A Way to Garden: The Book Becomes a Blog

– Posted in: Book reviews, Recommended Links
14 comments

I am sure I first read A Way to Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season in 1998, the year it was published. I may have been the first person to pull it off the library book shelf and take it home. It had everything I ever want in a garden book: great photos that actually illustrate the text, and text that makes you think about the “why” of gardening as well teaching you a thing or two.

Well, the book is now a blog. That’s the best way I can put it. Margaret Roach, who was the gardening editor at Martha Stewart Living when she wrote A Way to Garden and who was the editor at MSL when she retired (at a very young age), has started a blog, which is not a promotional buy-my-book type of site, but is more like what the book would have been if it had never had to end, a conversation that just continues . . .

And it does seem that Margaret is interested in conversing. As best I can tell, she is more faithful about responding to comments than (ahem) I have been (sorry about that, dear readers) and has started forums to extend the conversation further. Her many years in the publishing industry are evident. Her website is wonderfully well designed, with lots of helpful information in the sidebar and something almost unheard of amongst us amateurs: a section on upcoming posts. Yes, she plans ahead. Those years of putting out a magazine on time and perhaps under budget continue to influence her writing habits. It is a discipline I admire but can’t hope to emulate in the near future.

I first learned of her blog when her post on eranthis showed up in my stats. Unbeknownst to me, she had joined in the conversation about winter aconites; my post was never pinged, and at first I thought someone had clicked on my site in her blogroll. Soon after, while attempting to catch up on my favorite blogs, I realized Colleen had already made note of A Way to Garden, the blog. And as I still haven’t caught up on all the blogging that went on while I was in Austin and has continued since, there may be others who have already made note of this new and ambitious blog, but I have to put my own two cents in.

No one is credited with the design, so I am wondering if Ms. Roach did everything, the whole design and setup, herself. If so, she has certainly done her homework, learning the ins and outs of WordPress, the niceties of web standards, and the quirks of cascading style sheets. And if she’s had help, well, don’t they deserve a mention in the footer?

Well, what are you waiting for? Go check it out! And if you heard it first from me, tell her Kathy sent you.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment. It bursts upon a man every year…as though it had never happened before, but had just been shown by God how to do it, and tried, and found the impossible possible.

~Ellis Peters in The Summer of the Danes

13 Comments… add one

Alex June 12, 2008, 9:19 pm

Thank you about the information, Kathy. I ordered the book on Amazon. Look forward to get it.

Bonnie April 24, 2008, 10:43 pm

Thanks fore the link. I perused and quickly added it it to my reader feed so I could see new entries.

Elizabeth April 23, 2008, 2:21 pm

Wow! I have always loved her writing, and her simple yet beautiful way of displaying her plants for photographs has influenced much of my own creative work. Thanks for the “heads up” Kathy.

Margaret April 22, 2008, 7:48 pm

Kathy,
If only I had known in March, when I was trying to start my blog, that you had it all documented so I could avoid 11,982 stupid mistakes! Thanks for the lessons, which I will have to study carefully. Meantime I have created a prominent page called credits, and that’s a start.
It is unseasonably (there’s that word again) hot here and very dry for April, so I am frantic on all fronts, and busy praying for rain. I look forward to a season knowing you are just up the road, so to speak, for counsel and inspiration.
Margaret

Genie April 22, 2008, 12:57 pm

Thanks for documenting the resource, Kathy — this is really interesting and I’m looking forward to getting to know this new site better.

Kathy Purdy April 22, 2008, 8:39 am

Margaret,
Welcome to the garden blogging community. I am somewhat of a geek myself, so just as you might look at a magazine’s masthead, I look for the designer’s credits. I wasn’t finding fault, just curious.

Most free WordPress themes (designs) have a stipulation that the designer be linked to in the footer. Other credits can be listed in a sub-page of the About page. This is still on my to-do list!

To credit photos, I either use a caption under the photo, or use the title attribute of the img tag. (I created a breakdown of an html image link with its attributes to help people understand terms like “title attribute.”)

Curtis April 22, 2008, 5:47 am

What a good book. Now its a blog, Going to check it out now. Thanks Kathy.

Shady Gardener April 22, 2008, 12:53 am

You are always one to have interesting information! I appreciate hearing about not only the book but the blog. Just visited briefly, but bookmarked it! ;-)

Linda MacPhee-Cobb April 21, 2008, 10:22 pm

Thanks, that looks to be a great gardening resource.

Lynn April 21, 2008, 4:42 pm

Hi Kathy and thanks for the link to a very nice site, indeed. It’s nice to get a little talk of the mechanics of blogging (i’m new and struggling, too), and I was glad to see that the hands in the blog header do not look nearly so creepy as they do on the book cover! (maybe that’s just the thumbnail…)
p.s. I love your header of snowdrops :)

Robin (Bumblebee) April 21, 2008, 2:00 pm

I’m glad to know about Margaret’s new blog. I remember her well from MSL and am going to rush right over to get acquainted.

As for commenting on the comments…There is only so much time, right? And not all comments require a comment.

Robin at Bumblebee

mss @ Zanthan Gardens April 21, 2008, 8:41 am

Thanks for the tip. Like you, I’m way behind on my blog reading since Spring Fling. After all, it is spring and the garden’s pull is more intense than the computer’s. As it should be, I think.

Margaret April 21, 2008, 6:44 am

Kathy,
Thank you for the lovely mention of the reincarnation online of me and of “A Way to Garden.”
You make a good point: I have been wondering where to put credits on the site, and have been searching for a guide to “best practices” for blogs on that…both for the designer (www.kennethbsmith.com) and for the photos that I didn’t take and so on.
I knew I wanted to work in the open-source community of WordPress, so Ken adapted a “theme” or template that was out in the world already (called Blue Zin) to create the flexible sideblogs where I can do my chores list and brief items and so on, and just be more nimble than having the wide-measure posting area only.
Day to day, it’s just me: Mac, camera, the garden, emerging html skills, a growing understanding of the backend of the thing, whose power I have barely begun to tap. But I have my little network of geek friends to reach out to, and I do.
So I will figure out where to put a page that tells all about this, promise. It’s on my to-do list, duly noted.
Margaret

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