Gardenblogging and Flinging in 2015

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First, the Gardenblogger Fling happened last weekend in Toronto and was a roaring success.  Thanks again to the local organizes, who created 4+ fabulous days of events and then herded us through it all as patient, unfrazzled hosts who managed to have fun themselves.  That’s Helen Battersby of Toronto Gardens, Lorraine Flanigan of City Gardening Online and Veronica Sliva of A Gardener’s World.  More posts coming about what we saw and did at the Fling.

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Gayla Trail speaking to the Flingers in Toronto

There’s a Toronto-area blogger who’s surely been at it longer than any of us, having started back in 2000, and that’s Gayla Trail of You Grow Girl.  She spoke to us one evening at our hotel and I took fast notes.

For the first few years You Grow Girl was a webzine for which Gayla did all the coding, and there were other contributors, but within a few years it became the single-voice popular blog we know it as today.

Bored by the mainstream garden media’s focus on older people with money and displays of wealth and status, Gayla set out to be a dissenting voice. (GardenRant founders came to the same conclusion a few years later.) Still in her 20s, she’d become obsessed with gardening (then on a rooftop and at the nearby community garden) and wanted to connect with other people like herself. 

I related not just to Gayla’s subversive approach (You Grow Girl’s tagline is “Gardening for the People”) but also to her focus on blogging for fun, for self-expression, and for enjoying the freedom that personal blogs afford the writer.  (“Don’t write a blog to be popular” and “People will always try to knock you down.”)  Despite her success, she still asserts that “I’m not an authority and I don’t want to be one.” 

Also despite her success, she’s found gardenblogging to be a really “tricky niche” that basically doesn’t pay (especially if you want to hold onto your integrity).  She accepts no products to review and no advertising besides Google ads – and even with Google she’s had to block the whole advertiser category of “gardening.” She told us she’d never take money from Scotts Miracle-Gro.

After attending one BlogHer conference she concluded that it wasn’t for her – because it was all about monetizing. “I guess I’m working for freedom.” Anyway, focusing on SEO leads to inauthenticity, and that kills the fun of blogging in the first place.

She’s also wary of the many offers of “exposure” that gardenbloggers receive in return for unpaid work. “People die from exposure.”

Gayla’s tips for writing on garden blogs include “Be transparent” and “Show your mistakes. You’re not killing hamsters. It’s okay.”

Where do Gardening Blogs Stand Today?blotanical_banner

Curious about whether gardening blog are increasing or decreasing in number, I asked Pam Penick, chair of the Fling Committee, but she told me she didn’t know the answer – because Blotanical doesn’t exist anymore.”

Blotanical!  I remember it as the great meeting place online for gardenbloggers from around the world created by Aussie Stuart Robinson, whose April Fool’s post on his own blog about GardenRant being sold for $1.3 million fooled plenty of readers.  I miss Blotanical, and I’m not alone. Google the name and you’ll find lots of laments over its demise.

I see a few garden blog directories still online, but they’re either out of date or purport to list just the “best of.” Unless a directory is all-inclusive, what’s the point, besides maybe charging bloggers for the exposure.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I enjoyed Gayla’s talk too, not only because of her anti-SEO message but because it harked back to the early-Fling tradition of having one evening dedicated to blogging talk. I like that.

    It is strange that there seems to be no way to quantify how many garden bloggers are out there. Blotanical surely wasn’t all-inclusive either, but it often seemed that way, with bloggers around the world registering their virtual “plots” on Stuart’s site. Blotanical played a key role in the creation of the Fling, since it appeared just as garden blogs were proliferating in 2007. The Austin bloggers had started meeting regularly in person in those days, and as I was planning another local meet-up I saw this statement on Carol/May Dreams Garden’s Blotanical page: “One day I hope to see the gardens of all those Austin garden bloggers.” It was a light bulb moment: why not invite ALL garden bloggers to come to Austin for our next meet-up? Blotanical helped us publicize the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling (we later dropped “Spring” from the name), and 8 years later we’re still Flinging in cities around North America. Austin, Chicago, Buffalo, Seattle, Asheville, San Francisco, Portland, and Toronto bloggers have hosted us, and next year we go to Minneapolis.

  2. Thank you for the recap Susan. I was taking notes too! I am dedicated to staying commercial free so like Gayla I can have the freedom to say what I want. This was my second fling and I can’t imagine missing it for the world. I get so much from sharing with other garden bloggers. Gayla is really out there on social media and just following her in instagram and tweeter is amazing. The best thing about blogging is it can reach the younger audiences with gardening related subjects.

  3. Susan, this is a great recap of Gayla’s talk, which I thought was a highlight of the Fling. Agree with Pam that the blog talk has been a really valuable part of getting all the garden bloggers together. Loved reading Pam’s comments as well, about the origins of the Fling.

    You also managed to get really great picture of Gayla, who I *know* hates having her picture taken. :^)

  4. I was sorry to miss this fling (and the last two). Garden blogging has changed quite a bit since the early days. It is almost impossible to figure out who else is blogging about gardens out there. Who knows, maybe there is a whole other group of garden bloggers meeting up and having their fun, and “we” know nothing about them and they know nothing about us.

  5. Ladies and gents, this got me thinking. After meeting so many great and fun bloggers at the Fling, I wanted to collect you all. I find it incredibly frustrating to hunt around for you and bookmark sites or fill up my inbox, so I added a simple directory to my site for garden bloggers. Just let me know you want your name and blog on the site. It’s a purely selfish way of sharing my collection. http://southernwilddesign.com/garden-blog-directory/ ~Julie

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