kept going back a correcting what I could ( I promise that I will take more time tonight when I get home from work), but even though I feel badly about this, someone once told me a blog is supposed to be immediate and quick - like a fast diary entry, considered to be social media, some consider typos and bad grammar just part of the medium. I don't claim to follow that, but I guess all I can say is that I am trying to do the best I can given my time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  8. Across the board total agreement. Excellent rant!

  9. I agree. I am a beginner gardener and I found out the hard way about these "wonderful tips" all over social media. The only tip that I have found that works is when every year I add new soil to my potted plants, but before I put them back in the pots, I soak the roots in a mixture of 1 TBS of Epsom salt and a gallon of water. It perks my plants right up. But, not all of my plants liked it. I had to find out by trial and error. Luckily it didn't kill any of my plants, but I did find out what plants liked the mixture and which ones didn't.

    1. Interesting, Fee, I need to check into that tip. Thanks for sharing it!

  10. Carol3:53 PM

    Great post. I get so tired of trying to look something up on the internet and having to plow through countless articles that do not answer my question at all. I still use a lot of reference books along with the internet.

  11. Anonymous6:02 PM

    great post. total approval, rant appreciated.
    matt, you put your knowledge and experience at the service of your readers. Growing with Plants stands out from the crowd of garden blogs and poseurs. you communicate a great deal of info authentically. the errata can usually be decoded and never extends to plant names. your runaway, outta control spell-check is forgiven, considering what is crammed into the Mattus life and household. all the other fruitful activities that take place in your lives make Growing with Plants all the more unique. much appreciated

    1. Thanks neighbor! All constructive crits are appreciated though. I am well aware of my Kryponite! Always room for improvement. If I can only teach spell check to not correct botanical Latin!

  12. Anonymous5:20 AM

    Well, I guess I would plead for more experiments, freedom and fun instead of absolute doctrines when it comes to gardening. Whatever people enjoy, whatever inspires them to grow stuff and whatever they use to express themselves also in gardening is just fine. Also the smaller the space for your plants, the more important are small variations.

  13. I've read this post a few times and agree with you for the most part. While, like you, I'll always love books, I must say that the smart phone with internet access is much easier to take along to plant sales and nurseries than are the rather unwieldy tomes that used to accompany me to such places.

    Tillandsias - I've jumped on the trendy bandwagon and have them all over the place, people house and green house alike. I prefer glueless applications like hanging around in Spanish Moss (tillandsia usneoides) and especially enjoy them in itty bitty pots which are now readily available due to the popularity of fairie gardens. They're fun for other plants to wear like jewelry. Of the 60 or so in my collection, I've lost three over as many years because they were out of sight and never got watered. One would get similar results with just about any plant. Maybe I'm just lucky but mine are mostly thriving, growing, producing offsets. Lithops will die!

    Blogging - For me, it's more of an online garden club with members from all over the country. Most of the garden clubs, plant societies, etc. in my area meet during the day when I work. I'm not an expert on anything, just someone who has gardened for 40 years or so and am still fascinated by growing things, thrilled at a new discovery, and always up for an experiment! My blog acts as a garden journal of sorts. The blogs of others across the country show me how plants react in a variety of climates and how folks around the world garden. Further, members of the garden blogging community often leave feedback and suggestions about plant and design questions I ask. In the Victorian era, when I was a boy well before the internet age, I had garden gurus who took me under their wings, shared knowledge, books, plants, etc. If I had a question, I'd simply walk over to one of their gardens and ask. We don't so much drop in on people anymore and my garden gurus of long ago are now themselves planted. Enter the blogosphere - talking across the fence in a different way. So, how are your Dahlias doing this year Edna? The slugs are eating the heck out of mine! What about this weather? Can you believe it? Edie's begonias are simply the largest they've ever been but Myrtle's corn will never be knee high by the 4th of July! They have a big sale on outdoor pots going on down at the nursery, do you want to check it out together? Hey, look at this unusual plant I just found at a sale. Martha and magazines aren't shaking in their boots.

    I'm off to throw coffee grounds and egg shells on something or was that the secret recipe for a facial exfoliant? I forgot.

    1. First of all Outlawgardener, I do love your blog. Great stuff! As for Tillandsia's - you are obviously an accomplished plants person, so you know what you need to do, in order to keep your air plants alive. I think I am focusing more on the beginner, who even the non-plant person who follows some random advice from someone who themselves have not kept a tillansia alive longer than it took them to write a post about it. Today, beginners can get very discouraged, and if they fail, they may not move on to the next plant that they can grow. As for the social aspect of blogging - I agree, and this may be the best part about blogging and the internet ( the social part). I never thought of it until you said it, but our dear gardening blogs may too be killing the plant society. Comments this your's here confirm the growth of this new community. Happy gardening!

  14. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Matt, I've been following your blog for awhile now so no big surprises in your rant/manifesto and mostly I agree. One point stands out that seems completely out of character though:

    "every botanic garden should not be planting a vegetable garden for kids, but might do better by raising an Amorphophallis titanium. to impress the kid...."

    Really? Shouldn't they be doing both? (Fortunately from what I've seen most good bot. gardens are doing both). Who better to create programs to not only inspire but to really give kids some hands on, knowledgeable training? Not all kids have gardens and/or gardeners as parents. A lot more schools have gardens these days but not all (and not all have knowledgeable gardeners in charge -- something that became painfully evident in my own kids school!) To my mind if bot gardens, arboreta, and the like focus on showing/raising unusual plants (rather than offering a fuller program for kids) and spend more time and effort increasing their instagram and other social media offerings (rather than a more balanced online/offline/hands-on approach) the trivialization of gardening will really be underway!

    1. You're right, that does (and is) out of character now that I read it. I hope that folks will err on the obvious, that because I work at a toy company (i.e. for kids worldwide) that first and foremost, I want children to get interested in gardening, and you are also correct in that anything that will capture a kids attention, can spark a future passion for gardening or science, for that matter. I think what I probably should have said was something more akin to - use the A. titanium to wow the kid, and get them super excited ( yes, veg garden or even a geranium might do that as well), and then get them into the vegetable garden. I do believe however, that if an arboreta or botanic garden simply paints some tomato stakes primary colors and calls a garden a children's garden, they might not be achieving all that the possibly could.

  15. I love it when friends rant (it makes me feel a little less out of line when I launch in to my own tirades) ;). I have to say I do agree with CL though (slight ambivalence about all the crafty/pinteresty things). I think it is important to remember that eye candy, whether in the form of dippy wine crate planters or in the form of highly manicured, extremely expensive, impractical, must-have-hired-help, high-end editorial gardens are equally dishonest - as well as equally inspiring. One is however attainable to the masses and might get someone trying somthing out (albeit probably quickly failing) where as the other does make for a nice photo shot but often does little more than breed hopeless classism. I think the problem is that we hardly ever really criticize the monied gardens (why?) but we readily shake our heads in disgust at the silliness of the cheap and cheerful (I'm guilty of it myself). Do I like impractical stupid garden craft - NO - makes my skin crawl -- but I do see a positive side. But if we are to add this to a list of things we don't want to write about - I think 'we' ('cause we do this together, right?) should also add to the list any sort of over glorification of those countless 'pretty but impractical', or the 'its beautiful only because it is expensive', and those 'this doesn't exist without a shameful amount of chemicals' types of gardens too. - P.s. I also just realized your sidebar link to my site is broken... and excuse me if this came through 2x - it blanked out on me and I don't know if went through the 1st time.

    1. Rochelle - What an interesting point - I never thought about looking at this from the other perspective? Ranting is such an odd thing anyway, since what I vent and write one day, I often wince at reading on the third! But it is what it is, and as we have mashed over pizza and Afgahni food more than once - all part of this social media transparent blogging thing anyway! Especially with us creative types. Hell, even a bad color combination can sometime tip me over the edge, but only until I consider it from a different perspective. Thanks for sharing and smacking me in the head about this one! One note though ( or two) about what some may consider impractical - I think sometimes 'impractical' could be raising something which requires great knowledge or experience, or assembling an important collection which even I sometimes receive comments about as being excessive or un-realistic - I think we have to factor in talent and skill, along with the more subjective views like 'taste' and 'class'. Of course, nothing is truly 'right' or 'wrong' when it comes to managing Mother Nature - we can only offer our opinions. In the end, what makes ones skin 'crawl' may give someone goosebumps. Opinion is a lovely, horrible thing.

  16. Great list, funny and so true about marigolds. Not so funny that mine were infested with aphids last year, so what do those believers have to say about them keeping aphids away now?

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  18. I feel the same way you do on many of the topics you discuss. It's honestly why I've really cooled on Pinterest; because it is aggravating to have to wade through pin after pin about "Plant your breakfast (eggs, coffee and bananas) with your roses," or the latest pin from what I can only assume is a very well-funded and active Epsom salt lobby (how is it possible that you can find pins right next to each other that claim that Epsom salt will give you the best tomatoes you've ever had and also dissolve old tree trunks?) or something that tells me to put a diaper in the bottom of my containers.

    It is frustrating but at the same time I have difficulty poo-pooing anything that might pique a potential gardener's interest. If you can plant the seed (to use an overly obvious metaphor), perhaps they'll grow as gardeners and as they do they'll find expert gardening blogs. Just the other day I wrote a post about how, as a new homeowner and novice gardener, I ignored advice to pull Campanula rapunculoides from my garden. "It's pretty," I said. More than a decade later, I continue to pay the price for ignoring that advice. But since then I've become a master gardener, spend more on gardening-related pursuits than any other discretionary spending item, get my soil tested and research plants before I buy them and learned that the plant with the pretty purple flowers is called Campanula rapunculoides and it's a labeled invasive in our area.

    Should we teach kids the right way from the beginning? You bet. But if someone happens upon gardening because they found out on Pinterest that loofahs are really gourds, I'll just hope that someday they also learn that Epsom salt only works if you have a magnesium deficiency.

    1. Thanks, Erin. I was just thinking ( as, once I rant, I start to back pedal!), that it might be interesting to write a post asking everyone to look back in their life, and share what first inspired them to garden, and then what did they actually grow? I first grew either sunflower seeds in one of my mothers impatiens that she brought in for the winter, or a grapefruit tree from a seed which I kept until I was in college - things we might poo poo now, but from the perspective of a child, or a young adult who is just learning how to garden - not so. I wonder then if we are on the cusp of an enormous growth in gardening - as even some of my friends who are in their 30's - first-time gardeners 5 years ago, have quickly moved on to more interesting plants, because they are now hooked. Maybe - Pinterest and DIY posts are not so silly after all? What is the first thing one does when faced with a plant they do not know? They search for more information about it - on-line. In a very real way, it may not be the same thing as tramping through the woods looking to discover, but it is still an exploration. Maybe kids today and adults who are new to gardening are just starting this journey?

  19. Jonathan Stone9:53 AM

    Nice pryterritzyoh, Matt, I wouldn't write about them either. The antidote to helpful hints which might not work, is the specialized plant societies which match your interest, in which are found generous gardeners who will know the answers to your questions and be willing to talk plants with you. They are also the source for finding what are the best, most enlightening, entertaining and valuable books, as well as the source for otherwise unobtainable seed. A young gardener would be well-served to join the group which would welcome him, and understand him.

    1. Don't make me pull out my dictionary, Jonathan! You are correct of course when it comes to the many specialized plant societies. I wonder if this current interest in gardening will evolve in some people who will graduate and move on to search for a deeper experience from gardening and plant life. I hope so! Thanks.


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