A response to Matthew Appleby

Dear Matthew

I nearly didn't write this I can't help myself. I'm a little dischuffed.

I'm not sure where you get off giving us bloggers a hard time on your blog this week. [For anyone who doesn't read Matthew Appleby's blog, the RHS Malvern Spring Gardening Show, one of the great celebrations of all things to do with gardening and growing, is a few weeks away. A few dedicated folk have been good enough to organise something called Malvern Meet, so that many of those that inhabit the often solitary world of the blogger can meet up. 50 odd garden writers/bloggers think this is a good idea. Matthew Appleby does not.]

Those involved are apparently 'dull' and 'semi-literate'.

I couldn't give a toss if you fancy insulting me and what I write - like you, I do it for a living - have a pop all you like, it comes with the territory. I'd even go so far as to say I might enjoy it. But being paid to do what you do and having a big public whack at people who don't have your platform, who write in their spare time with other pressures around them, when it's not their living, who are mostly doing it for the love of it and to contribute something really isn't ok. It's not far off bullying.

That'll be 50 odd people who are out there creating something, being positive about what they do, and trying to communicate some of that to others. I find much of it highly entertaining, fascinating, educational and inspirational at times. I find some of it dull too but that'd be the same if you gave me 50 albums, 50 recipes or 50 holidays.

You say these bloggers should 'get a real job' - and that's part of my dischuffedness: your blog has a go at those who do have a real job (often doing something unconnected with gardening) who still manage to squeeze in time to blog. Surely these are the 'amateurs' we should be celebrating rather than knocking? It doesn't really matter whether you or I find any of their stuff incomprehensible, unentertaining or utterly brilliant: writing and communicating isnt easy but it is important and it's what draws others into this lovely thing called 'gardening' you and I are lucky enough to do for a living. Or perhaps you'd rather it was for only the oh-so-clever few.

Starting off blogging can be painful - you're putting yourself on show - and even if what you're saying isn't overly or specifically personal you are offering something of yourself to the wider world. It's a difficult thing for many to do - pump up the courage to expose something of themselves. Even now after 5 years of blogging there are times when I've paused before pressing 'publish' on my blog, thinking people won't like it, people won't be interested, or it's too personal. For some, your blog will add an extra ounce of weight to that doubting finger hovering over the mouse.

You can obviously write but you mostly choose not to. You seem happier knocking others rather than giving anything of yourself or creating something. I'm not sure I understand why. Perhaps under all that bluff and bluster you really are upset your blog didn't win at the Garden Media Guild Awards? At least yours got shortlisted...*grumble, gristle, gripe*

Fair enough though, you're in the position to write what you like, how you like - a lovely privilege. Me too - but for my money I'd rather read a few dull blogs amongst the many corkers than sit on the sidelines sniping at others while moaning about being excluded all the time.

Most of these bloggers also use Twitter, like you, but they use it to add something, rather than just lurk in the hope of picking up scraps of gossip so that they may appear 'in the know' to others.

I guess you may say you were being controversial/hilariously ironic/playing devil's advocate/that you did put in a link to the MalvernMeet website/that, hey look, someone took the bait/it was just a joke and if it was just aimed at the likes of me who do it for a living, maybe.

But however you dress it up using your platform like this to get at others who do it for the love of it and do not have your platform is low. And a darn sight less brave than actually creating and contributing something yourself.

from One of those bloggers happy to be to be part of Malvern Meet.

Deb @ Beholder's Eye said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:10 AM  

Thank goodness someone braver than me had the nerve to say this. Thank you, Mark.

(Sometime blogger, show garden designer at Malvern 2010, part-time businesswoman, full time office-job holder and proper full on Mum...and far from illiterate)

patientgardener said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:20 AM  

Thanks Mark for standing up for us. Extra cake for you on Friday

Mark D said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:22 AM  

Oh no, people agreeing....this could easily slip into 'a torrent of back-slapping boringness'...

Arabella Sock said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:30 AM  

For the most part I think Matthew Appleby should be ignored - he only lets himself down - but picking on people who have put so much of their own time and effort into blogging and/or organising stuff like the Malvern meet is a step too far.

What amazes me most is not so much Matthew's unpleasant and vitriolic comments it is the fact that Hort Week allows them to be published on it's site.

matthewappleby said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:31 AM  

Mostly fair comment,

Lia Leendertz said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:31 AM  

Mark, you're our hero! All beautifully put. I suppose the thing about blogging is that you can do what you like with it, and MA chooses to do his strange and often unpleasant thing with his. It's all part of the tapestry, I suppose. And that's the weird thing about slagging off other people's blogs: you dont have to read them, just as you dont have to go to Malvern Meet. I suppose MA is objecting to the RHS press office talking it up, and that does feel slightly odd, just in that it is essentially a private meeting of people who have made friends online (which is why MA wasnt invited, I'm imagining). But on the other hand, why shouldnt those garden bloggers who do it for love get a little moment in the sun? Mean spirited, for sure.

Fluffymuppet said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:43 AM  

I love meeting up with other bloggers because, far from being dull and semi-literate, they are passionate individuals who for the most part thing outside the establishment box and have the most interesting and novel ideas available in garden writing at the present time.

And as to why their attendance is being reported by the RHS - it's because they'll all go home and blog about their experiences, having as much impact on their readers as the spreads from the mainstream gardening press!

patientgardener said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:45 AM  

Just to clarify the Malvernmeet isnt being publicised by the RHS but by the Three Counties Showground who appreciate everything we do in promoting the show for them.

There were no formal invites sent to anyone - just an invite to anyone who wanted to come through the usual garden blogging forums etc.

Gilly in Ari├Ęge said...

April 21, 2010 at 11:13 AM  

Well done, Mark. It needed saying and you have said it eloquently and passionately. I am sorry I will not be at Malvern, it would have been a wonderful opportunity to meet some remarkable fellow gardeners who have collectively reduced the isolation I feel gardening alone at the far end of France and individually have fired my imagination (that includes you) and given me practical advice. That is what good gardeners do for each other. I hope everyone has a wonderful time at Malvern and never gives a moment more thought to mean-spirited Matthew Appleby.

Esther Montgomery said...

April 21, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

Thanks for this article, Mark.

One of the nice things about blogging is that anyone can do it. Many who blog are literate and knowledgeable (like you). However, I'd also (like you) take the opportunity to celebrate garden bloggers who are neither; people who simply like gardening and want to share their enthusiasm. There are some blogs which are hardly ever commented on, maybe rarely seen or read by others, but which are loved and tended by their owners.

It's like gardening itself. Some people have big gardens and are brilliant at everything horticultural. Some have window boxes with nothing in them but who wake up one morning and find a weed blown in by the wind and are are moved by its kindly arrival.

I once went on a protest march where, among all the students and professionals there were a few homeless people walking along with us. I was impressed. I thought 'this must be a very important issue if people who have nothing are taking the trouble to join in'. But there were some who disapproved, who thought the presence of homeless people 'lowered the tone'. Very odd.

Among the organisers and participants of the Malvern Meet there will be people who know a lot and who write well. Perhaps there will be people who don't. Even if every single participant was a rubbish blogger (which they won't be) to meet with each other will still be a good idea. I'm not able to go but I admire the organisers' industry, enthusiasm and dedication from afar.

I'm also thinking they might be the kind of people who buy gardening magazines so, while they may be taking a little attention from professionals, they may be contributing to their pockets too.

Esther Montgomery

P.S. If I didn't write a (boring) blog myself, I wouldn't have found this one. Nor would I have read Matt Appleby's post. Hurray for interaction.


Lickedspoon said...

April 21, 2010 at 12:20 PM  

Oh goodness. I'm a food writer, not a gardening writer, and I feel lucky every single day to be paid to do something I love. There are those in the food world too who are dismissive, churlish and down right rude about bloggers. This perplexes me as these very people are usually our most enthusiastic readers, the ones who buy our books and magazines and papers.

I think a lot of this churlishness is about fear - fear that their cosy little corner will be invaded by these 'amateurs'. How silly. We have a fine tradition of amateurs, hobbyists, in this country and many of them have contributed much through their scholarship and passion to their chosen fields. Gardening in particular has benefitted from several centuries of the scholarly amateur.

I am astonished, thrilled even, by the quality of writing, the enthusiasm and sheer joy I see in the best blogs. They have a vitality, a lack of complacency and an honesty that's missing from some mainstream writing. And I'm more impressed still when these people, without payment, juggle running lovely blogs with careers, family responsibilites and the myriad other distractions of modern life.

What's there to be so bitter about? We should be delighted that others are so excited by what we do for a living, they'll do it for free on their own blogs, recording their own adventures, disasters and triumphs.

So should we old hacks feel threatened? Well no, not unless we have so little confidence in what we have to offer that our work won't stand up to the comparison.

PS My word verification for this comment is 'polyp'

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

April 21, 2010 at 12:28 PM  

Well written, Mark. I tip my gardening hat to you.

Like others (and I'm a mere colonial across the pond, who would love to be at Malvern but can't make it work, alas), I read the original post as a lame attempt at using what he considers humour to be a beard disguising (unsuccessfully) his own insecurities and pettiness. Obviously an investigative writer such as he is must have gotten to KNOW every one of the fifty-odd bloggers who are attending Malvern, read their blogs for the past several years, and thus is perfectly competent to cast stones of snideness at them/you.

No? I didn't think so.

What irks me about the sort of post written by Appleby is that it always comes across as desperately threatened by others. It's not just a British phenomenon I hasten to add; I've encountered so-called 'professional garden writers' in Canada and the US who are threatened by ordinary gardeners who are also bloggers and (in some cases) beginning to do some freelancing as well. Many of those bloggers write far more informatively, encouragingly and entertainingly than some of the self-styled pros.

For myself, I'm a freelance writer in my real life, and make a good living at it. Yet I keep a blog too, as a way of 'giving back' in some small degree to the gardening world around me. I learn a great deal from other gardeners, and hopefully I encourage others to take up or continue gardening--or writing. My theory is that there is enough work out there for everyone, anyone who is any good at it, that is, (including the querying, researching, drafting, editing, rewriting that is required to develop a clientele) to make a living as a writer. Despite the proliferation of 'Associated content' type websites and places that publish for the glory of 'exposure' of the writer or pay a pittance.

I actually found it intriguing that Appleby lamented he hadn't sold something he'd written. I was surprised that such a professional as he makes himself to be would send an unsolicited article, rather than a query about the topic, to an editor. Most of us send queries to editors--even editors we work with regularly--rather than full scale articles that weren't asked for. Maybe it's done differently in the UK.

Dawn said...

April 21, 2010 at 12:46 PM  

I wanted to comment on the MA blog, but having spent all morning supervising 3 and 4 year olds all I really wanted to say was "now, now Matthew, play nicely".

Your response was rather better.

Thank you.

VP said...

April 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM  

Thanks Mark for putting into words what Helen and I can't and so much more eloquently.

One thing to set the record straight - no-one was left out of the invitation. It was extended to everyone who cares to find out about it via blogging and social networking. To have done it formally wouldn't have been in the spirit of the event and would have probably made it more likely that someone would have been left out.

I had an enquiry from a blogger only a few days ago about whether she can join us next month which shows the invitation still stands and is being taken up.

WV says rallier, which sums up rather nicely how people are responding here. Thanks everyone!

Jay Stevens said...

April 21, 2010 at 1:26 PM  

Bloggers need to get thicker skins, rather than bleating to each other about how much you bleed when you’re pricked by criticism. I’ve read many vicious gardening blogs over the last few years, attacking individuals with thinly veiled bile for no apparent reason – you’ve got to be able to take it as much as you dish it out. Or just disable the facility for people to leave comments on your blog.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

April 21, 2010 at 2:07 PM  

Had never heard of this chap MA before I read your respons and it seems I didn't miss much judging by what he wrote. Oh well *shrug*.

A very well written respons Mark; short, sweet and to the point. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done as I can't do it for you as my arm is not that long.

elizabethm said...

April 21, 2010 at 4:31 PM  

Intelligent and pithy response to a blog which was neither. Thanks Mark.

Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

April 21, 2010 at 6:37 PM  

Thank you for your thoughtful response Mark.

gnman said...

April 21, 2010 at 6:41 PM  

I think he thinks he's Jeremy Clarkson, but he's not, he's just rude!

Carrie said...

April 21, 2010 at 7:09 PM  

Thank you Mark. x

Roland said...

April 21, 2010 at 7:17 PM  

Well said Mark. I think Anne Wareham put the dear chap in his place by pointing out that it isn't an invite only exercise. Even I have been asked if I am coming along (very different to an invite), and I don't even blog, though I tweet.
Anyway, Appleby seems to think he is the one who 'should' be invited to the opening of every letter, so his nose is put out and as is his way, he is lashing out. Some people go on the attack when they feel threatened, which I guess is what he is doing. Maybe he was bullied at school, or has a serious personality disorder, or maybe he just thinks people want to read his shock jock trash and moaning. He doesn't do himself many favours. This whole exercise has done nothing more than make himself less friends. but of course, he doesn't care about that (or he would have you think that). Most likely he thrives on popularity. He has a chip on his shoulder and likes being rude to try and justify his job at Hortweek.

James Todman said...

April 21, 2010 at 7:29 PM  

Well said Mark. Exactly what I was thinking.

Matt Appleby's blog post reminded me of a petulant child stomping his foot because he wasn't invited to the party. Now wondering if his bottom lip is sticking out in a sulk. The fact that there were no formal invitations in the first place and it is just a get together of like-minded people makes Matt's comments even more absurd.

Anyway now decided Mark Diacono has my vote for prime minister.

Anne said...

April 21, 2010 at 7:42 PM  

But it's not childish tantrum, is it? It's MA trying to become the Mail of garden world and we just don't give him any decent material.

Now if we all tried harder to do real proper gossip worthy stuff..........

Lila Das Gupta said...

April 21, 2010 at 7:59 PM  

Hmmmm, I suppose negative attention counts as some kind of attention ....

Thank goodness for bloggers, garden or otherwise.
The RHS has rightfully drawn attention to the Malvern Meet because it recognises the important part that bloggers=enthusiasts have to play. People who write for a living may dominate the scene, but ignore the influence of bloggers at your peril. Enthusiasts are critics, consumers, and, promoters through word of mouth. Increasingly their views matter. (Anne Dolamore who co-founded Grub Street, a very successful small publisher of cooking books, has been sending free books for review to bloggers for years. She has no control over what they say, but she believes in her product and invariably her books do very well.)
So, three cheers for garden bloggers! I don’t care if they write for love rather than money, I am grateful. Not everyone can be a James Alexander-Sinclair (who performs equally well for both reasons), but through the marvel of Google I have happened upon so many excellent and inspiring blogs.
One last point: does anyone know the collective noun for garden bloggers? Is it a clump, a dell, a drift....? There must be an answer.

green seeds said...

April 21, 2010 at 8:40 PM  

may be we could have a mass hort week buring @malvern with matthew as the guy

The Garden Monkey said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:21 PM  

The collective noun for garden bloggers is "A Fasciation of Garden Bloggers".

Claire Potter said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:29 PM  

what I find hysterical about this whole farce is that most of his snipe was a 180 degree twist of a very informative and positive press release written by Sharon Gilbert, the Press Officer for Malvern (you can see this release via the press area of the main TCAS website).
Even when he is having a pop about the 'illiterate and dull' bloggers, he cannot even be arsed to write anything original himself, preferring the 'cut and paste with a different angle' approach to writing.
Now, it is a long time since I was at school, but back then, this was called plagiarism, and for a 'professional' writer to be guilty of such a sin smacks of desperation and lack of imagination.
And what do real bloggers have? Imagination and passion in spades. Give me a bit of 'dull' original writing over a s**t stirring piece of c**p any day.
Apologies Mark for turning your comments area into a rancid litter tray.

Ryan said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:35 PM  

Well siad Mark. That most certainly deserves a pat on the back.

It's just a shame that with that I was not afforded a link on the said blog page ;)


Anna said...

April 21, 2010 at 10:50 PM  

As one of the 'semi-literate' Malvern bloggers I was amazed that I was able to read Matthew Appleby's contemptuous post. I was much too incensed to make a polite comment on his blog. Thank you Mark for your most eloquent and pithy response.

Claire, Plantpassion said...

April 21, 2010 at 11:52 PM  

I didn't read the original blog piece, because I was working this morning when it was posted (at my proper job of gardening), not because I can't read it.
I'm looking forward to meeting the other garden bloggers at Malvern, because i've found their blogs wonderfully interesting, but if others find them boring, then I guess the Meet at Malvern event isn't for them...

Simon Chapman said...

April 22, 2010 at 10:52 AM  

Well, Matthew seems to have succeeded in getting y'all dancing to his tune. He doesn't mean what he writes - but he obviously wants to be talked about and to see his name and blog SEO'd (search engine optimised).

If you can't actually see the ironic smirk on his face then surely it is obvious from his words? How can the most illiterate/typo-strewn/poorly designed blog in the gardening world possibly be serious when he calls other bloggers semi-literate?

He's 'avin' a laugh.

The Constant Gardener said...

April 22, 2010 at 12:54 PM  

yep - what Simon said.

I was wondering whether Matthew made this particular blog post even more illiterate/lazy/boring than usual just to illustrate his point?

He really is best ignored, you know.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

April 22, 2010 at 7:47 PM  

Good response to a clueless dolt. A bloggers' meet up is about socializing, connecting with other liked minded people who you've gotten to know only through their blog. It's not about what the bloggers will write, but about making connections. The author should do a bit more research before venting in public.

Lila Das Gupta said...

April 22, 2010 at 9:32 PM  

Oooh Garden Monkey - a fasciation of garden bloggers! Clever indeed, though it doesn't roll off the tongue.
Any other offers for a collective noun?

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

April 22, 2010 at 9:47 PM  

Oooh, I'll play..an inflorescence of Garden Bloggers?
An Umbel? (my fave flower shape)
A panicle?

Oh, wait, we're nuisances...so maybe it should be a rhizome of bloggers? (a la Aegopodium).

I think fasciation is best, actually.

Charles Hawes said...

April 23, 2010 at 8:58 AM  


what bothers me somewhat about this upswell of outrage about Matts comments is that just the same arguments are made when anyone draws attentions to the generally poor quality of gardens that people are making up and down the country. Yes, I know that Matt Appleby is just a gossip seeker and has nothing serious to say from himself, but maybe he is drawing our attention to a generally poor quality of blogging. Why not engage with that question to debate rather than just leap to your own and each others defence?

Esther Montgomery said...

April 23, 2010 at 9:44 AM  

Sorry to come back but I'd like to say something about Charles Hawes' comment.

I agree there is a parallel with gardens in that professional blogs (and gardens) need to be absolutely top quality. Some are, some aren't.

But there is no reason why non-professionals shouldn't have fun blogging (or gardening) at the level they chose. They may land up with something very polished which lots of other people will want to look at or read (or visit). Or they may have something which brings great pleasure to themselves and to them alone.

When criticism (whether positive or negative, helpful or not) is dished out, the distinction between the two groups really has to be made. We all tip in together. For many of us that is part of the fun of it. But we are at different stages in our journeys. Me having coffee with friends shouldn't be compared with G8 meetings.

And if ever there are tatty blogs run by professionals (most of the blogs by professional gardeners are pretty good but over the election time I've been looking at political ones too and some of them really are neglected and odd) well, blogging is new to all of us and it may be it is better to keep things in the control of individuals rather than employing blog designers - some of whom aren't even as good as some of the amateurs!


VP said...

April 23, 2010 at 11:21 AM  

In resonse to Charles Hawes (whom I'm looking forward to meeting at Malvern).

Criticism is fine by me (both positive and negative) as long as there is evidence offered to support the criticism. I have yet to see any evidence offered in respect to the post under discussion or for many others I've seen which have said blogging is 'bad'.

If you're looking for a critique of the post under discussion then I offer this:

1. Poorly researched - if just a few of the blogs of the people who are coming to Malvern had been read by Mr Appelby, he would have a fair idea of who's coming and the real jobs that they do

2. Lies - Mr Appelby wasn't excluded from the invitation. Again with better research he would have found out how to invite himself along. The invitation is still open to all bloggers, but I need to know who's coming so that the appropriate passes can be issued to attendees.

3. Unfounded claims. By what criteria are the judgements re dull and boring made? Once we've established and agreed what these are, then we can not only judge our own blogs (and improve upon them if necessary), we can also judge Mr Appelby's. I wonder which one(s) might be found wanting...

I agree with The Constant Gardener that dignified silence is the best way to deal with Mr Appelby and this appears to happen week in and week out with the personal remarks he chooses to write on his blog.

However, I believe my points 1-3 are sufficient justification for a response this time - as may have been the case many times before.

If we'd all been in the playground with Mr Appelby when he made these remarks, would everyone had stood in silence when he made them? It looks like at least one person would not.

Anne said...

April 23, 2010 at 11:26 AM  


That's right,distinctions need to be clearly made.(In gardens whether charging people or not?)

We all have to start somewhere and blogging must be great practice for a writer. And anyone serious about becoming a good gardener or good writer will want criticism very badly.

It is respectful to the work, helps improve skills and the resulting work, and let's you know someone is actually looking/reading.

XXXx Anne

Anne said...

April 29, 2010 at 12:04 AM  

Well, guess which blogger wrote this, after having a quite nasty go at some people? =

"People take my blog however they want It takes the piss out of people including myself on various levels. If you don't want in fine"

And, no, it wasn't Matthew Appleby. Could have been, of course. Confused? You should be....

The Fat Gardener said...

April 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM  

I don't have a problem with what MA wrote in his original blog - it's what blogging is all about.

I write an incredibly tedious blog about garden tools for www.qualitygardentools.com website - I blog for me and don't care what others think!

Let MA write whatever he likes - they are only words and it's all part of the rich tapestry that is the internet.

Lila - what about a 'shed' of garden bloggers, or looking at my still beautiful daffodils, what about a 'host' as the collective?

Suffolk Lad said...

June 18, 2010 at 5:31 PM  

Just read this - great stuff Mark and oh so true! But MA is not alone - there is a clique of them, all too up themselves for words.

Simon Edwards said...

May 6, 2011 at 4:04 PM  

The guy's obviously a total knob, I could say worse. I guess some people will always have a pop at something like the malvern meet, writing it off as twee and irrelevant.

I think some people are just treated by the internet and what it empowers people to do. Which seems to be the case with this Appleby fella.

So Keep Claim and Carry On and enjoy blogging.

Mark you made the perfect point that it's all about sharing experience, and encouraging each other to get out there and have a go. Make mistakes it really doesn't matter; and above all don't let the b%$@&d grind you down.

Go to Otter Farm | by Mark D