Happy Birthday Carolyn’s Shade Gardens
Carolyn’s Shade Gardens’ first article appeared on November 3, 2010, so my blog is one year old today. When you are one year old, you don’t want to celebrate an anniversary—that’s for adults—you want to celebrate a birthday. So this is my blog’s first birthday party during which I am going to immodestly and unashamedly (like a one-year-old) celebrate all that my blog has accomplished in the last year, illustrated with some of my favorite collages (click on any collage to enlarge). You are all invited to celebrate along with me.
To say that my blog has exceeded my expectations would be an understatement. Almost every customer who has visited my nursery this year has told me how much they enjoy it. In addition, in my first year I have had over 81,000 views, and 660 readers are permanent subscribers.
However, about a week before I started it, I didn’t really know what a blog was or what it could do. I just knew that I was frustrated because I couldn’t easily communicate to my plant nursery customers all the interesting things that I have learned about shade gardening over the almost 20 years I have been in business (and the 35 years I have been gardening). I was thinking about a website, but then I realized that a blog is the best of both worlds, an interactive website where I can place basic information that doesn’t change, but also write articles and show photographs of everything that intrigues me about shade gardening.
I have published 58 articles in the last year, and when I looked back, I realized that most of them fall into six categories: plant profiles, design, “how to”, places to visit, musings, and sustainability. As part of the celebration, I want to recap my favorites (I will talk about your favorites later). To view the actual article, click on the orange link.
If you have been reading this blog and my plant profiles, you know that I love plants and that I am addicted to certain plant groups (genera) about which I won’t shut up. I am very proud of my six part series on hellebores because, although there is still more to be said about hellebores, a reader will have a very good background on these beautiful, winter-blooming, deer resistant plants after reading my articles.
I am also an admitted galanthophile (snowdrop addict) so I enjoyed confessing my love for snowdrops in three parts. I share a love of hostas with my customers, and it’s fun writing about them, especially the miniatures. Camellias, wintergreen ground covers, and woody plants for shade have also been hot topics. Finally, I have really enjoyed my Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts on the fifteenth of the month, highlighting shade plants blooming in my garden.
Design articles included Pleasurable Pairings for Spring with some great plant combinations and New Year’s Resolution to Edit the Garden where I urged readers to edit their lives and their gardens. How to divide hybrid hellebores allowed me to show off an article I wrote for Horticulture magazine and Shade Gardening in Fall: Leaves on the Lawn contains valuable time-saving advice. Did you know that you can mow up to 18″ of leaves right on your lawn and leave them there?
I have had a lot of fun visiting gardens, nurseries, and horticultural events and writing about my experiences. The last year included trips to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the Philadelphia International Flower Show, Chanticleer, Duke Gardens, and Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, among others.
I think I have the most fun writing articles that contain my “musings”. In I Dream in Latin and Snowdrops: Further Confessions of a Galanthophile, I hope (and thought) I was amusing while discussing some of the intricacies of the plant world. Readers were intrigued by my unresolved inquiry into whether snowdrops are thermogenic. My essay on The Joys and Sorrows of Snow struck a chord (and is particularly apropos right now!). Finally, I was so happy that I was able to communicate my delight in meeting Walter Young of Young’s Perennials in Freeport, Maine.
The most important topic covered on my blog, and the one closest to my heart, is sustainability and how all gardeners, including me, can help the environment. In My Thanksgiving Oak Forest, I described how Doug Tallamy in his book Bringing Nature Home helped me finally understand how important native plants are to our survival. Part One and Part Two of an article on supporting sustainable living talked about my own efforts in this area. Powered by Compost, Letting Go: The Lawn, and Fall Clean-up describe some concrete steps everyone can take.
Well now you know some of my favorites, but which articles are your favorites? My blog host, WordPress, has wonderful statistics showing the most viewed posts and the most commented posts. Views come from three places: my subscribers and customers, other garden bloggers, and Goggle searches, which is probably my biggest source. My most viewed post by far is Miniature (& Small) Hostas. The rest of the top five are Evergreen Ferns for Shade, 2011 Snowdrop Catalogue (this is a permanent page not a post), New Shade Perennials for 2011, and New Native Shade Perennials for 2011.
Another way of measuring popularity is the number of comments on a post. However, because most of my comments come from other garden bloggers, most commented usually, but not always, shows which posts they liked the best. Six out of my top ten most commented posts were written for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day with the most commented being May GBBD: An Embarrassment of Riches. On GBBD, garden bloggers from all over the world post photos of what’s blooming in their gardens on the blog May Dreams Gardens—it’s a lot of fun. Setting aside GBBD, articles that many different viewers felt compelled to comment on covered getting rid of your lawn, whether snowdrops are thermogenic, An Ode To Seed Strain Hellebores, miniature hostas, and snow.
Which brings me to a completely untintended consequence of my blog—I now communicate on a regular basis with bloggers from all over the U.S. and the world. I read blogs and get comments from India to Scotland, Australia to Russia, and Jordan to Argentina. You can click here and run your cursor over the map to see all the locations (my personal favorite is Ascension Island). Garden bloggers are a really fun group, and I treasure my interactions with them.
I have three important goals for next year. First, I would like to improve my photography, particularly my landscape shots. I will probably need a new camera. Second, I would like to update the layout of my blog, which terrifies me because I don’t like technology. Finally, I would like to encourage more comments and questions from my nursery customers. Just scroll down to the box marked “Leave a Reply” and type something in. If you are enjoying my blog, you can thank me by using this resource.
Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.
Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed for the year. Look for the snowdrop catalogue (snowdrops are available mail order) in January 2012 and an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012. If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.