This is the second part in a series about the early days of garden blogging, written to commemorate my four years as a garden blogger. For those just joining us, the respondents to my email questions are:
Tamara Galbraith [TG], formerly of Talking Dirty, now publishing Can You Dig It?
M. Sinclair Stevens [MSS], longtime publisher of Zanthan Gardens.
Paul Owoc [PO], observant chronicler of a greenZoo.
Erica Bess Duncan [EBD], writing at GardenSpot.
Ilona [IL] of Ilona’s Garden Journal.
Doug Welch [DW], keeping A Gardener’s Notebook.
Jennifer Zynischer [JZ], aka the Garden Djinn.
Kathy Purdy [KP], that’s me. I’ll be piping in with my responses. As a matter of fact, I’m the only one who got to see what the others said before writing my own answers, so I have an unfair advantage.
2. Of all the things you could use this technology for, why gardening? How did you see a blog working for you better than more traditional means of garden communication, such as a chat over the fence, a garden club membership, a plant society membership, or a magazine subscription? What problem were you hoping to solve, or what need did you want to fill?
- [DW:] “The origins of my gardening column (that is what it was before it was a blog) come from a web hosting company that wanted to build a collection of content for their customers. I was asked to re-print my career column and also create 2 additional columns, one on technology for everyone, Technology IQ and one on gardening, A Gardener’s Notebook. In exchange, I received free web hosting.
We had just purchased our first home, which included a 10-year-old garden, both front and back. This gave me the perfect entree into garden writing. I had no chance to garden in Los Angeles, even though I spent most of my summers in rural Ohio helping my grandmother and father in their gardens. Of course, since I wasn’t an expert, the gardening column gave me a chance to reach out to the entire world for advice and guidance. That is only one way in which garden blogging can increase the enjoyment of your own garden. You suddenly have hundreds of “neighbors”, all over the world.
I still visit our local gardens here in LA and ask questions of gardening experts, but now A Gardener’s Notebook allows me to share that information with my readers, no matter where they might be located.
Today, A Gardener’s Notebook is not only a blog, but several months ago I started creating audio and video podcasts for the blog, as well. I have been producing an audio podcast of my career columns, Career Opportunities for almost 2 years and I wanted to do a podcast that was not technology-related.”
- [PO:] “I never approached writing on whatever I write with a goal in mind to educate or problem solve. I don’t tell readers how to grow bigger tomatoes or how to keep the slugs away from their hostas. I don’t pretend to be an authority. If anything, I try to be an active, engaged observer of what I happen upon on my weekly walks.”
- [JZ:] “When TypePad was in the beta and I received an invite to be a tester I was delighted. I had just purchased a digital camera, and this, to me, was like Christmas in July. I created Garden Djinn as a place to play, to write, and to post many pretty pictures.
Then, as now, the entire project is for my benefit – a scrapbook of my garden with a few loose essays and observations. It’s true that I do write in a conversational tone, and I am always thrilled to have visitors! It’s also true that I feel bad when I go more than a month without posting and feel duly compelled by peer pressure (entirely internal) to throw something up that’s fresh to look at. But it has always been a creative endeavor, as much as the garden itself.
And writing, for me, is a toss-off activity. It can be less than perfect. I am comfortable knowing I can go back and ‘tighten it up’ if I see areas in my posts that can be improved. I can express myself artistically with my photos and prose, and not suffer the perfectionism that plagues me in my fine art attempts.”
- [IL:] “I’ve always had this need to share my accumulated experience and information. I’m pretty introspective and tend to be introverted, so writing things down without worrying that I’m boring some one or in the odd hours that a homeschool mom gets is a good fit for me. I did the magazine thing quite a bit! I really love the kind of information that I can access online, though. I wish I were better at networking because the blogging community has so many neat and fabulous people. I really mean that, as much as it sounds like hyperbole.”
- [EBD:] “I wanted a place to collect my gardening notes and research. I’d considered some sort of binder or folder system for storing ideas, but I was using the web so much and bookmarking so many sites for “later reference,” that it made sense to create a blog. And I’m really a pack rat, post-it note sort of person, so having a garden blog meant I could save all my little scraps of information electronically without accumulating even more physical clutter in my life.
There were other reasons for me to start blogging that had nothing to do with gardening. When I started Gardenspot in January 2002, I was working for Enron and for most of us who were still employed, there really wasn’t much work to do. We were mostly in a holding pattern, waiting to see what was going to happen to us, and I desperately needed a creative outlet for releasing tension. I wasn’t comfortable writing about my work drama, fascinating though it was, so I chose gardening. Not only did the physical act of gardening, especially weeding, help relieve my stress, somehow the blog did too. “
- [PS:] “I like computers, and I love the internet. I like writing as much as I like gardening, so a garden blog (but not only a garden blog) seems natural. It’s as if you asked an artistic quilter why they would use the medium of quilts instead of just drawing or painting their designs.”
- [MSS:] “When I started gardening in Central Texas there were very few books on regional gardening for the south. I’ve always been fascinated by the sequence of events in the garden year and documented it in my own garden. However, garden calendars in books had little bearing on what I observed. And plant descriptions were misleading. A plant that likes full sun in England can shrivel in half a day of summer sun in Texas. I wrote up my personal experiences and research in hopes of finding other gardeners in central Texas who would add their garden observations to my small store of knowledge.”
- [TG:] “I didn’t really get into gardening until 1998, but when I did, the usefulness of web pages for organizational purposes became obvious. I wanted a place where I could track the progress of my garden, keep pictures, make notes about the weather, seed germination, etc. Even with the scrapbooking craze in full force, I was never interested in doing it by hand like that. Efficiency and organization are my main goals…and they still are, because I haven’t achieved them yet! “
- [KP:] “Like Ms. Stevens, I had spent several years learning how to garden in a difficult climate, and like Ilona, I have a need to share what I know. My initial thought was to produce a website that was a compendium of all the sources of information I had found. Frankly, I was thinking of a list of the best magazine articles for cold climate gardening more than I was a page of links! I wanted to put my own writing up as well, but since I am a long-winded writer I first conceived of this as essays, each on their own webpage. By that time my brother had introduced me to blogs, and I had one of those ‘aha!’ moments where I realized that a blog was the quickest way to get started, and I could add more as I learned more. So I started with the blog, and added the other informational pages as I had time and ability.”