New Northern Gardener, New Blog and the Digital Issue

It’s been a month since I’ve written on this blog, and while I don’t usually explain my absences (not even my mother is that eager for my next post), this is one worth elaboration.

blog-notesfromnortherngardMost importantly, I’ve been working on a new blog for Northern Gardener magazine. While I edit Northern Gardener, this blog has always been my own thing. Since July, I’ve been working with the Minnesota State Horticultural Society on its new blog, Notes from Northern Gardener. This has been an exciting effort. In November, we ran a series on Great Plants for Northern Gardens, which inspired some conversation about which plants are winners and which are sinners for northern gardens. Then, in January, publisher Tom McKusick and I teamed up to write a month’s worth of posts about vegetable gardening. Tom is a bonafide tomato expert and has two large gardens that he tends. The series, which just ended, got a terrific response from readers on Facebook, Twitter and in real life. With all the cold, wet, just plain nasty weather we have had this month, many people are ready to get out in the garden.

NG coverWe’re also at work on the March/April issue of Northern Gardener, and it will be out before the end of February. In the meantime, if you have not picked up our January/February issue, it’s on the newsstands with the bright photo of an African violet on the cover. There are lots of good articles in this issue on everything from rock gardening to must-have tools to a profile of a beautiful “up North” garden in Wisconsin. If you followed the earlier link, you may have noticed that it went to the new digital edition of Northern Gardener. From now through June, this digital edition will be open to the public. So, if you have been thinking about subscribing (or better yet, joining MSHS), you can get a preview of the magazine for free. Check it out.

As I write this, the thermometer is hovering around zero — up from about 15 below zero this morning when I walked our poor dog. (It was a very short walk.) But we have noticeably more daylight than in early January and I’m about to plant some winter-sowing containers and the seeds I’ve ordered arrive in the mail nearly every day. As my mother-in-law used to say, “if you make it through January, you’ve got winter licked.” Here’s hoping you’ve got winter licked, too, and are looking forward to the garden season ahead.

 

 

 

 

Five Years of Blogging

Today marks the fifth anniversary of My Northern Garden. I started the blog in September 2007 at a time when garden blogs were sprouting up like dandelions in May, five years after Kathy Purdy started Cold Climate Gardening, which is probably the oldest garden blog for northern gardeners.

While I’ve often written about trends, plants and tips from experts, most of the previous 617 posts stemmed from what was happening in my own garden, whether that involved an unexpected pest, a plant I loved or a disaster in the garden.

Some garden bloggers have suggested recently that garden blogs don’t matter much in the days of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. I don’t agree. Social media is essentially a directory of links with commentary attached. You’ve got to link to something, and “content,” as reporting and writing is now called, has to come from somewhere.  So, I plan to continue to blog, to reflect on my gardening experiences and those of others around me.

Things certainly have changed over five years in my garden and in my life. I’ve gone from having two active teenagers at home to an empty nest.  I’ve lost one beloved dog and embraced a second, very different canine. I’ve expanded every garden bed I have and added one completely new one since 2007.”Less grass to mow,” is my mantra, and my husband agreeably goes along with that. I’m moving toward more native plants and have given up on the idea that I will have anything like a cottage garden in this house. We’re on a prairie that become a cornfield that became a neighborhood, so I’m moving my yard slowly back toward its roots.

I’m always intrigued by which posts most interest blog readers. Unfortunately, I switched blog formats in December 2009, so I do not have complete statistics for the blog, but my estimate is about 50,000 people have been here at one time or another. I appreciate every one of those visitors. Very popular stories over the years have included those about red-twig dogwood and those about how to design a holiday container. Posts with recipes are always popularity, especially this one. In the past year, my most popular topics have been the changing climate zones, garden trends and the straw-bale gardens I put in this year.

I’m not sure where blogging will be in another five years — or me or my garden, for that matter. But I’m excited to find out!

 

 

 

 

Wanted: More Garden Blogs for the North

Someone mentioned to me recently that some of the links on my blogroll were inactive blogs — ones where the author had not posted in a long, long, long time. A lot of bloggers go strong for a year or two, then get tired of the need to post regularly or find other activities to fill their time or just feel they have said what they have to say on gardening. At the same time, other gardeners are finding their voice.

I’ve cleaned off the inactive blogs on my blogroll, but want to add more. What are your favorite garden blogs for northern gardeners? Let me know in the comments or an e-mail and I will add them to the list.

Blog Improvements and Holiday Container How-to

After more than three years of blogging and with a long winter ahead, I’ve decided to improve the blog by adding popular content and making it more accessible. I’ve added a bunch of tabs across the top of the header for items such as book reviews, information about public gardens to visit, and how-tos. More content will be added to each category over the next couple of months. The plan is to add plant profiles and recipes, too, as the winter progresses.  My first “how-to” is a timely one: How to Design a Holiday Container.

As always, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on the information presented here.

A New Northern Gardener, and Hey, We Won an Award

current_coverI have been so busy lately with work, closing up the garden, teaching a class at Carleton College and what not that I have neglected some of my blogging duties.  And, there are two important bits of news that I want to get out. First, the November/December issue of Northern Gardener is on the newsstands now. The issue has a beautiful blue-toned cover and includes a wonderful article on doing holiday decorations with a garden theme. Julie Scouten, who writes the And Sow Forth essay each issue, is a master decorator and she has several fun ideas for using garden implements and plant materials in home decor that can last all winter.  (Julie’s son, Eric Scouten, is the photographer who took the cover shot.) In addition to the decorating article, we have a list of great gift ideas for gardeners, a profile by Terry Yockey of a magnificent small-space garden in Red Wing, and Northfielder Leif Knecht’s recommendations for dwarf conifers. One of his recommendations, the ‘Tannebaum’ mugo pine, is in my new front-yard garden.

The second big item of news is that Northern Gardener recently won a bronze award for general excellence in the special interest publication category at the Minnesota Magazine and Publications Association awards dinner. We were especially pleased to be recognized in this category because it looks at the magazine as a whole, which is how our readers look at it as well. Thanks to the judges for the honor, and as always, thanks to the folks who read the magazine issue after issue.

It's a Major Award

leglamp1
I don't think the Garden Writers give leg lamps for awards, but it would be cool if they did.

Yesterday I received word that one of my blog posts had earned a Silver Award in the Garden Writers Association’s annual media awards. The post is self-described as “A rambling discourse written over several days about dried beans, home gardens, and the creative impulse.”

The post was entered in a relatively new category for electronic writing. The great thing about the GWA awards is that the association announces all the silvers in spring (the number of silvers in each category varies) and the big winner in each category is not announced until the GWA’s conference, which this year is in beautiful Raleigh, N.C., in September. In other words: Road Trip!