Garden Bloggers Under the Microscope

Here's some evidence that garden bloggers are being taken very seriously by the garden industry these days in the shape of the 68 page Global Garden Report, a study commissioned by Husqvarna and Gardena. These are two of our major garden tools and sundries providers, whose range of products is substantial.

Mr BrownThumb had a look at this report over at a few days ago, which prompted me to go and see for myself. Over 1.4 million blog posts from 2009 were analysed from garden bloggers in 13 countries: Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, UK and USA.

Naturally a lot of automation was used to analyse that many posts (plus internet searches), but a manual analysis of blogs and forums, plus a questionnaire were also used to compile the results. In general they found garden bloggers to be non-competitive, who strive for personal fulfilment through the creation of their own personal 'Eden'.

Each gardener has their own vision of what this 'Eden' might be, divided into 10 main types:
  1. Kitchen Gardening
  2. The Organic Garden
  3. The Feel-Good Garden
  4. The Designed and Artistic Garden
  5. Re-Creating Wilderness
  6. The Social Garden
  7. Urban Farming
  8. The Lush Garden
  9. Container Gardening
  10. Greenhouse Gardening

Each country had its own favourite categories: in the UK these were Kitchen Gardening, The Feel-Good Garden ('a soothing experience') and the Designed and Artistic Garden (self expression through style and 'making the garden into a personal piece of art').

I struggled with the latter category: there's quite a few UK garden designers who blog and I wondered if this might have skewed the analysis, and I felt the very similar Lush Garden category ('planned, designed, well-organised' and 'requires a lot of work') might fit us a bit better.

There were general observations about us not saying that much about the tools we use. I can understand this: tools are part of the work side of gardening which don't get bought or replaced that often, plus if we're focusing more on the end result in the form our own personal Eden takes, the humble spade or trowel we use isn't really going to get much of a look in.

Lawns aren't discussed much either: but then according to the report the core group of bloggers in the UK is middle-aged women and if I and my (non-blogging) friends are anything to go by we're not usually the person looking after the lawn anyway.

As we don't talk tools or lawns, it's going to be a harder job for Husqvarna and Gardena to use this information to bring us the products we want. However, I'm sure they'll work hard to interpret what's needed for each of the 10 categories and which ones are best suited for marketing in each of the 13 countries.

I have some reservations about how the study has been conducted, particularly as there's an implied assumption the garden blogging community is a (albeit very large) representative sample of all gardeners. It's also interesting to see that we're perceived as the garden trend setters or 'shapers': we talk about issues, techniques, styles and products well ahead of what books and magazines have to say.

I wonder how all of this will translate into what we find at our local garden centres over the next year or so.


  1. How interesting I will have to check this out. My impression when I first started blogging was that Uk blogs were more vegetable orientated whcih is why I liked Blotanical so much as I found ornamental blogs in the US. I think this has changed and evened out more. I'm also not convinced that anyone particularly blogs about tools or lawns regardless of where they live - boring!!!
    Nice to see that the industry is finally realising that bloggers can be influential - may be some work for us?!!

  2. Interesting. Thanks for posting this, VP. It has given me some things to think about, including this:

    1) With which of the types of garden on the list do I associate myself and my blog?

    2) Maybe there isn't much talk of "lawns" because gardeners don't think of them as being part of a garden...Some of us are even actively trying to reduce the size of the lawn, since a chemically-dosed and water-soaked lawn is not terribly friendly to the environment. Perhaps the garden industry should chew on that a bit.

  3. This is very interesting. Is good to know that we are becoming more relevant.
    Here in japan, the focus is on container gardening. There are a lot of specialized books about it, and they like growing edibles too. I think reason is the lack of space and the aging population

  4. Like Susan, I immediately began to wonder where my interests co-incided with the list. Marginally, I suppose, except in my dreams!

    Unlike Patientgardener, I thought 'that's a good point, what about the tools'? Maybe it's because almost all my working life (which wasn't long - seven years?) was in factories so 'things' interest me.

    I've mentioned you on my Boring Blog post today

    it's in relation to parks and roundabouts. Hope it's ok.


  5. it will be interesting to see how thier marketing alters to take in blogger demographics.

  6. Haha - I have NO idea which catagory my blogging would fit into! (and I can't blog about tools as they all got destroyed in the arson attack!)
    Thanks for an intesting post VP.

  7. Hi VP, an interesting post. I imagine the industry is interested in capturing a market. But I must say if I started finding lots of advertising on blogs I'd probably stop reading those. Even those people who review books etc. don't usually get my vote. vis a vis your comment on Patient Gardens review of Monty Don's book about Italian Gardens. I live in Viterbo (a section of the book according to PG) and am lucky enough to enjoy the incredible late Renaissance and Mannerist gardens here, but sadly I can also confirm that gardens and gardening are no longer a major interest to Italians. They all grow food, olives etc but ornamentals are pretty unusual now; there are exceptions of course. If you wanted to see images of features that aren't in the book, yet me know and I'll post them. I have hundreds of images of the local gardens as I also teach about Rrenaissance gardens to visiting students. Christina

  8. What a lovely, interesting post - thank you.

    Had to laugh though - I am a middle-aged female gardener and I won't let "Management" anywhere near my lawnmower or the green stuff that one day, with love & care, might be a wildflower meadow (which is far more useful than a lawn but still needs cutting occasionally). And the chainsaw, pole pruner and log splitter are mine as well.

  9. Thanks for bringing my attention to this report. I've checked what they wrote about my country and I rather disagree, which - I know - is always pretty easy if there is no credit where from information comes.
    I am pro marketing person dealing with reports, studies and research on a daily basis. This report seems like a somebody's point of view, not a study. I wonder how valuable it could be and to whom. Looks like it is just a promotion of the brands/companies that are listed on the cover.

  10. PG - Thresdspider and I said exactly that about tools blogging - boring! However, I've just realised I have 2 posts on this topic lined up!

    Susan - I was really surprised that xeriscaping and urban farming weren't key themes for the USA.

    Fer - I was surprised that Japan wasn't included in the study - perhaps these companies don't sell to your country?

    Esther - the conclusions here are so generalised, I think we all struggle to see where we fit in. Tools posts are on their way! Have already responded over at yours re the roundabouts :)

    Petoskystone - exactly

    NG - you're welcome :)

    Christina - welcome and thanks for your kind offer re Italian garden images. I don't think this report is about blog advertising, it's more about using garden bloggers as a giant 'focus group' in order for them to make marketing and product development decisions.

    Bilbo Waggins - I do like the sound of your meadow. Just right for where you live too.

    Ewa - I think most of us probably disagree with these generalisations. In my last job I was heavily involved in Management Information provision and I can imagine these comapanies poring over the data in all kinds of ways to glean the last drop of information for their decision making. That's why I'm concerned whether we garden bloggers are actually a representative sample.

  11. truly interesting post VP! w/o looking yet at their definitions of the categories I'd have to associate myself with #'s 2,3,4,7,8 and 9. So glad we are being taken seriously by someone! tools are so important...right tool for the right job makes gardening more pleasurable! Love your blog, you always have informative posts.

  12. Hi Joan - I think I have little bits of them all apart from the Greenhouse one and that's only because I don't have a greenhouse!

  13. Hmm, not sure what I think about this. And in starting to work it out I realised I was starting a mini essay rather than a comment. So I will carry on feeling slightly uncomfortable and trying to work out why...

  14. Plantaliscious - well I'm carrying on the conversation from MBT 'cos I had too much to say on there, so I don't see why you can't do the same over at yours. I look forward to seeing your thoughts on this one.

  15. Interesting. The thing I am wondering is whether they have taken into account any discrepancy between the type/s of garden bloggers would like and the type they actually have!

  16. Juliet - good point. It might be quite difficult to tell!


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