I earned it. For several years, back when newspapers were composed of a rather ingenious combination of both news and paper, I was a respected garden columnist, as well as a respected horticulturist and arborist. Of course, I was an a horticulturist and arborist first. I later started writing my garden column because I wanted to do better than what the professional columnists who lacked practical experience with horticulture were doing.
For someone who would have preferred to simply grow horticultural commodities back on the farm, the notoriety was an odd fit. I was often asked to be a guest speaker for all sorts of garden clubs, and to write about their events. For a few years, I was a guest of honor and staffed a gardening question booth at Spring In Guadalupe Gardens in San Jose. It was awkward to walk from where I parked to the booth, past a dozen or so posters with my picture and various quotes on them.
People read my gardening column because they wanted accurate and relevant information. Although I was not proficient at writing, I managed to maintain my integrity as a horticulturist and arborist. My expertise was respected.
Then, a ‘colleague’ who wanted to capitalize on my notoriety convinced me to work for him while he established a website for me. I agreed, along with the stipulation that the website conform to my discriminating standards.
That stipulation was ignored. The website was embarrassingly flashy, with pictures of tropical plants that would not survive as more than houseplants in California. The grammar and spelling were deplorable. Articles were modified to be relevant in any season, just in case, for example, someone was worried about frost in the middle of summer. My ‘manager’ was not at all concerned with horticulture, but was instead more interested in installing advertisement for his products into the website.
About that time, I was invited to install a landscape into the 2009 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. I would have declined, but was encouraged to compose a landscape to promote the new website. The landscape was ‘adequate’, and did happen to feature an excellent reproduction of an old windmill that my ‘manager’ happened to procure. However, the real priority was showcasing the products that my ‘manager’ was marketing, including a rainwater harvesting system. Within our limited space, we had a big black vinyl water tank! Instead of getting a vendor booth at the show, he used the landscape to pimp his products and services! It was mortifying! The fact that my modified design won awards seemed to make it even worse, as if to justify out extreme gaucheness!
It took a few years and the assistance of an attorney to get the ‘manager’ to close down and delete what was supposed to be my website, but was merely a collection of links back to websites and advertisements for what the ‘manager’ wanted to sell. Otherwise, anyone searching for me online would still be directed to products and services that I want nothing to do with, but seemingly endorse. Even now, these two images above and below would be at the top of the list of a search for images of Tony Tomeo on Google. They are from the 2009 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, and are now associated with a website with which I have absolutely no affiliation. I want nothing to do with such unethical standards.
The picture above was taken within the landscape just before the Show opened to the public. The black vinyl tank is visible in the background. The picture below was taken during the assembly of the landscape, before I had shaven and gotten appropriately dressed.