Gardenweb was my first introduction to the online gardening community. I happened upon it in early 2000, and immediately dove right into the rose, perennial, and bulb forums. Then I found that there were even more informative—and way more provocative—discussions going on in some of the other forums. Many of you may remember an actual proposal of marriage being exchanged between two avid composters on the soil, compost, and mulch forum. Others might recall the hilarious “all-ugly ” thread, in which southern gardeners described a series of rural front yards hideous enough to make Dogpatch seem tasteful. On the landscaping forum, there was always tension between the professionals and homeowners seeking free advice—but plenty of ideas flying back and forth as well. I think it was gardenweb alone that kept my determination to successfully grow roses alive—their avid rosarians and images of beautiful rose beds made that goal seem just barely within reach.
Gardenweb still exists, of course, and its forums are just as lively as they ever were. I just checked in and found anxiety about forgotten, unplanted bulbs; anger about the cancellation of A Gardener’s Diary; matter-of-fact comments about magazines: ” I’m not really looking for ideas, just porn”; and the usual demands to “enable me!” from the rose freaks. The other popular user-driven garden website is Dave’s Garden, which I check mainly for its excellent ratings of mail order vendors. The DG forums, unfortunately, have a small users’ fee, so I’ve never read them—I’m not sure I need to belong to another online service.
As for Gardenweb, it now claims ownership of all the messages and images posted thereon. Actually, I really question whether this would ever stand up legally, but don’t much care. They can have my questions about gardenia pests and welcome.
So the popular forums aren’t perfect. But can blogs take their place? I honestly don’t think so. You can post a search term on a forum and get ten pages of possible solutions to your gardening problem. You can exchange opinions with other gardeners on an equal footing—no hierarchy of poster and commenter. (And as a blogger, I always feel kind of silly posting comments on my own blog.) The blog is in many ways an extension of the blogger’s ego—more individual expression than public meeting ground. (With some exceptions, of course.)
I would be sorry to see the garden forums decline; they provide all the specific, idiosyncratic information books can’t give you and blogs only sporadically supply. But the news that Dave’s Garden has been sold is somewhat disturbing, though Dave explains how the site will continue here. Gardenweb seems healthy enough, with the caveat of the copyright thing. (I wouldn’t post essays or images there, anyway.) As many of you know, they have a blog feed/listing feature, Garden Voices, that is quite popular. But is this ominous? Is this a sign that they see forums succumbing to blogs anytime soon?
I hope not. Blogs and forums each provide essential services to gardners—long may they both live and vive la difference!