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!