Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?
I started blogging as a way to 'give back' to the gardening community around me, because gardening is one of those avocations where we learn so much from one another. Gardeners are a generous lot, who share their thoughts, tips, successes and failures as readily as they share their seeds and transplants and plant divisions.
I've been writing Bloomingwriter for just over five years, and it's always fun to engage with readers (whether they comment on the blog or in private messages). Plus, the garden blogging community worldwide is like a gigantic, far-flung family: I've made some tremendous friends over the past few years, although I haven't met many face to face because of the distances involved. So the same things that kick-started me five years ago continue to inspire me today.
Has gardening been a life-long passion for you, or is it something you picked up along the way?
Gardening has been a lifelong passion! One of my earliest memories is of 'helping' my grandfather plant blue potatoes (honestly, they were blue-skinned and blue-fleshed) at his family farm, but I also remember fondly picking lupins and Johnny-jump-ups from my other grandparents' garden as a child. I went to Agricultural College and studied plant science, botany and crop growing, and generally had more than a hundred houseplants in my residence rooms. Somewhere along the way I also developed a passion for writing, and went back to university to collect a couple of arts degrees. There have always been gardens, whether indoors or out, wherever I've lived for as long as I can remember. Life is just better with plants in it.
What are your favourite kinds of gardens? Do you have one garden in particular that you love to visit?
My favourite kinds of gardens are the ones that are beloved by the gardener. It doesn't matter to me if that's a pot with three crimson geraniums in it, or a mega-expensive landscaped property — if it gives the gardener joy, then it's a good thing in my books. My personal choice of garden is sort of a hodgepodge; we live on a rural acreage and have plenty of room, so I have a great collection of trees, shrubs, perennials, lots of native plants, lots of pollinator-friendly plants, plenty of bird-friendly shrubs and trees and seed-producing perennials. I don't vegetable garden much because of my locale, which is by the Bay of Fundy and quite cool, foggy, and wet.
My favourite garden to visit is the Rock Garden at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. It's a public garden, built in the past ten years or so by a dedicated group of volunteers, and contains a fine selection of alpine plants, conifers, woodland plants, and more. I get there at least half-a-dozen times in the run of a year, and there's always something different to see, except in winters like this when the garden is pretty much buried in snow.
I hear you have a book coming out soon! I want to know all about it.
My book is Plants for Atlantic Gardens, published by Nimbus Publishing Ltd in Halifax. I just picked up my copies on Monday, and it will be out in stores next week, with a launch on 26 February. I wrote it as an encouraging reference book for gardeners of all levels, because we here in Atlantic Canada face a variety of particular challenges. Over 100 genera of trees, shrubs, and perennials are profiled in the book, with as many species and cultivars as I can jam into each plant profile. The profiles note what is special about each plant — whether it's a good plant for bees and butterflies, or is deer resistant, or grows well in shade, traits like that.
Are you open about being a blogger at Bloomingwriter? How do people offline react to your online writing?
Absolutely! I include my blog URL on my business cards, in my email signatures, at the end of some of my regular articles like my columns for a couple of clients, on presentations I make to garden clubs, and on my 'other' website, which is my professional online resume (and in the process of being updated right now…)
How do people offline react to my online writing? Well, I've had a few who have actually gotten online so they could read it, which is kind of neat. As I say, gardeners are a pretty awesome bunch, and I find the gardening community hugely supportive — whether they live in Kentville, Nova Scotia, Knoxville, Tennessee, or Krakow, Poland.
Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?
Oh, I follow a lot of weblogs, though I don't read every post — it's not possible because great new ones just keep sprouting. I love blogs about plants, so I'm very fond of Teza's Hortus Magnificum and Nancy Ondra's Hayefield. Nancy calls herself a plant geek, which is how I describe myself; we get excited over plants of all types, as well as over gardens. I like these blogs because they are informative, and I'm focusing more on bringing good reliable information to my readers, not only rattling on about pretty plants all the time. Kylee at Our Little Acre is one of the first bloggers I began reading regularly after I started Bloomingwriter, and we've become friends over the miles, while Joey Randall of The Village Voice inspires me to be more creative with my photography as well as prompting me to be more of a cook. Just down the road from me (well, in the next county) Nancy Bond of Leaping Greenly always refreshes my soul with her brilliant photography and writing.
What advice do you have for new bloggers?
Advice for new bloggers: recognize that it takes commitment, time and a fair bit of work to develop and maintain a good weblog, and it takes time to develop a readership. You can reduce that latter time by participating on other people's weblogs: popping by, reading their posts, commenting (bloggers love comments) and perhaps 'following' them or linking to them. We have so many options now. When I have time, I highlight a new-to-me blogger on my blog to introduce them to a maybe wider audience than they have been experiencing, and others do the same thing.
Set achievable goals for how often you blog. You might think you can blog every day, but if you're pressed for time and have a lot of other commitments, you may find yourself overwhelmed and resentful and even suffering from writers' block. It's better to start slowly, and maybe increase your posting frequency, than to burn out in a month or two of nearly-daily posts. And if you're going to stop or take a hiatus, let your readers know. We worry when someone we have followed suddenly stops posting.