People are becoming “trendoids,” trying nearly anything once, as long as it looks different and someone else says they like it. It’s all about marketing, for the sake of convenience and making a profit. Everywhere you look, new-age garden ideas for “instant” everything can be seen, from instant gardens that “just roll out and grow” to instant solutions that “take the hassle out of gardening.” Apparently, marketers of the garden industry do not respect nor understand the relationship between a garden and its gardener. Real gardens take time; they do not instantly reveal themselves in a day. Real problems also take time to work out; they do not disappear overnight. Fakes, frauds, and garden marketing, this is the dark side of gardening.
Although many people want “instant” gratification in keeping up with the latest trends, most gardeners prefer honesty and reliability. Nowadays, it seems that the garden market has shifted from traditional “do-it-yourself” garden plans to ready-filled container gardens or mats. Whatever happened to the days of hands-on garden approaches? Gardeners, believe it or not, actually enjoy getting their hands dirty. If trendy is what garden marketing is after, then why not look to the avid gardener for clues. It’s not simply about money or easy way outs. However, if you want something cost-effective and easier, try low-maintenance, low-cost plants and products that are environmental friendly.
Garden marketing has become less personable, inundating consumers with misinformation and fraudulent claims. Gardening is fun and therapeutic. The real gardener knows this. Instead of trying to cheapen products by cutting corners, the garden market would benefit more by taking the extra time to educate consumers rather than exploiting them. For instance, plants should be chosen for their ability to perform well throughout the season, while remaining carefree and pest or disease resistant. Providing cultural information with plants is vital to how well they perform in the landscape. While most gardeners know the basics when it comes to plant needs, many others do not. This information needs to be more accessible to the inexperienced gardener. No catches, no gimmicks.
There are people in the heirloom plant business that grow these old-time varieties for the mere joy of it. However, there are just as many fakes, if not more, whose primary interest is money. Many of these businesses actually rename heirloom plants to make them more appealing to consumers, growing them from seed and distributing them to others under false names attached with false histories. Unfortunately, this fraudulent practice is becoming more commonplace. In fact, many heirloom plants are most likely renamed hybrids with deceptive labeling. In the old days, the variety names were oftentimes used, but as supermarkets and other garden retailers became more prevalent, generic names started becoming became the norm, making it difficult for garden consumers to tell the differences. Heck, even many of the vendors don’t know either. Other businesses in the garden market promote the use of pesticides. Pesticides are substances used to control pests by either repelling or killing them. However, some of these same pesticides have the potential of harming humans, pets, and the environment. Due to their toxic nature, it is inaccurate or fraudulent to make claims that pesticides or services involving their use are safe. Advertisements that contain inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information regarding the toxicity of pesticides lull consumers into a false sense of security, increasing their exposure to dangerous poisons.
Mail-order fraud is also becoming commonplace in the garden market with catalogs filled with worthless rip offs. Buyer beware, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If you are like most gardeners, you probably have a dozen or so catalogs lying around. I have numerous catalogs myself, from fancy seed catalogs to those carrying ordinary garden supplies. About the only way to combat fraudulent claims from any of these catalogs is to thoroughly look through them before making any decisions. For instance, all plants should provide their hardiness range to ensure their compatibility to a particular region. All plants should be listed with their specific botanical name, which is unique to each one, including the cultivar name (if there is one). Be sure to check out the company’s customer ratings and the quality of not only their products or services but also their staff. A good, reliable company has qualified, knowledgeable employees that are more than happy to assist their customers with any questions they may have. They should also provide a guarantee of some kind in the event that something goes wrong, such as a refund or product replacement.
Always, always check the return policy beforehand and keep all records. The Internet is increasingly being used in the garden market to promote products in ways that blur the truth. Many companies that package and sell garden products mislead the public in how they represent the quality of their products. The Internet has also made it easier for fraudulent businesses to create virtual fronts, luring people in with cheap prices on desirable plants. Then when word gets out about them, they start up new subsidiary companies under different names. Some of the most deceptive garden marketing ploys actually compromise the computer users’ security. As with mail-order catalogs, always look into a company before doing business with them. Most reputable online businesses are listed with the BBB online, where information regarding their products and services is available.
To protect your self from the fakes and frauds of the garden market, do your research. It may take some extra effort, but in the end will be far worth the trouble. Gardeners simply want to do what they do and love best-garden. We do not need false promises or easy fixes. What we need is honesty, reliability, and integrity. For those in the world of garden marketing, please keep this in mind.