Many gardeners like to pull weeds, turn compost and fill up watering cans — along with other plant-related tasks. Then once all the work in the dirt is done, plenty of them set down their trowels and share their triumphs, travails and trivia — often accompanied with colorful photographs— in their garden blogs.
Whether posting a few times a week, monthly or even more sporadically, gardeners from the Austin area and far beyond have been chronicling their adventures —frequently on websites with cute or clever names.
Since 2006, Pam Penick, 52, has been telling readers about her gardening in her blog called Digging: Cool Gardens in a Hot Climate at penick.net/digging.
A recent post talks about a deer eating flax lily, and another post details installing new landscape lighting. Topics vary, she says, and "sometimes you don’t really know what is going to resonate. That can be a surprise."
Her blog is photo-driven, she says, although she is a freelance writer who has authored lawn and garden books. She enjoys taking photographs and then "really exploring a design or a plant that is interesting." She is skillful at taking quality pictures, but "I’m not averse to using a quick photo out the car window," she says.
During the stay-at-home era of the pandemic, she’s been writing more about her own garden in Northwest Austin.
Though she loves her hobby, it does require a time commitment. "Every blog post takes at least an hour," she says. "There may be people who are much faster."
Bloggers don’t necessarily have to be experts on growing plants, Penick says: "They just need to be passionate about what they are doing."
More than a decade ago, the trend of garden blogging had grown big enough that Penick helped to organize an annual Garden Bloggers Fling. Garden bloggers from all over get together each year in a different city, such as Portland, Toronto and Austin, with generally 70 to 95 attendees, she says. (The 2020 Fling was canceled, but the 2021 Fling is set for June in Madison, Wisconsin.)
Garden bloggers also tend to be blog readers; many bloggers’ website have long lists of blogs they keep track of. Along with blogs from Oregon, Arizona, California and elsewhere, Penick’s list includes the popular blog for the "Central Texas Gardener" — the long-running Austin PBS television show — at centraltexasgardener.org/blog.
As well, Penick’s list includes the blog of landscape designer Diana C. Kirby (who also writes garden stories for the American-Statesman). Kirby’s blog, at dianasdesignsaustin.com, often focuses on garden design, Kirby says. Recent posts — alongside lovely photographs — have run the gamut in subject matter from making a butterfly garden to growing vegetables in containers to creating bouquets.
More and more in recent years, a lot of people have been putting their gardening thoughts and updates on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. "We’re past the heyday of blogging," Penick says, "but there’s still a lot of hard-core bloggers, and I’m definitely one of them." As well, she adds, "There are also new bloggers all the time who are just getting into it."
Another longtime garden blogger, Tina Huckabee, 59, grew up in a family of gardeners and has been writing about her hobby since 2011. Her blog at mygardenersays.com has become "a different way of expressing what I was doing in the garden," says Huckabee, of North Austin, who enjoys growing native plants. The subhead for her My Gardener Says blog reads: "Yeah, it’s work, but it’s less work than grass and far more interesting."
Early on, she focused on what she had done with her landscaping. Nowadays, she says, "It’s more the micro-noticing of what’s going on." Some posts are longer; other shorter entries that she calls "fluff posts" are often "some little, silly thing," which seem to be popular with readers.
Recently, topics have ranged from a crinum lily to hummingbirds. (Wildlife is featured regularly in the blog.) Huckabee also includes artful, closeup photographs of "things I find interesting and unusual," she says. "I have been happy with some of my photos, but I’m going to give credit to my camera."
Along with a photo of delicate plants, she wrote in May, "I transplanted this group of yarrow last autumn from a different part of my garden. They adjusted well and haven’t missed a beat in their blooming!"
She blogs when inspiration hits, without a set schedule, though she tries to blog about once per week, she estimates. Occasionally she’ll receive feedback from an appreciative reader. "That’s really sweet," Huckabee says.
Of course, she also spends time perusing blogs by other avid gardeners. She especially likes British bloggers. "It’s exotic," she says. "I love looking at their gardens because I would never be able to grow gardens like that. It’s kind of a cultural exchange, if you will."
For Huckabee, blogging is a creative outlet. "It’s just an extra way to garden, in a way," she says.
Tim Thomas, 43, of Southeast Austin, started blogging in 2011. At Xeric Front Yard xeric.me/xericfrontyard, he has written about his experiences, such as ambitiously transforming his yard, with both failure and success stories. Now with his native plants, he says, "I don’t think I’ve watered the front yard in two years."
These days, he blogs infrequently, with posts about window boxes and barrel cactus.
He decided to blog because "it would be a record of what went right and what went wrong," he says. "It’s a history for me, and if someone else finds it useful, that’s cool."