What Can a Garden Writer Do For You

The following is a guest post from Jacqui Austin, a Garden Writer who I wanted to gain insight from on how our National Green Centre members can benefit from a relationship with The Garden Writers Association


I was recently asked “What is a garden writer and what can they do to help my business?” Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing.

What Is a Garden Writer?

The obvious definition of a garden writer is “a writer who writes about gardening and associated gardening topics in order to give information to the public.” A few decades ago, most garden “writers” provided gardening information through newspaper columns, magazines and books.

Now, because of the internet, all successful businesses use a combination of websites, email and social media to communicate with their customers. This created additional avenues for garden writers. Informational and marketing emails, newsletters, content-rich web pages, and social media blogs and postings are all new methods for garden writers.

However, writing is not the only form of gardening communication. Remember the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words?” The insatiable public now turns to YouTube and other videos for quick visual information. Therefore, some garden writers write video scripts.

As you can see, a garden writer is a talented professional who communicates gardening information to the public in a wide variety of ways, depending upon the wants and needs of the public. While the experiences and educations of garden writers vary widely, there is always an underlying love of plants and a strong desire to convey that passion and knowledge to others.

In fact, in 2000, Melvin P. Garber, University of Georgia, prepared an “Analysis of the Garden Writer Profession.” In it, he said of garden writers, “They may be the most important influencer group in the retail Lawn and Garden Industry.”  Read more here.

What Can A Garden Writer Do For Your Business?

A garden writer can do a lot.  For starters, they can rev-up your newsletter, pump energy into your emails, ratchet  your website ranking, scatter your pins through Pinterest and onto your revitalized Facebook and Twitter accounts, and brainstorm your next YouTube video series. In short, they can effectively get your company’s message out to your current, and future, customers.

A garden writer can also save you money.  Quickly estimate the amount of time it takes you to write your project.  Multiply that by your average hourly pay.  That is the amount you are costing your business to write something. Hiring a garden writer won’t cost as much as you do, plus you can actually be making money during the time you previously spent writing. This means a garden writer is not an expense…they’re a revenue generating tool!

How To Find A Garden Writer

The Garden Writers Association is a good source. Its  members are “…creative garden communications professionals including freelance writers, book authors, syndicated columnists, editors, photographers, lecturers, television and radio personalities and more.”  Use the “find” function to chose a writer, photographer or speaker, and filter by city or state.

Garden writers attend horticultural tradeshows. While they don’t normally rent a booth, they walk the show and talk with vendors. Their name badges will be their “sign.” If you have a booth at a show, check the badges of those who enter. Mine always has “Garden Writer” on it. Other words include media, public relations, marketing or photographer.

Garden writers also buy plants.  While engaging in conversation with your customers, it’s easy to ask “how did you hear about us?” If a person writes, they will let you know. I was buying ferns from a garden center and she said, “Let me put my marketing hat on to tell you about my other plants.”  I responded with, “I’m a garden writer, let me put my marketing hat on and ask you what I can do for you.” Now she says she would be under the bed crying, if I didn’t write for her! Moral of the story, talk with your customers…if they write, they’ll want to write for you. After all, they’ve been buying your plants.

Talk to local garden clubs and chapters of your state’s nursery and/or landscape associations.

Many garden writers participate in LinkedIn groups such as Garden Writers, Garden Writers United, Garden Center, Nurseries and New Media and Freelance Writers’ Connection. Similar Facebook groups include Horticultural Networking, Garden Bloggers Fling, and the Business of Garden Writing, and Gardeners.

Garden writers are often Master Gardeners. Many take, or teach, classes at local schools. A quick call to the horticulture department may strike gold. Also, check with the local newspaper gardening columnist…they may be able to refer a writer to you.

Working With a Garden Writer

Terms and conditions vary. Not all garden writers produce the same type of materials. One may be an expert at writing key word optimized web content but not write newsletters. You may find you will work with different writers to fill your organization’s needs. But that’s okay. You’ll be working with professionals who understand your business and want to see it flourish. Working together, your message will be received by a larger audience thus creating more customers.

Final Thoughts

At recent professional trade shows, I’ve noticed a definite sign of the increased awareness of the importance of garden communicators.  Several companies are now offering newsletter, website and content writing services tailored to horticultural businesses.  That is a sure sign communication is rising to a new level.  In this competitive market, I think it’s safe to say, a good garden communicator is your next best investment.  We’re here for you…


JacquiJacqui Austin, Garden Center Writer, can be reached at Jacqui@gardencenterwriter.com. She’s played with plants since she was four years old, the grandchild of an plant obsessive grandmother. Now she writes for horticultural businesses to amplify their message by writing “powerful words…promoting plants.”

About Katie Ketelsen

Katie gardens in West Des Moines, Iowa. She is an online garden editor for Better Homes and Gardens; board member and social media manager for National Green Centre and Urban Farmer wannabe at Maverly Lands.
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9 Responses to What Can a Garden Writer Do For You

  1. Exceptional posting. This should become a mantra for anyone wishing to continue in the business and esthetic of garden writing. Thank you!

  2. TC Conner says:

    As a former “local newspaper gardening columnist” I’d like to say that it seems as if that profession is going the way of the dinosaur. Yes, we can try to substitute the loss with other writing jobs – in areas you mentioned – but I think taking full advantage of all social media has to offer a garden communicator requires at least a couple of college level courses on said topic. I’ve checked several local nurseries to see if they’d be interested in my services and all have their own web editor/writer/social media techie and seem very unwilling to pay an outsider. Furthermore, some state the need for lecturers/presenters and yet are unwilling to compensate a fair market value. It’s very difficult for me to find well-paying jobs in the garden writing industry. In order to do so, I find it necessary to do many low-paying gigs that require a lot of time and effort.

    One last note, I’m a card-carrying member of the GWA and although I have the utmost respect for that organization, I find very little benefit in my membership. I’m not placing any blame, I think it has much do do with geographic location and a type of horthead mentality within the organization that discourages, and in some cases even prevents non-hortheads like myself from actively engaging with others in the profession.

  3. Thank you Jacqui! This is dead on fabulous!!! Thank you too Katie! You go girls!

  4. Jacqui says:

    TC, I think folks still read the newspaper columns, but not as much as they used to. And, you’re right, many garden centers do have their own “writers.” Unfortunately, many “newsletters” are just sales promos with no information. And customers want information. They now follow the social media trails and, as you said, it takes time to learn those skills to make them work effectively. Many business owners complain social media (and a content rich website) are wastes of time. Thus, many refuse to appreciate, and pay for, the required skills. This brings us full circle to GWA. The organization needs to use its own promoting/writing skills to blow its own horn! This sounds like the age-old question…which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Let’s fire up GWA to educate the “hort-heads” (love that!) so they can understand us, what we can do and how we can all work together to spread the joy of gardening…and hear cash registers ring! (Thank you, Kirk and Maria!)

  5. This excellent un down would make a great talk at GWA. I’m certain many of the members would be more than surprised to hear about this broad topic, and realize that they are really missing the boat. Thank you

    • National Green Centre says:

      Thanks for the comment Ruth! We agree.
      ~Katie Ketelsen

    • Jacqui says:

      I agree, Ruth. I’ll be attending two Region VI meetings in February. I have a feeling I’ll be asking if there is/are GWA committees to foster some sort of inter-disciplinary communication between communicators and vendors. In other words, a “GWA Horn-Blowing” committee. If anyone knows of one, please let me know. I really want to get involved in “promoting promoters.”

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