Saturday, 23 November 2013

An open letter to Amateur Gardening magazine

Today it has been brought to my attention that Amateur Gardening magazine are about to publish a piece about my previous blog post, #shoutyhalfhour. Although I am pleased that the post is out there in the public eye and that people are obviously reading it and it is a talking point, the piece is possibly the laziest piece of journalism I have seen in a while. Firstly I need to point out that they have done nothing illegal by using quotes from the piece but what they have done is remove it from it's context and so it looks as though all I am doing is criticizing when in fact the point of the post was to explain why and how the #shoutyhalfhour hashtag came about in the first place and why it has carried on.
I am not going to bang on about the piece, but I do wish to make some things clear. Yes I am a self confessed plant nut, but I am also a horticultural professional with many years experience as a nurserywoman, working on many wonderful projects which, I am lucky to say, have involved growing gardens for designers at RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court as well as many large, well known projects, including providing the plants for the Royal Wedding.
Equally yes, I am a Garden Blogger, but one from a professional horticultural background, and with concern for the industry that I am writing from within. An industry that is struggling to survive and to recruit young people into it, and one which deserves recognition and help from the garden media rather than reading sensationalisation of a blog post. I wonder how many Amateur Gardening readers are aware of the struggle of the trade and the fight many nursery people have every year to keep themselves afloat, whilst passionately believing in what they do. Or are aware of the quantity of plants that are bought in every year from abroad by the DIY superstores, who's pile them high and sell them cheap policies are killing anyone who has been a bedding specialist.
And finally, the post is not a scathing attack as Amateur Gardening have said in their piece, but is a well thought out piece of writing and if Amateur Gardening magazine had really done their homework they would have seen that Monty Don has posted a comment on the blog, in which he argues several points but says it is written "elegantly and with perceptive wit". I'm pretty sure the presenter would not have commented if it had just been a rant, or aimed at him.
If Amateur Gardening Magazine have anything further to add to this, my email address is on my website, which is, rather than here, my blog, and I look forward to hearing from them. Sadly I assume that is unlikely.
Finally a word to all garden writers out there. Whether a professional or an amateur, writing should be excited, passionate and inspiring, whatever it is you are writing about. Writing should be from the heart and every time you post or publish something you should feel that you are putting yourself out there. Never hold back because it is that kind of passionate writing, be it in blog, book or magazine form, that the horticultural industry in this country needs from you and will inspire new and old gardeners alike to rethink their own passion for gardening and plants and why they feel that way about what they do.


  1. Well written Sara. How disappointing that Amateur Gardening missed a very good, and timely, opportunity to address the whole issue of TV gardening programmes.
    Why bother to follow up the piece you wrote, if they were not going to represent it in the way it was so obviously intended?
    A bit shoddy, AG

  2. Nicely done Sara. It would be easy to write a balanced account, given that Monty Don replied to your blog and all it would take to access is a bit of additional scrolling. However, if you want to keep people buying your magazine you won't be encouraging them to go off looking at free and uncontrolled content. Challenging the status quo makes the 'establishment' defensive - the more they feel threatened the stronger the reaction. Keep it up!

  3. What a beautifully measured response to something that must have made you mad as all getout. Nicely done. And thank goodness for people with knowldege who write with passion. Long may it continue. Just a shame that so many readers of that mag will remain unaware of what a shoddy piece of journalism they are being fed.

  4. I was appalled, disgusted and saddened to read this distorted article about your beautifully written blog post.

    So, tomorrow I will be cancelling my subscription to Amateur Gardening. As the Lazy ‘Journaist’ didn’t even bother to contact you before helping himself to your blog content, I wont bother to give AM Garden a reason for ending my custom.

    I will be contacting the Publisher and letting him know that his Lazy ‘Journalist’ has cost him a sale. Sadly, money talks in this media obsessed world and this is the only way to hit these companies in the pocket.

    As the esteemed, Award winning environment writer John Walker (@EarthFGardener) said on twitter yesterday, “you do it a huge favour by calling it ‘journalism’. EAO Editorial Agender Override is rife among some of the AM Garden team, sadly”

    What can be done? Sadly these media businesses are too big to affected on here. So I suggest perfectly legal direct action. Browsing my last AM Gdn Mag, I see the news pages are written / edited by someone called Marc Rosenburg.

    Until he is forthcoming with an apology or resignation over his shocking laziness and incompetence, I propose all tweets on this matter are concluded with the hashtag #SackMarcRosenburg. Then lets see how long this sort of trash continues to be published for in the Am Garden Comic.

  5. Sarah-Jane Summersby24 November 2013 at 18:07

    Sara, I am usually a fully paid-up supporter of bloggers, having once been one myself for a good few years (non-gardening), but in this instance I am afraid I TOTALLY AND UTTERLY DISAGREE WITH YOU.

    Interested to find out what all the fuss was about, I zipped over to my aunt's this morning to have a look at her copy. She's been a subscriber for two years.

    Yes, there's an element of sensationalism, but isn't that what makes a good angle for a news story? Yes, much of your blog was excluded but, for the love of all that is holy, do you really think they're going to publish it wholesale? It's not the Yellow Pages, you know! The story also appears to have sought the BBC's opinion on your comments. Was that bad? Doesn't giving someone/something the right to reply help to balance a story?

    It can be quite scary to see one's opinions in print - I've had it happen to me on more than one occasion. And yes, it can be a bit annoying when the paper doesn't include that paragraph where you thought you'd summed things up quite nicely, for example. But, hey. C'est la vie. I got over it and so should you.

    Yes, bloggers should write from the heart, as you say, and the original 'Shoutyhalfhour' reads in that manner - although I must say it's also quite ranty. I can only imagine how much Mr Don's heart sank when he read your critique.

    Sara. If you intend to continue blogging you must expect your opinions to hold some weight and therefore be reported by the media at large on occasion.


    PS Am I the only one who thinks that 'Anonymous' above has revealed his identity in the fourth paragraph?

  6. The article wasn't just lazy journalism, it was failed journalism by a failed journalist.

    Failed journalism must be challenged.

    I read in the Telegraph last week that garden media types will be gathering for a posh do in London this week. Maybe the bloggers should confront Failed Journalists face to face at this event?

    Then, those who make their money through lazy, failed journalism won't be able to hide their failure behind their all powerful media organizations.

  7. If I were you, I wouldn't worry about it! Here's the rub; I have never seen a world built around what is essentially a hobby for most people where pomposity and arrogance is so prevalent as gardening. You'd think it was a job interview for the Dullness Corporation, not messing about in the mud seeing if you can grow a three-legged carrot.

    It amazes me how some people react if you dare to step off the manicured lawn of obedience, almost as if you have somehow defiled the very heart of horticulture (or what they want it to be). I myself want to enjoy what I do, and if that makes a few people feel that I am in some way besmirching their view of all things horticultural, then that's their problem. Let them whinge and moan and grind their teeth; it'll do them no good!

    Also, you might be reading things wrongly. You assume that Amateur Gardening Magazine is a magazine about amateur gardening. It could equally be a magazine about gardening which is amateur in its production. I've been earning my crust from journalism for around 30-odd years (they have been odd) and simply because I deal in accuracy I'd always contact anyone involved to get their side. I might not agree with it, I might do it to annoy them, but I always do it. That's the essence of the job.

    Taking a few quotes from something written and then passing comment on it without getting all sides of the story and comment from the source is, where I come from (proper journalistic qualifications and training) called 'Opinion'. AG seemingly would rather parade their opinions than properly report.

    Isn't this where I started, a world where people think their opinions are unshakable, and anyone who dares to take another view is beneath them?

  8. "Taking a few quotes from something written and then passing comment on it without getting all sides of the story and comment from the source is, where I come from (proper journalistic qualifications and training) called 'Opinion'."

    You obviously haven't read a national newspaper (tabloid and broadsheet) in the past few years then, The Idiot.

    1. Fair point ... but it still doesn't mean it's good journalism!

      In reality, I think the bigger 'wrong' here is that when there are so many other issues to tackle, they prefer to take umbridge with something that is at best valid comment and at worst a bit tongue-in-cheek.

      I appreciate that the 'horticultural set' often take themselves too seriously, but the original post is hardly iconoclastic or aggressive.

  9. Hi Sara - I see the article is yet to hit the shelves, so I can't comment on what's been said/reported about it. The same thing happened to me a while ago, and you're understandably upset/angry/add words of your own choice here. Blogging is a very fine thing and supports a diversity in both opinion and gardening experience. So hang onto that thought AND I hope you can take a crumb of comfort from all of this that your opinion is at least valued enough for comment.

    I hope your open letter is seen and acted upon and this situation ends to your satisfaction. I would say to everyone who blogs or tweets to learn from what's happened here and decide now how you're going to act if and when it happens to you. As the lines between blogging and conventional media get ever more blurred, I think this will happen even more and we need to know what to do about it.

    Something I've learned from this is that we as bloggers are often quick to comment and give opinions on articles. How many of us consult beforehand? I suspect very few and I'm guilty as charged. Thank goodness there's the right of reply available so readily via the comments...

    ... for a successful outcome from all of this, we need a conversation, not confrontation.

  10. Hear hear, VP. Some of the vitriolic comments here are threatening to make this the laughing stock of the blogging world.

    As Michael Winner would have said, 'Calm down, dears'.

  11. Amateur Gardening regularly run negative news stories about Monty Don, They have just used your blog as the basis of another one. They seem to be obsessed with persuading readers that Monty Don is disliked by everybody.

  12. All article in this blog looking informative you lean some new thing about wedding ceremony.

  13. You are amazing! Thank you so much, this stuff is so wonderful!

    Patios Norfolk & Landscape Gardener Norwich