Saturday, January 8, 2011


            On Wednesday of this week, Tim suggested I practice what I preach and become a follower of a few other gardening blogs. I demurred (remember the depression my scroll through caused? If you don’t, it’s detailed in the “Bits and Pieces” post of December 2). He gently persisted, patiently leading me through the mechanics of locating lists of the gazillions of relevant sites, enthusiastically extolling the many advantages of linking to other people’s natterings, and having them provide links to mine. I am easily overwhelmed when it comes to the WorldWideWeb. A headache started tickling my temples. As my eyes glazed over, Tim quickly clicked to “A List of 50 Top Gardening Blogs by Blog Rank” to circumvent the imminent trance-state.

             I snapped to, for a little while. The site ranks the top 50 gardening blogs, all right… by 20 different criteria (some of which I actually understood) and in ten different lists. That’s only 500 possibles to reduce to two or three that I might enjoy following. Kids’ stuff, right?

A graphic representation
of how I feel about finding
other blogs to follow,
by Edvard Munch

            Insert primal scream here.

            Some of the site names seemed familiar, so I opened the one that had most intruded onto my consciousness. That would be the venerable “Garden Rant.” The lead post was one of the four founders whining, in very choppy sentences, about the fate of the citrus trees she’d brought inside for the winter. I sympathize—my own experience with houseplants suggests she may be a kindred spirit—but there was so much other stuff going on I got distracted. Extensive sidebars flanked the text on both sides, minimizing it. Animated ads; plugs for products, books and green political action groups; author bios; accolades from print sources; paeans from devotees; long lists of followers, sponsors and indexed topics; contests; awards announcements; and more detracted from what I, passé idiot that I am, had supposed to be the point of garden blogging. 

            Call me old-fashioned, but there’s got to be a less strident way of communicating. Is it no longer possible for like-minded people to have a quiet online exchange of ideas without one or both of them trying to sell the other something?

            By Friday evening, searching for possible-soul-mate bloggers felt like pouring time down the toilet, by the gallon. You may remember my status as a neo-Luddite (see “My Blog and Welcome to It” of November 4, 2010). I do not now enjoy nor have I ever enjoyed surfing the Net. Way leads on to way, sites are difficult (for me) to navigate, clicking and clicking and clicking to no useful purpose. I’d almost rather be cleaning the house. I’d certainly rather be writing.
An official Garden Rant blog logo

             Nonetheless, because I have a stubborn streak the breadth of Montana, and because I love my husband very much and want to please him, I stuck with it for several hours over multiple sessions. What follows is the upshot.

     1.  Many bloggers apparently have no surnames. Others have no Christian names (or whatever religion—I’m a lapsed WASP and it shows), only what can best be described as aliases, often preciously misspelt. This reticence to state-your-name raises red flags for me. What are they hiding? Or, alternatively, what are they hiding from? Are they ashamed? Are they promulgating lies? Are they Ted Kaczyinski clones or Raelians? Are they members of a Witness Protection Program? Sure, I have deep-rooted trust issues when it comes to cyber-space, but, by golly, if you know my name you’d best be prepared to tell me yours.

2.      Plenty of the sites I visited are unattractively aggressive about extolling the virtues and/or products of the writer. Of course, personality shines through all non-fiction writing (I specify non-fiction because I devoutly hope Stephen King’s output doesn’t open a window onto his soul): but relentless self-promotion sets my teeth on edge. Could I be envious of bloggers like Amy Stewart, whose blog “Dirt” trumpets Amy's publishing triumphs, Amy's indie bookstore, upcoming media events starring Amy and links to New York Times articles featuring Amy? Absolutely. But my Southern upbringing militates against the virtual equivalent of balancing on one foot atop a roof peak shouting, “Look at ME! Look at ME!” Call it a 21st-century character flaw.

3.      Some sites I clicked and clicked and clicked through and rejected:

·         “Sustainable and Urban Gardening” by Susan Harris, one of the founders of “Garden Rant” and a suburban Washington, D.C., garden coach, a self-bestowed title that rated an immediate black mark in KathyWorld. In my opinion, “coach” is a term reserved for sports, not life, and definitely not gardening. Do we also have gardening cheerleaders? (That’s a rhetorical question. I fear the answer.)

·         “GardenGateBlog” by I-don’t-know-who. This one’s a navigation nightmare. Dozens of clicks got me confused, fast.

·         “This Garden Is Illegal” by Hanna in Cleveland. Aside from having no last name, Hanna committed the unforgiveable sin of using “peaks” when she meant “piques.” Gave me shudders.

·         “A Gal Growing Southern” by Nelumbo out of Savannah. Intrigued because Tim and I love Savannah, the lack of positive ID and the precious “Gal” of the title got this one a thumbs-down. Must we all be cute all the time?

Many thanks to Mr. McPherson

Despair not—despite the stringent requirements, I found some sites to follow. There are probably many more, but my tolerance ran out for winnowing the kernels from the enormous amount of chaff that fills the blogosphere. Plus, we really, really have to take down the Christmas tree today, before we make the Nargleys' tradition our own (many thanks to Mr. McPherson).

I really liked Noel Kingsbury’s “Noel’s Garden Blog.” He writes from Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh border country of the UK, and snarkily referred to “organic jihadists” in his profile. That and the beautiful lead-picture garden hooked me, and I pledged to be a faithful follower, even if it means spending more time in cyber-space.

I would also like to sign on to the androgynous M. Sinclair Stevens’ “Zanthan Garden,” out of Austin, Texas. Alas, her (his?) weblog is not friendly to point-and-click following, but he (she?) lists her (his?) email address—all in words, no symbols, an endearing trait—so I shall contact him (her?) directly and hope I don’t end up a victim of her (his?) spam filter.

Lead photo from
Noels Garden Blog
(he left out the apostrophe, not me)
 Finally, I subscribed to Cathy Fitzgerald’s (cool “coincidence” about the name, eh?) EcoArtNews site. We share interests in trees and conservation, as I found out when she signed up to follow me yesterday. There was great rejoicing in Oak Island, I can tell you, that someone I don’t actually know—and from Ireland, no less—finds “Gardening from the Ground Up” follow-worthy. Cath even left a comment after the “Winter Weeds” post, as inspiration to the rest of you.

Please feel free to suggest other blogs you think might meet my criteria of full name disclosure, a firm grasp of the intricacies of the English language, no hit-you-over-the-head selling, and ease of access. Please feel free to make any suggestions, about anything at all. Please feel free.

Thanks for dropping by. I’m turning off the computer now. See you next time.