This past week, the Garden Bloggers Conference announced their nominations for the Best Garden Blogs of 2013. Some of the nominees are familiar and popular, while others are just gaining wider recognition. Writing a great garden blog is not about being a great gardener – thank goodness – although, some of them are great gardeners. Rather, great garden bloggers communicate their passion and curiosity about gardening; and they consistently write blog posts that serve to educate and inspire thousands of visitors to their websites every day.
This is a question I get asked all the time: who do I like to follow for garden inspiration and information? Fortunately, some of my favorite garden writers are actually nominees that made the cut this year. And, it’s very exciting to discover new blogs to bookmark as favorites.
Let’s take a tour of The Best Garden Blogs of 2013.
Just a quick point of clarification: I took a screen shot of each nominated blog on my iPad in portrait orientation exactly as they appeared after googling them individually. I did not alter the appearance of any of the screenshots in any way – they appear exactly as they did on my iPad.
1. Best Overall Garden Blog
Urban Gardens’ tagline is Unlimited Thinking for Limited Spaces. In it, Robin shares her love affair with urban style, design, and nature. Initially conceived as a magazine, Robin tabled her idea for Urban Gardens after a creative director told her no one would want to read about Urban Gardens. (I wonder what he thinks, now?!)
My Impression: Urban Gardens is clean and uncluttered. I love the green and orange palette. Don’t you think the Urban Gardens logo with the leaf and the building is sweet? The main menu is simple to use and my favorite category is “finding” – this is where Robin shares all the fun products available for urban gardeners.
Growing with Plants is the creative work of an unconscious competent gardener – that is to say that Matt Mattus probably has forgotten more about gardening than most gardeners would ever hope to learn. He quips in his post, August with Awesomesauce on Top, “from my perspective… much of my summer garden is boring…“. I’d say his flowers and followers disagree with him. Matt is one of those rare souls who gets to live and garden on his family’s centennial farm (thanks to Grandfather Pius Mattus). The plants, gardens, and trees all have stories that are intertwined with Matt’s people.
My Impression: Growing with Plants is an honest blog with a simple, fabulous title. As a genealogist, I loved reading about the family history of Matt’s garden. Hipster Matt is also active on Google Plus.
Red Dirt Ramblings’ tagline is Firmly rooted in the Oklahoma soil. Dee is a freelance writer and an obsessive rose gardener who quickly draws the reader in with her hospitality and genuineness. Here is a garden lover who laments that just one of her four kids really shares her passion for gardening (something she desperately wants to pass on “after I’m long gone” – no pressure, Bear) and she has a category on her garden blog devoted to helping folks who share her gluten and casein intolerance. Making sure you’re taken care of – that’s Southern hospitality, for you.
My Impression: Well, first, I’d love to spend an afternoon with Dee. Second, she will never have writers block since she writes so openly about her ever-unfolding every-day life. Red Dirt Ramblings is an easy read and an Oklahoma-sized invitation to garden with Dee Nash.
GardenRant’s tagline is Uprooting the Garden World. Susan, Elizabeth, Michele, Amy, and all their guest bloggers pool together to create the formidable and popular garden blog that is GardenRant. Since 2006, GardenRant has provided witty, informative, and passionate posts on all aspects of gardening.
My Impression: I love the slideshow on the homepage and, like most on-line garden peeps, I check it. Every. Single. Week. It has a familiar newspaper feel to it. The ever-expanding list of contributors means that the wide range of content is consistently fresh and constantly being updated. These writers are the best of the best.
A Way to Garden’s tagline is ‘Horticultural how-to and woo-woo’ the source for organic gardening inspiration. Margaret had entire ‘other lives’ as a garden editor for Newsday and then for Martha Stewart Living. She has also authored three books – her newest is The Backyard Parables. It is fitting that her blog is “A Way” to garden – not “away” to garden – as she has a natural ability to organize content into refined, sequential, bite-sized chunks.
My impression: I found my way to Margaret through her gentle and informative podcast. Once I read her About Page where she shares “Gardening is not my hobby, it is my spiritual practice and life partner“, I felt like I finally understood what Margaret meant by woo-woo (prior to that, this blondie was a little puzzled – I thought it had to do with some of the more gross aspects of gardening!) Btw, the video on her About Page is amazing. You should watch it. I can see shades of her Martha Stewart Living experience shine through her monthly chore calendar and the overall “feel” of her blog. I’d love to chat with her about her love of frogs.
Seasonal Wisdom’s tagline is Gardening, Food and Folklore. Teresa trained as a Master Gardener in California and Idaho. She loves to write (and tweet) about gardening. Her site is informative; featuring different types of gardens, garden books and resources, and even a section on Home and Pets. Teresa also showcases her talks, podcast (nestinstyle is archived nicely on the podcast page) and articles she has written on her blog.
My impression: I love the slideshow (sorry, I really do love slideshows!) on the homepage. I think it’s great that Teresa is blogs about seasonal folklore and phenology. Those topics fit perfectly with her blog title and it is always a revelation to rediscover those long-forgotten sayings and stories.
2. Best Garden Blog Graphics, Photography, and Presentation
(In honor of this category, I would love to know what these recognized bloggers use for tools: cameras, apps, online resources, etc. Feel free to share in the comments section below!)
Beyond the Wild Garden is written by Irishman David Corscadden who is a newly minted horticulture graduate from University College Dublin. He plans to continue his schooling by starting his Journalism Masters Program next year. The title of the blog alludes to David’s love of wildlife-friendly gardens. David shares his adventures in his own garden as well as the gardens and plant materials that inspire him. There is a category for his Gardening Projects and he has recently writing about his passion for food (recipes are included).
My impressions: First of all, Ireland! Enough said. I adore the illustrated header for this blog (created by the talented Linda Byrne). To my delight, David will be using the illustrated version of himself as his Avatar. I can’t wait to see that. Sometimes that can turn people off, but this little cartoon David looks so dang friendly. I think David and Linda should team up to write some Children’s Gardening books (just mention me in the forward. K?). For what it’s worth, I think cartoon David needs a dog of some sort – maybe a beagle puppy? – peaking over the fence beside him. I got a kick out of the menu title “Beyond the Messy Kitchen“. Amen – I mean o’n – to that.
Garden Betty’s tagline is diary of a dirty girl. Linda Ly hails from Los Angeles and lives along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. That’s right. She rock climbs, snow boards, and surfs. She gardens in zone 10b and she gets to harvest awesome things like figs and bananas. She’s got two sweet little Pugs, a ‘handsome hunk of artistic talent‘ (her words) for a hubby with whom she can apparently work side-by-side with in their Wedding photography business, Bliss. Now that’s a crazy good life. A year after she started blogging about everything I just mentioned and more, she won Country Living Magazine’s best garden blog award. A year after that, she became a garden expert for HGTV magazine. Did I mention she is gorgeous? Oh yeah. She’s all that… and a bag of the best compost money can buy.
My impressions: I think her logo and her tagline are brilliant. She’s a Wow and her photos are a Wow. So, basically double Wow. I love that she lists what is growing in her garden in her sidebar – great idea! I had a hard time reading the category topics listed in her sidebar because I don’t speak/read Spanish – but it feels more like my bad for choosing German in 6th grade (my regrets to Senorita Lucht). I love her content. For instance, I think she does a marvelous job on her Five Things Friday post – many bloggers do this sort of thing, but I actually love reading Linda’s FTF posts. So much so, I went back a bit to sift through some of the archives. Her blog is total escapism for this Minnesota gardener.
Garden Walk, Garden Talk’s tagline is The Greater Garden of Nature in Niagra Falls, NY. Donna is a Master Gardener and architect with “a passion for the natural beauty and creativity found in Niagra Falls, New York“. She’s starting a page called ‘Bird Chirps‘ to chronicle the birds she has photographed. Garden Moments captures some truly spectacular images Donna captured in her garden. (My favorite is the photo of the *gulp* garter snake – I’d have ran for the house.) I’m guessing she rarely forgets her camera when she heads out to work in her garden. She also showcases her beautiful photography of Niagra Falls. Finally, she has a very nice page on Photography Tips and Thoughts.
My impressions: I don’t know if Donna photographed the picture she uses in her header, but it is quite striking. It’s obvious to me that Donna loves nature. She really seeks to capture her passion by using her skills as a photographer. Her blog showcases all of her amazing images; close-ups of critters, insects pollinating flowers and perching birds – all are fantastic. Donna should inquire about a partnership with the Niagra Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau to market her images for their materials. The day Donna decides to take tourists to Niagra Falls and teach them a few of her favorite photography tips is the day I bring my kids to New York.
The Garden Diaries’ tagline is The ups and downs of the garden world. The Garden Diaries is Claire’s garden blog. Claire also has a link to her website which is Claire Jones Landscapes. A gardener and a crafter since the age of 4 (the good Lord has obviously blessed Claire with creativity, patience, and some nifty fine motor skills). On her Should I Follow? page, Claire says, “If there is plant involved, I have done it or have written about it!“
My impressions: Ok. First of all, Claire’s profile photo shows her in a Red Star Trek Extra costume. Love her already. /** Message to Claire: Dammit Claire, I’m a gardener, not a floral designer (Claire is both). Second Garden to the right…and straight on ’til morning. **/ Claire is humble and that shows through her posts. She doesn’t shy away from words and phrases like “failure” and “no rhyme or reason” to describe her gardening experience. Her photos have a matte quality which makes them feel as down to earth as Claire.
Growing with Plants (previously mentioned)
3. Best Writing on a Garden Blog
Garden Betty (previously mentioned)
Garden Mentors by Robin Haglund and contributing guest bloggers
Robin originally started a blog called gardenhelp.org which was recently folded under the “greater wing of the Garden Mentors domain”. Their mantra is Teaching the Art & Science of Growing. Anytime you see three posts on totally different topics and all with the subtitle ‘Our A-Z Gardener’s Reference‘, you know there is a ton of content on this blog. The left side bar allows gardeners to search for help by month or by topic.
My impressions: There is a veritable treasure trove of content on this blog. (Let’s bask in that for a minute – it’s not often one gets to use the word ‘veritable’). Garden Mentors should be a bookmarked reference for gardeners of all experience levels. The content is straightforward and the tone is professional.
A Way to Garden (previously mentioned)
My impressions: Studio g totally reminds me of Apartment Therapy. The creative projects and fresh takes on everyday gardening are pin-worthy. I wish I lived close enough to attend their Pinnacle Barn Event on December 12th from 1 – 3pm. They are making Mandala Wreathes and the sample they feature looks ah-mazing. Maybe they could tape it and share it on Youtube?
Garden Rant (previously mentioned)
4. Best New Garden Blog
Per Joy’s tagline is designing and enjoying a west coast garden. Joy is a 4th generation gardener in California and she is a garden designer with a biology degree from UC Santa Cruz. Her blog categories include Native Plants (nice to see this one), Places to See and Things to Eat (Joy’s no shrinking violet in the kitchen. I found an article she wrote this past July for the Santa Cruz Sentinel and she prepared a dish called Gardener’s Revenge. Psst. Hold on to your keyboard if you decide to read it! 😮 )
My impressions: Once I figured out that Per Joy was written by Joy, I fell in love with the blog title. I love the flat design of her blog. Check out the color and descriptive language in her post on Satsuma Plums; I mean really. All other plums now look anemic to me.
The miserable gardener’s tagline is the only reason my garden is green is because of all the weeds. The miserable garden is an old-fashioned blog – like the ones they used to make when they first came out in the mid-90s. Bob shares his recent posts and archives in the right side bar and that’s all there is to it. Once you read Bob’s Story on his About Page you’ll understand why his blog is called the miserable gardener. Additionally, the redirect to the domain paridevita.com is a reference to paridevita – an Indian term for crying with sobs.
My impressions: The miserable gardener is a bittersweet journey through grief, life, gardening, and so many memories generously offered up to readers with incredible images and stories. There are posts where the comments from readers are as touching and insightful as the blog post. Bob responds thoroughly to each comment. I love when Bob writes from Chess’s point of view. Probably because Chess and my dog Sonny seem so much alike.
It’s tough to capture all the emotions I feel when I read Bob’s blog (which I just discovered thanks to this nomination). So, I’ll just go ahead and share a post I found on a blog called Ink & Penstemon (great title!) which summed it up nicely, “Bob Nold started a blog. Thank you, Danger Garden for telling us this a couple of posts ago. I love reading Bob Nold’s stuff; such a wry, deprecating sense of humor. Of course, you would pick that up from his title, “The Miserable Gardener”. Mr. Nold authored a very important book on Dryland Gardening called “High and Dry.” Also a book just called “Penstemons.” You should read everything.” I agree. You should.
Born to Grow’s tagline is Four Season Gardening University. You can also find Paul Dysinger on his organic farm website. This website is brand new (it just launched July 10th) and it’s goal is to help you to “learn how to grow your own veggies that look nice and fill your mouth with flavor”.
My impressions: I can tell Paul is a passionate gardener and enjoys helping other gardeners. As he says in his About Me, “if you love gardening then you’re my friend.” However, I think this blog is still too new to really evaluate. I’m not sure what the login/logout is for in the top menu. There are five posts total and they are video rich – which is great, but that also means a sacrifice in load time (and one didn’t load at all). I like the concept of this blog, though. I’ll be checking back to see what Paul is doing with it.
Jenks Farmer’s tagline is Stewardship | of plants, gardening and essential earth stuff by jenks farmer. Augustus Jenkins Farmer, III known as “Jenks” is a Bulb Farmer, horticulturalist, and a garden designer. He shares his passion for stewardship – especially his beloved Crinum Lilies on his blog. In fact, google “Crinum” and he’s the second SERP after Wikipedia. Can you say, “Crinum King“? Sometimes his posts are just a quick paragraph about something he found inspiring and other times his posts are more detailed.
My impressions: I have to say it – there’s a great slideshow in the header for Jenks Farmer. Jenk’s does a nice job notating the slides with a fun hand-printed font. His blog posts are very honest and I think Jenks is a bit of an old soul. He likes to write with a big-picture perspective on gardening and his stories often anchor deeply in his South Carolina roots. Case in point; his blog categories include intergenerational gardening and long term vision.
Georgia Landscape Pro by Georgia Urban Ag Council (UAC)
Georgia Landscape Pro’s tagline is Pro tips to keep your landscape green, growing & gorgeous! The menu features these categories: the value of green (a page which ties into project evergreen), getting started (a page which directs users to their Hire a Professional brochure and the Georgia UAC’s Landscape Source for Hiring Tips), Find a professional (again tied into Georgia UAC), and then Georgia UAC home. The site is searchable by topic, author, or category on the right side bar. The content is written by members of Georgia UAC, “Georgia’s premier green industry association for professionals involved in all sectors of the urban ag industry“.
My impressions: I thought the blog was a little hard to find in a google search just because there are a number of things that come up in SERPs when you enter ‘Georgia‘ and ‘Pro‘. However, I love the idea of local community professionals sharing their know-how on a blog like this. It reminded me of a sort of “Angies List” for Georgia Garden Professionals.
The Garden Bloggers Conference 2013 Hall of Fame Awards is Now Open for Voting! Cast Your Vote for Your Favorite in each category (August 22 – September 8, 2013).
I’ll share my selections September 9th! Congratulations to all the nominees and Happy Voting!