Garden blogs have become a vital and exciting – and deadly and boring – part of the garden world in the last few years. It seems time to review them and consider what they have to offer to serious gardeners, and the first reviews will appear here in a few weeks time. Here is Emma Bond’s introduction to the topic.
Anne Wareham, editor
I was first introduced to blogs and blogging about 6 years ago and enthusiastically starting reading about anything from food to interiors, from fashion to gardening as well as craft and vintage writing. At the time the most evolved and sophisticated blogs seemed to come from the USA and their style and layout set them apart from the British offerings. Not long after discovering blogging, I started up my own blog and obsessively updated it regularly and commented on other’s blogs in return for much-wanted comments on mine as that seemed to be the ‘thing’. This was my first introduction to writing and through it I met a number of people IRL (in real life) and got to meet other bloggers, gardeners and garden designers.
However, and this also seems fairly common among bloggers, my blog is now unloved and fairly neglected as once the initial excitement wore off, the reality of writing original and interesting content became apparent and I have slowly let it wither on the vine occasionally returning to post something and check it is still alive.
There seems to me to be two types of bloggers. Those who are in it for themselves, to have an outlet for their writing or photography and make connections with other bloggers, and those who are in it for a more commercial purpose, and this is what seems to sort the men from the boys. This is of course about advertising and there are those who do and those who don’t. The worst type of advertising is in the form of the cheapest looking Google ads, which really put me off, I think because they slightly smack of desperation and really mess up the page. The well-designed and less intrusive advertising tells me that the blog is probably read by many and might have enough about it to give it a read. Overall though, I prefer those without any.
The standard of writing and photography varies wildly and I just move on if I come across a badly written blog. The kind of gardening blogs that most turn me off are humourless and prone to too much of the kind of detail easily found in gardening books. Often featuring endless photos of patches of bare soil, lots of close-up shots of flowers and far too much information, making them as dull as a round-robin email at Christmas. Add in poor layout and crammed with too many widgets and I can hardly bear to read them.
Having said this, over the years I have found the standard has improved massively and there is now a vast array of fairly interesting and well written gardening blogs.
The best are well designed with good clear layouts, well photographed, brief blog posts, well written and preferably with some wit and humour, as I do believe that garden writing can be dreadfully dull in the wrong hands. I want to know about the kind of gardens people love or loathe, the kinds of techniques and tips they find useful, the books they read, the food they grow and eat, the plants they love. I’m also interested in reading about the bits around the edges, the tools people use, the bits and bobs people put in their gardens, where they like to buy stuff, that kind of thing.
I’m currently enjoying a few gardening blogs including The Oxonian Gardener which has great photos, interesting content and is a beautifully designed site. I also enjoy reading Harriet Rycroft’s blog for Whichford Pottery: she keeps it short and sweet with good photos and lots of interesting info. Gill Carson’s My Tiny Plot is an interesting blog for those into veg growing and Gayla Trail, You Grow Girl, which has been going for nearly 13 years. There are many others worthy of comment, Fennel & Fern, The Enduring Gardener and Charlotte Weychan’s The Galloping Gardener.
Overall, love them or loathe them, there is a breadth and variety to garden blogging that is hard to find in the mainstream garden writing world which is dominated by a relatively small group of writers, mostly men. Blogging has given a voice to many people, and as an outlet, and as a way of being part of a community and meeting people, it’s not to be beaten. Even though the standards vary enormously, there is room for everyone. There are many elements of garden blogging that I find frustrating, mainly that bloggers need to read a lot of other blogs to find their own voice and stop reinventing the wheel. There is an expertise and lack of patronising that can be found in blogs and not in gardening programmes or publications far more suitable to the very experienced gardener, equally this applies to new gardeners looking for advice and help and there are many blogs that cater to these groups.
I think gardening blogs are certainly here to stay, I imagine in the near future more bloggers will switch on to the fact that video is the new medium and we will be seeing lots of either interesting footage or a good deal of wobbly hand held detail. It could go either way. It’s clear that advertisers see blogs as a good way to get their product message across, and we will see more professional paid blogging and perhaps from this a new generation of gardeners will emerge who we will soon see on our screens as well as writing in gardening publications.
See also Emma on the Laskett.