Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Am I a real garden expert? If not, how much does it matter?

Our panel description for IGC

Over the last few days, as I prepare to speak on a panel at the upcoming IGC show, I've been thinking about how professional “expertise” makes a difference. In some ways, I think the difference can be on the negative side, when it comes to a truly useful dialogue about gardening.

While it’s true I do not have horticultural training—I am a writer by trade and by academic background—I am a gardener and have been for about 25 years. And it has been more serious since I began to own property. But I don’t know the ins and outs of the horticultural trade—how plants are hybridized and brought to market or who really decides which plants will become available and which ones will fall by the wayside.

I don’t know what marketing wisdom prompts the buyers for nurseries and garden centers to choose what goes on their shelves (though I can make educated guesses). And I do not have the scientific background of the professionals who staff academic departments in schools where agriculture and horticulture are taught.

Does any of this matter? I think not. As far as writing goes, I depend on my research, interviewing skills, and ability to put information together and draw conclusions. As far as gardening goes, I depend on my reading, the advice of others—including professionals—and trial and error (mostly). In any given day, in any given garden, mileage varies widely.

But most of all, like anyone who reads this blog, I am a fellow gardener and garden consumer who likes to talk about plants and occasionally raise questions about gardening practice. I’m not an insider—and in this case I am not sure being an insider would lead to the best kind of dialogue. Often, the horticultural insiders I know are very cautious about expressing their real opinions—they simply know too many people. That happens in every profession.

We have been taking guest rants on Garden Rant for the past couple weeks or so. It’s really wonderful how many readers were obviously unleashing opinions they’d long held but hadn’t really had an outlet for. It’s why I started this blog, and joined Rant—I just hope, as I go to events like this week’s IG show and GWA meetings, that I don’t get to be too much of an insider.

So expect my full report when I return Friday—as un-insidery as I can make it!


Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Can't wait to hear.

Anonymous said...

Anxiously awaiting. I commented on the Rant survey, so I want to see what comes of all the remarks.

Marmie said...

Your lack of horticultural degree is what makes me think you are perfect for this! You are us - the consumer gardener that tires of the constant re-packaging of nature. Can't wait to hear your comments.

ps - loved your garden during the walk. I had never visited the Allentown gardens and was pleasantly surprised by the gardens in your neighborhood.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Have a good time. I will look forward to hearing your take of all the goings on.

Frances said...

You may not be an industry insider, Elizabeth, but you know how to express your opinions through your writing. We too look forward to your take. You have no horse in the race of the nursery biz, so can freely say what you think. You are a customer and that is the view they need to know about.
ps, nothing beats trial and error

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Garden writers and bloggers need to keep the industry on its toes. We are the watchdogs, and this blog and Rant are two of the best at that. I'm looking forward to the talk.

Gail said...

How did the talk go Elizabeth? ~I'm just back from vacation and missed this post~Will read tomorrow! gail