The future of garden reporting

Two post that touch on the same topic. The first from Amy at Garden Rant about the Seattle Post shuttering it’s doors. Amy say’s, “The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will be sold or shut down in 60 days. Those of you who don’t get to Seattle much may not realize what a remarkable thing it is that the city has two lively daily newspapers–and that BOTH of them have great garden coverage.”

The second post is from Sarah at Open Register. She tells us what a marvelous opportunity this is for garden centers to pick up the slack by becomming the “new” garden reporters. Sarah say’s, ” When I travel for business, I always pick up a local paper. What irks me is when you open the Home/Garden section and find a plant-related story that was pulled from a national wire service. Too often the article is offering plant recommendations and tips that don’t jive with the local climate. (And then we wonder why newbie gardeners come into stores so confused. Sheesh.)”

I would add one more idea. Be sure to find out if you have local garden bloggers in your area, and touch base with them. Link to them. Comment at their posts. Ask them to write an article for you. We have a garden blogger in Sacramento that has put together a fabulous web page on the local garden scene. Angela at Garden Bliss also put’s out “” Check out the listings for garden centers in the area! We are there, too. See if you can spot us. Keep scrolling, we are the first one you come to with pictures added. What a marvelous resource!

I beleive that in the future we will see a colabrative effort from local nurseries, garden bloggers, bird watching groups, etc. working to enhance the local garden scene. As people start to realize how important the LOCAL ecomony is to our well being, different groups can work together to keep intrest high, and local businesses in business.

About Trey Pitsenberger

Trey is a nurseryman, author, and speaker.

13. January 2009 by Trey Pitsenberger
Categories: , , , , | 14 comments

Comments (14)

  1. As someone trying to open a Nursery and Garden School, I wish more Nurseries were keeping up with these new opportunities to provide great information to customers. I think that they underestimate the impact to their own detriment.
    Thanks for putting this out there Trey!
    -The Personal Garden Coach

  2. Trey

    Thanks for this post and thanks for giving us all something to hope for as we tip toe through this economic downturn. I recetnly called the belelagured LA Times and asked them to consider me as a garden writer for their badly designed online paper. The NY Times has really run with this format and is way ahead of the possee. They jumped at the opportunity especailly when I said that I had clear ideas of what it should be etc and most importantly that I would never advicate the use of pesticides etc. They have comissioned two intila articles and we will see what happens. The tentative colum title I came up with was Earth Matters-practical gardening advice, Each piece will be full of very specific information that perhaps they may not glean so readily from online sources or books.

    I know from my teaching that cleitns want detailed info, specific plant varieties, new ideas, anything but the Big Box generic.

    This is an area to look at. I do think that the focused, local niche oriented Garden Center will do very well in the new green economy that Obama has promised us.


  3. Hey, Trey,

    Thanks for the mention! I, too, look forward to a day when most nurseries have a website and a blog. Wouldn’t it be great to read blog entries about new products and events that nursery owners and employees are EXCITED about?


    “OMG, you are not going to believe what the Annie’s Annuals truck just dropped off”


    “The Christmas trees are here! The Christmas trees are here!” ;-)


    “Here’s what’s going down at our kid-friendly Fall Festival…”

    If I owned a nursery, I would also use the blog to let customers know when I am seeing a particular pest in town (we all know these things come in waves) and what to do about it.

    And if I am knee-deep basil plants and I want them to MOVE? I’d say so, and then post my favorite pesto recipe!

    As for traditional media outlets like newpapers and magazines, the ones that are dragging their heels when it comes to embracing the digital age will be the first to go. Even the biggies are faltering, so the time to get online is now. It’s survival of the webbiest. ;-)

    By the way, I am more than happy to help nurseries (in the U.S.A.) set up a basic website and/or blog. They can contact me through the website link in this post.

    You’re already there, Trey. You’re a horticultural trailblazer. You’ve got the industry end covered with The Blogging Nurseryman and your passion about the business is obvious.

    I do wish you posted more frequently on Gardening with The Blogging Nurseryman. What are you ordering that you’re excited about? Let’s see it! It might drag some of your hibernating foothill customers into the store. None of us want you to ditch the plant nursery for the nursery school. We want you to make both a smashing success.

  4. Trey, an excellent point from Sarah concerning nursery owners “taking up the slack” and writing for local gardeners. When I owned my garden center in Turlock, CA, I began a column for the local paper called the Gardeners Checklist. I supplied the information to the paper at no charge and in turn they published in the garden section with no cost to me. I wrote every Monday morning, talking about things happening right then in the area. The column published every Saturday morning.

    From there I ended up supplying that column to 11 other small papers in the area, plus got asked to write for a major central valley paper with a different column for them.

    The writing led to a weekly radio program that led to being a guest expert on the Sacramento ABC TV station on a regular basis for several years.

    I can tell you that the customers gleaned from the newspaper and media far outweighed any print ads.

    When I wrote my weekly column, I would have people walking in the that weekend asking about specific items that I had written about that were very timely in my area.

    If anyone is interested in talking about this more, feel free to drop me an a mail and I’d be glad to answer any questions.

    Richard Kline

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  6. It’s a tricky subject. As an editor I do not take “free” writing from any business in my magazine and never intend to.

    And as a blogger I would not provide free content for a garden center’s publication.

    Having said this, we regularly mention our excellent local nurseries in the magazine and I talk about them on my blog as well.

  7. Those of us in the industry who are also journalists and derive more than small amonts of money from writing/photographing I can say shame on media whor*s who contribute content without compensation.

    Mr. Kline I am sure your feathers are fluffed every time one of the radio/tv/mags/papers calls you for advice or to DONATE your time.

    “Hey look I’m on TV!” Meanwhile the station manager is glad to have free product that he can sell ads against to pump up his GROSS PROFIT MARGIN.

    They are not happy to have you as the expert they are happy to have a consultant they do not have to pay. By the way can you come over to my garden and give me a free design consultation every time you donate your time to the media.

    I mean why not? If the stations can get away without paying you why should your customers have to pay either?

    Try asking your vendors to provide free goods just to say they sell their wares at your store. Ask your employees to work for free just to say they work for you.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. Respect journalists who happen to be horticulturists as well.

    Greg Draiss
    Epigram Media Service
    Back Yard Harvest

  8. “By the way can you come over to my garden and give me a free design consultation….”
    Interesting. That is how I built my business. I did free house calls for years as an incentive to get customers in my shop. It worked very well: I learned a lot, and built lifelong relationships with grateful customers who more than compensated me in the long run.
    Providing content to local newspapers is a way to build your professional reputation and is also good for the community. So is talking to local service clubs (shall we charge for that?), doing career days at the schools, donating to all the school garden projects, and all the other things we do to become known as the local garden gurus.
    “Respect journalists who happen to be horticulturists as well.” I do. All of what we are describing is public relations. We can buy advertising, or we can find these other ways to get your message out.
    But speaking of respect…..

  9. I do not charge for speaking at schools but do charge service clubs because they come to our store looking for huge discounts and the owners give it to them.

    If I were starting out a new biz I may give free consultations. However once established giving out free advice dilutes your presence and does not pay bills.

    I aologize for the outburst but this is beyond the wal-marting of America.
    This is the craigslist-ing of America. Just check out all the “help wanted” ads where the employer is too cheap to pay but offers instead the “right” for you to use the employers name on your resume’ or portfolio.

    That does not pay the bills for an established working journalist or landscape contractor as opposed to a start up whose costs (and income)
    is smaller.

    Greg Draiss
    Epigram Media

  10. Mr Draiss, Thanks so much for your constructive criticism. Just a few notes about the writing I did. To begin with, the papers were publishing articles they would purchase from a news service with articles written specifically for ares in the east and mid west regions. I got tired of telling people that the information in the paper wasn’t useful for the most part for our climate region.
    I can see several good points here, but not only did I offer some tidbits of advice for free, I also received a 2 column by 10 to 12 inch space on the front page of the garden section every Saturday morning. At the bottom of the page would be a mention of who I was and my garden center. The columns were written with problems and solutions in mind and sales generated from some free publicity far outweighed the time and energy I spent in writing the column.

    The TV appearances were quite enjoyable and again, it generated many contacts for products mentioned in the appearances.

    If people wanted a consultation on site I was more than happy to visit their home for a fee, but also suggested a lot of things could be handled with a visit to my store. Sometimes they purchased a product, and sometimes not, but by them knowing my services were available, it gave me the chance to work with them instead of them visiting another store.

    I hope your writing career is successful and you are able to make a comfortable living from your chosen profession.

  11. I am a horticulturist first and journalist second. I am glad you get a free ad for your articles as a “trade” is as good as getting paid. I applaud this on your part and the paper for realizing talent when they see it.

    In slow economic times it is too easy to compromise personal standards
    by selling out for free exposure. After a while when the market returns people who sold out are only known for working cheap/free and have a hard time getting the price they deserve for their talent. Their “brand” is forever cheapened.

    Best wishes for riding out the storm by holding to your standards.

    Greg Draiss

  12. I find this whole discussion so interesting having followed it over here from the post at open register….
    I commented over there as well, but wanted to add a couple things here too…
    First, I think that there is a lot to be gained by raising the general consciousness of gardening, outdoor living, awareness of our environment and the joy of spending time in it and cultivating it in a healthy manner. In the US, (having lived for some years in the UK) I find us as a group to be comparatively daft when it comes to putting value to all things related to our environment. We (gardeners, writers, horticulturists, LA’s, bloggers, nursery people etc,) all should, for the sake of helping foster a cultural shift that will improve our environment and our general lifestyles, be screaming our heads off about the things that we know a lot about. We should do everything we can think of ways to make cultivating our enviroment sexy, fun, engaging, trendy or whatever to attract new interest to our green world….and for the sake of the greater good, I don’t mind doing this for little (or nothing).
    Second….We all have to make a living, and I personally believe that there are lots of ways to do this…a similar discussion seems to often come up in my Design/Architect world too….do you charge for an initial visit where inevitably you will give information to a potential client that you would normally charge for? I have always firmly stayed on the side of free first visits. My rationale comes from a firm belief that if you give you will eventually receive but also, I think that better educated clients benefit us all. We shouldn’t put people off by coming across as stingy. I agree with Greg, we shouldn’t give it all away for free, but we need to find ways of earning a living and supporting each other to build our industry (and I think that blogging has a nice future to help people in a local manner but also a nationwide manner).
    Finally, I have a blog, that is relatively new…that focuses on the design-y side of garden design, it’s traffic is building at tremendous rates and i would love to hear from anyone that has anything interesting in the design realm (before and afters, destinations, inspirations, how-to’s, accessories, furniture, designer and native plants, kitchen garden ideas, hotel gardens, etc., etc.) to share. I make no promises for publication, because as eliz pointed out – editing requires an eye to staying true to your focus, but I would be happy to talk about anything that I think my readers will find useful and interesting. So if you have something that you would like to perhaps get a little publicity for, feel free to email me at or contact me through my blog at

    one last thing…Trey this is a great blog…so glad I found it…

  13. I mentioned this post in a post at Studio g

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