Yes, it’s now been one year that I’ve been writing this gardening blog. I did post a few things (travelogs, notably) in 2013 and earlier in 2014, but I only really start writing this as a daily blog in May 2014. Why a daily blog? Because I was so unaware of what blogs were that I thought they had to be daily! I now realize that most garden bloggers write once a week or whenever they feel like it. But since I’ve got the hang of doing it daily, I figure I’ll just keep it up!
Why do I write a blog at all? To share my passion for gardening! And to spread the good news that gardening need not be a burden when you know how to do it, hence the title “Laidback Gardener”. I’ve been writing about gardening for 30 years, mostly for newspapers and magazines, and have written 52 books on gardening so far, yet I feel the need to do more. What can I say? When you’re passionate about something, you have to share it!
I actually started blogging ages ago, years before the word was even invented. I used to publish a newsletter about indoor gardening back in the 1980s – two of them, actually: HousePlant Forum and À Fleur de Pot – where I put down my thoughts and wrote about my favorite plants. It was self-published, by print of course (what else was there back then?), and made absolutely no money… just like blogging today. The funny thing was that what I was doing was called “desktop publishing”… and yet again, I was doing it before the term even existed! I stopped when I became editor-in-chief of a gardening magazine, not wanting to compete with my employer, but I still think back fondly to the period when I wrote exactly what I wanted and didn’t have to cater to advertisers… just like blogging today!
How is the Laidback Gardener blog going? Very modestly. On a good day, there will be a hundred or so visitors to the Web site, but most days, 50 or 60. It’s doing better on Twitter, with some 150 subscribers. And I have to thank Veronica Sliva for constantly sharing my blogs on Twitter! Without her help, I don’t think Twitter would have gotten off the ground at all!
Two Blogs, Two Languages
Some of you know I live a sort of bipolar garden blogger existence. You see, I actually write this blog in French first, then translate and adapt it to English. That may seem peculiar, but not when you realize I live in Quebec City, in the heart of French Canada. Although my native language is English, French is the language I speak most of the time. I can go days without speaking English. I even speak French to my dog!
The French language blog is also one year old, but far more popular than the English one. I get about 3,000 to 5,000 views a day on the French Web site and over 8,000 on the French FaceBook page, while the English one has barely any followers. Some days reach into the 10s of thousands. Yesterday, for example, there were 19,000 views on the French Facebook page. Participation in the French Twitter account, conversely, is close to zero: maybe 10 visits a day! Go figure! I suppose I’d need a Veronica Sliva to get it off the ground!
That the French blog should be more popular than the English makes perfect sense. No one knows me from Job in the English-language gardening world: I haven’t even written a gardening book in English in nearly a decade and the one English-language gardening magazine I used to write for recently went under. I do essentially no radio or TV work in English (how could I when there are no local English language media big enough to hire freelancers!) and give maybe 3 English-language lectures a year. In French, I’ve had weekly columns in the Soleil newspaper for almost 30 years, have my own radio and TV shows, write a new gardening book nearly every year, appear monthly in several garden and life style magazines, give almost 80 lectures a year, and offer a host of garden tours, etc. All this “extra-curricular activity” means I can easily enhance the French blog, adding links to other things I do, articles I have written, places I am going, etc. So, I’m a bit of a big fish in a small pond in the French Canadian gardening world. But just a bit player in the English one.
I have to thank my son, Mathieu Hodgson, for getting me started on this blog. He kept pushing me to try it, warning me that I would quickly become a horticultural non-entity if I didn’t start participating in social media. He set up my pages, taught me how to do the basics and patiently answered all my stupid questions. I’ve only just reached the stage where I don’t contact him on nearly a daily basis about something I don’t understand! As of about a month, I can finally say I’m finally really doing this all on my own!
I also have to thank Kathy Jentz for her help and encouragement. I’m sure she has no idea how much she’s helped me come out of my introverted, private Internet persona and become a social media butterfly… O.K., maybe not a butterfly yet, but definitely a caterpillar working on becoming a butterfly! Thanks Kathy!
I won’t hide the fact that I would like this blog to start making money one day, because investing about 2 hours a day writing and publishing texts is a lot of effort, especially for a freelance journalist with no regular salary. For now, it’s volunteer work, but who knows? Maybe one day I may find financial support worthy of the name, at least for the French blog! Luckily I have lots of energy, because 14-hour days, seven days a week, can be very demanding!
On the very positive side, I have made lots of new friends during this first year… and renewed contacts with people that I had not “seen” for a long time. I feel more and more like the paterfamilias of beautiful horticultural family… and one that continues to grow!
After 365 blogs, you probably think I’ve run out of ideas, but you’d be wrong! I have plenty of topics on tap for next year, so on I go, full speed ahead! I have no plans whatsoever to retire and don’t see why I couldn’t keep this blog going for another 20 years. In fact, I’d say 30, but that might be a little overly optimistic: after all, I am 60 years old!
So long live the Laidback Gardener Blog… and good gardening one and all!
Congratulations on your first year of blogging! I had my own one year anniversary of blogging a few months ago. I’m one of those once-a-week bloggers but even so, it’s a good thing I didn’t realize how much work it would be, or I would never have started! (BTW it was nice to re-connect with you through Facebook, having met you through the Gesneriad Society about 25 years ago!)