With spring here, there is a flurry of gardening coverage. But that may mask a media category at a bit of a crossroads.
Gardening is still one of the most popular outdoor leisure activities, but it tends to be a hobby for those 40 and older, which works against it when it comes to coverage.
"The hot demographic is 18 to 34, and it's been a great disappointment to me that they haven't embraced gardening at the same levels as their parents did," says Bruce Butterfield, research director at the National Gardening Association.
To reach that younger group, he adds, a lot of gardening coverage now gets wrapped into broader outdoor living stories.
"It's almost like they blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor, with pieces on $2,000 outdoor kitchens that also contain advice on the types of potted plants that would be good around that," says Butterfield.
The hard-core gardening enthusiast can find stories year-round in dedicated magazines like Organic Gardening and Better Homes & Gardens. But George Ball Jr., CEO/president of the seed distributor W. Atlee Burpee & Co., describes most gardening media as "a two-hump camel."
"The new plants always debut in the late fall or winter and those come out in the seed catalogs sent out in January," he explains. "That triggers a lot of gardening writing in the winter, but, of course, the bigger hump is in the spring."
Most of this coverage is done by freelancers or even local horticulture experts hired by nearby newspaper or magazines. "Garden writers tend to be people who love gardening and try to support their passion by writing about it," says Butterfield.
"There are fewer dedicated gardening sections these days," adds Honey Rand, president of Tampa-based The Environmental PR Group. "They're mostly weekly gardening columns or a page in the real-estate section."
Gardening media may get a boost from the current debate on global warming. Georgia Tasker, garden writer for The Miami Herald, says many of her stories deal with environmental themes, as well as the local flora and fauna.
"Right now I'm working on a big piece on the local ecosystems in south Florida," she notes.
As far as advice for pitching gardening-themed stories, Ball says it's smart to localize your pitch.
"There really is no such thing as American gardening," he notes. "The gardener in Arizona doesn't have much to say to the gardener in Maine, so you have to have regional experts and angles."
Sampling is a key part of any gardening pitch, but keep in mind a lot of writers wait until they successfully grow a plant from a sample seed or bulb before they will write about it
Gardening coverage can be found in regional home/lifestyle sections and outlets as part of home-improvement coverage, so pitch them, as well
Gardeners and gardening writers are inherently "green," so they are eager to hear about environmental issues