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Three Years of Garden Growth

August 22, 2012

Three years ago today, I clicked “publish” and sent the first post of Jean’s Garden out into the world. When I look back on those three years, I’m most amazed by the amount of growth that has occurred.

fence border2_1 fence border august2012

First there is growth in my Maine garden. During that first year, I was just in the process of adding a third flower bed, the Fence Border, to my back garden, and quite a few of my early posts focused on that project (e.g., Garden Alchemy: Turning Sand to Soil and The Pleasures of Planting). In the three years since, the Fence Border has filled in and become an established flower bed and yet another garden area, the Serenity Garden, has also been realized.

serenity site serenity 1 year

Second, Jean’s Garden the blog has grown. Readership numbers, whether counted by number of followers, average views per day, or number of unique visitors, have more than quintupled since the first year. The blog has also grown in terms of both the breadth and depth of content. When I began blogging, I mostly imagined using it to share my own garden; in the years since, the content of Jean’s Garden has expanded to include discussions of garden design, blog reviews and book reviews, visits to special gardens, the sociology of gardening and garden blogging, and the scientific foundations of gardening.

Third, and most importantly, through the process of blogging I have grown immensely as a gardener and as a person. When I published that first post, I had no idea that doing so would initiate me into a community of garden bloggers and new friends from whom I would learn so much; thanks to them, I am a much more aware, intentional and knowledgeable  gardener today. (Sometimes when I re-read the “information” and opinions in some of my early posts, I blush in embarrassment.) Writing about my gardening experiences also led me to reflect on those experiences in a way that helped me to grow as a gardener (for example, by developing a much better understanding of garden design). And while I originally saw blogging as a leisure activity (like gardening) totally separate from my work life, I quickly found that I couldn’t keep my habits of scholarship and research out of the blog. Within months of publishing that first post, I was collecting data about Blotanical users and doing research on the community of garden bloggers (see, for example, Bloggers, Blotanists and Superblotanists). More recently, I have also been using my research skills to dig into botanical science. My recent post on the scientific explanations for color changes in flowers (Blue Is a Cool Color) is one example of this new direction. For the past several months, with the guidance of a botanist friend, I have also been immersing myself in botany textbooks and scientific papers that will help me to understand how botanical taxonomy has been revolutionized by the new genetic science. (More about this in a post to come.) In the process, the girl who avoided science like the plague in high school and college (having been convinced by the gender stereotypes of the time that I couldn’t possibly be good at science) has become a woman who finds botanical texts exciting reading!

At this point, I find it hard to imagine my life without the blogging and blogging community that have enriched it so much. What growth do I foresee in the months and years to come? My Maine garden will continue to grow. The Serenity Garden project still has more components to come. In the next two years, I also expect to complete an addition on my house, which will open up a whole new set of garden projects as I completely redo the landscaping at the front of my property. (This will coincide with my retirement from teaching, which will provide the luxury of time for me to devote to these new projects.) I hope that the blog will also continue to grow. On my first “blogaversary,” I launched a new, more professional and sophisticated blog design. For this third anniversary, I plan to update my garden tour page and add a new page on the history of my garden. I also plan to get back to my sociological research on gardening and garden blogging this spring. Finally, I foresee continued growth in my knowledge of botany, horticulture, and garden design. My recent forays into botanical science have given me the confidence that I can succeed in the Master Gardener certification course, which I plan to enroll in during my first year of retirement.

To all of you who visit this blog, comment on it, and teach me through your own garden reflections, thank you for all you have contributed to my gardening growth.

51 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2012 10:54 pm

    I too smack myself on the forehead on occasion when I read old blog posts of mine :)! Its crazy that its been 3 years! I wasn’t even a gardener at all 3 years ago, but its almost around the corner for me as well.

    Keep up the good work Jean, I’m glad you plan on blogging forever 🙂

    • August 28, 2012 10:24 pm

      Thanks, Jess — but I don’t think I actually promised “forever” 🙂

  2. August 23, 2012 12:34 am

    As someone who has been a garden blogger only since January, I want to cogratulate you and thank you for providing so much help and encouragement to myself and others. For me, your blog teaches by example (in terms of how to focus and organize a blog), and provides a source of gentle entertainment and useful information. I look forward to reading your blog for many years to come!

    • August 28, 2012 10:26 pm

      Jason, Thanks for the kind words. I look forward to writing this blog for many years to come — and to actually having more time for it (unlike this week, when classes started with a rush and my best intentions about blogging have not been fulfilled).

  3. August 23, 2012 6:55 am

    As a NH Master Gardener, I can say that you will do just fine when you decide to achieve Master Gardener status after you retire. The Master Gardener Community will also give you many more gardening options to choose from and enjoy while meeting other gardeners with like interests. It will be a whole new gardening world to explore – fun.

  4. August 23, 2012 7:24 am

    Happy Blogversary. I know I haven’t been on this blogging journey with you since the very first post, but it’s been such a treat just being part of the journey along the way. Little did you know how far you would come when you started. It’s great to hear how the experience has expanded your horizons. I’m looking forward to seeing where your future posts will lead us.

    • August 28, 2012 10:27 pm

      Bernie, I was truly clueless when I began! I never dreamed that this would be such an enriching learning experience.

  5. August 23, 2012 9:28 am

    Thank you Jean, for providing a wonderful read. I only recently “found” you, but want to wish you congratulations on 3 years! Happy gardening !

    • August 28, 2012 10:28 pm

      Claire, Thank you so much for your frequent visits here and for your kind wishes.

  6. August 23, 2012 2:30 pm

    Congratulations on three years, Jean! I have enjoyed your blog since I discovered it earlier this year and I look forward to following your adventures. One of the things I like best about your posts is how you bring “who you are” into your writing. Keep up the good work.

    • August 28, 2012 10:30 pm

      Thanks, Chad. And I actually got a birthday present from you earlier this year, when you introduced me to the “word of the day” emails from I am now totally addicted to them. When I turn on my computer in the morning, I check out the word of the day first, even before I check out my blog stats 🙂 (Although I still haven’t managed to work any of those new words into blog posts….)

  7. Astrid permalink
    August 23, 2012 11:17 pm

    Congratulations on the anniversary of your blog, Jean!! It’s an auto-read for me: always full of great information and advice, terrific photos, neat new plants and super reviews of other blogs. It’s so nice to meet so many other garden bloggers virtually, isn’t it 🙂

    • August 28, 2012 10:32 pm

      Astrid, Thanks for being such a faithful blog follower. It has been wonderful developing so many virtual friendships with other gardeners, and I’ve even gotten to meet some of them in person.

  8. August 24, 2012 10:06 am

    I haven’t been following you for three years, but I’m glad you’re here with your inspirational photos and posts. Thank you!

  9. August 24, 2012 12:17 pm

    Happy birthday, Jean! And cheers to probably the best friendship of my blogging career! (And one more cheer for relatively immanent retirement. I do envy you, for I think it will never quite come my way if I wish to keep Sequoia…)

    • August 28, 2012 10:35 pm

      Jack, I’m honored to be one of your BBFs (Blogging Best Friends) 🙂 I still am nurturing the fantasy of post-retirement travel to South Africa and Sequoia — maybe staying in The House that Jack Built and waking up in the morning to look out at that bridge.

      • August 31, 2012 1:43 am

        Let’s work on that plan… far more likely, I’m afraid, than my coming to America, although Maine in autumn is very much on my bucket list!

  10. karensrosegarden permalink
    August 24, 2012 5:51 pm

    Hi Jean, congrats on your anniversary i think Blotanical is a little ray of sunshine for everyone.

    • August 28, 2012 10:36 pm

      Karen, It’s true; even Blotanical in a state of programming disarray is still a treasure for connecting garden bloggers.

  11. August 24, 2012 9:30 pm

    Jean I owe my continuation in blogging to you…your wonderful recommendation of my blog gave me the confidence to continue as I will be celebrating my second year in September. It has gone by so fast. I too hope to get into a Master Gardener program when I retire and devote more time to gardening and writing….and I also avoided science in school but now love it…I look forward to so many interesting topics on your blog…

    • August 28, 2012 10:38 pm

      Donna, Are you sure we’re not identical twins who were separated at birth??

      As school starts, especially my Research Methods course (a.k.a. Sociology boot camp), it’s good for me to be reminded that a little encouragement can make a big difference.

  12. August 25, 2012 2:03 am

    I appreciate your blog and that you chose to contribute to this wonderful community of bloggers. You’ve contributed so much, and you’re one of the reasons the community seems to give back with the generosity of a midsummer garden.

    • August 28, 2012 10:40 pm

      Thanks, James. I always find gardeners a very generous group, eager to share their gardens, their knowledge, division of their plants; so it seems appropriate that the garden blogging community is characterized by that same spirit of generosity.

  13. August 25, 2012 6:29 pm

    Maybe I’m being a little premature in saying this as I haven’t delved too deeply into your back posts yet, Jean, but I’m hoping I’ve found a nice informative blog that not only goes into the science of gardening but encourages the unordered approach which I am a firm believer in.

    I am still a keen beginner but we all have to start somewhere. I have ventured around the net and find many interesting reads on gardening but many are very ordered. I always used to wonder why people pull out the perennials as weeds when I find so much beauty in God’s own landscaping.

    It could also be because I’m lazy and I like the idea of a self-maintaining garden. I like the simple and natural look in the pictures and I’m looking forward to actually understanding a little more about these hardy perennial beasties that others seem to hate so much.

    Congratulations on your 3 years, and yes, a lot would happen in that time if you are inspiring and informative, as seems to be the case here. I’m not at all surprised you have a good following and its interesting how you have adapted it over the years. I’m sure there will be more adaptations in the next 3 years and I look forward to observing it.

    • August 28, 2012 10:43 pm

      James, Thanks so much for visiting and for leaving such a nice long comment. I hope you find my blog useful and congenial. I think I probably fall somewhere in between the two poles you’ve suggested; I do plan my garden pretty carefully (in an “orderly” way) and I’m not inclined toward a cottage garden look — but I also like to incorporate wildflowers that are already growing on the property (e.g., Solidago) and to make the best of plants that are happy to grow in my conditions.

  14. August 25, 2012 7:13 pm

    Congratulations on three years in the blogosphere! I have enjoyed following your informative posts and look forward to many more in the future! It has been almost three years for me, too, and I was recently thinking of how blogging has enriched my life and made me a better gardener. I hope to also someday have the time to become a Master gardener; retirement is a few years away for me, but something to look forward to!

    • August 28, 2012 10:44 pm

      Deb, We seem to be on somewhat parallel paths here — although I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve anything comparable to your gorgeous woodland garden. Thanks for the good wishes.

  15. August 26, 2012 1:22 pm

    Does one really need a degree in science to be a scientist? The way my late mother’s brain operated lead me to think that some are born with a predisposition towards scientific curiosity. Today, the brains of my wife and one grand daughter confirm that earlier observation. From the moment that I first began to read your blog and your comments, I recognized that you were indeed a scientist.

    BTW, the blue and yellow flowerbed in the photo at the head of your blog page is still as magical for me now as it was the first time I saw it, three years ago. I enjoy visiting your garden through cyberspace and look forward to every micro – change that you make in the garden.

    • August 28, 2012 10:49 pm

      Allan, Such interesting observations about scientific curiosity; it made me wonder if becoming a social scientist was a way of pursuing a scientific approach in a way that seemed more gender appropriate.

      I hope you know that you were a blogging model for me. Before I started blogging, in my usual systematic approach to doing something new, I searched for both information about blogging and for examples of garden blogs. Yours was the first garden blog I read (and I’ve been reading it ever since).

      Alas, the Blue and Yellow border wasn’t up to its usual standard this year. For reasons I haven’t completely diagnosed, the blue delphiniums have not done well for the past two years; and this year, the balloon flowers also bloomed sparsely. So, although I had a nice long bloom period from my yellow daylilies, there were hardly any blue flowers to go with them. Fortunately, in gardening as in baseball, one can always hope for a better season next year!

  16. Laura Ouellette permalink
    August 26, 2012 1:47 pm

    Hi, Jean. I have been enjoying your blogs ever since you sent me the address after we saw each other at your mother’s wake. I have read each one thoroughly, and I must admit that I’m very impressed with your knowledge of the subject, and your expertise in the field (yard). You have encouraged me to view my own yard with a different eye, especially in the grouping of flower colors.
    We recently went on a two-day trip to the coast of Maine, and one of the visits was to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. I thought that you’ve probably heard of it, if not been there, but just in case you haven’t then I wanted to let you know about the place. The place is fabulous!!! We were there for almost two hours, and we could have stayed another two hours, but the bus was leaving. If you want to check it out, the website is
    Thanks again for the hours of pleasure that you have given me by inviting me into your gardens.
    Sincerely, Laura

    • August 28, 2012 10:52 pm

      Laura, How nice to hear from you — and I’m honored that you have found my blog worth your time. I visited the Coast of Maine Botanical Gardens the first year they were open and was decidedly not impressed — but I’ve heard such rave reviews from knowledgeable gardeners in the years since that I’m planning to go back again (maybe next year).

  17. August 26, 2012 5:23 pm

    Congratulations on your third blogaversary! I fervently look forward to more on the sociology of garden blogging (and on a flippant note I’d love to see the jacket you wore to the conference presentation …?) Also, taxonomy, why do they keep changing the names (I know, DNA research, but) I’ll learn more when you explain it for us.

  18. August 27, 2012 1:06 pm

    Doesn’t the time fly?! I agree, blogging opens up a lot of doors, but also provides a wonderful visual record of the evolution of one’s garden. Without a blog, it would just be recalling how a garden used to be from memory, but being able to pull up old posts, reference previous photographs, and make records of worked (or didn’t) along the way, I find makes the whole process more enjoyable. I really enjoy reading your blog, and seeing your garden grow and mature. Just imagine how it will look when you retire and your garden can have your undivided attention! Happy (belated) blogoversary!

    • September 2, 2012 4:56 pm

      Clare, It is definitely true that I have done a better job of documenting my garden since I’ve been blogging (one of the benefits of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, for example). As I try to create a History of the Garden page for my blog, one of my frustrations is that I don’t have any images of what the property looked like before the gardens were created. Only the Serenity Garden has been documented from the beginning.

  19. August 27, 2012 4:24 pm

    Wow, you’ve achieved so much in just three years and think of the countless people who’ve read through the posts on your site and enjoyed your pictures and the progress you’ve made. I always find it incredibly satisfying to look through “before” pictures. I started in my garden about three years ago and have very few of these but the transformation of the lawn and scrubby weeds I remember into the garden I have today it astonishing and I’m sure it’s the same for you too.

    • September 2, 2012 4:58 pm

      Sunil, Thanks for the kind words. Scrubby weeds is an excellent description of what passed as “lawn” at my house before I turned much of it into garden. I am always amazed by the transformation, but (as noted in my response to Clare above) frustrated that I don’t actually have images of the “scrubby weeds” before stage.

  20. August 27, 2012 8:22 pm

    Congratulations on three well spent years! It’s been so nice getting to know you and your garden. I smiled when you talked about your earlier posts, I’ve had the experience of re-reading a few old posts of my own only to wonder what in the world I was on about.

    • September 2, 2012 5:01 pm

      Marguerite, I don’t know about you, but I’m sometimes tempted to revise history by deleting some of those embarrassing old posts 😉 — but I think the blog is a useful record of my development as a gardener as well as of the growth of the garden.

  21. August 28, 2012 8:19 am

    Jean, it’s been a fulfilling experience getting to know you through your blog and being able to compare how and what occurs in your Pennsylvania and Maine gardens with mine in Connecticut. Congratulations on reaching your three-year anniversary.

    • September 2, 2012 5:03 pm

      Joene, The halfway point on my trips between Maine and Gettysburg comes when I cross the New York/Connecticut line (in my case, on I-84 at Danbury). So it is interesting to compare my two gardening experiences with yours about halfway in between. Getting to know gardeners with experiences both similar to and different from mine has been one of the great joys of blogging.

  22. August 28, 2012 4:49 pm

    Congratulations on reaching your third birthday. It is amazing how we grow every year as we continue to blog. I especially like you blog of the month posts.

    • September 2, 2012 5:05 pm

      Thanks for the congratulatory words, Carolyn. It’s just about time to work on another Blog of the Month post. 🙂

  23. August 28, 2012 8:54 pm

    Jean, I got sidetracked by your post on Bloggers, Blotanists, and Superblotanists! For far too long, and I still barely scratched the surface. That’s the fate of your blog readers, I find — to be led by your writing to discover new things and think new thoughts, and then be entranced by a lovely garden, too. Congratulations on year three! I love how blogging seems to be entwined now in your gardening and future plans and even your work. Best wishes as you embark on year four!

    • September 2, 2012 5:09 pm

      Thanks, Stacy. As I was preparing this post, I went back to re-read that old post and got sucked into the comments all over again and was reminded of how much that whole discussion took over my life. That post was also a big milepost in my blog because it created a jump in the number of readers that lasted. Until just a few months ago, the day after I posted that remained as the busiest day ever on my blog.

  24. August 28, 2012 9:49 pm

    Congratulations on your anniversary! I truly get what you say about blogging, it open doors to new things, gives us a tool to keep a record of our gardens and we get to meet new friends from all over the world! I so enjoy reading your posts, looking forward to many more and enjoy your retirement – after a while you will probably be so busy with all your projects that you will wonder how you had time to go to work before 🙂

    • September 2, 2012 5:11 pm

      Helene, Thanks for the kind words and wishes. I can’t quite start enjoying my retirement yet; I still have four semesters of teaching to get through first. Part of the reason I’m so eager for retirement is that I already have so many projects to work on that I wonder how I have time to go to work! 🙂

  25. December 19, 2013 6:14 am

    You had a great Past . And wish u must have in future.

    Best of luck.

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