Trey Pitsenberger, Nurseryman with a Mission


Trey Pitsenberger has been online as The Blogging Nurseryman since 2005 and commenting here on the Rant since we started Trey3 a year later.  Yeah, he's definitely an early adopter, as he recalls in a recent message to Independent Garden Centers and Nurseries.  He tells the story of having been contacted in '06 by a nursery trade publication and according to them, “the consensus amongst most nursery consultants was there is no relevance [of blogging], and no reason for nurseries to be interested in blogging, or bloggers.”  Trey goes on to do some well-deserved gloating.

Well, we know how that turned out. Looking over one of those trade publications the other day, it seems that about a quarter of the articles deal with how to use this new medium to help our businesses. I find it amazing how everyone is offering advice on how to do social media now. Many of the same people who said it wasn’t relevant then, now want to sell you on the program. It’s social media, not rocket science. That’s what’s so scary to the traditional media, and PR firms. How are they going to make money, when the power of your advertising efforts are in your hands?

And on his Facebook page Trey makes this prediction for 2011:  "I believe as more retail garden centers use social media to connect with the public, the public will respond by spreading the word through their own unique networks. …Interesting alliances may be formed that might not have been thought of before."

Of course he's spot on, but do other garden center owners get it?  Probably not, despite all those trade associations telling them they have to do something about social media.  

The Facebook Group Arrives

But there's news – a brand new way for garden center and nursery folks to share their successes and failures in using New Media (or on any other subject) with each other, and JUST with each other.  No vendors soliciting for new business.  Trey has created the Independent Garden Centers and Nurseries Group on Facebook and anyone who works for IGCs and nurseries is welcome – but the catch is they have to be on Facebook first.  That catch is actually a good thing coz it forces newbies to dip their toes into the social media waters before they can start chatting with their colleagues across the country about how all this works best for them.  (I think we can all agree that people in the gardening biz should at least be on Facebook.)

What else is new is that Facebook recently changed the way it runs its groups, so that members are notified by email of new topics posted, then can "subscribe" to responses to that topic, or not.  So finally, following and joining in the conversation is as easy as checking your email.  (Computer-phobes, it's really that easy.)  Savvy garden writer Fern Richardson jumped on this new tool, set up a group called The Business of Garden Writing, and right out of the box it's been a big hit, sparking the meatiest, most useful discussions ever.  (So long, listservs!)  And when Trey learned of the success of Fern's group  he immediately stopped trying to start conversations on Linked-In (where they sit passively, waiting for people to check back) and jumped on the Facebook Group bandwagon.

Carrying our Messages to IGCs

Now garden centers talking to each other is great, but they need to hear from us, too.  From garden writers, bloggers and customers.  So Trey has joined the garden writers group and will be reporting to the people we buy from what we're saying about them and the products they sell.  And if you gardenbloggers out there happen to cover a subject of interest to garden centers, send Trey the link so he can pass it along.  Regular (blogless) customers can do the same by simply sending Trey a message. (  

The photo shows Trey on the job at The Golden Gecko Nursery in Garden Valley, California.

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Susan Harris

Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).
  • Also in Greenbelt, MD, writing the e-newsletter and serving on the Board of Directors for the cooperatively-owned music and arts venue and restaurant called the NEW DEAL CAFE.

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.


  1. Just went looking for the business of garden writing group on facebook…..does not exist

    “No results found for your query.
    Check your spelling or try another term”.

    The TROLL

  2. @Greg
    These are “secret” groups that do not show up on searches. The idea behind the “secret” is to create groups that are made up of people who have a real interest in what we are doing, as opposed to those who search around and join every group they come upon. These new groups grow from current members adding friends to the new group. You need a connection (like me)to add you to the group.

    One result of embracing new media is sparking peoples passions. We had a bit of a dust up at my blog between one of the Garden Rant authors and a grower of retail ready plants. Amy told in no uncertain terms what she thought of Hort Couture’s marketing efforts. Hort Couture answered back, and the results? Great, uninhibited passion. That is what we need right now to grow our businesses, passion.

    One thing Susan failed to mention is her involvement in the group. As a paid nursery blogger for 3 independent garden centers she will be helping to make the connections that will take this group to a new level. She quoted me above, “…Interesting alliances may be formed that might not have been thought of before.” The retail nursery trade has in the past been somewhat reticent to embrace new media. Yet, that is what is going to allow us to connect to the people who will support and help grow the local, independent garden center.

  3. Thanks Trey: Did not think they would make something up like that. Anyway ow does one join this group. I am snowed in here in The Hudson Valley and need somehting toass the day away.

    I have been hounding our marketing dept to do something with or take down our Facebook page. We have a three store garden, farm market gourmet foods, butcher, sea food bakeries etc. and our FB page just sits there beacuse the marketing fifedom won’t give up any real etstate. I am the Garden Buyer and have said I would do the page and include every dept in the company……

    othing worse than having a FB presence and leaving it go stagnant.

    The TROLL

  4. @wren….this is a “secret” group. Just go on to FB friend Trey and ask him to invite you in to the group

    I did that yesterday and already in the group. Looks like a really excellent opportunity for IGC folks to share ideas etc w/o interference from those not in the industry

    The TROLL

  5. All of this is good information. Yes, I chuckle when I think how blogs in general were received by my industry (writing)when I first started and how they are now received. It’s all very interesting, but I would say, if you don’t already blog, you may have missed the boat. The web is filled with bloggers, and social media like FB, Twitter, LinkedIn and Plurk have surpassed some bloggers. I also think we need to remember this is a community and treat it as such. Visit other bloggers. Don’t think our voice is the onlyne out there. Engage. Talk. Write.~~Dee

  6. @Dee
    Some may have missed the boat, but there are plenty of niches still to be filled. Right when you think everyone, especially in the horticulture business, knows about how to use social media you find out otherwise. There are still many who want to jump in but don’t know where to start. That’s the purpose of our group.

  7. Don’t count me in the “consensus” of that magazine.

    In marketing communications there are many media choices. Leaving blogs and social media off the menu is still possible but at a cost just as not including any traditional media is still an option, but with a cost. The cost of lost opportunity is great and getting greater.

    Still, struggling to craft an appropriate message is not within the skill range of most garden centers with new media any more than it has been in traditional media.

    Using a copywriter or someone like you Susan is a great option as is searching the staff to find someone with the appropriate skill and talent as well as the time.

    As far as I know there are no official qualifications to be a “blogger” or on social media. I don’t “get it” as to why exclude the trade media from the “secret” Facebook group. Most of them blog and are on social media. So much for growing the business through “uninhibited passion”?

  8. @Sid
    to clarify, there are already members of trade media at the garden writers group. The nursery group is for people who own or are employees for an independent garden centers. Trade magazine writers would not qualify for the nursery group, but would for the writers group.

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