Monday, November 30, 2009

Awed by Blotanical

I just read an interesting post by Deborah of Deb's garden that reflected some of my own experiences in starting a garden blog and discovering Blotanical.

During my childhood in the fifties and sixties in suburban Minnesota, my mother initially had some apple trees and a small vegetable plot I helped out in. Such plots slowly disappeared in our suburb, and my father's attitude of "why go to all that work if you can buy everything conveniently frozen" was probably typical for the time. Soon our suburb looked like others all over the country: expanses of green lawn with a few solitary trees and some shrubs in a retaining wall in front of the entrance.

Years later I ended up making my life in Germany, where vegetable and flower gardening are widespread. Here I became reacquainted with the custom of kitchen gardens - still very much alive all over Europe. Many people own a garden plot somewhere, not necessarily at their dwelling, sometimes located in organized garden colonies (known in Britain as allotments, in Germany as Kleingärten or Schrebergärten). If you bring up the topic of gardening here, the most unlikely people will start talking shop with you about onions and tomatoes, roses and peonies.

About to retire and inspired by the garden culture surrounding me, I acquired an allotment garden last summer. In previous phases of life with a demanding job, three children, a long commute, etc., there had been no room for anything like gardening. My new found passion for gardening soon led to a desire to document it and share what I was doing with friends and family. Since I knew something about the internet and computers from years of using them at work, a blog seemed a logical choice.

While browsing the internet for similar gardening blogs, I not only discovered that I was by no means the first to come up with this idea, but that there was a huge network of garden blogs called Blotanical out there, in which hundreds (or maybe even a thousand?) garden blogs have found a platform for exchanging information, getting acquainted, and reading and commenting on each other's blogs.

If you join Blotanical, you get your own "plot" where you can point to your blog, name other bloggers you like (known as "faving" a blog), award points to blog posts you've liked (known as "picking" a post), send messages to other members, search their huge base of blogs in various ways including map-based, and just generally move around in a world of friendly gardeners.

Blotanical has a system of awarding points that can eventually lead to a higher status (from "Patron Blotanist" up to "Guru Blotanist"), which in turn gives you more participation privileges in the Blotanical world.

One thing I haven't been able to find on the Blotanical website, though, is background on how it started and who maintains it. It would be nice if there was an "about" or "mission" tab on the homepage. I know there's someone named Stuart Robinson from Australia who is apparently the webmaster in addition to running his own gardening blog. Thanks to him and whoever else is responsible in the background, many bloggers like me have found a community of the like-minded that is always fun to visit and where people are always supportive and friendly. Do take a look if you're interested in gardening or garden blogging. You will discover gardens on every tillable continent on earth.

Proud of getting my simple blog up and running at all, I was, however, somewhat daunted by the other bloggers at Blotanical. There are LOTS of bloggers there who:
  • write excellently, some are even professional writers
  • must be IT specialists on the side, since their blogs are technically perfect
  • take gorgeous photos, have tasteful attractive layout
  • are master gardeners, landscape planners, or garden architects
  • even if hobby gardeners, are highly skilled and knowledgeable
  • manage to hold down jobs; maintain imaginative, labor-intensive gardens; and write frequent blog posts
  • keep up communication with and regularly read the blogs of many other bloggers.
I've found much to admire there. So although I may never make it to Guru Blotanist, I will continue to enjoy the Blotanical community and have already revised my fixed notion that Americans have lawns, but not gardens.

And because there was no photo in this post, here's one of some appealing mushrooms I found in our garden one damp fall morning last week (please click to enlarge). I had wanted to mow that patch of grass, but couldn't bring myself to!


  1. Well said! One of the things I like about blotanical is its international flavor. I have so enjoyed meeting gardeners from all over the world, like you! I am looking forward to learning more about German gardening. And I love the patch of mushrooms. I would not have mowed them either.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I think a deep satisfaction in tilling the earth is universal, and judging by the atmosphere at Blotanical, it also seems to make people happy.

  3. Hi Barbara! Very good post! I joined Blotanical in January 2009 and enjoy it greatly. Although, I should admit, it takes a lot of time to read, comment, pick posts and exchange messages with other blotanists. There are more than 1500 blogs at Blotanical, and this number is growing all the time.
    I'm glad I found a German blog in English. Keep posting!
    Some background about Blotanical can be found here:
    and here:
    Happy gardening and blogging!

  4. Hi Tatyana, thanks for the info on Blotanical background, I'll take a look. 1500 gardens! Thanks also for the encouragement, I'll be visiting your blog.

  5. We are now 1,748 Blotanists. Check the blog directory page for a running total. Technically Blotanical is Stuart and Stuart and Stuart (that is just the ONE Stuart)

  6. Welcome to the Blotanical experience. I have made so many garden friends and learned so much from all of them. It is a group of talented gardeners and designers.It is wonderful to see gardens from all over the world.When my garden is in bed for the winter there is all of these gardeners who are just into summer and the tropical gardeners get me a little envious at times.;-) I am sure you will like it here.

  7. Great post, Barbara. You should get a red star for this one! Mind blowing how many garden blogs there is on Botanical, and more joining every week.

  8. Great post, Barbara. I want to echo Deborah's suggestion that this should earn you a "friend of Blotanical" red star (which makes your posts stand out a little from the crowd on "pick" pages). If you don't know about this, go the the FAQ on the Help tab.
    And I want to thank Tatyana for the links to the background info. I didn't know about this and it will help me with my Blotanical research.

  9. Thanks for all your comments. Almost 1800 Blotanists and still growing, wow. It'll be interesting to see whether a sense of community can still be maintained when it gets huge.
    I've also already enjoyed being able to look at blogs from warmer climes now that my garden is mostly damp and dreary.
    And I didn't realize it was only Stuart - thought there must be a team of programmers in the background!

  10. Don't be awed by all the great bloggers at Blotanical. Your blog looks great and I can assure you, we all start our blogs pretty much the same way as you. After a while it gets easier to get into a routine maybe? Just doing what we love (sharing gardening) is the reward, at least for me. I also learn from so many more. In fact, I need to check out Tatyana's links. Stuart is super too. It is so nice to have a directory of so many blogs.

  11. Barbara - I have enjoyed reading your blog very much (which I found through Blotanical!) Hope you'll swing by my blog some time (click the name above or go to I especially liked your most recent post on tomatoes - I would love to save seeds of my most valued varieties this season.