To be honest, honesty is not all it’s cracked up to be.  We certainly avoid honesty in many areas of our lives. How many of us use the “white lie”, an untruth used to avoid hurting somebody? Blunt honesty could make social intercourse quite uncomfortable.

On the other hand there are occasions and situations where we wish for and hope for honesty. An article in The Sunday Times of the 11th of October outlined an investigative experiment conducted by The Sunday Times. They had a book “Everything Bonsai” ghostwritten in Bangladore, India, for less than €100. The book “was riddled with inaccuracies, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes”.  False positive reviews were purchased for another small sum and the book rocketed to the top of the Amazon bestseller’s list. (When alerted, Amazon withdrew the book).

A Google search will return the following:

Everything Bonsai!:Amazon:Kindle Store –…/dp/B015Y1SG50

While most Bonsai books will only give you the basics of how to care for one of these amazing plants, this thorough and comprehensive guide also includes:

However, when you click on the link it will bring you to:

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I post book reviews on this blog and try to be as fair and honest as possible. Then again, I only select books which strike me as interesting so most reviews will be positive. Books from reputable publishers are also very unlikely to fall foul of the reviewer as the publishers are quite demanding of high standards and apply critical editing. There have been a few occasions when I have come on books which I thought were not to be recommended and I have said this in the review. Three come to mind immediately. With two of these the authors took grave offense and on the other the publishers commented that, indeed, they would have been wiser not to publish it at all.

Another gardening area where I feel there is a certain lack of honesty is in descriptions of gardens.  However, to be fair, it is generally dishonesty by omission rather than any attempt to deceive or mislead. When we write about a garden we generally seek to highlight the successes of the garden and the attractions for the visitor and, then again, most magazine articles written about gardens are done so to entertain rather than inform. This selective honesty is very apparent to anybody who takes photographs of the gardens they visit. Who seeks out the weedy patch, the dead flowers, the poorly mown lawn, the untidy or the unswept patio? These are not attractive to us and we avoid photographing them and so present a misrepresentative selection of photographs of the garden.

Though I understand the attitude of the writer and the photographer, at times I do wish to see more accurate and honest appraisals of gardens open to the public.

When we read book reviews or garden descriptions we need to be aware that they are not always as honest as they may at first appear.

Mount Usher Gardens in Co. Wicklow – an example of how we choose photographs to illustrate our writing. We always choose the best, prettiest and most eye-catching image and exclude those which are not quite so good.

Paddy Tobin

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