I Don't Have a Garden, but I Watch One on TV, Ministry of Controversy

All together now: plurkers rant about H“G”TV

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Will the evil networkmeisters notice? Probably not, but a bunch of garden bloggers are synchronizing posts aimed at the lack of garden coverage on HGTV. A group of us who talk about gardening (and a lot of other things) on the Plurk.com chat network are telling everybody what we really think about one of cable TV’s most disappointing channels.

My Corner of Katy notes: although the network has always emphasized HOME more than GARDENING, there was a time when their schedule of shows justified that G in their acronym. 5 out of 5 garden bloggers surveyed now agree, however, that there’s precious little gardening to be found.

“HGTV is a misnomber,” says Mrs. McGregor’s Daughter, adding “Currently, A Gardener’s Diary is the only ‘gardening’ program on HGTV worth watching.” Mary Ann Newcomer, writing for examiner.com, has done the math: 284 programs on HGTV with eleven, a paltry substandard ELEVEN, on gardening with half of those shows on instant landscape makeovers…. which should never, ever, ever, be confused with real gardening.

Vanillalotus/NewSprout, a young college student studying horticulture and working in her first garden says, “I could be wrong, but it would be nice for us gardeners to have stuff to watch too. I don’t have a home to renovate but I do have place to plant stuff.”

Multiple Mousie winner Carol/May Dreams Gardens rules HGTV “guilty” of the false promises implied in its title and has sentencing recommendations, while Robin/Bumblebee, like Mary Ann, writing for examiner.com, has a wish list:

Beautiful shows about real gardens and real gardeners. I want to travel the country and peek into people’s backyards. I want to meet the people who grow all those beautiful roses and find out how they got started. Who was their inspiration? How did they learn about gardening? Where do they look for plants and supplies? How did they figure out how to design their beautiful spaces?

Finally, Dee/Red Dirt Ramblings wants HGTV to tell it like it is:

Gardening is hot and dirty work sometimes. When are the media experts going to pull themselves up by their boot straps and start telling the truth? Viewers and readers know it, and they’re still gardening.

I don’t have much to add to all this, but I am deeply jealous that the British have a primetime show—Gardener’s World—that is avidly watched by a sizable audience, as well as other shows. I can also say I’ve pretty much hated every gardening show on HGTV I’ve ever seen. None of them seem to be about plants in an interesting sense; it’s either how to create an outdoor living space to suit your lifestyle, or quick and easy ways to do dull things. Do I think it will change? Well, at the least, if they’re going to keep the G, they should start paying more attention to vegetable gardening. I’d also like to see some attention paid to community gardens and native plants. There is gardening advertising. Why can’t we have the programming?

Posted by on September 10, 2008 at 5:03 pm, in the category I Don't Have a Garden, but I Watch One on TV, Ministry of Controversy.
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34 Responses to “All together now: plurkers rant about H“G”TV”

  1. I have serious UK TV envy. Not only do they have Gardener’s World, they have nightly coverage of the Chelsea Garden Show when it is going on. Like that would ever happen in this country with the Philadelphia Flower Show.

  2. vanillalotus says:

    I wonder if we can see the brit tv shows online somewhere. I need my gardening shows. That station has to be the most disappointing station out of all my tv channels

  3. I’m working on producing a real gardening show that will showcase beautiful gardens of every size including my own edible landscape! I’ll be interviewing the gardeners and the people behind the plants, the pottery makers, and much more- real “eden-makers!” Also, some “how-to” basics.

    I’ve had programs pitched to HGTV, but they are not interested in this kind of programing right now.

    I’ll keep you posted and welcome your support!
    Shirley

  4. Mad Tomatl says:

    Rant, rant, rant — for naught, unless you rant in the right places. Garden Rant is a perfect place to begin. But you won’t see any change unless you rant via email to (1) HGTV and (2) your cable company (Comcast, Verizon, whatever), which brings HGTV to your home. Challenge them to add a specific program — such as Gardener’s World or something like it. If enough gardeners over time rant, somebody just might take notice.

  5. Laura says:

    I don’t live in Beverly Hills and I’m not fixing up my country estate, so I haven’t watched HGTV in a long time.

    Good idea about finding shows online.

  6. Karyn says:

    I lived overseas a few years ago and we got BBC1 and BBC2. Some (not all) of the gardening shows were as pitiful as what can be found at 7:00 AM on HGTV. However, I looked forward to nightly coverage of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show every year. I hoped that BBC America would show this great British tradition, but unfortuantely that channel has also sunk to the lowest denominator…

  7. susan harris says:

    Actually, HGTV has 3 g’ing shows that I consider good to very good. First, “Gardening by the Yard” with Paul James – very plant-centric. “Landscaper’s Challenge” is great for ideas, and they even tell us where the garden is located and how much the project costs. And “Gardener’s Diary” with real-life horticulturist Erica Glasener is awfully close to the dream show Robin describes.

  8. eliz says:

    Mr. McGregor’s Daughter mentions Gardener’s Diary. I can’t–and probably don’t–speak for the other plurkers but I can’t stand the James show.

  9. rainymountain says:

    Canadian HGTV showed a wonderful series of programs, made in conjunction with Vision, called ‘Recreating Eden’. It is about gardeners and gardens, not a how-to, and covers a fascinating range of mostly private gardens and equally interesting gardeners who talk about their gardening interests. It covers everything from community gardens, to a wild flower front yard to a Belgium who sounds decidedly tired of trimming the hedges around his castle. ‘Recreating Eden’ is available on DVD and I got it from my local library. Worth watching and maybe showing as an example to US HGTV.

  10. Lois, Zone 5 says:

    Was it H.L. Mencken who said nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public? I don’t understand it, but stupidity sells. Fashion magazines are sometimes categorized as Aspirational – making the audience uncomfortable so they’ll be more likely to buy advertised products — they push the idea of instant gratification. Is that what HGTV’s marketing people are telling their programming people? Even PBS has let the quality of Victory Garden slide downhill. I know we’re not supposed to talk politics here, but this disease has infected the political candidates as well. Nobody seems to have the guts to say that if you want to accomplish something worthwhile that it’s probably going to take some sacrifice and hard work. I’ll shut up now. Except to say I am so terribly grateful for this site.

  11. We don’t have cable or a satellite dish, so the only gardening shows I get are on public TV, but I must admit that I’d rather be out IN the garden with dirt under my fingernails than plunked in front of the boob tube. Of course, there is the online world where real gardeners are sharing their no-holds-barred experiences and isn’t that what we really want?

  12. Tina says:

    I seriously wish congress would pass the ‘a la mode’ bill so I could cut out paying for channels I don’t need since HGTV would be the first to go.
    Heck, on my blog I ranted about them having absolutely no G left in their programming way back in November 2006…and August ’07 and…
    They seriously need to get over themselves as far as knowing what people want to watch, ’cause what they have now ain’t it.

  13. greg draiss says:

    Yet again the networks that promise real shows like gardening simply fail. We live in a world of sound bites and quick fixes not real down to earth stuff anymore. Simply turn off the tube, join or start a local garden club, commuity garden and get outside and play in the dirt!

    The (love to play in the dirt) TROLL

  14. Doug Green says:

    You can propose all the great ideas you want but unless you’re bringing the advertisers to the table with you, it ain’t gonna happen. That’s the way tv works.

    You can complain all you want but unless you’re “showing the money” then you’ll keep on complaining – and it isn’t going to work. Why would any company (e.g. HGTV) put a product out to air without funding and lose money?

    Want G-programming? Take your idea to the hort industry yourself – find a hort company that wants to dump a ton of bucks in there to support the shows you want to see. HGTV’s job is to make enough money to stay on the air – if they can do this by seling ads on H-shows …. If they can’t with G shows…..

    My .02 – when the ratings are high enough for garden shows, the money will follow.

  15. Bob Vaiden says:

    My wife records HOURS of HGTV programming…

    Virtually no gardening….mostly stories about “can they afford to move from their $400,000 home to the $550,000 home they really need”.

    I’m usually outside…gardening. But I will have to avoid the living room come winter:)

  16. Robin says:

    Above Doug and Shirley have hit on what I was told when I did Landscaper’s Challenge a few years back (see: http://www.gardenmentors.com/awards_main.html) — the network isn’t getting the demand/the audience they need and advertisers aren’t interested, so goes the “G” in HGTV. What I find interesting is just about everyone I meet who finds out I did the show tells me they’re addicted to it (or to some other gardening show) and that they can’t wait until the network adds more programming. Maybe I should take a formal poll and send that to the network. TV stations seem to really like polls.

    As for me, I’d rather garden or teach gardening or design gardens than watch them on TV.

  17. Nancy says:

    I do understand about needing the advertisers, but the thing that burns me up is that H*TV wouldn’t even have to create NEW shows to keep us happy. There are lots of great old TV gardening series already in existence, such as Karen Strohbeen’s “Perennial Gardener,” Penelope Hobhouse’s “The Art and Practice of Gardening,” all the old “Gardener’s Diary” shows, etc.

  18. Patti says:

    This subject is a thorn in my side. I agree with everyone about HGTV. When it first came on the air it was a little more garden friendly. Didn’t Penelope Hobhouse have a show on HGTV? I miss the old Victory Garden. It was one of the first shows on TV (public TV no commercials). The new show relies on and replays old segments. I love “Gardener’s Diary” and there is another show on PBS called Garden Smart that is
    informative. In the winter months in New Hampshire I love my magazines and Gardening TV shows. Thanks to DVR I can record all the shows that are broadcast for viewing at my leisure. KEEP RANTING!

  19. Glad to see this rant! I hope the gardening community can get the attention of the big media groups. Jamie Oliver’s cooking show where he brings produce out of his kitchen garden has been about the most interesting show lately, but not enough gardening there either.

  20. I agree with Cameron about Jamie Oliver’s cooking show. Even my two young boys watch it. They were so thrilled to see him go out into the garden, pick something and then come in and cook with it! My youngest said, “Look mom! Jamie cooks like we do!” Like it is so unusual to pick and eat within a few feet of each other! What a novel concept!

    We need more shows like that. More shows that show REAL gardeners (bug and all).

  21. Patsi says:

    There currently are many fun NON-gardening programs on HGTV …..e.g.,

    Design Star Decorating,Designer’s Portfolio, Kitchens,Baths,Design How-To Products At Home,Holidays Crafts,Simply Quilts Carol Duvall ,Remodeling,Real Estate and more Real Estate related shows.

    Some that ARE gardening related:

    Landscapers’ Challenge
    Landscape Smart
    Gardening by the Yard
    Gardener’s Diary
    Ground Breakers
    Garden Police

    My favorite is “Gardening by the Yard” in which Paul James seems to be running out of material lately.

    Also I like “Gardener’s Diary” which is a lovely program…… but it seems all home gardens featured are on about 4 acres of property. What about the rest of us?

    Nonetheless, I still tivo both.

  22. I agree with Doug and others. Without advertisers willing to support them, we won’t get new/better gardening programs in prime time. That said, I watched A Gardener’s Diary this morning and surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), not many of the commercials were from the Hort industry. I don’t care who buys the ad time (for the most part), I just want better gardening shows!

  23. wouldn’t it be great to get all the British GArdening shows here? Thanks!

  24. Carolyn says:

    Today’s HGTV viewers largely are interested in their homes, not in the earth around their homes. Just like the majority of television viewers are interested in programming about themselves and their things, not about Nature.

  25. Hi fellow ranters-
    Lot’s of feelings about garden TV going around. I am doing something about it as we speak!

    I too am tired of being told that “gardening is not a viable genre!” I know it is and I hear from 100′s of people each week who feel the same way!

    I have started a video blog, “Garden Center TV,” showcasing some of the garden products and services that I’m excited about and think fellow gardeners would appreciate knowing about.

    The latest, most functional, clever or beautiful products including new plant introductions, organic soils and fertilizers, birding products, planters, tools, etc.

    It would be great if you took a peek and left a comment so that the horticultural companies can see that people are actually interested or have an opinion about garden products. They are reading my blog everyday- so go ahead and talk to the advertisers themselves!

    I went to Chicago last month and interviewed many garden product vendors (future garden show advertisers) who sell products through the independent garden centers- they need our support in these times.

    I started the first “vlog” entry yesterday showcasing a new service by Monrovia Growers. Please come by and see it.

    http://www.EdenMakers.com

    Susan and gang- I hope you don’t mind the plug, I didn’t intend it as a plug, but the subject matter couldn’t be more timely.

    It’s time for us to be proactive about our gardening world. I know many of us are just happy being outside, but there’s nothing wrong with being able to turn on the television and watch a show of value and interest. Gardening is a viable genre for television and internet.

    I’m in production on new shows for both and welcome your support.
    Shirley

  26. eliz says:

    Hi Shirley, I posted this rant, not Susan–but thanks for sharing this! And we appreciate your advocacy for good gardening TV.

  27. Anna says:

    At one time, Shirley and I along with many at the HGTV general gardening mb tried to get the attention of–those who decide on what is shown. To no avail, our pleas went unheard.

    Shirley has fought hard to get a voice for the gardeners and has now taken it upon herself to be more aggressive in this arena. I think she can get it done with our help encouraging her. If we visit her site and support her efforts it will get noticed.

    The efforts by this respected blog will certainly fuel the other pleas mounting on the desk of the whoevers at HG that make these decisions.

    I’ve written a post supporting Shirley and linking to this site and discussion. Will they hear? Maybe our next step is to write the sponsers.

  28. Oops…sorry Elizabeth.
    Your timing for this post is uncanny since I’ve been lobbying the garden product vendors during the last few months, culminating in Garden Center TV. Please be patient, as the quality of the video spots will be improving in season 2.

    Waking up the sleeping “garden industry” giant will benefit us all. Who said avid and passionate gardeners don’t watch television? I love gardening so much, I can’t get enough of it and I know many of you feel the same. Some people can only enjoy gardening from their sofa because of illness or injury as well.

    Once advertisers know we are watching, I am confident that they will invest in garden programming. Anna, I appreciate your championing the cause.

    Shirley

  29. Doug Green says:

    Wow – good for you Shirley. And if the Ranters don’t mind also – I’ve done something a little different. I’m asking my readers to work on describing what makes a great garden televsion show. What the core elements of it are?
    http://blog.douggreensgarden.com/2008/09/12/garden-television/

    Where it goes from there will be up to my readers. :-)

  30. Diana says:

    Have you ever watched them plant something outside on HG-TV’s ‘Curb Appeal’? They pull it out of the plastic pot and punk it into a hole that is about two inches wider than the ball of dirt. That’s it. Plunk it down and cover that baby up. sigh

  31. commonweeder says:

    Out here in the western hills of Massachusetts we still have dial-up for the Internet and no cable service. I longed to be able to watch HGTV, but I guess I’m not missing anything. I don’t get local cable either however I have been lucky enough to film and interview Lilian Jackman of Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway, and Amy Klippenstein and Paul Lacinski of Sidehill Farm in Ashfield for our local cable stations,to promote our local agriculture, defined in the broadest sense. As Lilian says, the idea is not to keep land open because it is pretty, but because it is productive.

  32. Fate says:

    What an interesting question!
    Good, bad and ugly, huh? Let’s see.
    Good would be (Note: would be, not is) an informative show that would inform, advise, guide and confirm what we are doing or want to learn.
    The English shows do tend to be more informative and down to earth (pun intended). That type has been around for donkey’s years.
    The real bad shows are the ones where they do a makeover and have ditsy hosts spending thousands of dollars with no regard for the plants needs – they just do it like a decorating assignment. The result may make a good photograph, but that is about all it is good for.
    My garden is one that looks nice (most of the time), can look after itself during the times when I can’t, is somewhere for hubby and me to sit and enjoy and a place where the grandkids can play ball and the family can play bocce. All these things at any time of the season and especially somewhere I can lose myself in weeding, planting, fertilizing, watering, transplanting……..and on and on and on.
    In other words make it real.

  33. Sheree says:

    Well, i thought it was just me and the reason for so few gardening show on HGTV was where i live. I really don’t know why it is called HGTV because there certainly aren’t any gardening shows on the station. I am so tired of switching it on to fine another “buying a house” show. Well there is more to it than buying a house! The landscaping needs attention. At one time there was Two Gardens One Look and Mark Cullen who is quite informative which made watching HGTV very interesting. Now we only see how to decorate our homes, what colour we shud paint the rooms, and renovations gone bad. And don’t get me started on the Real Estate show. Well that is just people getting richer on tv. No value there.
    Well, enough ranting for now. I only hope HGTV smartens up and gets proper viewing to live up to their name.
    Thanks for reading….

  34. mark says:

    seriously. 11 out of 273 shows on HGTV are about gardening…yet all the retailers fret over “how will we get gen x or y into our garden centers?” so why cant HGTV producers schedule a meeting with the largest garden products providers about sponsoring some new shows?

    gardeners are a fun bunch. hell, I’d love to watch a show hosted by the garden rant crew! now that would be entertaining! I love the idea of taking a formal poll, since some may say garden lovers are only a small sub-set of the entire gardening population, how cool would it be to show the producers “if you film it, we will watch” …”it” being quality shows showing real gardeners in real backyards…sharing tips and advice with regional focus.

    the corporate mega-giants that purchase commercial time could still run commercials…the principles of “number of impressions” still applies to consumers who let tv commercials tell them what to buy…of which Im sure there are still millions watching.

    to me it seems obvious there is a need for more gardening shows. How else can you explain the popularity of garden blogs, underground videos on youtube or similar…especially since the ‘green’ movement went fully mainstream in the last couple years.

    i also love the idea to bring back the best of the best garden shows of seasons past…but caution the effect of trying to “bring back the 80′s”…younger consumers do not like “dated” shows…but we all know there are plenty of shows with solid content, even if the fashion screams 1982.

    what about Paul Tukey? Patti Moreno, The Garden Girl? Joe Lamp’l? The Buglady show (Suzanne Wainright Evans)? The Garden Rant show ;-)? There are gems around this country who could host 30 min shows on gardening…just look at the success of the food & travel networks on redefining tv by combining our love of food and travel…why not gardens and travel or gardens and food or gardens and dare I say it, gardeners?

    enough ranting I suppose, Im going to travel to my garden to go get some lunch!

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