I doubt you have ever searched a gardening topic without coming across Linda Vater’s name. She is a garden designer, blogger and lifestyle influencer who writes and produces garden media for TV, magazines, Instagram and YouTube. She has a product line on QVC, appears in numerous national magazines, news segments and videos and is the author of The Elegant & Edible Garden. Vater’s passion-turned-career began on her suburban lot in Oklahoma City.
Planting the Seeds
Vater’s success evolved from falling in love with the first plant she ever met at the mere age of 7 to inspiring thousands of people daily to follow her mantra to “live a garden inspired life.” She educates her audience through topiary workshops, plant introductions, garden tours, house tours, thrifting strategies, cooking from her garden, garden techniques, garden parties, garden tips and so much more.
Her journey from being a hobby gardener to a wildly successful voice in the gardening world was a process of inspiration, pivotal moments, real-life education, and pure wonder and love for gardening and people.
“I am a graduate of the Oklahoma School of Heartache and Hard Knocks,” Vater says.
From her first encounter with a pumpkin seed (which she describes in the preface of her book), to having plants in her dorm room, Vater kept discovering her natural desire was to delve further into the gardening world. Now she lives in a world she created from her love of gardens.
“Gardening is a key element in my life,” Vater says. “It informs my clothes, friends, books I read, trips I take and how I treat and connect with the earth.” She describes plants as comforting, compelling, beautifying. “They always awaken the inner kindergartner in me,” she says.
As Vater entered her 30s, she got married and started a family. This was when she left a consulting job that had her traveling quite a bit and moved into a 1932 English Tudor house in Oklahoma City and commenced building a world and lifestyle inspired by gardening.
“My own front garden was a sad and barren place when we bought our house, but it slowly became a landscape of beauty and delight,” she says. This beauty and delight have brought joy to thousands over the last 20 years.
Without formal garden training, Vater studied, planned and prepared for a space that turned a passion into a profession. As her gardening knowledge grew, so did her actual garden, which attracted several invitations on gardening tours and local news segments. A local news station started collaborating with her consistently, establishing credibility in the large Oklahoma City news market. Shortly after, she started writing for magazines including HGTV, Southern Living, Garden Gate, Victoria Magazine and Territory OKC. As magazines enjoyed using her articles, they started traveling to her garden to video and write their own pieces about her space as well.
She soon entered the social media realm and became a legend in the Instagram world. From there she started a YouTube channel, and as people discovered her, they began communicating through comments and messages. Her views skyrocketed.
Meanwhile, in her own community, people began to share with Vater the peace and tranquility her garden brought them. Families stopped by her house to take Easter pics with her tulip spring show on display as the background. An elderly lady moving into a nursing home collected pictures she had taken over the years to bring with her familiarity and beauty to her new home. Sharing her garden with her community benefited so many others through fundraisers, workshops, garden tours and great conversation.
As her voice in the local gardening world grew, so did the opportunities she encountered nationally. One of her early pivotal moments in 2017 was being approached at an event by a Southern Living Plant Collection representative to use her platforms to introduce their products. This testimonial advertising, now commonly referred to as brand ambassadors, proved beneficial to both parties and elevated her status in the garden education world. Great relationships were born with editors, product reps, social media followers and other media influencers.
In 2020, Vater expanded from representing other products to designing her own product line for QVC.
Growing an Audience
One of Vater’s most notable forms of gardening is topiary. Searching the Internet, topiary videos are synonymous the name Linda Vater. Recognizing this niche gardening skill, Laura LeBoutillier, the creator of GardenAnswer.com, reached out to collaborate on her expertise of the subject, which consequently helped grow the Linda Vater channel.
On Vater’s channel, 22 videos educate viewers on the art form of topiary. Vater also has more than 150 videos on her “Gardening How To” playlist for every type of garden and season. She introduces actual plants, trees and shrubs you can acquire at your local garden centers and gives instructions on the logistics of planting and maintenance the specimen requires.
Hooked by the gardening videos, her audience grew and became interested in all of Vater’s passions. Following her garden-inspired lifestyle is as intriguing as watching her garden grow, and she shares a well-rounded perspective on ways gardening can influence every part of your life.
One YouTube segment that intrigues most of her audience is her talent and skills in thrifting. Vater always preaches “recycle, repurpose, reuse” in and out of the garden. She takes viewers with her to thrift shops and shares what she’ll buy and how she’ll use items in her own home or as gifts for others. She also shares her lists of products to never pass up visiting flea markets/thrift shops/resale stores and how to use them. Videos also include staging and rearranging thrifted items as tablescapes and decor for her home and garden.
Tours of others’ homes and gardens are an essential part of her show as well. She takes viewers through neighbors’ and friends’ gardens and homes showcasing several other styles she finds interesting and noteworthy. Educating her audience on different styles is a great strategy to expand content and further entertain viewers outside of her own techniques and style.
Her fans also love to watch her cooking segments. Sharing how to use fresh vegetables from the garden is another way she emphasizes her garden inspired life. Unlike formal cooking shows, she takes her very casual approach of talking through old memories and food favorites for her and “hubs” (as she commonly refers to her husband). Being inside her home and watching her cook recipes she’s very familiar with deepens the relationship she is creating with her viewers.
In The Elegant & Edible Garden, Vater lists ways to host others for garden tours and garden parties of every season. Ideas include inviting a first-grade class to make Mother’s Day baskets in the spring, Wimbledon-themed breakfasts in the summer, apple-tasting parties in the fall and winter craft parties. Her videos reflect hosting and preparing for parties. She encourages readers and viewers to share their gardens because she realized what power a garden could really engender once she started sharing it with others.
What is this garden guru’s secret sauce? What is the intangible ingredient that really turned her hobby garden life into a national success? Vater believes it is genuinely loving people as much as she loves gardening.
“Every encounter I make becomes a relationship,” she says. Her southern hospitality exudes whether she’s welcoming viewers, friends and business partners into her garden and life. And truly, the camera hides nothing. Her beauty, charm and class are in every video, post, conversation and interview.
A mantra she holds true—”I find beauty in everything”—is refreshing and seemingly achievable to everyone she meets.
A lovable character in her videos is her photographer, Stewart. The banter the two share is unique and realistic. They tease, distract, correct and encourage one another in such an endearing way. Stewart is not on camera, because he is usually holding the camera, but his personality definitely shines through. The interaction is a great sidebar to the conversations they are having and usually leads to a lot of comments from viewers in the comment section.
Another notable characteristic of Vater is her intoxicating rhetoric. She has always loved reading, and no doubt that hobby created a bank of descriptive, romantic, intelligent words. It’s an elevated use of the English language and is as full of class as her garden. Fans of hers feel at ease listening to her speak and reading her written works. “I love to weave words together like a tapestry,” she says. These tapestries paint pictures as beautiful as her actual garden.
Vater’s toolbox of skills wasn’t a preset bundle of formally trained techniques. Rather, it’s collected from experiences she’s gathered along the way. Public speaking began with garden tours. Writing came from learning to think like an editor. Photography started with understanding lighting required to grow plants and snapping shots of her garden victories.
“My best advice is to be mindful of what skills you are accumulating,” Vater says for anyone who is looking to find ways to profit from their hobby gardens. “Everything is content and has beauty to be revealed.” Revealing beauty and sharing it are two of her strategies for successfully collecting numbers of viewers and followers.
What’s next for Linda Vater? “I’m ready for a new garden!” she says. She and her husband had been house shopping for a while when they recently came across a new cottage nearby, and she’s ready to start again. “It’s time for someone else to live in this house and make their own memories,” she says.
This next step will provide content for a new book she plans to write in the next year as well. Rest assured, her audience will live every detail with her through YouTube, Instagram and a future Linda Vater book as she embarks on a new garden and new adventure.
Linda Vater is a great example of digital agritourism. Hobby farmers, gardeners and ranchers have worked to develop and seek out money-making strategies through agritourism for years. Popular agritourism examples are pumpkin patches, tree farms, bed and breakfasts and farmers markets.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, agritourism has found a digital component. Visiting other people’s gardens, land and agricultural setup though social media is becoming mainstream and lucrative. Linda Vater’s channel is a great example of finding ways to further hobby farming and turn a profit. Learn more about Linda Vater by visiting her website.
This article appeared in Hobby Farm Home, a 2024 specialty publication produced by the editors and writers of Hobby Farms magazine. In addition to this piece, Hobby Farm Home includes recipes, crafting projects, preservation tips and more. You can purchase this volume, Hobby Farms back issues as well as special editions such as Healing Herbs and Goats 101 by following this link.