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What Makes a “Best” Blog?

November 28, 2009

bestblog-award Last week, I was honored with the “Best Blog” award that has been making its way around Blotanical by both Anna at Green Tapestry and Deborah at Green Theatre. Thank you both.

The honor, of course, comes with responsibilities:

Post the award on your blog along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose 15 blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them. Don’t forget to leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Considering how to pass on this award led me to think about what it means to say that a blog is “best.” Given all the reasons that people both write blogs and read them, this is clearly a very subjective evaluation and there are probably as many answers to this question as there are people answering it. In a September post (Gardens Worth Visiting), I identified three characteristics that, for me, make a garden worth visiting: it wows me with its beauty, introduces me to new plants, or gives me new ideas about garden design.  The characteristics that make a garden blog worth visiting are pretty similar for me. In this case, the beauty that wows me is in photographs. The blog may introduce me not only to new plants but also to new nurseries or new gardens to visit or to new gardening books. And blogs can not only illustrate good design ideas but explain design principles. In addition, I value blogs that are well written, and I enjoy humorous writing. I will happily read a blog post with any one of these characteristics and recommend it to others. But for me to put a blog on my “must read” list, it must display at least two of these characteristics on a regular basis.

But that still leaves me with dozens of blogs that I look forward to reading regularly. Since I agree with Simon at The Garden of Eaden’s ideas about how to make blog awards more meaningful (Too Many Awards?) and since the spirit of this award seems to be to call attention to newer and less well known blogs, I’ve decided to shine a spotlight on three that I’ve discovered in the past few weeks and that don’t seem to have gotten as much recognition as they deserve:

  • Green Mountain Gardener – Liisa has been writing this blog for almost three years and has been a Blotanical member since 2008, but somehow I didn’t discover her blog until last week, when she left a comment on one of my posts. Once I went to her blog to check it out, I couldn’t tear myself away; I just kept scrolling down from one post to the next. Since she is another northern New England gardener, almost everything in this blog is relevant to me. My first perusal introduced me to new nurseries I could visit and to new garden books I want to read. And it included great photos. (I was particularly captivated by the butterfly photos that Liisa took at the Montreal Botanical Gardens last May.)
  • Stopwatch Gardener – This blog is only a few months old, written by a New England transplant in the UK. The blog is meticulously designed and beautifully written and packed with useful information. I always learn something new from Sheila’s posts, from decisions about when to mulch, to how to choose roses whose blooms will grow old gracefully in a vase, to useful technological tools for bloggers.
  • Africanaussie – This is another relatively new blog, begun this year to chronicle a new garden. This blog is fun for me because it is full of tropical flora and fauna that I am unfamiliar with. And the photos are wonderful; I especially loved the honeyeater bird and the heleconia plant.

If you are not familiar with these blogs, check them out! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. Nell Jean permalink
    November 28, 2009 2:24 pm

    I agree with your 3 criteria. I have another, different one. I much prefer a a post with homemade, ordinary garden scenes and a bit of description as to what I’m seeing and how the owner feels about it than a pedantic post that attempts to tell me how I should be gardening, without benefit of example.

    • Jean permalink*
      November 28, 2009 10:03 pm

      Nell, I imagine that there are many more criteria that others could add to the list. One that is important to me that I forgot to include is that I like a blog that provides me with useful information about gardening; and if that information is accompanied by good, concrete personal examples and experience, even better. (I like information when I’m visiting gardens, too, and prefer gardens that have plant tags.)

  2. November 28, 2009 3:28 pm

    Hi Jean,

    A well written post, drawing attention to new blogs that we can all enjoy.

    For me, photos are what draw me in initially. Posts without photos, I usually don’t spend much time reading.

    I think humor is vital when gardening. I appreciate gardeners who tell us about their mishaps and don’t pretend to have the perfect garden – I sure don’t ;0)

    • Jean permalink*
      November 28, 2009 10:06 pm

      I like photos, too, Noelle; but I get frustrated when the photo is all there is and you can’t even tell what plant you’re looking at. I guess I’m more interested in education than art in my blog reading.

      • November 30, 2009 7:16 pm

        I agree that if there is a photo, there should almost always be an explanation. It frustrates me when I see a wonderful plant, but the picture isn’t tagged!

        • Jean permalink*
          November 30, 2009 7:38 pm

          Sylvana, We’re in agreement on this. I try to keep in mind that some bloggers treat their photos (especially some of those macro shots) as works of art rather than as sources of information, and I’m willing to look at some artsy photo shots in a blog that also has other kinds of posts. But when I encounter post after post with photos of unidentified plants (especially if they’re those large 1 MB+ image files that take forever to load), I just stop going back.

  3. November 28, 2009 6:10 pm

    Jean,
    Thank you so much for honoring my blog with the “Best Blog” award. I am truly delighted that you have been enjoying my posts and photographs. And, I am equally delighted to have recently discovered your blog. Your gardens are beautiful, and it’s wonderful to meet another New England gardener!!
    I am intrigued after checking out your link to Butchart Garden. My family lives in Washington state, so this would make for a wonderful trip with my mother and sisters.
    I am going to put some thought into the blogs that I would like to pass this award on to, and I will post it very soon.
    Thank you again!!
    Liisa

    P.S. I am not sure whether the peony ‘Krinkled White’ is fragrant, since this is such a new addition to my garden. My sister has one which is much more established, so I will ask her next time I speak with her, and let you know. 🙂

    • Jean permalink*
      November 28, 2009 10:11 pm

      Liisa, It’s my pleasure to call attention to your blog.
      Butchart Gardens is definitely worth a visit. My only frustration with it (see my reply to Nell) is that they don’t have any tags on their plants. They do have a “plant identification center” near the entrance, but it’s not very satisfactory because it’s often hard to describe exactly what you’re trying to identify and the people working in the center aren’t always knowledgeable. I did find, though, that when I sent Butchart Gardens email inquiries about plants after I got home, they did a great job of identifying specific cultivars for me.

  4. November 29, 2009 6:21 am

    Jean,
    Wow, I am honoured – thank you! I have never got an award – now I have to figure out what to do! I am so blessed to be living in a place where I can grow all these tropical plants! So glad I can share my photos and stories with others!

    • Jean permalink*
      November 29, 2009 10:53 am

      Gillian, You are very welcome. I look forward to more of your exotic (to me) plants and your wonderful photos.

  5. November 29, 2009 11:54 am

    Jean, thanks so much for mentioning Stopwatch Gardener. I have hugely enjoyed both your writing and your thinking about your garden and your relationship with it. Like you I enjoy absorbing information and pointers from the blogs I visit and have been particularly satisfied with the photography in blogs like Autumn Belle’s Malaysia garden blog http://mynicegarden.blogspot.com/ where she goes to lengths to show closeups, medium shots and wide shots of many of the plants she covers…so educational for all of us!

    • Jean permalink*
      November 29, 2009 1:53 pm

      Thank you, Sheila, for your contributions to my education as a gardener.

  6. November 29, 2009 12:28 pm

    Hi Jean~~ I love your decision to feature newer or unfamiliar blogs. I’m definitely going to check these out.

    • Jean permalink*
      November 29, 2009 1:55 pm

      Grace, I love the spirit of cooperation and mutual support that I have found in the garden blogging world (particularly at Blotanical), and highlighting these blogs seemed appropriate to that spirit.

  7. November 29, 2009 6:12 pm

    Jean, I agree with you — the original intent of a lot of these awards is to draw attention to newer or overlooked blogs. For those who have not been recognized with an award before, it’s a thrill to receive one. For those who are bombarded with awards, I’m sure it’s a chore. My sister & I received a Best Blog a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling over what to do ever since. Last night, I started making a list of blogs I’d like others to discover. Like your list, it won’t number 15.

  8. November 29, 2009 11:07 pm

    We have hosta that we sacrifice to the deer in early spring. They do not like our blues or our giant hostas. Lancifolia is the deer’s favorite in our yard. We lose a dozen plants a year. The hosta only gets nibbled right before the leaves unfurl. You can tell where the deer are by hostas with squared off leaves.They really like our impatiens.

  9. November 30, 2009 12:53 pm

    It’s fun to find new blogs and be able to share them with others~~Sometimes there just isn’t enough time to seek them all out, so a post/meme/award is a wonderful way to give them the attention they deserve. In case I haven’t mentioned this before~~I love your header shot! gail

    • Jean permalink*
      November 30, 2009 1:32 pm

      I agree, Gail; I don’t find it possible to get personally familiar with every new blog, so having others’ recommendations is helpful. On the other hand, the pyramid scheme nature of the awards can make them problematic, so I think we all have to figure out how we want to handle the tension.
      Not to be modest, I love the header shot, too. I know we shouldn’t have favorites among our flower bed children, but I think the blue and yellow border is my favorite part of the garden. I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers change their headers regularly, but I’m probably going to leave this. (Of course, I’m also the sort of person that figured out where I wanted the furniture to go when I moved into my house 20 years ago and hasn’t rearranged it since!)

  10. November 30, 2009 7:35 pm

    If I ever have a stunning header photo like yours, I might leave it. Meanwhile, mine changes with the wind. I tried the stylized tulips and bulbs and after a few days, realized it was too formal for my needs.

    I just keep taking ephemeral pics that are of passing interest, like the pileated woodpecker silhouette in the pecan tree that do not have enough ‘meat’ to them to remain for very long, or to make a post about. That of course calls for changing the background and all the colors.

    I think of the header pic as being like my potholders: apples and dark green for fall, a Kliban cat Christmas mitt and red potholders, hearts in February, pink in the spring, et al. It’s all fun.

    • Jean permalink*
      November 30, 2009 7:49 pm

      I keep the same potholders all the time, too. 🙂 The truth is that when other people feel as though they’re in a rut, I feel like I’m finally settling into a comfortable routine (signs of borderline OCD?). It’s amazing that I ever got into gardening where change is constant. BTW, loved the pileated woodpecker; I get them here in the summer; but they’re so shy, I’ve never tried to photograph them.

  11. December 1, 2009 4:10 am

    It’s a pleasure Jean and I look forward to visiting your recipient’s blogs soon 🙂

  12. December 1, 2009 2:23 pm

    I agree with your criteria, Jean! It’s a special treat to read blogs with all three characteristics.

  13. December 1, 2009 5:06 pm

    This post is so well written, it deserves an award on its own. This kind of information is very helpful to me. I wish to thank Stopwatch Gardener for the compliments.

    Jean, you have done a great job, handling the award well. Your post even became the most popular pick now. Writing posts about acceptance of award is not something I can do well. Cheers to you!

    • Jean permalink*
      December 1, 2009 5:30 pm

      Autumn Belle, Thanks so much for your kind words. I am more of a writer than a photographer, so clear writing is easier for me than inspired photography. That’s why I was so grateful to Sheila, the Stopwatch Gardener, for pointing out your exemplary photography technique; it makes your photos so informative. Kudos to you.

  14. January 4, 2010 1:07 am

    Great info! Looking forward to checking out all these blogs, I have just started garden blogging a few months ago, this gives me inspiration. Thanks!

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