Why We Want You Involved In The Revamping of Gardening Gone Wild

– Posted in: Garden Musings, Miscellaneous

Rebirth in the garden is magical. And so is the rebirth of a blog.

May 13, 2011-Chanticleer 002

Exciting changes are happening at GGW that have been brewing for several  months.  We want your input as we go through the process.

Saxon, Debra, Noel, and I  love sharing our passion, expertise, and connecting with you.

We write for you. Pure and simple.

That’s why we want your thoughts.

We want you to tell us how we can improve Gardening Gone Wild. What topics do you want more of? We’re eager for your constructive criticism.

So sharpen up your pens (figure of speech) and get writing. We’re counting on you!

 

Fran Sorin

Fran’s book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, now considered a classic, was groundbreaking when published as no one had written about gardening in the context of creativity, spirituality, and transformation.

In addition to being a recognized garden expert and deep ecologist, Fran is a broadcaster, journalist, Ordained Interfaith Minister, and Soul Tender.

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Benjamin Vogt April 1, 2012, 1:52 pm

All of you have great, unique voices, and somehow I’d like them to come out even more. I’m not sure how that’d happen in any practical way–more energy, more risk taking. It’s gardening gone wild, maybe more declarations and opinions, not ala Garden Rant, but ala you guys. How you’d do that, I don’t know. More theory from Noel, more imagery from Saxon, more science from Debra, more philosophy from Fran.

I miss the photo contest. I miss that community and interaction. It was unique.

Liz April 1, 2012, 5:13 pm

My favorite post from this site are about photography. I would love to continue to see posts about garden composition–it’s helped me improve my photography tremendously.

Town Mouse April 1, 2012, 10:10 pm

Well, that’s a tough one. I’ve been very happy with the different things you’ve served up. Love Saxon’s discussions of photography, learned so much. Also very much enjoyed the different design posts. The posts about succulents. The slightly more personal posts. I just think you’re doing a great job.

Maybe going back to some of the design posts would be fun. Yes, you quite probably say something again that you said before, but blog readership changes, and memory is short.

But mostly, I just think you’re doing a great job. Sure, people don’t comment much on blogs any more, but I do think they’re still reading.

Linda Jones April 2, 2012, 7:04 am

I particularly like your Garden Blogger’s Design Workshop — the section you call whimsy; also known elsewhere as yard art, junk art, garden art. I can’t get enough of that. I like how-to videos, too.

Cathy April 2, 2012, 9:34 am

I read this invitation to contribute ideas with mixed emotions. “New” is exciting but I have a stronger than average inherent aversion to change.

Just about this time last year, I discovered this blog and it has been a wonderful resource for me. I’m so new and such a fan of everything I’ve seen here, my knee jerk reaction is to resist any changes to something I truly enjoy just the way it is. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of change in any other aspect of my life either, so my attitude is no surprise to anyone who knows me well. One of my most favorite dresses and my “go to” outfit when I need something “nice” that travels well and launders well and can be dressed up and down in an instant is the one I acquired for an event shortly after my son was born 26 years ago. Someday it’s going to fall apart completely and I am going to be lost.) But my questions to you are why do you think you need to make a radical change (or do you?) and why “fix” something that works? And that’s not to say, mind you, that I wouldn’t love any changes you might make. I’m sure I will.

I’ve been gardening for much of my life, blogging for a tiny fraction of that, seriously blogging for barely a year. Although I created our garden blog in the late fall of 2010, I didn’t begin consistently posting to it until March 25th, 2011 and didn’t start keeping track of visitors until a month later – racking up well over 14,000 hits in just under a year.

Because I continue to enjoy all the things about this blog that initially drew me in and regret that the one that I have looked forward to the most is now a thing of the past (the monthly photography contest), there is a part of me that doesn’t want to lose any more pieces of the whole that I likewise look forward to. I can’t begin to appreciate how much work the monthly contest was for busy professionals and sometimes the tangible benefit from such an effort can be elusive and hard to quantify (for the author-photographers, not the readers), so while I was sad to see that particular feature end, I’m not without some understanding of how much time and effort it required and why some changes had to be made.

What made me so excited about it every month is that each contest incorporated a fabulous lesson (which we still get in the current incarnation) plus a chance that something I submitted might actually earn some kind of acknowledgement or at least a comment or critique. Feedback is always welcome and while digital photography has made the hobby accessible to so many of us who couldn’t have afforded to do this in the days of print film, truly qualified critique is hard to come by, even for a price. Those posts introduced me to new techniques (new to me, that is) and additional learning resources. They certainly motivated me to purchase books by the author-photographer judges, the book with Saxon’s photos of “Hardy Succulents” and Alan Detrick’s “Macrophotography” being two that immediately come to mind. I also have every book that Nancy Ondra and Rob Cardillo ever collaborated on, as much for her fabulous knowledge of perennials as for his photography.

If there was any question as to the “value” of these columns, from a purely marketing standpoint, there are so many photography books out there, I was at a loss to find a “good one” (although I admit to owning several “bad ones”). The books I bought after seeing their authors’ work on this site are my favorites but I would likely never have acquired them had I not seen the authors’ work here first. And that is true of pretty much every one of your author-contributors. Sharing their style and knowledge in this forum increases visibility of their other work, and I, for one, have a library full of it.

One of the things I have found is that when an article really interests me, either because of a skill I want to develop or a technique that I want to learn more about, I am apt to seek out that particular author’s other work, usually in books or via their blog if they have one. (To that end, I would encourage contributors to include a link to their blog in their sig line at the end of a post. Some of you are harder to find than others!)

My husband and I are perennial bibliophiles and have an enormous personal library. But hands down, among the books I go back to time and again are the books I’ve purchased after getting to know their authors here because those are the books that I purchased specifically to learn something that I consider important in the here and now, not something that happened to catch my eye on the discount shelf at B&N or the garden shelf at the local used book store.

Already missing one feature, I can’t honestly say that I would necessarily want to see any other major changes, maybe just a little tweaking here and there (i.e., author blog addresses at the end of posts). But then again, I am so new to the blog that I haven’t had a chance to become bored with anything! (And I’m not too proud to admit that I don’t know what I don’t know.)

In terms of the general subject material you cover, I find the posts to be timely, varied, and include a little bit of everything. Personal insights into accomplished experts have been interesting and made me feel “closer” to some of my favorite horticultural writers – it is interesting to see where inspiration comes from for other people. I enjoy articles related to gardening in climates similar to mine that may be halfway around the country or the globe but I also enjoy a touch of the exotic as well, and learn about things I might never have otherwise been exposed to save for seeing them here. During the winter it was fun to read what is growing elsewhere or what I didn’t have time to notice growing close by because I was devoting too much of my time to gardening myself. And in many cases, posts reflected things I was currently doing myself and so were especially timely and interesting for me. (You and I were building deck gardens at the same time. Who knew?!)

The photography posts are always interesting and teach me a lot about an area that I am personally weak in. It might be less of a burden for the contributors to offer them quarterly or every third month, yet still fill a critical niche.

But even a California garden writer had much to offer this northern New England gardener in the form of motivation to explore container gardening in a way I never have before, adding hardy succulents to our new container bed. (A year ago, a “container bed” is not a phrase you would have read coming from MY keyboard and I was no fan of succulents. You can’t cut them and put them in a vase!) So Debra Baldwin’s posts always reel me in as soon as I see her name, especially since we are deep into the design phase of our latest project.

The features I enjoy the most are the ones that show creativity in the gardens, different garden styles, and the garden techniques they present, especially when they are accompanied by sources for plants or supplies that might be hard to find locally. Other people’s ideas plant seeds in my mind and give me ideas of my own.

The major project we are undertaking this year is to begin building an enormous raised bed consisting of a series of hypertufa troughs running along an entire short side of our swimming pool. This has been on my creative radar since I first experimented with hypertufa 4 years ago and was given major shots of inspiration by your posts on your rooftop garden, Debra Baldwin’s posts on succulents in containers, some of Tovah Martin’s writings and her newest book (another acquisition of the past year), and Nan Ondra’s books, most of which I have. All of you introduced me to ideas and plants that I would not have considered for that garden otherwise. In fact, I think that’s how I landed here; I got one of Nan’s books at the Boston Flower Show last March and in researching her other projects, found a reference to this blog, and well, here I am.

What I find in the writing here is that it is a balanced blend of technique and travelogue. In the technique department, articles are basic enough for beginners (I’m not a beginning gardener but I am definitely a novice when it comes to containers – this is only our third year employing containers and raised beds on a large scale in our otherwise “planted” garden) but always have an edge that is beyond what I might have thought of on my own and which inspire me and sends me off in new directions and untested waters. But how could I have known to even ask for it, when I hadn’t thought of it to begin with?

The one feature that I think I would like to see continued but modified in a more user friendly way is the “Gardeners’ Round Table”. If I am recalling correctly, how I believe it has been handled in the past is that one feature has been posted here on GGW with links to other participants’ blogs and gardens and it’s been operated sort of like a blog hop.

I have to be honest, I’ve never been a fan of “blog hops”. I get lost, I get distracted, and I almost never get to see all of the blogs. I faithfully visit the first 2 or perhaps 3, then see something on someone’s page that makes me longer there a while and connect to another link, and then I’m off and running and rarely end up tracking down every blog in the list. And then the next post is up and I am on to something else entirely.

Sometimes less is more. Once you get past five links on a list, you tend to lose the motivation to keep “hopping”. With blog hops, everyone puts a tremendous amount of work into their posts but my suspicion is that unless someone is extremely dedicated or interested in the topic and makes a concerted effort to see the entire list through, whoever is the last blog listed gets dramatically fewer hits and comments than the top two or three on the queue.

What I think would work better would be to run it more frequently but on a smaller scale, and post each blog post here on GGW. In other words, perhaps every month, or every other month, pose a specific topic to 3 – 5 guest writers from your regular contributors (you can rotate around based on the topic) and post each of their blog posts and photos here. Don’t make us click on links to go somewhere else. (They can certainly post in both places, but I like one stop shopping myself.)

Seeing an array of different ideas on the same topic throughout the course of a week would be very helpful. One I loved was the series in which gardeners posted how they gave the illusion of a water feature in their gardens. But again, I hated having to chase from blog to blog to find them all.

One other topic that I would love to read more about is roses. We have over 200 roses in our beds and how and where we grow them is constantly evolving. For instance, we are now doing more with companion planting, something I would not even have considered 5 years ago when I still clung to the fantasy of a dedicated rose garden that always looked like a painting (that was always, I now acknowledge, at least in part, a figment of someone’s imagination).

I know a lot about roses but it has been a thorny ride to get here [sorry, bad pun] but I am always looking for newer and better ways to grow them, especially since we have now started to show them, something else I never thought I’d ever do. Introducing them into our perennial beds happened as much because or dedicated rose beds were full as because we realized that those grown in mixed company did much better than those grown in isolation.

I also would welcome more articles about environmentally friendly gardening practices (something I am very involved in), and a respectful discussion about invasives, recognizing that things that are invasive in some places are not in others, making this a hard topic to address to a diverse and international audience.

My big question is this: what do you do with something that is very nicely contained in your garden (and has been for many years) but has now become “invasive” in some areas and has now made it to the “invasives” list in many areas, possibly including your own. If they aren’t invading, do we go ahead and dig them up now anyway?

I had a blog reader take me to task for “promoting” (by including a photo of a plant on my blog on a monthly garden update) an invasive plant. Never mind that it wasn’t considered invasive when the first owner of the house planted it over 20 years ago. Back then it was a staple of most general nurseries. What does a responsible gardener do with this equally thorny issue? [Yes, bad pun again.] How do we be reasonable and responsible over this subject?

I also would like to see GGW address “sustainable gardening” or at least help me to better understand what it really is. I’ve already decided that “sustainable gardening” is the 2011 gardening catch phrase of the year, but I’m not sure I really know (or that anyone can really articulate in a meaningful way) exactly what it is. I see many interpretations of it, what it is and how to do it that are vastly different and I’m having a hard time finding a consensus and wrapping my head around a simple definition of it. I’ve gone from crop rotation (what I always saw as the root of sustainable gardening) to plants that are hardy and disease resistant and so have a long lifespan and can sustain themselves and hold their own in the face of Mother Nature and invasives, to replenishing the soil… but how? Organically? Crop rotation? With perennials???? I think you see my dilemma here.

Beyond that, I would happily continue to just enjoy more of the same. It’s one of my favorite places to spend time and I always come away with inspiration and ideas and feeling just a little bit better about my day.

Sorry to be so long-winded… brevity has never been my strong suit! But, you did ask for it!

Cathy W.

Frederique Lavoipierre April 2, 2012, 11:28 am

I would love to see a serious, and respectful, discussion about the merits of various methods in sustainable landscape, including techniques used in biodynamics, permaculture, biointensive etc. It is disturbing that some proponents of these approaches become so zealous in their beliefs, that they become unwilling to stay open-minded to new ideas. I open our Sustainable Landscape Program course at SSU, with a half day introduction to the ecological principles of sustainable landscape, and make a point that adhering to any single system is to close one’s mind to the contributions of the others. I think that much of what I present is not well-known in the sustainable landscape community. Sustainable gardening is not a belief system! Sometimes, these single-minded approaches smack of a new religion.There, I said it in a public forum!

franniesorin April 2, 2012, 11:29 am

Cathy,
THANK YOU for taking the time to give us so many juicy ideas to think about. It does seem that our readers miss Picture This. That’s a tough one to duplicate. I need to give it some thought.
I think you are idea about sustainable gardening is an excellent one….as are several others. A lot for us to discuss. Your input is greatly appreciated. Fran

franniesorin April 2, 2012, 1:06 pm

Frederique,

I think your point is well taken. Your input is appreciated and will be given some thought. I may be contacting you for more input. Fran

franniesorin April 2, 2012, 1:09 pm

Linda.
The Garden Bloggers Design Workshop is the brainchild of Nan Ondra who no longer writes for Gardening Gone Wild. I don’t know if she is doing the design workshops any more but feel free to check it out on her blog, Hayefield.com.
We will give some thought to your request for ‘how to’ videos.
Thanks so much for your ideas. Fran

franniesorin April 2, 2012, 1:12 pm

Town Mouse,
Thanks so much. I do think that more of a focus on garden design could be a good thing. Like gardening, this is a process we’re going through. It’s fun re-think what we’ve been doing…and it’s a healthy process. I appreciate your input. Fran

franniesorin April 2, 2012, 1:13 pm

Liz,
As you already know, Saxon is the master in this arena. I will make sure he sees your request. Fran

franniesorin April 2, 2012, 1:16 pm

Benjamin…
I loved what you said about risk taking and more energy. More authentic voices, stretching to express ourselves. This is very much what I’m working on with my new blog, awakecreate.com.

You are one among many who miss the Photo Contest. If we could find a way of doing it without me having to spend so much time on it, that would be great. Perhaps I can outsource it. Meanwhile, if your creative brain comes up with an idea on how to give it new life, I would love to hear more from you.

Thanks for your thoughts Benjamin. Fran

Cathy April 2, 2012, 6:32 pm

Just to echo something Benjamin said re: the photo contest…… that is probably the only time I ever took the time to visit the blogs of other commenters on GGW and I have met some truly fabulous folks that way. After looking at their photos, I often wanted to know the “back story” and I would click on the link to visit their blog. That broadened my sense of belonging to a community more than any other feature I’ve seen. I feel so strongly about its value, I’d be willing to help out with the “behind the scenes” work if that would be an option for you.

Donna April 2, 2012, 7:20 pm

I concur with much of what Cathy has said in her comment. I really miss the Picture This contest, mostly just for the challenge posed. I realize it is hard to be fresh with ideas for this contest that are doable by amateurs, but it could be made simple by picturing the essence a word (like a design principle or a emotive word for instance) or specific object or plant type (finely textured or course textured) as an example. It could be fun, like painting with light (a flashlight and a dark room). There are still challenges not yet done on your site. But I do realize that there is much work involved, but maybe rather than making a page for submissions, just use Mr. Linky thumbnails. Just a thought. I really like the posts that Saxon does and would love for him to do more teaching posts.

franniesorin April 3, 2012, 4:35 am

Donna….The general consensus is that Picture This is missed. It’s not only the problem of doing the submission page. The other time vampire is finding professional garden photographers, spending time coaching them if new, and posting their posts. I have always been under the impression that the input from professionals is an integral part of the contest.

Mr. Linky Thumbnails? I’ll check it out! Thanks for your input. It’s appreciated. Fran

franniesorin April 3, 2012, 4:37 am

Cathy….
The sense of community created on Picture This pulls at my heartstrings. That was one of the reasons Nan and I started it. Am trying to find a creative way of keeping it going without draining me of valuable time. Like most people who blog, I’ve got to pay my bills :) Fran

Maybelline April 3, 2012, 9:49 am

How Tos with photos or even videos on a variety of topics are so helpful and interesting.

franniesorin April 3, 2012, 11:26 am

Thanks for your input. I like the idea of doing ‘how tos’ on video. Fran

march April 3, 2012, 4:29 pm

One of the things that I notice about other group garden blogs is that there is a strong sense of shared values and purpose: it’s really clear why the garden professors or the ranters or the native plants and wildlife garden people are all contributing to one blog.

I’ve sometimes wondered why are you all writing here in one place. What convictions do you share? What do you want to inspire your readers to know or do?

I think if you can define this, exciting new things will emerge.

Looking at the situation from outside, I see two areas where you have collective strength. One is interest in design and visual literacy. The other is your geographic diversity. While all the group garden blogs I can think of are based in one country, you can report and compare trends and issues on three continents.

But ultimately it all has to rest on what you have a shared passion for and about.

Good luck with the rethink.

UrsulaV April 4, 2012, 5:14 pm

Could we have bigger photos on the click-through? In the latest post, for example, there’s some great shots that I’d like to see closer–but the photos are small! Links to bigger ones would be nice.

I, uh, realize that’s not a huge sweeping re-design or anything.

Saxon April 4, 2012, 7:50 pm

Nice to hear photography is high on our reader’s interests. I am considering ways to build the community with photo sharing, critiques, or contests but quite honestly, the first one I tried (Feb 8) I only got one response. I will try again being more obvious that I want to invite participation.
More wild, sustainable, lawn alternative, and native posts are in my future too…

franniesorin April 7, 2012, 1:41 am

UrsualV…

We are planning to do that Ursula. It’s actually an important issue. Thanks for your input. Fran

franniesorin April 7, 2012, 1:44 am

March….

You raise some excellent points. We are aware of and are working on them. Thanks for the thought you’ve put into commenting.:) Fran

Chookie Inthebackyard April 23, 2012, 8:02 am

(Coming in a bit late, I’m afraid!)
What I love about Saxon’s posts is how he shows the result if you take the photo one way, then the vastly improved result if you do it another way.
I don’t know how you could do it, but is there some way to do that for aspects of garden design, or solutions to garden problems?
Or set yourselves all the same problem and describe how you would solve it in your own region and culture — a compare-and-contrast.
And I’d love to see some of you discuss an issue and bring your different thoughts to a single blog post. Even argue!

franniesorin April 24, 2012, 4:27 am

Chookie….You’ve offered up some great and creative ideas…thanks so much. Fran