January 27, 2015

Yours, Mine, and Ours

cosmos Lately, I've been reading many posts about what bloggers should and shouldn't do. These posts have been thought-provoking, challenging, and educational.

I thank these fellow bloggers for their perceptions, because they've led me to the topic for today.

I'll start by asking, "What is the purpose of your blog?" and "For whom do you blog?"

In answering that second question (with nods to the first), here are four likely approaches:

* Yours: Using this approach, you publish nearly exclusively for others. Your goal might be to gather readers, sell products and services, or to share your writing and photography.

* Mine: With this approach, other people are secondary to your own thoughts, feelings, and recordings. This is often similar to journaling or a type of electronic recording of your personal experiences.

* Ours: This format encourages participation, by asking questions, including polls, meme hosting, and other methods.

* The combo: It's a mash-up. Sometimes you write for yourself, other times you express great emotion, and sometimes you present "just the facts"--for example, with a step-by-step, "how to" post.

clematis Where do you fit in this mix? Is there another format I'm forgetting?

Obviously, you can tell from my questions that this particular post falls into the "ours" category.

This begs the question(s):

What is the purpose of my own blog? For whom do I blog?

Who cares, anyway?

hostaFirst of all, I care. Even if I didn't have a single reader, I'd still blog. I started this blog for myself. I had a burning desire to write about gardening and plants. I had a memory card full of garden photos, and I wanted to document the plants in my garden. That's how this blog was born. It was a selfish act. I started it for me, and me alone. That's when it was "mine."

Then I discovered how fabulous "ours" and "yours" could be. This realization hit me like a sudden warm, pleasant breeze out of the Gulf of Mexico. I hadn't expected to enjoy the interacting part so much!

After about a month into it, in late 2010, I wanted to connect with other gardeners. I joined the now-defunct Blotanical.com. I began to have a real audience of real people--who wanted to share gardening information, stories, and notes with me! And, oh, what fun it was to visit their blogs, too! And to actually carry on "conversations" through our comments to each other.

phlox I didn't see that part of it coming, but gosh, it was rewarding!

I wrote a few "how to" posts. I shared my knowledge and practical experiences.

That was the "yours" approach.

But with time, I've come to realize this is a "combo" or a "mash-up" blog. Some of my posts are written for me--because thoughts are screaming to be written and plants are begging for attention.

Some posts are written for you--for example, posts about public gardens I recommend, or "how to build an above-ground pond."

verbenaStill others are written for us, as in, "I'd like your opinion" or "Let's discuss..."

The situation of any given day, week, month, or even year influences the audience and the purpose.

That's the joy of posting whatever seems right at the appropriate time.

There isn't a "correct" answer to the questions presented earlier, and there are advantages and disadvantages to every approach.

milkweed* If you post purely for yourself, you don't care if anyone visits your blog.

* If you blog to please others, you care deeply about gaining and maintaining an audience.

* If you blog for both yourself and others, your motivations are mixed.

And if, like me, you switch back and forth and in every direction, sometimes you're thinking about your audience, while other times you're purely communicating your personal thoughts or recording the phenology or cyclical events in your own garden.

Perhaps when considering what we should or shouldn't do with our blogs, we ought to think about the purpose and the audience, too. Perhaps those questions should come first?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Next up: a few thoughts about my favorite bloggers, and why I like to visit them. (You might be surprised to find yourself in the list.)

January 20, 2015

Finding Garden Treasures During the January Thaw


How does a hardy Wisconsin gal prepare for a garden walk-around on a mild day during a January thaw?

window view

First, she looks out the upstairs window and surveys the landscape.

"Frankly, it looks kinda blah," she says to herself.

"Then again, the snow is mostly melted. Maybe there's something fun to discover out there ..."


So, she slips on her heavy-duty snow boots ...


Throws on a lightweight denim coat and gloves with fingers (for ease in operating her camera) ...

And begins to discover extraordinary beauty in very simple things.


Soft, evergreen Lamium plants under the receding snow.


A thriving sedge she transplanted into a pot last summer.


Evidence that birds have gained sustenance from the Echinacea plants.


The worn but welcoming backyard swing.


The surprisingly vivid glow of the dried Sedums.


Amazing mosses thriving in their perfectly cool growing conditions.


Buds on the Lilac bush waiting for their time to shine.


A long, decaying log covered in lacy fungi.


Is this Trametes versicolor? Or Bjerkandera adusta? Something else? (I'm consulting with mycologists behind the scenes to find out.)


Before she heads inside, she sits briefly on the bench at the back of the woods.

black oak

And as she approaches the house, she notices a large Black Oak leaf--larger than her hand. Why does this hefty, impressive leaf make her smile?

Perhaps because she feels so thankful for the great gift of a simple walk on a mild winter day.

Nature Notes on Rambling Woods

January 13, 2015

Plant of the Month: Agastache foeniculum


As we move through the depths of winter, many of us treasure tangible reminders of the garden's plenty. Dried seed heads and flowers, including the Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) in my potpourri bowl, fulfill this purpose.

snow depth

Outdoors, the plants (and the picnic table) are coated with a few inches of fluffy, white snow--just enough to keep the landscape fresh and sparkly. We awoke this morning to a new dance of gently falling snowflakes ...


Those huge, puffy flakes that are so large you can easily see how each one is different from the next, and the air between them creates depths of beneficial insulation. (Did you know that fresh, uncompacted snow typically is 90% to 95% trapped air?)

As I contemplate the perennials under their winter blanket and smell the licorice/mint scent of my potpourri, I remember how beautiful, fragrant, and soft the Anise Hyssop was during the growing season.


It was a perfect partner to the Rudbeckias, Echinaceas, and Calaminthas in the pollinator garden I helped establish as a master naturalist volunteer project.


Each flower stalk was fluffy and soft as a cat's tail.


Pollinators like this bumble bee ...

hyssop pollinator

And this Goldenrod Soldier Beetle found it irresistible.

hyssop post

I liked the way it wrapped around and hugged the fence posts. Very romantic.


While the straight-species seeds I winter sowed last year didn't germinate in my garden, I did have luck with small seedling plants of A. foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee.' I'll try the straight species again this spring, but in the meantime, I sure enjoyed the pretty flower spikes and the bright, chartreuse color of the cultivar's foliage.


As the days progressed, the flowers gained character. I snipped them to encourage new blooms and, although that didn't pay off with my young plants, I'm happy I saved the flowers for my potpourri. The scent became even more concentrated as they dried.

late autumn

At the end of the season, when very few plants were still flowering, the Anise Hyssop was still blooming away--a great companion to late-season Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), and other fall bloomers.

I didn't realize until recently that both the flowers and the foliage of Anise Hyssop are edible. Other fast facts, based on information from the Missouri Botanical Garden, the USDA, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

  • Native to a large portion of the northern U.S., the Appalacians, and Canada;
  • Height: 2 ft. to 4 ft. (a little shorter for some of the cultivars), with a similar spread;
  • Hardy: zones 4 to 8 (a little warmer for some of the cultivars);
  • Bloom time: late June to hard frost (in my experience here in Southern Wisconsin);
  • Light requirements: Full sun to part shade (bigger flower spikes in full sun; foliage of 'Golden Jubilee' remains more vibrant in partial shade);
  • Attracts butterflies, beetles, bees, and hummingbirds, and is of special value to native bees and honey bees, according to the Xerces Society;
  • Flower spikes provide form, texture, and color to fresh and dried floral arrangements;
  • Tolerates drought, but prefers average to moist, well-drained soil.

All I know is that I like it, I don't know why I didn't have it in my garden until recently, and I'm looking forward to seeing it bloom again!

hyssop and susans

January 05, 2015

A Misty, Mysterious Hike


About a month ago, on a mild day, the fishman and I took a hike not far from our house.

Most of the snow from November had melted--leaving the trails slightly muddy and soft with autumn leaves ... although firm enough for an easy walk.


The park where we hiked is a familiar place, which I've featured on the blog many times. On this day, however, it seemed eerily different. A thick layer of fog shrouded everything in a mysterious haze, which was pleasing in its own way.

foggy trees

The fishman started out ahead of me, and called my attention to two raptors, high up in the trees ahead of us.




As we approached, the fog lifted a touch. The fishman thought perhaps the birds were juvenile bald eagles.

eagle fly

They flew away before I could zoom in. Drat. Still, it was fun to see them--even from a distance through the mist.

critter home

As we started along the trail, we found this hole at the base of a gnarled old tree. It had me wondering who lived there.


Dogwoods (Cornus sericea) were plentiful, lending accents of deep red to the bleak landscape.


And dropping fresh dew on this magical, misty day.


false rue anemone

Several evergreen plants poked through the soil--including sedges, mosses, and False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum)--reminders of new life waiting patiently for the next season.


But the most dramatic scenes were those overlooking the lake, where the ice, land, and sky blended cooperatively to confuse the eye.



(This post is linked to Michelle's "Nature Notes" at her blog, Rambling Woods.)