Social media and the gardening discourse


The jury is still out on this. For every instance of helpful fellowship and joyful sharing, I can find equal examples of myth-based misinformation and knee-jerk snap judgements (if not out-and-out trolling) made without bothering to read what has been posted.

Sadly, it’s possible to turn even the most complex issues into generalized memes. These get shared with groups of “friends,” most of whom post dittohead comments in agreement with whatever absurdity is being accepted as fact.

The most recent example is clearly Susan’s post on the White House rose garden changes and then her attempts to share further information via our Facebook page. Many commenters bothered to inform themselves and responded accordingly. Many others just made political hay out of the whole thing, though all we know about it indicates that it’s a project that could have taken place in any August, under any president.

But that was nothing compared to what I saw elsewhere. Many of my “friends” grabbed onto an ignorant meme that implied the WH garden was being destroyed by hordes of ravening fascists and their dittoheads fervently agreed. Many got the tree species wrong; all got the history wrong. I tried to introduce Susan’s detailed and informative post into some of these threads with laughable results. I shouldn’t have wasted my time.

And this is just one high profile incident. There are dumb gardening memes shared every day. Some push the vinegar/soap/salt weed remedy that will not die, others promise gardeners that they are killing monarchs by planting buddleia, others (a lot of them) talk of the evils of GMO. There are facts hidden somewhere behind a few of these, but they get unrecognizably distorted in the meme-izing process.

It’s always best to be specific when discussing gardening. The mileage varies from county to county, never mind from state to state and region to region. It’s an area where generalization can do the most harm, especially with all the beginners now starting home gardens from scratch. Memes have their place. I often enjoy them. They can make simple points entertainingly and that’s the arena where they should stay.


(I found these memes in the Gardening Professors Blog Facebook group. They usually do a meme week once a month. Check it out!)

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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 regular 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


  1. Hear hear! I bet 90 percent of my rants are about overgeneralization in plants and gardening info. One size fits all – not! Susan

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