Saturday, February 19, 2011

Confessions of a New Garden Blogger

A little over a year ago, on February 16, 2010, I wrote my very first blog posting for The Lazy Shady Gardener.  This was all unexplored and unknown territory for me as just a month earlier, I had never even read a blog posting of any kind.  As the year progressed and my journey continued, I jotted down several facets of garden blogging that crossed my mind.

  1. Etiquette: Initially I didn't know what the accepted protocols were for any aspect of blogging.  Should you reply back to every comment or only to questions?  It appears some reply back to all, and some don't reply to any.  I certainly didn't want to accidentally be rude to someone.  This is but one example of the questions I had, and there seemed to be no source for ready answers.  Eventually, it occurred to me that one should simply go with what one felt comfortable doing - and hope that visitors would understand.
  2. Blotanical: This one site likely had the greatest initial impact on my garden blogging experience.  Without it, I'm not sure I would have as easily discovered my local gardening community or would have developed the contacts that have guided me in my endeavors.  Though I have utilized its aspects less as the year progressed, its impact in the beginning can not be overtstated.
  3. Photography: My initial garden blog postings tended to be predominantly text, typically accompanied by small photographs.  But after viewing many other blogs, and examining ones I highly respected, it quickly became apparent that a picture really is worth a thousand words.  I concluded that a garden blog without pictures is like a garden without flowers - visitors want the shared information, but they also need to see.
  4. Memes: I did not even know that scheduled blog activities (Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, Foliage Follow-up, Picture This, etc.) existed until I saw them on other people's garden blogs.  I quickly found that I had to be selective in my participation as these activities could easily consume my entire blogging energy.  But the one discovery that participation brought to me was the way these activities helped one to "see" their garden; to actually view it through a fresh set of eyes. (A good list of garden-related memes can be found at Gardening Gone Wild: Memes and Contests for Garden Bloggers)

  1. Inadequacy: When I started blogging, I also started reading other garden blogs - and this quickly led me to wonder: What the hell am I doing wrong?  It seemed that everyone's garden was magnificent, and the gardeners so knowledgeable.  Even their blogs looked snazzy.  Everything about my gardening experience seemed dull & shoddy in comparison.  It is easy to quickly become intimidated and overwhelmed when one begins a garden blog.
  2. Vulnerability: Posting one's trials and tribulations for all to read, and showing pictures of one's garden certainly makes one feel "exposed".  When I view my garden, my eyes tend to gravitate to the empty spaces, the struggling plants, the work not yet completed.  And now I'm supposed to post pictures of this for all to see?  Garden blogging requires that one allow oneself to be vulnerable to the eyes and opinions of others - and that is no easy task.

  1. Discovery: Blogging has allowed me to see what others are thinking & doing, to see their creativity and design.  Because of this, I have been able to look at my own garden areas with fresh eyes and new ideas.  None of us can think of everything.  And we certainly don't have time to be reinventing the wheel.  Participating in the garden blogging community has helped me to expand boundaries and overcome obstacles.
  2. Sharing: I am no longer alone.  When I have a problem, there are individuals out there who can point me to the solution.  When I can't identify a plant, another will readily provide not only its name but information about its cultivation.  Nearby gardeners (discovered through their blogs) have shared information about nursery sales, provided tours of their gardens and gifted me with pass-along plants.  The camaraderie I have discovered through garden blogging has made the entire gardening experience even more enjoyable.

  1. Responsibility: Oh my goodness...people that are not even related to me are reading my garden blog.  What do they want, why are they here, who are these people?  Discovering that your blog has followers is quite inspiring.  And eventually, you begin to feel a responsibility to them, to provide something of value for the time they take in visiting your postings.  It is, of course, a balancing act as blogging is likely not the only responsibility with which one is dealing.  But once your blog has followers (even just a few), one feels pressure to produce.
  2. Reason: At times, that responsibility can take what was initially an enjoyable activity and turn it into a tiresome chore.  And that is when one needs to revisit the primary purpose which led them to garden blogging.  What was it that drove the blogger to begin?  I think it is important that we occasionally return to that question.  For me, it was primarily a digital method for replacing my hand-written gardening notebooks - which never seemed to quite work because they were always so hard to search.  It has, of course, evolved beyond that - but at its heart, it is as the banner says: a diary of my shady garden.
Everyone's blogging journey is uniquely their own.  Each will have experienced their own lessons and challenges.  On my blogging anniversary, I wanted to share those that had impacted me the most during this first year.  And I'd love to hear what you have discovered as you've traveled along your own path.

Planted in the Ground:
  • Wall Iris (Iris tectorum): Was on my Gotta Get list; planted a one-gallon and two 4"; have an additional two 4" that I'm holding on to as possible replacements for my Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis plicata) (just in case they don't recover from the winter's extreme lows)
  • Crimson Queen Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Crimson Queen'): This will be my second attempt at a Japanese Maple and my first at planting one in the ground.  Had decided that they were too much trouble for my garden, but after seeing pictures of them in other Austin gardens - I just had to try again.


  1. Nice summing up of what a blog is all about. I think when it comes to blogging we all continue to learn on the job, and that is a big part of what makes it so much fun. When I stopped by yesterday, most of your photos were failing to come up. Today, everything seems to be working fine...go figure.

  2. Happy anniversary RBell...Your blog has brought me much enjoyment and my time here is always well spent. Your shady garden has inspired me and I appreciate your honest style of writing. Looking forward to your future posts!

  3. Happy Anniversary! Great blog!

  4. Hey! I'm must be in some parallel universe with you!
    I had just finished posting a quiz on my misconceptions on garden blogging since I had just started this journey about a year ago.

    Then...I decided to take a quick look at my favorites list to see what others were up to.
    Wow, you really have a nice post on this topic and your findings are very much like my own.
    But here's something you might I was looking at my own sad garden today and remembering your recent tour of your own garden I thought...'if only my garden looked as good as RBells!' You have a fine garden blog! Congratulations on a year of blogging.
    David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston

  5. What a great post...I want to read it over and over. Last night I took part in a talk about blogging and I wish I could time travel backwards and refer everyone to your post.

  6. Happy anniversary! Wonderful the way you've summed up your first year!!

  7. Also, I wanted to let you know that I'm giving you a blogger award. I've posted about it in my latest post, "A Gift", and linked to your blog. I hope you'll accept...I think you definitely deserve it!

  8. Happy anniversary! Great job expressing the insights that I think are common to most garden bloggers. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Happy anniversary! I've enjoyed your blog, and learned quite a bit about shade gardening. Thank you.

    Keep up the good work.

  10. Great post...and one I think all your fellow bloggers can totally relate to! I remember the same feelings of inadequacy and pressure to make everything look perfect...then I realized the posts by other bloggers that I found most useful and entertaining were the ones about mistakes and things that hadn't gone right.

  11. Ricki: Thanks; not sure what was going on with the pictures.

    Cat: Glad you are enjoying your visits.

    Lily: Thanks for visiting.

    David: I took your quiz (I did pretty well on it); and thanks quite a bit for the compliment (though I'd be shocked if your garden didn't look even better (selective photography can hide a multitude of sins!).

    Danger: Hope newbies find it useful; I had lots of questions when I began (now I spend more time wondering how to keep the plants alive)

    Kimberly: I'm quite overwhelmed to be considered for an award! On the short list of blogs I follow, quite a few have already received this award! Feel quite honored to be considered amongst them.

    Abbey: Thanks for visiting.

    Linda: Thanks; shade in the heat seems to create a whole lot of complications (seems like there a lots of plants for cool, wet shade - but then they do combat giant slugs)

    Scott: I did seem to be a shared journey amongst garden bloggers.

  12. What a great post! Your blog has been a treat, RBell - congratulations on year one! It's been great to meet both you & your garden.

    Your experience in beginning your blog seems so different from what mine was in 2006. I read & commented for a few years first, then joined in, but back then it was easier to catch everyone's latest post. There were only a few Central Texas garden blogs, none of the memes had begun, and Blotanical wasn't even a gleam in Stuart's Aussie eye ;-]

    The photos have become more and more important - heck, back in the old days, blogspot only let you upload a single photo to a post!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  13. Congrats on your blogiversary, RBell! I've enjoyed getting to know you and your garden and feel a camaraderie with a fellow shade and foliage gardener.

  14. Annie: Right back atcha! Very interesting hearing how garden blogging has evolved since you began.

    Pam: Thanks for all the help (and pass-along plants!) you've given to help me get started.