Garden bloggers: braggarts? by Jane Scorer

January 30, 2014

in Articles, General Interest

As someone who has been damned for being a self promoter, I must definitely come in the ‘braggart’ category. (see Veddw blog…)(see what I mean?)

And you? Why do you blog? Here’s Jane Scorer’s opinion.

Anne Wareham, editor

Viola copyright Jane Scunthorpe for thinkingardens

A glimpse…

Jane Scorer

There must be as many reasons for garden blogging as there are bloggers, some altruistic and some centred very firmly around our fragile little egos.

Garden blogging is something which gives me real pleasure, and recently, I have been trying to analyse the reasons for this, in an entirely honest way. Sometimes when that mirror is held up, we may not like what we see.

In my defence, I have written a daily journal, for thirty years, and no-one but myself has ever read it. It is the process of writing which gives me pleasure, and that is not diminished in any way by the lack of an audience. I think that establishes my credentials for writing for its own sake, without ever expecting soothing balm for my ego. Yet, I have to admit that there is a certain pleasure in those comments from strangers on my blog posts, which makes me stand a little taller.

My garden blog was the result of an organic process, and the decision to start it came almost as an afterthought. After reshaping parts of the garden, I decided to record a whole season by taking photographs every week, from the same viewpoints, to record the changes in detail. I felt that this overview would enable me to make informed improvements. Then it occurred to me that it was something which may interest other people, and so the blog was born. Maybe it is egotistical to imagine that anyone else would have the slightest interest .

hoehoegrow copyright Jane Scunthorpe for thinkingardens

Jane’s blog..

This whole new world of garden blogging has been a revelation to me in so many ways, and I’ve found that it can demonstrate the best and the worst of human characteristics. At its worst, it consists of self seeking braggarts striding boldly into virtual communities and shouting “I’VE GOT A LOVELY GARDEN. COME AND LOOK AT MY LOVELY GARDEN’’ and striding off again, with never a backward glance. At its best it is a thought provoking exchange of ideas between passionate gardeners, often at opposite sides of the globe.

I live in deepest Lincolnshire and, for the most part, my daily life is played out within a twenty mile radius of where I live. It is a small world. The most exciting part of blogging for me is that I can, with one click, slip out of that time / place continuum and slide through a portal into endless other worlds. I enjoy the diversity of garden blogger’s own worlds, and seek out the extremes. Within seconds I can go from maritime Nova Scotia to India in the monsoon. I can be looking at the first snows in Finland or a humming bird in Kuala Lumpur. This morning, I have already watched a clip of the beginning of the rainy season in Townsville, Australia, and commiserated with a blogger in Alberta, Canada, coping with a minus 36 windchill factor. If that doesn’t blow a gardener’s mind, then nothing will. I collect those blogs like a collector collects stamps, saving them on my Blogroll and visiting them every time there is a new post.

Fact : the average blogger runs out of steam in around four months. My theory is that it is the shouty ones, who tire of the sound of their own voices , because they have nothing new to say. Thankfully, there are so many intelligent, thoughtful bloggers out there, who are still fresh and innovative after years of posting. My four month mark is long past now, and I would like to think I am in it for the long haul, but worry that I will fail to find new things to say about the daffodils when they are yet again in bloom. Will I be caught in a cyclical ‘Ground Hog Day’ forever taking photos of the changing seasons and giving them jaunty titles.

I need to ‘fess up at this time, that garden blogging has improved my dreadful geography. For the first few months, I had a world map ever open on the desk top, so that I could locate … erm … countries ! To my shame, I have learned more about climates, cultures and countries in this last year than in the fifty years preceding it.

Daylily copyright Jane Scunthorpe for thinkingardens

and more… great photos on this blog..

The word ’community’ is often used in the world of blogging, and at first I think I was cynical about the veracity of this. I’m a convert now! There are definitely an infinite number of virtual communities, shifting and changing all the time, just as they do in the real world. I am still a relative newcomer, but I am aware of the bonds between people , who, incidentally, sometimes do make the leap from the virtual world to the physical one.

 So … ego… is it the mainspring of garden blogging ? Hand on heart, there is a weeny bit of me which loves it when someone tells me that my garden/ flower/post is lovely and I suspect I am not alone. But it is not my driving force. For a tiny few, I think maybe it is ego driving them to post, visit and comment. The frisson of pleasure at being complimented, the tiny surge of self-importance when dispensing advice. Personally, blogging is mainly a channel for my writing and a way of communicating with other passionate gardeners. It has also had unexpected benefits in that it has made me much more analytical about my own garden. Spending so much time thinking about it, photographing it and looking at other people’s gardens has brought everything into much sharper focus. Weirdly, I think it has made me a better gardener.

Being a relative newcomer, I know nothing about the ethos of other types of bloggers, but garden bloggers are a kindly bunch. They are quick to reassure and empathise, they are supportive and just plain … nice. Slow to condemn and criticise, quick to offer advice and support. Are fashion bloggers like this ? Foodies ? I just don’t know. Garden bloggers are essentially gardeners, who seem to share those character traits which make gardening appealing to them – nurturing, patience, optimism …

So, are garden bloggers braggarts shouting “LOOK AT MY LOVELY ROSES” or global socialites, slipping across continents to dispense wisdom and empathy ? The truth, I suppose, is somewhere in-between. The virtual world mirrors the real one, in that every human strength and failing is here and for every twenty people you can’t wait to talk to, there is one you duck behind the arbour to avoid.

Jane Scorer  blog and website

Jane Scorer portrait for thinkingardens

 

 

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Janna Schreier November 18, 2014 at 4:57 am

Gosh, I am at the 3 month mark! Didn’t realise that 4 was the watershed. Can’t feel that I will ever run out of things to ponder and chat about but we shall see. Writing about gardening is definitely making me a better garden designer though – articulating a story means you have to have thought through your argument well. Thanks for a lovely article!

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Melissa February 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Jane, I’ve really enjoyed your blog. You make few apologies for yourself and bring up good points about writing and ego in general. I think writing a gardening blog is a great way to express yourself outwardly, getting those comment rewards that give you a little boost, no harm in that! I don’t know many gardeners that aren’t of kind heart, a person who moves at a slower pace, enjoys the fruits of their labor. I don’t think you’re in it for the ego, just to be heard. You love writing, and gardening, and it comes together beautifully here. Thank you!

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Jane Scorer February 5, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Melissa, thankyou so much for your kind comments. Having your hands in the soil affects the way you live your life, I think.

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Andrew Oldham February 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm

It seems a very British thing to be ashamed of telling people what you do in print. It goes back to the idea of showing off. We have been garden blogging for three years, we did it initially to keep a record of bringing a derelict garden back to life. I have always kept a gardening journal but we went from a small cottage garden to 1/4 acre, and we felt we needed support to try and bring it back to life. We live in a rural community, so we turned to the web and bloggers. We found a positive community, that supported us, we used Facebook to join groups and build our confidence. Our blog reflected that, we wanted to show gardening warts and all, and we felt gardening on TV didn’t do that. We genuinely love the process of sharing what we have learnt, because for some reason we take for granted that everyone knows how to garden, that it somehow simple, and that idiots garden, those who couldn’t get real jobs. That has been backed up recently by the RHS who have concerns over this and the lack of young people getting into gardening – why does it have to be young people? Gardening can change the lives of anyone at any age. Gardening saved my health but the act of learning, the act of doing, the act of writing about it and embracing not just a garden centre but the very act of gardening changed me. The blog did that too. So, let’s celebrate those that garden, those that share it online or over the fence, we need more of that, we need a community of gardening online and in every community, and thankfully we are doing this.

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Holly Allen (gardenbirdblog) February 2, 2014 at 10:45 am

I read this post yesterday morning, and keep coming back to this idea of bloggers being ‘braggarts.’ It makes me feel disappointed that as a nation of exceptional gardeners and a very vibrant and culturally exciting country we cannot allow ourselves to just enjoy it and admit that we’re bloody good at it and have many valuable contributions to make via our blogs.

Blogging for me is a way of sidestepping a detached and staid culture that I find particularly galling in the gardening media, which seems to me to be distinctly lacking in originality and willingness to engage with much outside of itself. Rarely does the gardening media demonstrate any awareness of how alienating it is to those not operating within horticulture. And getting people outside horticulture interested is essential for its survival in the long run.

Blogging allows us to provide our own alternatives to this, which I think is an extremely important function. While blogs can sometimes be over personalised, badly written and researched, etc. etc. I’d still much rather read a blog written by a highly educated, well informed and committed gardener than most of what is available to me elsewhere. You just have to find the good ones, of which there are many.

Come on you bloggers, show them what you’re made of!!

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Jane Scorer February 2, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Hi Holly. I agree that there are sometimes frogs to be kissed ! However, it is worth it to find those passionate, knowledgable bloggers who add another dimension to our virtual lives. As you say, they are not constrained by anything, and so are free to be original .
I went through the same ‘braggart’ process about opening my garden to the public, and examining my motives for doing so, as I did about blogging. In the end I shrugged my shoulders and went ahead and did it anyway, as it gives me great pleasure.

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Penny Burnfield February 1, 2014 at 9:14 pm

I’ve just been reading Jane Scorer’s post on the reasons why she writes about gardening. It has stimulated me to examine my own motivation.

Many years ago (more than I care to admit) I wrote a monthly gardening column for our local paper. I enjoyed it and my “Gardening Notes” were well received, but I stopped after 6 years.

Why? Mainly because I had been asked to write advice for beginners. In time it became repetitious, going over the same ground too many times. But the discipline of turning out a regular column was good, and I found I could write fluently without too many major alterations. I learnt to edit my work, to cut out the superfluous, and I learnt to type.

Time passed. I brought up two children, and (to my great surprise) I became an artist. But my horticultural passion was always there, even though sometimes I had little opportunity to get my hands dirty. I nursed my parents through their final years – they both enjoyed gardening – and eventually I found myself free to focus again on my garden.

As I worked – planting, planning, tidying, sowing – I found myself writing gardening articles in my head. I was talking to myself, attempting to clarify my thoughts. I needed to get them out of my head and onto paper – or more literally onto a computer screen (a word processor would have helped to when I wrote for the local ‘rag’!)

I had to start writing again. It’s part of my compulsion to create, whether it’s a new border, a work of art or a piece of writing – I am most happy when I am making something. A blog gives me freedom to write about what I want, how I want, and when I want. It no longer has to be 1000 words, intended for beginners and delivered on the 3rd Wednesday of the month.

Now I have the opportunity to explore this fascinating subject in depth – currently I’m using my blog to unpack my thoughts about my visit to Japan. (Apologies to my regular readers if they are expecting to see a post about the Ryoan-ji.)

I’ve discovered a community of garden bloggers and each is different. They amuse, educate, provoke, challenge conventions and make me think.

So far I have made little effort to publicise my Blog, apart from friends and family. This has been a conscious decision – I wanted to get back to writing regularly. Jane Scorer says that most bloggers pack up after four months. I have been blogging for two years.

So – to paraphrase Descartes: I think – I write – therefore I am. I do it for myself, to develop my ideas and to assert my existence in some way. And perhaps it’s time to throw my hat into the ring?

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David Hobson February 1, 2014 at 11:08 am

A Google search for garden blog brings up 1,150,000,000 results. I enjoy reading many, particularly this one, but I confess to feeling a tad overwhelmed.

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annewareham February 1, 2014 at 11:52 am

1,150,000,000! And I’m trying to compete?! Doesn’t bear thinking about. How would anyone really find the best, most worth reading, in that number?!

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Jane Stevens February 1, 2014 at 10:00 am

I’ve given this a night to think about and I’ve woken up feeling rather strongly that I am NOT prepared to feel self-conscious or worried about blogging. We’re supposed to be the centres of our own lives, this is a perfectly harmless way to express ourselves. and I find people are very happy to know you intimately but never read your blog so I cannot even feel that our nearest and dearest are forced to read them, let alone strangers passing on the internet. So what’s the problem? Showing off? I don’t want to feel bad about that – the thing I feel bad about is that I should be doing something properly useful rather than fritter away my time loving writing my blog.

What I’m really bad at is reading other peoples blogs – it feels like I ought to do that more, and I would if I wasn’t so busy writing my own. There, you’re right, it’s just like life and reflects your own character back at you. Must try harder.

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Jane Scorer February 1, 2014 at 11:44 am

Hi Jane. I felt that I had come home, in many ways , when I found this shiny new world of garden bloggers, with all that it had to offer. I think that I suffered my own angst as to what part my own ego played in it, and even stopped blogging for a short while because of that. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that ego is part of many of the things we do, in the real world and in the virtual one, and that absolute honesty was the solution.
Finding time to read other blogs is a guilty pleasure which has gobbled up many an afternoon, when I should have been doing something more productive, but it has helped my learning curve enormously, and given real pleasure.

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Sandra January 31, 2014 at 9:04 pm

I have been blogging for just over a year so am still quite new but attempt to post something three times a week. I have been a journalist and editor for almost 40 years (!) and have always been interested in photography, often having to take my own photos for story assignments anyway. Almost six years ago I was asked, quite out of the blue, if I wanted to become the garden writer for my local daily paper (I have been working for this paper off and on and in mostly sub-editorial capacities since 1990). Did I? It is a once-a-week column in a broadsheet and, at that stage, was up to me how much copy and how many photos I filed. Thanks to “shared copy” among regional newspapers with the same owner, I am now contracted to supply only 300 words and three photos a week – and found I was having to leave out all sorts of good information about events, people and plants.
So I started my own blog to celebrate all the neat things garden-wise that are going on in the Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga areas in New Zealand. I post little bits about my own garden but bigger bits about the gardens and skills of others, as well as news that may interest gardeners, whether from down the road or the other side of the world.
And every time I get a new follower my little heart sings!

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Jane Scorer January 31, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I wrote the ‘shouty’ bit with my hands over my eyes, wondering if I fell into that category and hoping I didn’t ! Maybe there is a little ‘shouty’ bit in all of us.
I have learned so much from the diversity of blogs I read, and it is only lack of time which keeps me from discovering more and more. It sometimes seems crazy that there is this huge divide between what is paid for and what is free. Blogs are obviously free and yet the quality of writing , knowledge and support on many can be superior to that which is purchased. And it is interactive too !

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James Golden January 31, 2014 at 5:16 pm

I started my blog 9 years ago and I admit a lot of it has to do with ego. But over time it’s become much more importantly a door through which I’ve met friends (some of whom have become real world friends) and many others with similar interests. I no longer live in an isolated garden world. At this moment, I’m on my way to Australia and New Zealand, where I’ll meet some garden friends I’ve been corresponding with for years, and will see their gardens with my own eyes. And this is only a small part of what garden blogging can be.

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Emma Cooper January 31, 2014 at 2:27 pm

My blog will be celebrating its 13th birthday this year (although it is no longer in its original incarnation), so I am well past my four month mark. I started blogging because I could – it was a new thing way back then! I continue to do so because I enjoy the process. I am a writer, and I love to write. Obviously I am gratified that people enjoy reading it, but it’s certainly not – and never has been – about self-promotion. And Jane is right, garden bloggers (however long they remain bloggers) are just about the nicest people you could hope to meet.

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Jane Scorer January 31, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Wow! 13 years ! That is an impressive amount of time to have blogged for. Garden bloggers do, indeed, seem to be lovely people, and I wonder if we garden bloggers are any different from, say, fashion bloggers or music bloggers? Although this is a very sweeping generalisation, I have found gardeners, in general, to be … well, nice people. maybe it is all the virtues we have to cultivate like optimism and patience !

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Julieanne Porter (@GwenfarsGarden) January 31, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Thoughtful post – it does make one reflect. I wrote a personal diary from my early teens until my late 20’s. I stopped because I had been studying 16th century women’s diaries and learning about ‘construction and representation of the self’ within a diary or journal and suddenly found I couldn’t write in my diary anymore without thinking, wait a minute, how am I constructing myself here?

But I came around to blogging after a garden bloggers meet in Oxford in November 2009. I’d been reading garden blogs for a while but it hadn’t occurred to me until then, through meeting other bloggers (including Patrick from Bifurcated Carrots, VP & Jane Perrone) that I could start a garden blog too (rather than a personal blog where I’m less worried about the construction of self!).

In part I blog as an ‘online diary’, which I believe was the original intention of blogging. I’ve found it a really useful way to help me sort out my thoughts and ideas for my garden and growing activities. Having something I can return to myself is quite useful. But it is also about sharing experience and knowlege. My experience has been that gardeners are generous people, and garden bloggers are too. I’ve learned a lot from other bloggers, picked up useful tips and been inspired to try new things. I admit I have a vague hope that people find my blog interesting in the same way too – I think there may be a little braggart in all of us 😉

The other reason I blog, read other blogs, and follow & converse with gardening Tweeters, is the community. This is very important to me – that shared sense of love and passion for a topic. Whilst many of my friends enjoy either gardening or visiting gardens, it’s only via blogs and Twitter that I find other people that are as deeply engaged with plants and the gardening world as I am. It’s great to have others to talk to!

You are probably right that most of us have a bit of braggart inside ourselves, but I see that, largely, as a good thing. Without it we wouldn’t be communicating with each other, sharing knowledge, and the downs and ups of growing, and that’s a rich and rewarding experience of which I want to continue to enjoy.

Keep garden blogging everyone!

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Jane Scorer January 31, 2014 at 5:45 pm

I agree Julieanne, blogging can be so rewarding and that interaction with like-minded people can deepen one’s own interest and knowledge. There is also a little bit of me that feels a bit furtive, guilt at being able to indulge my obsession , I guess! When talking to friends I have to keep my gardening obsession i check, so as not to bore them rigid. No such constraints on line as everyone is equally obsessed ! Hurray !

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detlev brinkschulte January 31, 2014 at 11:33 am

Why do I blog? well, I started with theoriedergartenkunst.wordpress.com last year, named after the ‘theorie der gartenkunst / theory of garden art’ by Christian Cay Lorenz Hirschfeld published between 1779 and 1785. Out of frustration… my dad was a gardener and I hated gardening in my youth. Then came the interest in art, art-history, urbanism, etc..
I re-discovered gardens.

But all I found here in Germany were just “lovely“ flowers and “nice“ lawns and horrible decoration,some even call it “art“. No discussion about design (by the way: I hate the word), ignorance when it comes to history,… there are some groups & societies but – sorry – their members are mostly not my age & seem to be very close circles.

I started to follow British gardening via social media, reading blogs… here in Germany very few nurseries, gardeners, academic institutions have a good website, a social media account, etc. – closed circles.

Over the years I gathered information about gardens and the blog is an opportunity to share it & mabye get in contact with other like-minded folks. With my partner, who started his blog (about Harzer Fuhrherren, historical waggoners from the Harz mountains: harzerfuhrherren.wordpress.com. advertising !!!) at the same time, we are trying to figure out how it works…’as found’: on my blog you find a lot of garden literature from the 16., 17. & 18. century. I started to read old garden books because most of the new output is just badly and hastily written & full of photoshopped images, good photography is very rare (I’ve worked as photoeditor).

A lot of lost or ignored old gardens. There are regional preferences for the münsterland (the gardens & landscapes I grew up with) & discovering the gardens in northern Germany. gardens in or as art (land art, conceptual art & 16. to 18. century) sometimes about my “own“ garden: a lot of pots & a disappearing lawn in front of the house (“guerilla gardening“ tolerated by our landlord). plants I like. the blog is more a collage of information & entertainment.

Most followers – on wordpress and twitter – are from the uk and the Netherlands. Mabye I should start writing English abstracts (better English of course)…

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Janet/Plantaliscious January 31, 2014 at 11:29 am

Oh goodness, there’s an interesting can of worms you have opened! I started blogging because I thought it might help with my otherwise appalling record keeping. It sort of has, in that it really helps to be able to look back at photos of the same area of the garden at different times of year, but it isn’t why I am still at, if somewhat sporadically at times. Like Kate – who is generously going to share plants with me, even though we haven’t actually met yet – I found myself unable to work and unable to garden much. Ill health made me isolated, and few people I knew – and none who live close by – were interested in gardening. Blogging, for me, is about the interactions and evolving relationships. I love the comments I get, and writing comments in return. True, it can sometimes descend into the vacuous, and I have learnt to stop bothering about religiously commenting on every single blog post the people I follow make, particularly if they are blogging most days, I just can’t keep up and say anything meaningful. But through those interactions, and the blogs they stem from, I have discovered new plants, new planting techniques, received help, encouragement, challenge, been made to laugh, and, occasionally, cry. I think I garden with more confidence now, because I have less belief in the “must do it right”. With so many people, you see so many different approaches, you learn to get a little more relaxed about things. Or so I have found.

I occasionally wish there was more challenge – sometimes it all feels too nice – and I sometimes wish for more reality. Macros of beautiful flowers don’t tell me what the overall plant looks like, or what it looks good with, and give an impression of manicured perfection which is almost unheard of in reality. But there are more than enough people out there who are generous with advice, honest in what they write and show, and tolerant of the periods of ill health which force me offline, to make me profoundly glad to be a garden blogger.

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Jane Scorer January 31, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Hi Janet, it is interesting how blogging can make better gardeners of us in so many different ways. Like you, I find that the (many!) photos I have of the garden enable me to be more critical about it, and lend a different perspective, somehow.
Are garden bloggers always so nice to each other ? In my short time of blogging I have only come across positive comments, which are helpful and encouraging

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Elspeth Briscoe January 31, 2014 at 11:15 am

We blog for the following reasons (and have done three times a week for three years).
1. Because we love the whole process of blogging (the whole lot of it; the writing, the observing, chatting. the design and layout (under-rated in my opinion – but then I’m a bit of a design freak)
2. Because we are a garden education site – so we want to share the knowledge of our tutors with our students around the world. (Horticulturists and garden writers are often so self-effacing that their deep and interesting knowledge doesn’t get shared enough and in the right way in my opinion). Blogging is a non threatening medium that preserves this for eternity.
3. We genuinely feel it’s the only way to reach out to people globally instantly (yes the community thing is real)
4. We are slightly egotistical and enjoy being stroked regularly
5. Blogging has a culture where people are honest with each other – so it helps us get genuine feedback on the site. They tell us when they hate something – quite openly – where they wouldn’t to your face. (as well as the ego strokes).
6. There is also a purely commercial/business reason why we blog. It improves our Search Engine Optimisation (SEO – ie our Google ranking). Put simply it means more people discover our website

Come and see for yourselves! We’re not shy of conflict and welcome everyone to give us feedback. As long as we can vet it…Haha http://www.my-garden-school.com/blog

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Jane Scorer January 31, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Yup! It is the whole creative process which is satisfying! For me, it was also the heaven sent validity of marrying photos with text. I was a professional photographer way back in another life and have always loved taking photos, but it felt a bit aimless somehow. Blogging gave me a real purpose to plan and take the photos, experiment with lenses etc.

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Kate January 31, 2014 at 9:56 am

Very interesting – at first I read this post with my hands partly hiding my eyes because I suspected I fell slightly into the ‘shouty’ category, and then I thought about it a little more. I started blogging because I wasn’t well, couldn’t garden too much or work a lot – and I’m a writer and editor, so it seemed natural to combine the two. That was three years ago, and I’m still going. I’ve discovered a wonderfully collaborative and helpful community, even exchanged plants with people I’ve never met – and that’s without considering the massive help and inspiration I have gained from other people’s blogs. I can’t possibly stop now, nor would I want to.
(It’s also a good personal resource, because the blog is also – sometimes – a record of what was happening where and when in the garden.)

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