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Mother Nature says “Don’t Be a Snarky Gardening Expert!”

Do birds and bees care if you’re an amateur gardener? Do butterflies mock the newbie gardener’s clumsy attempts at creating a backyard nature paradise? 

All right, perhaps you selected a few plants that might be inappropriate for your climate or sun exposure. You loved their blooms and you’re a perpetual optimist. Perhaps you’ve installed a tree that’s too large for that spot in your garden. Eventually, it will loom ominously over your patio and drop thousands of seeds onto your yard and lounge chairs. And onto your neighbor’s yard and lounge chairs. But that tree spoke to you in the garden store and you just had to have it.

Most of us amateur gardeners, and even some expert ones, have made unfortunate choices in the plants we’ve brought into our gardens. I know I’ve made quite a few errors myself and have lived to talk (and laugh) about them. 

Lately, I’ve been reading far too many blog posts and comments in Facebook groups in which master gardeners and horticulturists mock those of us who can’t claim horticultural expertise. Their posts belittle and demean amateur gardeners for making unwise and ignorant decisions. In one particular post, the author described us this way:

They are leaning environmental. They wear Buck Naked Underwear from Duluth Trading. They have now subscribed to Fine Gardening, Organic Life and Garden & Gun and are making plans to visit Winterthur.

That description is unkind and uncalled for. 

I wear my Duluth Trading Company Duluthflex Fire Hose Overalls with pride. So what if I subscribe to Fine Gardening and have public gardens on my list of go-to places? 

And this from another expert:

Sad reality: most people digging holes to make gardens these days are not trained horticulturists and are remarkably free of any thought beyond repeatedly wondering where their next 12-pack is coming from. Their qualifications? Their parole officer is friends with the owner of a landscape company. Why? Because a good horticulturist is hard to find. Why else? Because people don’t want to pay any more than alcoholic, ex-convict wages for a good horticulturist. 

Wow. Angry, much? At least this author apologized after receiving a number of comments criticizing his harsh tone and his nasty, stereotyped depictions of untrained horticulturists.

One expert scolded us for calling it “dirt” instead of “soil.” For pity’s sake. Will the sun fail to rise if I call that mound in my garden “dirt?” Soil or dirt, that stuff under my fingernails is a reminder of how much I love gardening. 

I’ve read posts ridiculing amateurs for not hiring trained horticulturists to advise us or to install our gardens. Listen: I’m on a fixed income. I’ve got expenses and I have to prioritize my spending. Perhaps my need for new gutters outstrips my need for an expert gardener. 

I freely admit to not being a trained horticulturist. Like most of you, I love plants and flowers and I love how I feel when I’m outside “beautifying” my little spot on this earth. And once in a while, I’m going to make some big mistakes and bad choices. I’ve killed many plants because I put them in the wrong location or didn’t water them enough. 

But, you gardening experts: We don’t need your shaming or another list of your horticultural pet peeves. We need patient, kind instruction so that we can correct our errors and make better decisions the next time we walk into the nursery.

As my mom always said: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I would add, “or at least say something helpful.” 

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