Bloggers take stock



Even if you’re in Texas, skipping about in the sun scattering larkspur and tomato seeds, the calendar remains the same. December 31 still signals the end of the year. It’s natural to pause for a moment and think about what happened in 2008 and what may happen in 2009. And it’s interesting: reading around the different blogs, I didn’t find anyone who really loves the weather at this time of year, no matter where they are. The mid-December heat and humidity seemed particularly unwelcome to the Texas gardeners I know, chilly temps annoyed my California friends (also making them worry about frostbitten citrus trees), and seasonable snowstorms created aching backs from shoveling in Chicago.

What I did find were plenty of thoughtful posts, some of which went beyond a simple documentation of the year to reflect a sense that—for whatever reason—2008 represented a move from business as usual to a new way of gardening, or even a new way of life.

Instead of a mind-boggling series of links, I am going to do longer quotes from some of the year-in-review and end-of-year posts (some are just Dec. posts) that intrigued me most.

Pam/Digging had a busy year with momentous change at the end of it: When 2008 began, I was frenziedly planning for a little shin-dig we dubbed the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling. As the year closed, I found myself saying goodbye to my beloved garden and starting over at a new house in a different part of town. The two events arose from a shared impetus: Going For It.

Part of Mary Ann/Idaho Gardener’s YIR applauded the current focus on local food production: Some wrote about the impending doom of the world food crisis and people eating mud pies in Haiti. In my little corner of the world I was carrying the banner and shouting the shout about growing and eating local food. This story line is still going strong as nurseries and seed companies reported a 40% spike in sales of veg seeds and seedlings. Grow it on, America.


I include Craig/Ellis Hollow’s YIR post not because of anything he said (sorry, Craig) but because I love his photography and scans and this post gave us a whole year’s sampling. There are two images here: a fabulous erythronium shot (top, I have the same plant, I think) and these scanned flowers, above.

I can’t lie: right around February, we Northeasterners are longingly thinking of Florida, Southern California and Texas. But there’s another side to that coin, as MSS/Xanthan Gardens relates here: In some ways it is all those other gardens I’ve read about via your blogs that has made me dissatisfied. They’ve given me an itch to be elsewhere, to garden elsewhere, to grow different plants, to have different seasons (admittedly, I don’t think I could handle your winters). I do truly believe that one must garden where one is—we mustn’t try to turn the desert into Wales. Although others make very successful gardens in Austin, the challenges no longer arouse my interest. The garden is no longer a refuge; we are at odds.(MSS, as always, writes beautifully.)

In the same somewhat melancholy vein, I absolutely loved David Perry Photography’s end of year video. The “wind” music reminded me of Glenn Branca and these words went with it: Blow it all away, they say. All of it. Let us start the new year as clean as possible, freed of this recent world of corrupt business practices and layered lies . . . and political dynasties. Sweep it up and blow it all away. A chill cleansing wind. May those with integrity be able to withstand it. And those without honest roots, and those hollowed out by their own rot, let them find new usefulness in their toppling and decay.

It’s natural to feel melancholy at the end of the year: the weather can be bleak and when you look back, it never seems as though you’ve accomplished what you wanted. But Cameron/Defining Your Home puts it in perspective by reiterating why we’re all here, doing this: We now visit and share our gardens over the Web. The world is flat. Through blogging, we visit each other’s gardens that may be hundreds or thousands of miles away in another zone. It doesn’t matter if we can’t grow the same flowers. Even when we share our disappointments, our fellow gardeners soothe our sadness and lift our spirits.

I was more inspired than ever by my fellow garden bloggers this year. Thanks to them, I’ve decided to do the following in 2009: 1. Start a written journal. I don’t have the Lee Valley, but I do have 2 little ones that I’ll fill up first to see how it goes. 2. Go to a second Spring Fling in Chicago May 29-31. (This did not take much self-convincing.) 3. Join the Garden Writers Association; garden blogging is garden writing, so I might as well put my money where my blog is.

Finally, here is an intriguing challenge from Kathy/Cold Climate Gardening: should a garden have a mission statement? The orginal idea came from Helen/Gardening with Confidence; check it out.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Happy New Year!

    This is the prime thinking time of the year that’s for sure.

    I’m running a poll on my Open Garden blog at the moment to see which is the preferred season. Just one person so far has plumpled for Winter. However, 20% say they embrace all seasons, so surprisingly there are some winter lovers out there after all!

  2. Just for the record:

    I do really love the weather at this time of year, especially extreme precipitation (ice storms, blizzards, etc.). Though I do not like losing utilities, or extreme cold.

    Fortunately for the rest of y’all, I have not yet perfected my weather-controlling device.

  3. Thanks for the plug Elizabeth. Let’s just say that when it comes to gardening, sometimes it’s better to say what you have to say in pictures.

    Best wishes for the new year to all you ranters and your ever-so-astute commentors.

  4. Thanks, Elizabeth, for furthering the challenge to your readers to consider writing a garden mission statement. It is a thought provoking challenge. I submit, once complete, you will be liberated. I will post a collection of statements.

    Also, Elizabeth, you are too right, garden blogging is garden writing – it is garden communicating. The Garden Writers Association is a resource for garden communicators. Raleigh, is hosting the 2009 conference, September 23 – 26, with optional tours planned for September 27th. In addition, the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour is the weekend before on September 19/20th. Come, plan to stay the week. We have a lot going on in this fertile ground we call the Piedmont region of North Carolina.

  5. Nothing like that beautiful shot of a Trout Lily to remind me that just a couple of months separate me from the appearance of the first flowers of spring!:)

  6. Thanks for the shout-out, Elizabeth. After skipping about in the sun scattering larkspur and tomato seeds, I came in to catch up on blog reading and found your end-of-year round-up. Like you, I’m starting a new garden journal this year, for my new-baby garden. And I’m committed to going to the Chicago Fling, where I hope to meet even more garden bloggers and see some cool gardens. Joining GWA? Maybe when the budget isn’t so tight. The Portland conference last year sure did sound like fun though.

  7. Lots of entertaining reading in these links.
    Enjoyed them all.

    I especially enjoyed Helen’s mission statement essay.

    If I were to write out a mission statement for my garden I would say the same thing that I have said about it for years, ” If one cannot afford to travel to Hawaii, then create it in your own back yard “.

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