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Versatility

January 29, 2012

image This week, Kevin at Nitty-Gritty Dirt Man was kind enough to present me with the Versatile Blogger award, and I thank him for the recognition. Receiving this award led me to think about the meanings of versatility. To be versatile is to have many uses or many talents or to be adaptable. I think of daylilies (Hemerocallis) as versatile plants because they can grow in so many conditions. And I think of Amsonia (blue star flower) as versatile because it has so many uses in the garden, providing lovely flowers in June, a strong architectural shape throughout the growing season, and colorful foliage in fall.

Like all blog awards, this one has rules:

  1. Include the Versatile Blogger Award logo in the post.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you with a link back to their blog.
  3. Share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
  4. Include this set of rules.
  5. Forward this award to 15 fellow bloggers, and inform them with a comment on each of their blogs.

Let me first share my 7 not-so-random pieces of information about myself:

  1. I am sufficiently sensitive to color and harmonious color combinations that I sort laundry before hanging it on the line so that clashing colors will not hang next to one another.
  2. Love of color is probably the reason for my deep appreciation of 20th century abstract expressionist art. I am the person in the museum who is standing by the canvas covered with subtly varied shades of white and one orange splash of paint in the lower corner,  moved to tears by it while others walk behind me, grumbling, “You call that art? My three-year-old could do that!”
  3. My favorite time of day is sunrise. I trace this back to my toddler days sleeping in a crib next to an east-facing window. I would pull myself up in the morning and watch the colors of the sky change as the sun rose outside my window.
  4. I talk to myself.
  5. I also talk with my hands.
  6. 4 and 5 can be a bad combination, especially because I do a lot of walking in public places (walking to work and for exercise). As I walk, I think about things; and pretty soon I start talking to myself about them, and – well, I think you get the picture.
  7. Fortunately, the combined effects of 4, 5, and 6 are mitigated somewhat by the fact that I’m a college professor, an occupation with a reputation for harboring eccentrics. As a result, when my neighbors see me walking along the side of the road in animated conversation with myself, they don’t say, “There’s the crazy lady that lives in the next street.” Instead they say, “Oh, it’s just the professor who lives in the next street.”

Selecting nominees for the Versatile Blogger award from among my favorite blogs turned out to be a difficult task, because garden bloggers are a very versatile group. I didn’t worry about whether my choices had already received the award or how well established their blogs are. Instead, I focused on the different meanings of versatility.

Some garden bloggers are very versatile because they bring together so many different kinds of information and perspectives in their blogs. I consider Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm the queen of this type of versatility. Between Mushroom Mondays and Fowl Fridays, information on bee keeping and on grafting fruit trees, how-to posts on building retaining walls and greenhouses, and scrumptious recipes using farm-grown ingredients, there is something for just about everyone in this blog.  Elephant’s Eye is another blog that features a variety of topics. In addition to sharing her garden, Diana also covers South African native wildflowers, birds, wildlife, and visits to beautiful parklands. In the United States, Joene’s Garden provides a mix of reflections on Joene’s Connecticut garden, plant care techniques, scientific gardening news, local events, and her GOOPS (Gardening Oops) series about lessons learned from her own gardening mistakes. In my own home state of Maine, Allison at A Tasteful Garden includes not only information and updates about her own vegetable gardening and chicken raising experiences, but also recipes, reflections on rural Maine living, and wonderful photographs that get us to look closely at the natural world around us. My final entry in this category is the first garden blog I ever read and still one of my favorites. At Allan Becker – Garden Guru, Montreal garden designer Allan Becker provides a professional’s perspective on a variety of garden matters, including news about new plant varieties, clear explanations of garden design principles, discussions of debates about gardening and garden design, and book reviews.

My second category of versatile garden bloggers are those whose blogs are characterized not so much by a diversity of topics as by the diverse talents of the blogger.  First among these is the multi-talented Carol Duke at Flower Hill Farm. Carol’s blog features her amazing photography, but also includes her talents as a painter and a poet and combines these with prodigious knowledge of the birds and butterflies that she often focuses on. Two other bloggers whose wonderful bird photographs first attracted me to their sites are Jan of Thanks for Today and Catherine of A Gardener in Progress. Jan combines her exceptional photographic talents with a talent for using her blog to make the world a better place, especially through her focus on native plants and environmental issues; I have been particularly impressed with the impact of her Gardener’s Sustainable Living Projects in 2010 and 2011. Catherine combines her photographs with  a talent for making her readers feel like welcome old friends or maybe even part of the family; I love the way that, in sharing her garden, she also shares her life. Another talented visual artist whose blog is imbued with her artistic sensibility is Kathy at The Violet Fern.  Her artistry is apparent not only in her garden design, but in the beautiful and functional garden support structures she creates. What I most appreciate about this blog, though, is Kathy’s talent for creating instructions for many of her projects that even those of us who are not so artistically inclined can follow with some hope of success. As my final entry in this category of versatility, Mary at Black Walnut Dispatch brings a different set of talents to her blog, combining exceptional writing skills with a rapier-sharp wit and solid gardening knowledge.

The final meaning of “versatile” that I want to recognize in this post is “adaptable to change.” Deborah at Green Theatre, whose talents as a floral designer are often apparent in her blog, could easily have gone in the last category; instead, I’ve chosen to focus on the adaptability she demonstrated when her husband’s job required a move away from her beloved Kilbourne Grove in Ontario, Canada to Barbados. Although Deborah does not have a garden in Barbados, she has taken us all along with her as she has learned about the flora of Barbados and about Caribbean garden design. Two other garden bloggers who have adapted to occupation-related moves are Cindy at Enclos*ure and Jill at Landscape Lover’s Blog. Although Kevin already recognized Cindy’s blog, I cannot leave her out of this category; her connection with the US Foreign Service has taken her to many places, and in each place, she gardens and learns about local gardens and plants. When I first began reading Jill’s blog, she was living in Paris, without a place to garden, and writing about the public gardens, large and small, of that great city; now she is writing about landscapes and gardens in India.  Marguerite at Canoe Corner didn’t move to a new continent, but she did move across one, from Canada’s west coast to Prince Edward Island in the east. I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm with which Marguerite has adapted to her new gardening habitat, embracing the opportunities offered by a very different climate and never bemoaning her losses. Stacy at Microcosm is an exemplar of a different kind of adaptability, not to geographical change but to physical limitation. When serious physical illness limited what Stacy could do, she did not give up gardening, but chose to garden on a smaller scale; her blog demonstrates wonderfully how to live large by living small.

Let’s raise a virtual glass to celebrate all these versatile garden bloggers.

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin permalink
    January 29, 2012 2:33 pm

    Jean,
    Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to visiting the sites you mentioned. Cheers!

  2. January 29, 2012 4:26 pm

    I’m honoured to be in such noble company – many that I already have on my radar, in my Reader – and as ever, Jean offers an invitation to explore new blogs that I cannot resist!

  3. January 29, 2012 11:10 pm

    Thank you Jean! Your kind way of describing my blog made my night! I’m familiar with quite a few of these blogs and look forward to reading the ones new to me.
    You described yourself so well in your post that I can see you sorting your laundry as you hang it or walking down the road talking to yourself :)

    • February 4, 2012 7:39 pm

      Diana and Catherine, Both your blogs are favorites of mine, so I was delighted to have an opportunity to honor them.

  4. January 30, 2012 10:35 am

    Oh Jean I have 4 and 5 as well…partly being Italian partly because I am a teacher…I think we all talk to ourselves…or maybe it is being a gardener feeling at ease talking to the plants and critters…the award is so well deserved and you picked so many awesome blogs…

    • February 4, 2012 7:41 pm

      Donna, I hadn’t thought of 4 and 5 as being related to teaching — but, of course, you are right. I wonder if those who are comfortable speaking aloud and who are expressive speakers are more likely to be drawn to (and successful in) teaching as a profession.

  5. January 30, 2012 12:53 pm

    Ah Jean, You are so worthy of this honour, congratulations.

  6. January 30, 2012 5:28 pm

    Dear Jean, This is a wonderfully written post! I so enjoyed it and feel very touched and honored at your regard for my work. Thank you! You surely know about being versatile . . . living in two places . . . having two gardens in different zones to care for. I so appreciate your thoughts on viewers of abstract expressionism. It is pretty funny to me too.

    • February 4, 2012 7:43 pm

      Carol, I’m delighted that you enjoyed reading this, and particularly that you enjoyed my reflections on abstract expressionist art.

  7. January 31, 2012 2:41 am

    Jean, thank you for thinking of me, for your kind words about my blog, and for the introduction here of several blogs that are new to me. I also talk out loud to myself – but have no professorial excuses!

    • February 4, 2012 7:51 pm

      Jill, It was my pleasure to honor your blog. LOL, my conversations with myself are so animated that if I didn’t have the professorial excuse, I would probably have to stop going out in public!

  8. January 31, 2012 8:03 am

    Hi Jean,
    Gosh! A sociologist who is also interested in the meaning of gardening, how great to find your blog via Kevin’s versatile blogger nominations. I find this aspect of gardening fascinating, too, the reasons people garden, plants they choose, influences of early garden companions, garden as a mirror of our selves etc.

    I will look fwd to reading your blogs…

    • February 4, 2012 7:53 pm

      Thanks, Lilith. Now that my teaching load has eased up, I hope to get back to research and writing on the sociology of blogging.

      • Elephant's Eye permalink
        March 26, 2012 3:07 pm

        Let us know when there is something to read – I was fascinated by the first round you shared with us garden bloggers. The times they are a-changing.

  9. January 31, 2012 9:48 am

    Jean you are way too kind! I consider myself an aspiring artist – not quite there yet. My garden is also aspiring – just in its beginning stages. Thank you so much for nominating me. I am very flattered. I really do hope you enjoy, and try, some of my projects. There are more to come! I really enjoy making rustic structures. I really miss my (one) garden right now. Yesterday I tried to “train” some rose canes to grow horizontally along our fence and not into the new porch – anything I can do. Talk about versatile – you are a two location gardener! I talk to myself all the time, but I always have a clear path to walk in. I can just see your coordinating laundry hanging – I group all my hanging clothes in the closet by color! Too funny. I enjoyed learning more about you.

    • February 4, 2012 7:57 pm

      Kathy, I consider anyone who has notecards with her own artwork on them a true artist, and your garden looks to me like it’s past the beginning stages (although all gardens and gardeners are aspiring). Is there any other way to hang clothes in the closet than grouped by color?? I remember my surprise one time when I was shopping with a friend and mentioned that I was looking for a new nightgown to go with my yellow sheets; her reaction was my first clue that not everyone chooses their nightclothes to color coordinate with the bedclothes! (But I still can’t imagine sleeping in clashing color conditions ;-))

  10. February 1, 2012 12:56 pm

    You have long deserved such an honor, and it is nice to see your graciousness in accepting it. Some of these blogs are new to me, so I am looking forward to exploring them. I love sunrises as well. I once drove three hours to the coast in the very early and dark morning to catch the sun rise over the ocean…splendid.

    • February 4, 2012 8:01 pm

      Thank you, Michelle. I can easily imagine driving three hours to see a coastal sunrise. I have a favorite state park on the far east coast of Maine where, if I pick the right campsite and the right dates for my visit, I can sit outside my tent and watch both the sunrise and the moonrise over the ocean. Magical.

  11. February 1, 2012 12:58 pm

    Jean, congratulations! I always enjoy reading your blog, and the honor is much deserved. I think you qualify as extra versatile for maintaining two gardens through the seasons, in different climates. Thank you also for bestowing the award on us, we’re very flattered. We will try to follow up with a versatile post of our own, but it may be a couple of weeks as suddenly winter became very busy here!

  12. February 1, 2012 6:25 pm

    Jean, thanks so much for your kind words. I laughed a lot at your random pieces of information as I can just picture you walking along, discussing the glorious colours of your daylilies with your hands in the air. As someone who talks to themself all the time I’m grateful to hear others are afflicted in the same way.

    • February 4, 2012 8:34 pm

      Clare and Marguerite, It was a pleasure to have a chance to honor both your blogs.

      Clare, No hurry; whenever you get a chance to get to it will be fine. (It’s not like you don’t have anything else to write about!)

      Marguerite, I confess that my most public conversations with myself are more often about teaching than about gardening. When I’m walking to work, my mind tends to be busy planning the day’s classes; and when I’m walking home, I’m often replaying and processing events and interactions of that day.

  13. February 1, 2012 8:59 pm

    Thank you for the honor. And congratulations!
    I recognize how difficult it is to select only 15, given how many great bloggers are out there. That you were able to narrow it down to that number is commendable and deserves an award all its own.
    I hope that I will be able to pass it forward. That will take some time as I read 150 blogs. [ I can do that only because I am idle during the winter]
    What I enjoy most about the Versatile Blogger Award is not only getting to know a blogger from what they write about themselves, but also discovering that I have soul-mates in cyberspace who talk to themselves about gardening, just as I do.

    • February 4, 2012 8:36 pm

      It’s my pleasure to honor your blog, Allan — and it’s very reassuring to find out that so many people I admire and respect also talk to themselves. :-)

  14. February 2, 2012 1:06 am

    Thanks so much! I enjoyed reading about all the other Versatile Bloggers too.

  15. February 4, 2012 1:07 am

    Not to pile-on, Jean but you are very popular! I always enjoy your writing and have, therefore, nominated you and your Blog for The Versatile Blogger Award as well. My post this week includes your nomination and a link to your writing. ~Debra

    • February 4, 2012 8:54 pm

      Thank you so much, Debra. What a nice idea to include a link to a particular post from each of your chosen blogs.

  16. February 4, 2012 5:42 am

    Jean, thank you for nominating my blog for the award, and all your kind words. Unfortunately, I no longer participate in these awards, but I appreciate the honour.

    • February 4, 2012 8:55 pm

      I totally understand, Deborah; I couldn’t resist the opportunity to honor your blog.

  17. February 5, 2012 9:09 pm

    Jean, thank you so much for the award and for the kind words that went with it. And what a wonderful post, showcasing all those great blogs! Some of them I already know, and some I look forward to discovering. The descriptions you give are always incredibly valuable. I don’t think I’ll be able to carry on with the award at this point, but I really am grateful for it.

    I talk to myself and talk with my hands, too… Hopefully all of us commenters won’t ever be in the same small room together–could get dangerous!

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