More on HGTV’s campaign to alienate gardeners, plus thoughts on the co-opting of Master Gardeners


Are you ready for another gripe session about HGTV?  Here’s a little behind-the-scenes look at the station we love to rant about.

A few weeks ago someone wrote to the local horticulture Yahoo group requesting a good-looking garden to use in an HGTV program.  It promised a chance to "Show off your garden!"  So I responded and got an immediate call to arrange a visit to see my garden.  Logistics were discussed.  Then I asked if there was anything in this for the gardener – credit, giveaways, money?  Well, no.  That’s right – not even crediting the gardener.  So I declined and posted this info to the Yahoo group.

Well, I guess no suitable garden was found because a week later I received a really sweet email from someone else at the TV production company about the very same shoot.  She started by saying she’s a big fan of mine, has signed up for the DC Master Gardener program and is even volunteering at a project we’ve been promoting over at DC Urban Gardener News. She had me at "big fan."

Trouble is, this nice person, clearly a gardener, had been asked by the show’s producer for assistance in "sprucing up the garden and rallying up some gardening help." The work had to be done immediately.  And this part should come as no surprise: "We don’t have a budget for plant purchasing or landscape designers. This is a lighting design show and that is where the budget has been spent. But we don’t want the exteriors to be beautifully lit with dead (looking) plants."

But now for the worst bit:  Could DC’s budding or established Master Gardeners volunteer to spruce up their location for them?  I gulped and replied that Master Gardeners volunteer for projects at schools, parks and similar public places – you know, community service*. 

So you see my double-edged rant includes people who seek to subvert the mission of Master Gardeners by soliciting their precious volunteer hours for commercial purposes.  (Here in DC the written purpose of the program is to "educate interested audiences about effective and sustainable horticultural practices and landscape problem-solving.")  From talking to Master Gardener coordinators around the country I know that inappropriate requests are a common problem but this one takes the cake.  (Most of the requests that get a big NO are for these trained horticultural educators to be used as manual laborers.)   

But let’s get back to the problems at HGTV (and I’m regularly contacted by their frustrated viewers, many of whom think the G be removed from the name to reflect the true state of their programming).  When I told a friend the story – and she’s a PR professional who’s worked with the local HGTV producers – her only response was: "HGTV – they’re just take, take, take."   

*Here’s a companion post about community service projects.


  1. So is that what the “T” stands for in “HGTV”–take, take, take?

    It seems the Master Gardener programs are subject to manipulation from every possible angle.

    Maybe we should start our own program and do it right.

  2. You are SO right to say no. Helping out a TV network is not “community service,” no matter how they pitch it. They should pay you, and they should credit you.

  3. Not really garden related but HGTV related. A few years ago my partner, who makes doll clothes, was contacted about being on one of their sewing programs. He was thrilled and accepted. Would you believe that HGTV didn’t pay for anything – no reimbursement for gas, lodging, food, nothing! And we had to drive 6 hours to the studios.

  4. Some years ago we did a project with HGTV.
    That one show was enough of an education to learn that representation and association with this ‘entertainment production company’ was not for us.
    It was a worthwhile one time experience but not one that we wanted to have an ongoing professional relationship with.

    We’re quality conscience professional landscapers, not entertainers.

    There in lays the crux. HGTV is a for profit entertainment production company , not a public service or community educational foundation.

    I believe that if this company wants to continue to “use” the public for their corporate gaining profits that they should step up to the plate and offer fair financial compensation to those who are participating with their production.
    If they did so, they might actually attract some quality craftsmanship thus offering a true sense of education through their media.


  5. Take it from a seasoned professional, ALL gardening TV works just this way. The dollar is split so many ways that the entire show must be supported by “donations”. Otherwise the production company could never make the show for the meager funds they get. The network knows the world is full of eager beavers hoping to get themselves or their product on TV. Problem is there are so many cable stations and so few viewers that their exposure just doesn’t pay off compared to the costs of participation.
    Regarding the problem with no “G” in HGTV, rumor has it that the DIY Network was to take over the gardening realm. Then DIY did some exhaustive testing to discover there weren’t enough “G” viewers to support that kind of programming on their network. Thus the drop of so much of their programming in lieu of house construction and remodeling.
    And they have to pay the bills. Gardening remains in TV Limbo. It’s a weird weird world in the entertainment business and they will always be driven by this “donation” method…why?…because it works.

  6. For what it’s worth, when the Food Network sent a crew out to shoot a segment on our garden, they not only bought our whole family lunch, but gave us 200 dollars to boot. The whole experience was great, and they could not have been nicer to us.

    Too bad bad about HGTV.

  7. A for-profit network looking for donated time, labor, design, and materials.

    I hope you told them to kiss your Assters . . .

    Good for you guys to turn them down.

  8. Regrettably, yes, that G should come right out of HGTV. If Consumer Reports or better, Mouse & Trowel, were to rate gardening content, they might label it fraudulent. (no slight intended against the admirably hard-working ” gardening guy” who must be getting a little lonely over there).
    Years ago, with kids still in the Saturday morning cartoon stage, I was seduced by HGTV with an exquisite interview of my friend and garden mentor, Gay Barclay. The interviewer with the big straw hat strolled with Gay through her beautiful Potomac garden capturing Gay’s infectious passion. That early horticultural emphasis has disappeared.
    The good news is gardenrant, Ellis Hollow, The bad news is the electronic infringement upon the sacred hours of the weekend gardener.

  9. My gosh. I really must say that I m NOT surprised. And I hope you didn’t let them take advantage like that. The more I hear about HGTV, the more I am convinced they are RUDE and definate “takers”. And there is NOTHING as beautiful as a nice garden…what is with them! This is totally unrelated to gerdening but I once wrote to themn and ‘finally’ got a short, rude e-mail from them. I have been a fan for a long time and it was really disenchanting to me. Good luck in all you do.

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