March 26, 2011

Why Bother?

I subscribe to Garden Gate Magazine, and I enjoy it.

It has no ads, lots of garden pictures, helpful hints, great diagrams and plant profiles.  It's a "how-to" resource.

Nothing elaborate or awe inspiring, nothing to pore over, just well documented, basic gardening advice with pictures. 

I'm a fan, really, and find much to enjoy when it arrives in my mailbox. 


They recently asked subscribers to take a survey indicating how likely they would be to read an article with the following titles:

Very Interested Somewhat Interested Slightly Interested Not Interested At All
Ultimate Perennial Handbook
27 Easy-Going, Easy Growing Flowers!
No-Fail Plant Combos
Flowering Shade Combos Made Easy
Easy Weekend Gardens
Ultimate Garden Borders

 No.  And no.  Not interested.  Why?  That ridiculous word in half the titles:

Many others have ranted about the dumbing down of gardening, and advertising efforts to make gardens something you install and forget.   It drives me nuts.

The marketing premise is that putting plants in the ground is highly complex and such a chore and the very essence of disagreeable.

But it can be made tolerable with EASY plants, and it can be made less onerous with EASY garden plans.  You can do it!  It's no-care, no-fuss, no-interest, no commitment.  So easy.
 Is gardening such a chore?
Effort saving articles, time reducing hints... just get the things in the ground so you can get back inside.  You see this approach everywhere, in ads and at home stores and garden centers, and even in helpful newspaper gardening sections, not just in this particular magazine.

Here's my issue:
Why would you want to turn off a potential market like that?  Don't garden suppliers and publications want to nourish an ongoing love affair with plants?  Why discourage buyers and readers from gardening by implying it's such a chore and time waster?  You see the results, with homeowner landscapes full of languishing trees and shrubs that were installed and "needed no care".

Snnnxxxx.  Don't make me go outside.
Really, if it so disagreeable to have to garden, why bother at all?  Instead of searching for an easy no-effort way to do it, why not just dump the whole idea of growing anything at all?  That would make it really easy.

Let's all go inside and take a nap.


  1. What an interesting post, Laurie. I haven't subscribed to Garden Gate for a couple years now, but always enjoyed it. I just assumed that most readers were like me, experienced home gardeners who were looking for design inspiration, news about the latest cultivars and the like. If that's the direction they want to go, then they lose a large readership for sure - I think most of us know how to do easy, but make the choice to nurture and improve our gardens year after year. I hope they rethink things and perhaps just add a feature for novice gardeners without dumbing down the entire issue for the rest of their readers. Be interesting to see what they decide to do if they're revamping things.

  2. I saw the same survey and thought these titles sound so boring. I mostly read it to see interesting plants and great combinations but get my care and how to info from other sources.

    P.S. I have the same mop!

  3. That's an interesting and valid point! Gardening isn't easy. It is work but it doesn't feel like it when you love it. I recently attended a presentation by Frank Ferragine at the Home and Garden Show and he touched on that point as well. I'll be posting some of my notes and photos later. The Gardening Life.

  4. I get the same magazine. It's a no frills, photo-packed, 'easy' read. I don't even read the titles to most magazine articles in this or other gardening magazines. I look for content. But you make a good point. Too many gardening gurus try to make gardening sound easy and I think this leads to many failures for the uninitiated and, ultimately, more disinterest in gardening. Perhaps such pubs survive on the idea that a fool is born every minute?

  5. I stopped subscriptions long ago. I guess like you mentioned, all the tools and techniques just seemed redundant. The same way to do a chore, but just a little differently with a strangely shaped new tool. Once I started working with my grower and nursery friend, learning how to do the chores correctly and with the right, time honored tool, the chores did become easier and a lot more enjoyable. Less hurt backs, knees and hips.

  6. They don't know who they are talking to. I think a lot of the magazines dumb down as you say. I take only the _Weeders Digest_ now. Love seeing those glossy photos though.

  7. Tracey, it's not just Garden Gate. I see "easy" "no care" in almost every ad for any gardening plant or product!

    Gardener on Sherlock, Did you respond to the survey? I wonder what the overall feedback will be.

    Shirley, it's interesting garden experts are also commenting about the dumbing down of their industry.

    Joene, it does seem publishers are setting up novice gardeners for failure when they tout gardening like furniture arranging.

    Donna, there's no substitute for hands on mentoring and learning! No magazine can accomplish that.

    Lisa, You're talking about GreenPrints (weeder's digest), right? I love that magazine!

  8. yeah, isn't the whole point of having a garden the time and work (or play) spent on it?

    Elizabeth Lawrence was fired from her column in the Charlotte paper in favor of "easy how-to" tips.

    Easy usually equals no depth. Yawn. Boring.

  9. I always knew I had a twin out there somewhere!! I despise articles like those! Gardening is not hard but it's more of a challenge than watering a pothos plant and clicking the remote. It can be overwhelming so the concept of making it easy is appealing to time strapped, sedentary people who want color but don't know how to get it. Unfortuantely, too many people confuse "easy" with "effortless" and give up when everything dies. Aauggh!!!!

  10. I'm all for the nap but when I get up I want to get some serious gardening done! You are right. There are so many magazines and books that promise easy this and easy that. Gardening is an ongoing learning process. There are no guarantees, there are some failures and some unexpected successes. I've been double digging beds this year and I'd like to see any magazine try to make that an easy process. That's just a backbreaking job but...I like it. I know exactly what went into everything I've done and it makes the harvest a little bit sweeter in the end.

  11. Sweetbay, exactly! The reason to have a garden is to get into it, work it, enjoy it and spend some time in it.

    TS, gardening definitely is more challenging than clicking the remote... I loved that! And you are right: easy is not necessarily effortless. --your twin

    Roberta, you certainly know both the joy and the exhaustion of working hard in the garden, and it really is both.

  12. Roberta, I just popped over to The Poet In You and saw your post about my blog! Thank you so much for the flattering shout-out. It is much appreciated. I hope you visit here often and find a lot to enjoy!

  13. I've received a lot of free copies of this rag over the years - it just wasn't appealing in the least. My only subscriptions now are to two Brit publications that keep me up on what's new and exciting in the hort world. It seems like a decision was made somewhere that Americans just weren't interested in gardening as such.

  14. Laurrie, it seems all the gardening magazines are the same. Easy easy, chore reducing, no fail, ultimate. One of the reasons I now read more blogs than magazines. Blogs contain real experiences and knowledge, magazines just want to sell you more tools and the latest outrageous plant colour. I admit I still buy one now and then because I love the photography but the articles often seem so empty.

  15. Cyndy, I get the British magazines too, and love to ogle the eye candy, but can't find anything in common with them. Our gardens and climate here are just so different, and as a new gardener I am lost with some of the British stuff!

    Marguerite, you make a good point about reading blogs instead of publications... I agree that I am now getting much more and much better gardening info from the blogs I read.

  16. Sadly, many people are in a rush to get to work, get the kids, go get supper, get in front of the TV, etc. They think they don't have time for gardening, but in spite of all this, their souls long for a connection to the earth and they do enjoy natural beauty when they see it. So the offer of a quick fix is irresistible. But the retailers don't have to worry. Even the easy plant is likely to die with total neglect, so the customers will surely be back!

  17. Good points, Laurrie! I subscribe to this magazine, too, and like the ideas for plant combinations they share and helpful information. I'm all for low-maintenance, but let's face it, nothing is NO-maintenance. I think they're missing the point about what is enjoyable about gardening.

  18. Rose, I agree , they miss the point about what is enjoyable out there in the garden. It's work, but it's not.

  19. Thanks so much for this post. The whole point of gardening is the process. Doing, caring for, learning, doing over ... rearranging.
    It's a process, a ritual, therapy, an education, whatever it is to each of us ... but I don't think of it as anything with a goalpost. Easy or foolproof is irrelevant. I'll never "finish." I don't want to "finish."

  20. Anonymous, glad you found common ground in this topic! Your points are absolutely right on.


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