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A Year of Jean’s Garden: Taking Stock, Making Changes

August 23, 2010

Original Jean's Garden blog header (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) One year ago yesterday, Jean’s Garden made its debut with a post called “Welcome to My Garden.” It had been about a year since my friend Laura asked if I had ever thought about writing a garden blog. I hadn’t; I didn’t even know what a garden blog was. But once this seed was planted, it germinated and grew. In August of 2009, as a number of stressful events dominated my life, I was looking for a way to reconnect to sources of calm and pleasure, and a garden blog seemed a good way to do this. I initially expected to use the blog to reflect on my garden and particularly on my emotional responses to it. Once I began to write, however, it quickly became apparent that my social scientist self was much more inclined toward information and analysis than toward poetic meditations.

At the end of a year, I find that I have published 106 blog posts, which – much to my amazement – have been viewed tens of thousands of times, I have exchanged more than 2000 comments with readers, and what began as an escape has become a serious commitment.

A year ago, I never imagined that I would write blog posts about blogging as well as about gardening; but my sociological analyses of community among garden bloggers, my blog of the month reviews, and practical information for bloggers (like my introductions to Windows Live Writer) have been among my most popular posts. When I look at which posts have gotten the most views in the first week after publication, the top seven are all about blogging. These blogging posts do not necessarily have staying power, however; many get a lot of readers in the first week and then drop out of sight. Interestingly, the reflective posts that I originally imagined would be the mainstay of my blog also tend not to have staying power. The posts that are still being read regularly weeks and months after they were initially published are those that provide helpful information – garden how-tos (like Weed, Water Mulch), portraits of specific plants (like Hardy Geraniums in My Garden), and information about gardens that are worth visiting.

Some changes are in the works as this blog enters its second year. For my blog’s first birthday, I’ve decided to give it a facelift and a new tagline that more accurately reflects its scope. (Special thanks are due to Melissa Clark of Garden Shoots for help in the design of the new header and to Gloria Bonde of Dakota Garden for help in formulating the new tagline.)  In the weeks and months ahead, I also plan to update and improve my blog’s supplementary pages.

This anniversary post is being published a day late because I spent a long twelve hours yesterday driving from Maine to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where I am resuming full-time teaching after a year’s research sabbatical. You should expect to see some posts about my Gettysburg garden in the months to come. And, as I readjust to the 60-80 hour work week of teaching, I will have less time to devote to blogging. I will continue to try to visit my favorite blogs regularly, but I may only get to yours once a week. I will also be slowing down the pace of my own blogging; I’m aiming for one post every 5-7 days or 4-6 posts per month.

I’m excited to see what a second year at Jean’s Garden will bring, and I hope you’ll continue to join me here.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2010 8:29 pm

    As a teacher of thirty-five years I can relate to the 60-80 hour work week. Most believe than when a teacher leaves the classroom they are done! And then we also garden and do a myraid of other things. Good luck on your new year!


    • August 28, 2010 7:40 pm

      Eileen, It’s amazing that when most people think of teaching, they think of time in the classroom, not all the work that surrounds that time. I only have 9 hours a week of classes this semester — but I also need about three hours to prepare for each of those 9 classroom hours. Then there are the 8 hours of scheduled office hours for one-on-one meetings with students, the hours and hours of grading, and — well, as you know, it adds up!

  2. August 23, 2010 8:32 pm

    Jean, a big congratulations and happy one year anniversary to you. You seem to know your way around blogging so well I assumed you had been doing this for years! I look forward to hearing more from your Pennsylvania garden.

    • August 28, 2010 7:43 pm

      Marguerite, I laughed when I read this. I am one of the world’s least impetuous people. Unlike others who describe themselves as having just jumped into blogging with both feet, I spent months thinking about it and then several weeks researching blogging and garden blogs before I actually started. Once I started, I quickly got immersed and committed!

  3. August 23, 2010 9:07 pm

    Jean ~ Happy one year of garden blogging! We started at about the same time. Also, best wishes for your return to teaching. Looking forward to your new blog look. 🙂

  4. August 23, 2010 9:33 pm

    yea… happy blogaversery!!! you’ve truly created a beautiful site to come by and visit. that is so cool that you’re headed down to Gettysburg again. my brother lives down around Valley Forge… another fun place to check out.

  5. August 23, 2010 9:35 pm

    Happy Blog Birthday Jean! I am glad you did begin a year ago… or I never would have met you. Many Happy Returns! Have a great teaching year. I look forward to seeing your town garden. ;>)

  6. August 23, 2010 9:37 pm

    Happy Blogoversary, I didn’t realize our blogs were so close in age. Best wishes with the upcoming changes, I do hope you can still find the time to post since your blog is so enjoyable. 🙂

    • August 28, 2010 7:47 pm

      Amy, Allison and Rebecca, It’s amazing how many of us started blogs in the late summer and fall of 2009; garden blogging seems to have been in the air.

      Carol, I’m glad we found one another, too. I have made many wonderful new friends through the garden blogging community, but you and Liisa are the only ones I’ve actually met in person, which makes those friendships extra special.

  7. August 23, 2010 11:35 pm

    I like the changes, Jean! I’ve changed my format as well. There must be a seasonal change approaching.

    Congratulations on your blogging stamina!

  8. August 23, 2010 11:38 pm

    Happy blogaversary! I’ve very much enjoyed your blog, and the insightful analyses of the blogging world. Keep up the good work!

  9. August 24, 2010 3:07 am

    Hello Jean, congratulations on your blogging milestone!
    I’m looking forward to many more informative and thought provoking posts to come, even if the schedule is to slow down a little (I don’t mind, it makes it easier to keep up!)
    Best wishes for your return to teaching too!

  10. August 24, 2010 12:58 pm

    Congratulations Jean! You are a precious member of our Blotanical gang! 60-80 hours/week is a lot! Take care, stay healthy, and blog whenever you have some time. We’ll be waiting for your posts! You are doing a great job as a blogger and a gardener.

  11. August 24, 2010 2:24 pm

    Congratulations, Jean! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog since finding it via Blotanical I’m glad you’ll continue to post and look forward to reading about your Gettysburg garden.

    • August 28, 2010 8:01 pm

      Susan, Thanks for the feedback on the design changes. Now that you mention it, I have noticed a lot of design changes around the garden blogosphere. Some people change their blog designs all the time; I’m the sort who still has all my furniture placed exactly where I put it when I moved in more than a decade ago! 🙂 If I hadn’t won Melissa’s custom header drawing, I wouldn’t have had the impetus to change my blog design.

      Thanks, Town Mouse. I’m now near the end of collecting data on my second group of new Blotanists (From May-July, 2010). I expect to start the analysis within the next few weeks and will do a post when I have something to report (maybe in October).

      Heidi, Thanks for the reassurance that I won’t lose my readers if I don’t post as often. Since a big part of the enjoyment of blogging for me is taking care with writing, I’d rather do fewer posts and take the time to do them well.

      Thanks for your kind words, Tatyana. 60-80 hours a week is a lot; I always find it hard when school starts to get used to the idea that my evenings and weekends are no longer free time. On the other hand, since I’ve made my Blotanical research an official research project, I can do it during work time :-).

      Ginny, Thank you so much. I just spent some time today out in my Gettysburg garden, mostly cutting back and cleaning up. I’ll probably do some posts about it soon, probably about trying to recover it after over a year of neglect.

  12. August 24, 2010 2:56 pm

    Happy Blogaversary! I wonder what your stats will tell us about the next batch. BTW the reason why we enjoy your About Blogging posts is simply that your gift for teaching shines thru. Lucky students! I hope the year ahead for you is good in every way.

  13. August 24, 2010 3:24 pm

    Jean, Happy, happy Blogaversary!!! I can’t believe it has already been a year, time flies! Good luck with the return to teaching and look forward to your next post.

  14. August 24, 2010 7:49 pm

    Congratulations on your first Blogiversary . It sounds like you’ll be very busy returning to teaching. I look forward to reading about your Gettysburg garden. I don’t work outside the home, but still find it hard to make time to blog and visit lately. Us regulars will continue to read and be interested in what you’re up to no matter how often you blog.

  15. August 24, 2010 9:00 pm

    Congratulations on your one year blogiversaray. You were one of the first to welcome me to blotanical and I have truly enjoyed following your blog. Good luck in the upcoming year.

  16. August 24, 2010 10:32 pm

    Congratulations, Jean! I’m glad you’re part of the green blogosphere. I always look forward to reading your posts and the thoughts, insights and amusements that I always find there.

  17. August 25, 2010 7:36 am

    Heartfelt congratulations on your blog’s anniversary, Jean. You’ve made a wonderful contribution to the worldwide community of gardeners, and we look forward to many more posts and discussions fom you. And welcome back to the world of teaching after your (hopefully rejuvenating) sabbatical.

  18. August 25, 2010 9:12 pm

    Congratulations on your year of garden blogging, Jean. I’ve enjoyed our exchanges during this time and look forward to sharing gardening experiences while you are in Gettysburg.

  19. August 26, 2010 7:48 am

    Congratulations, Jean! You’ve achieved a lot in one year and I’m curious too to see what you will do in the second year. Wish you all the best in your return to the world of teaching.

  20. August 26, 2010 1:26 pm

    I’ll be looking forward to reading your blog in its new guise, and wish you all the best for returning to teaching. I hope you can get back into it after a year off! I’d certainly understand if you were to post less often – I don’t know how many of the bloggers at Blotanical manage to write such wonderful posts (like yours) as often as they do. Barbara

    • August 28, 2010 8:15 pm

      Deborah, Charlotte, Jodi, and Sunita, Thanks for wishing me luck in my return to teaching.

      Catherine and Barbara, Thanks for your understanding and reassurance about my need to slow down my blogging activity.
      And Diana, thanks for reminding me that I actually enjoy teaching (and am good at it!).

      James and Joene, I look forward to continuing all my wonderful newfound blogging friendships.

  21. August 26, 2010 9:24 pm

    Happy blogiversary, Jean! Your blog is a great one, and I love the new look. It’s very bright and pretty, and the design is more approachable and easy to read.

    I’m so sorry I missed the big day, but I’m definitely lagging behind with what has just happened in my life, and I suspect I’ll continue to be a bit invisible online for a while. I am sad that we will see less of you here — but with university schedules ramping back up for us starting last week, I can definitely understand what you’re going through.

    May your blog continue to grow and develop and prosper. The blog-o-sphere is better for having you in it. 🙂

  22. August 26, 2010 11:59 pm

    Jean, Happy Blogoversary! I was amazed how quickly our first year passed. I’ve enjoyed your blog tremendously thus far, and look forward to the next year of posts. I understand hectic real-life schedules too. The most important thing is to strive for balance, and to write because you want to, because you enjoy it. Blogging should be fun, never a chore. Don’t forget to take some time out for you. Looking forward to reading about your Gettysburg garden very soon!

  23. August 27, 2010 9:32 am

    Congratulations on your 1st Blog Anniversary! I am glad to know you via your blog. I am so glad you can continue to blog now that you are returning to teaching. Your view and reviews are ever so interesting to read about. Hugs and Cheers!

  24. August 27, 2010 4:47 pm

    Hip, hip, hurray for your one year blogging anniversary! So glad you started and that you’ve enjoyed it so much. I’ve enjoyed our exchanges and look forward to hearing about your Gettysburg garden. Best wishes juggling teaching, blogging, and living!

  25. August 27, 2010 7:17 pm

    Congratulations (somewhat belatedly) on the blog’s anniversary! And what a commute you are now undertaking. How often will you get back from Gettysburg to Maine?

    • August 28, 2010 8:23 pm

      Meredith, Thanks for taking time to leave a message here at what I know is a very difficult time for you. And thanks for the feedback on the design changes; I value your opinion.

      Linda, I love your description of the juggling act. When I was department chair (which, happily, I am no longer), I often described myself as a competent three-ball juggler with five balls in the air!

      Clare, Thanks for the reminder about taking time for myself in my busy life. In many ways, I see the blog writing as time for myself because it’s such a different and more relaxed form of writing than what I do for work and I enjoy it so much.

      Which means, Autumn Belle, that I’ll continue to blog because it is such a valued form of recreation and renewal for me.

      Melissa, Thanks again for drawing my name in your custom header design sweepstakes and giving me the impetus to re-think my blog design.

  26. August 31, 2010 12:44 pm

    Actually, blogging and gardening is such a good tandem. Why? because there are millions of gardeners around the globe and blogging is so easy that you can just post pictures of your garden and tell your readers all about it! It is a perfect past-time but a big opportunity! I wish you good luck with your blog and your garden!

  27. sequoiagardens permalink
    September 2, 2010 3:57 am

    Jean – I’m making my way back through unopened mail. I really did not realise you were newer to the game than I am; I only knew that I have only known you whilst you were on sabbatical. Perfect proof: once a teacher, always a teacher!
    By far my most visited posts have been on the biggest flower and the baobab I visited, the 2nd greatest girthed tree in the world. I think on more than one occasion that one has been hit by an entire class sent out to find the world’s biggest tree! But there are times when a random post of long back suddenly receives 4-5 hits in a day and I wonder about the cyber reason. You might be interested: I received just under 3000 hits in my first year – considerably less than you who were both more active and more engaged.
    Good luck in Gettysburg!

  28. sequoiagardens permalink
    September 2, 2010 3:39 pm

    That should have read 13000, not 3000 😉

  29. September 12, 2010 3:02 pm

    I know that I am rather late on in the day Jean but many, many congratulations on the first anniversary of your blog ~ long may it flourish. I hope that the return to full time working hours has not been too taxing and look forward to your future posts.

  30. September 15, 2010 3:30 am

    I totally agree with Melanie that blogging and gardening is really a great tandem. I also read from a blog that his garden has been featured in news and it is because the news program saw its garden blogs. They decided to feature it, if I remember because it stated on the blog that they have an award from their place for being the best garden in their town.

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