Checking in on GardenWeb

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When I first starting looking online for garden advice in the early 2ks, the first places I visited were gardenweb.com and the mail order ratings (Garden Watchdog) on Dave’s Garden. For a brief period, I considered using the garden journal option on DG, but then I found Blogger, which seemed better for writers. Over time, I stopped checking GardenWeb, and moved to the discussions I found in the blogosphere—but GW was instrumental in first helping me identify other garden blogs. GW was purchased by iVillage in 2005, and seemed to putter along, although its “voices” blog directory faltered. In 2015, the GardenWeb forums were purchased by the Houzz home design site; you can find them here.

I took a quick tour of the forums recently, and, overall, I’d have to say it’s a pretty quiet scene, with some hot spots. One poster, lamenting the lack of activity on many forums, states “I wish Facebook didn’t exist,” correctly identifying social media as the preoccupation that has decimated forums and, to a lesser extent, blogs, as online meeting places. Another poster forlornly notes, “I stopped by because I was looking for help turning fire extinguishers into chimes.” I hope he or she finds this information; I feel confident it is out there.

However, I did find some viable and recent discussions in landscape design, antique roses, and permaculture forums, which had been among my favorites, though some categories, like compost/mulch, seem to have disappeared. You’re also bothered by a repetitive popup asking you to join Houzz and the navigation is annoying. Visitors to Houzz will not see the GW forums unless they click on the “stories and advice” tab, and the back arrow is nonfunctional most of the time. On the other hand, Houzz does host full articles on gardening topics, most written by knowledgeable professionals, as far as I can tell, and there are links to these in the forums.

In the end, this is a story of survival. In spite of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, the GardenWeb forums are still here, and, in some areas, still lively. I hope they stay that way.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com

7 COMMENTS

  1. I was a member of GardenWeb back in the late ’90s. It was founded and run by Robert Stewart (aka “Spike”.) Of all their forums, my favorite was the Beer Garden. Not much gardening got discussed here as it was really a forum for gardeners to sit back and shoot the breeze. I got to know some great people from across the country and other parts of the world.

    Running any website and policing the comments section can be a lot of work. Doing the same for a site with multiple online forums is, frankly, unimaginable to me. The Beer Garden was a rowdy group and took up too much of Spike’s time and effort. Finally, after some egregious rule breaking (not by regulars), Spike had to shut it down. As mentioned, he finally sold GardenWeb itself.

    For some reason, my lifetime membership did not survive the move to iVillage. I only rarely look at it now that it is on Houzz.

  2. On gardenweb since ’96 or ’97. Facebook is killing it off, though Houzz is trying its darndest to help. Talking to other avid gardeners, at any time of day, was a new and wonderful experience. The Internet version 1.0 was a great place.

  3. “Name That Plant” is still very active with some amazingly knowledgeable people. I still use it for my plant ID questions.

  4. It was a great place when I first went there in the early 00’s. So much information and so many friendly and helpful gardeners! Then I moved on to other things but I went back once about a year ago and found it really hard to navigate and deadly quiet in most of the areas. Houzz has a lot to answer for! What a disappointment!

  5. Seems like gardenrant is suffering the same fate. I don’t see more than a handful of responses to any post here. I guess this isn’t a form that most people respond to.

    • Except that we are not a discussion board. We fully expect that many read and choose not to comment, as we can see from our google stats.

  6. I was an active member of GardenWeb for years (circa 2001?) and I remember Spike permanently re-directing errant GW members to Disneyland when they misbehaved. For awhile, I was addicted to GW, checking it first thing when I got home from work and on my lunch breaks. I met some great gardeners in person and on-line through GardenWeb, and one became a life-long friend (almost like a second mother).–Sadly, she experienced significant health problems and recently moved from her home into an assisted living facility.

    I miss the old GardenWeb and I occasionally go back to see what, if anything, is happening. Never have been nor will be a Facebook member.

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