The “Mouse and Trowels”, and the Power of Awards


by Susan

Remember last year when Colleen first announced the Mouse and Trowel Awards to honor online gardening and we all knew instantly it was a great idea?  Then almost 500 of us voted and the happy winners got to put little badges on their sites and blogs and call their endeavors "award-winning".  And the whole enterprise brought attention to our community.  In a fit of pompous proclamation worthy of cable TV, I called Colleen "blogosphere-changing," something I just assumed must be true and see no evidence to the contrary so that settles it.  Anyway, online gardeners are indebted to her for going to a LOT of trouble not in hopes of winning awards herself but just to promote good garden writing on the Web.

Well, it’s that season again.  Bloggers are asking their readers to nominate them, because who doesn’t want to be nominated?  Lord knows WE do, so we humbly suggest you give us a nod.  And don’t forget our individual blogs if they’ve amused or enlightened you over the past year.   Here’s the link to the nomination form.

There are lots of cool blog categories to choose from again this year and even 2 new ones:

Beyond the blogosphere, the categories are pretty discouraging.  There’s no Best New Website category, and these three categories from last year have been discontinued: Best Informational Gardening Site,

Best Plant/Seed Source, and

Best Gardening Magazine Site. Seems that there was low participation by us voters, and there’s a perception that they don’t fit in with the other awards.  So gardening websites are down to Best Forum and Website of the Year.

Bummer! See, I get excited about promoting good gardening information websites, making it easier for the public to FIND them.  Instead of the crawlers that steal from us all.  Instead of the income-dominated sites that have more ads than content.  Instead of the corporate sites that are filled with products we’re supposed to buy.  And instead of sites that require payment in order to read them.  A few of us webmaster types interested in offering high-quality alternatives to all the crap online have banded together to help Googlers find the content-oriented sites, but we’re few and far between.  Whole regions of online gardening information are still missing.

So readers, how about voting for that little band of webmasters as a way to encourage others to start content-oriented sites, too?  By nominating Regional Garden Gurus you nominate all of us and more to come, plus all the other good sites we link to.  (Of course you’re invited to peruse our individual sites for possible nominations, too.) "Website of the Year" sounds awfully grand and we thought we had a better shot at "Best New Website" – but enough whining from me.  Start nominating right here.

Of course we’re HOPING that the blogging community rallies this year and goes nuts nominating sites for the two remaining website categories so that the website Mousies make a comeback next year but just in case, I did a little lobbying of the GWA Awards Committee on behalf of the electronic world.  You may remember they have zillions of categories for writing, editing and photography in PRINT, and scant mention of "electronic" efforts, a category that includes everything on the Web, plus DVDs, podcasts and television.  Well, I recently ran into the Washington Post’s Scott Aker – he’s the guy responsible for these awards – and asked if new categories would be created, at least one for each unique medium that falls into that supercategory, and his response was superdiscouraging.  Oh well.  Their entrance fees would inhibit participation by most of us anyway.  (GWA awards are a fundraiser for the association.)  Here are their 2007 winners.

So bloggers, until something else comes along, it’s up to us to encourage and reward websites in our chosen niche, so let’s go for it.


  1. Aha—see, and here I was thinking that no one cared that the Website categories got cut 🙂

    It was a hard decision, and I went back and forth on it for the past few months. I initially started the web categories for the exact reasons you mentioned: getting the unvarnished opinion from fellow gardeners about gardening sites, seed/plant vendors, and magazine sites. I loved the idea of hearing from fellow gardeners who actually use these sites. To be honest, I was more excited at first about the website categories than I was about the blog categories. So, I was surprised by the results I saw. Of all of the nomination forms that were filled in, only a a quarter (roughly) even bothered to nominate a site, seed/plant source, or magazine site. Site of the year and forums had plenty of interest, so that’s why those two made the cut.

    There’s another reason I was finally able to cut the website categories without too much guilt. And that reason is that we have hundreds of blogs and sites like Dave’s Garden with it’s Garden Watchdog where we can go to get an unvarnished opinion about a catalog or magazine site. It seemed redundant to keep it. When you add that reasoning to the low interest those categories generated last year, it was a pretty easy decision to make in the end.

    As you know (and as you’ve seen this year) the Mousies are young, and they’re still evolving. If there’s enough interest in getting those categories reinstated for the 2009 Mousies, it’s definitely something I’ll take into consideration. I’ve said from the beginning that while I am the one that put the awards together, I consider them to belong to the community at large. That’s why I ask for opinions so often on things like how many blogs we should be able to nominate and how long each phase should be. I genuinely want to know. And I inferred from last year’s participation that the website awards were much less important to the community at large than the blogging ones were.

    So, Susan got the ball rolling—if you want to see the website categories reinstated for next year’s awards, this is the place to start lobbying. I’ll be checking the comments on this post, and, of course, you can always email me with your opinions at colleen {at} inthegardenonline [dot] com.

    Susan–thanks for bringing this to my attention 🙂

  2. I think blogs are the wave of the future, and we, garden writers, should get on board. I know I did. I still write for print, but I also enjoy writing for my blog and reading others with relish. There’s some great writing out here in the blogosphere. Kudos to the Mousies and their creator.~~Dee

  3. Colleen, if your honest reaction were “How dare they tell me what to do with this thing I created, with no help from them” I’d completely understand, having had that reaction myself over the years when the critics critique the doer. (See how I characterize it? Oh, there are lots of old rants on this subject.)

    But no, you went and donated your efforts to the community.

  4. As the owner of a new gardening blog (*cough* *ehem* *cough*) I got my votes in bright and early. Have a link to the Mousies on my blog as well.

    I will say that Garden Rant was definitely one of my votes!

  5. There are so many great garden blogs this year that it is difficult to choose. I love accolades–giving and receiving them. However, picking only a handful out of the hundreds may discourage as many people as it encourages.

    Luckily we are bloggers and we each have the power to give awards. Each time we add someone to our sidebars, or link to them in a post, we putting up our own little badge of support for them. And every comment we leave is encouragement, letting us know that people appreciate us and we are not writing alone in the darkness.

    Support your favorite bloggers and continue to grow the community.

  6. I agree that it is a shame that the website categories were cut back for this year – we were really hoping that a “Best New Website” type category would have provided some much needed exposure for our little site (MyFolia) – it’s going to be tough completing against the likes of Dave’s Garden in the two categories we now have.

    I’d love to see some categories next year that try to encourage more innovation in gardening websites. I think that the people behind these websites need just as much support in the online gardening community as bloggers do.

  7. I had already voted by the time Susan posted this, but I would have liked more website categories as well. There were sites I would have liked to vote for but they weren’t blogs so I couldn’t. I didn’t find out about the Mousies until after they’d already happened last year. I’ve been following Garden Rant for a bit short of a year now. It was through GR that I heard of the Mousies. It’s through GR that I’ve heard of a number of other blogs I’ve since added to my Bloglines subscriptions. But I still don’t read garden blogs anywhere near as much as I use various garden websites. So I’d love to see the website categories reinstated. Thanks for providing the Mouse & Trowel Awards, Colleen! They’re what persuaded me to give the Wiggly Wigglers podcast a try…

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