Over at The Transatlantic Gardener (formally Transatlantic Plantsman) Graham Rice reviews a book titled, The Bad Tempered Gardener. In the post titled, "The Elephant in the Room" what caught my eye was where Graham paraphrases the author of the book, Anne Wareham where she, "complains that all commentary on gardens is positive, sometimes exuberantly and untruthfully so. She’s right, and this is pretty much unique to gardens. Reviews of movies, plumbers, restaurants, political campaigns, exhibitions, cars, even mothers… all just say it as the author sees it. And, often, dislike of the subject inspires fine and entertaining writing. But not gardens and, oddly, not reviews of garden books. When I helped run Plants & Gardens magazine (RIP) long ago, we were praised for our honest book reviews. But no else has been prepared to say that a garden book gives bad advice or recommends poor plants. It’s just not reviewed. Mustn't upset potential advertisers." How true that is. "Mustn't upset potential advertisers". What do you get when you have garden blogs that are sponsored by major corporations involved in gardening? Fluff! "Look how easily so and so handles that (insert brand here)power saw." How about, "excited about my newly planted (insert brand here) container garden in my front yard." One more is, "can't wait to cook up the delicious meals I read about in (insert brand here) book". There is nothing wrong with writing about how well so and so looks wielding a chain saw, but do we really need to put the brand name in there? Of course, that's who your being sponsored by.
This brings us to this passage from the book. Anne say's, "that all commentary on gardens is positive, sometimes exuberantly and untruthfully so." That seems to be the trend on The Internet. Who would speak badly about a corporate sponsor? Everything is better with my new (insert brand here) pruning tools. That wouldn't be because you just received a bunch of those (insert brand here) pruning tools for free, would it? Yes, it seems everything is better with (insert brand here).
Major garden corporations are now jumping into social media. For some it's too risky to just write great content, and let the readers find them based on their writing. The Internet is the wild west, and it's hard to control the message. Instead they try to orchestrate what is said. What if you write something in your garden blog and the legions don't swoop down and praise your writing? How embarrassing! Better to have a group of people who are committed to the (insert brand here) cause that can praise your writing and your (insert brand here).
It was bound to happen. It presents a huge potential for those who are willing to be independent, speak their minds, and create their own mini-brand (garden bloggers and independent garden centers). People will migrate towards brands that don't constantly shout, "look at me". Sure it may not land you a seat at the (insert brand here) dinner table, or get you that(insert brand here)free gift, but it will gain you readers who appreciate that fact that you are not always trying to find a place in your blog post to (insert brand here).