Everybody's a Critic

“Official” garden blogs

Gardeblogs_2

We’re always trashing mass media garden coverage and, for the most part, rightly so. Yet, obsessives and optimists that we are, we still turn eagerly to the garden pages (or half a page) each Thursday, Friday, or whenever it is, hoping for something interesting, inspiring, and FUN.

Well, sometimes it’s interesting, once every two years or so it’s inspiring, but it’s NEVER fun. Why do newspaper garden writers take gardening so seriously? I mean, black spot, dry summers, weeds, and Japanese beetles will always be with us. There’s a beautiful irony in our continual struggles to garden in spite of nature, but I never get that acknowledgement from the columns. The most deadly articles are the ones in which we are directed to have fun in our gardens. “Add whimsy!” they cry. “Use those old hiking boots as planters!” I find myself shuddering at these grim directives.

Then blogs came along. Many newspapers have added blogs to their online repertoire, with great results in some cases (I do enjoy Frank Bruni’s [in the NYTimes] and our arts blogs in the Buffalo News). Unfortunately, garden blogs have not become regular features of most newspaper websites and—in terms of those that do exist—I can count on two fingers the ones I currently bother visiting. Too often, corporate media outlets engender a deadly blandness in their writers, and it carries on to the blogs. Blogs can’t be bland—well, at least they should try hard not to be.

The Buffalo News garden blog is, to say the least, bland. The NYTimes has a Dream House blog, but I could not find one devoted to gardening. Of course, when I lived in New York, I don’t remember gardening being a hot topic.

The Washington Post. Hmm, hard to say. They actually have good garden coverage and publish columns online that invite comments. They don’t seem to get many though and the interface is a bit oblique.

The San Francisco Chronicle. Though boasting blogs with such glorious names as The Bastard Machine (I don’t even need to read it; I love just knowing it exists), I don’t see one for gardening. Too bad; one senses it would be worth reading (maybe Amy would write it). They also have at least three sports blogs (I got bored after the first three; there may be more). Of course, that is where the action is in the blogosphere—that and celebrity chatter. Oh, and porn, I suppose.

Moving on. The Chicago Tribune has one, The Chicago Gardener. It’s mostly practical talk, but written in a lively style. I enjoyed reading a post about figuring out which container plants and vacationing houseplants would be brought inside and which would be thrown into the compost heap. Yes, I enjoyed reading it, because I LIKE houseplants. So there. No comments, though, not even on a newer post challenging readers to send in their photos of giant tomatoes. I would have thought people would be into that. I’m persecuted by tomato braggarts at this time of year.

Here are the media-related blogs I do enjoy reading. I am sure many of you know the fabulous Greengirls of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Lots of personality and opinion. Check out their wonderful post, generously illustrated with photos, on harvesting honey. Now that it is a group blog, there is more on flower gardening, which is a big plus for me. And then I do like the NPR-affiliated blog Talking Plants, which we often mention here. The Detroit News’ Gardening and Yardening, by Nancy Szerlag and Jeff Ball has good pratical information, though I have issues with the y word that we won’t exhume here.

Is that all there is, my friends? Surely not. There must be other great newspaper and TV-hosted garden blogs out there. Is there a good one in your area?

Posted by on September 9, 2007 at 5:00 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic.
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10 responses to ““Official” garden blogs”

  1. Susan Harris says:

    More on the WAshington Post. They have quality garden writing in print but they haven’t figured out the on-line part yet. They have a web feature called The Budding Gardener by a beginner, sometimes reporting what Adrian Higgins advises her to do. Great concept. But maddeningly (!!!) there’s no way to leave her comments. And she needs some – she’s a beginner, after all. With no dialogue happening, I don’t go back to read it.
    Now a real blog would be nice. I wonder who I could join up with to produce a fun gardenblog for them? (Jentz?) Only if they let it actually BE fun, of course.
    Oh, never mind. I just remembered the Post has its staff writers producing blogs, with no extra compensation. When I was there for hteir blogging summit last winter we were told that 35 of their staffers had had blogging added to their duties. So I look forward to reading the Adrian Higgins blog.

  2. Ellis Hollow says:

    Check out Jessica Damiano’s Garden Detective blog, which looks like an offshoot of her Newsday garden column. http://weblogs.newsday.com/features/home/gardendetective_blog/

  3. Skyler says:

    Every Thursday, Portland, Oregon’s The Oregonian (oregonlive.com) has a home and garden section, always with at least one amusing and informative and often opinionated article about gardening and with a regular, funny garden column by Dulcy Mahar. Their feature garden writer, Kym Pokorny, has a good blog at
    http://blog.oregonlive.com/kympokorny/

  4. I would strongly suggest to the S.F. Chronicle that Chuck b.’s blog be published in their paper.- http://coldcalculation.blogspot.com/

    This guy knows and lives in the heart of The City and often blogs about our crown jewel, The S.F. Botanical Garden.
    You can also find entries on his blog about current horticultural events such as the recent talk that Salvia expert Betsy Clebsch just gave or wander through The City’s neighborhoods looking at great little pocket gardens and front yard container plantings.

    I think his blog is way more interesting than anything that is currently written in the Gardening Section in the Chron.

    Michelle

  5. Georgia says:

    Ron Sullivan has two columns in the Berkeley Daily Planet – Garden Variety and one on trees in the East Bay. These are not blogs, but her articles can be accessed via berkeleydailyplanet.com. Her most recent article, about potted plants, is titled ” The Pot Party Continues: Drinking and Thriving, Part I.”

  6. eliz says:

    Yes, Michelle, you’d think that the Chron and other papers would look for already-established and popular blogs like Chuck B’s in their area and adopt them. They don’t though.

    The blog voice is different; it shouldn’t be just a repetition of the print garden coverage–and the longtime writers might not get that (though often they do).

    I was surprised that the San Fran paper didn’t have one–they have a TON of blogs!

  7. eliz says:

    Ssuan, that’s right, and a lot of the staffers here are pissed off that blogging has been added to their duties.

    I have no sympathy–I know what the salaries for fulltime staffers are at the News. They do quite well.

  8. Way up here in Ontario Canada we have a gardening personality named Frankie ‘Flowers’ (http://www.citynews.ca/blogs/frankieflowers_11955.aspx). He’s the gardening specialitst for City TV. His blog posts and his TV appearances are both lively, fun and informative. As an actual gardener, he reports on his own experiences. Maybe part of the problem with gardening blogs stemming from print media, is that the bloggers aren’t gardeners and therefore don’t have the underlying passion needed to write effectively/entertainingly on the subject.

  9. Peter Hoh says:

    One of the interesting things about GreenGirls is that it did not start with the StarTribune’s garden writer. The blog was started by a newbie gardener (Jaime) who worked in some non-garden writing capacity for the newspaper.

    With two additional bloggers this year, GreenGirls has a wider range of content. Fortunately, it didn’t lose that quirky charm that Jaime brought to the first year of the blog.

    I think that comments are an important part of any garden blog. I can’t believe a local/regional newspaper would run a blog without them. It helps readers feel connected, and it can provide fodder for posting. It’s great fun when there’s active Q&A going on in the comments.

  10. Heather says:

    Well, the Houston Chronicle USED to have a gardening blog, which I was one half of. My partner (who was as dry a garden writer as I have ever seen) sort of found more interesting things to do and hardly ever posted. My life got less garden oriented and I ran out of stuff to say about it. Plus I felt very hamstrung by having to avoid profanity and only use pictures I owned. WTF? So I bailed and went back to my personal blog where I can say whatever the hell I want, or I can say nothing at all without any guilt.

    Anyway, I tried. You’d think with 365 days of gardening pleasure here in the Gulf Coast region, you’d have someone to pick up the ball but I knew of no one to do it.

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