Friday, July 17, 2009

Shaggy tails and other thoughts

Poppy mallow, Callirhoe involucrata, is in full bloom at the Alpine Rock Garden in Bellevue Botanical Garden. This lovely carmine pink, trailing perennial flowers for months, from June to late autumn.
It seems that just like my garden, my blogging has come to some kind of a midsummer stutter, after a (relatively speaking) inspired winter and spring. Some of this had probably to do with my Finnish and Scandinavian roots: most activities there come to a halt when July arrives. After a long and cold winter, people traditionally worship the long days and white nights of the Nordic summer in a way unheard of in most other countries.
Despite of silence on my blog, two different articles have been brooding in my mind, both making me question my own relationship to both gardening and blogging. The first one was an article in Svenska Dagbladet, one of the biggest dailies in Sweden, about "trends within gardening", now published yearly by the Swedish Fashion Council, who's shareholders include all kinds of textile and clothing industry associations. So this council, that does not include any garden, gardening or plant related authorities or experts, thinks that it can tell us what is "in" and what is "out" in our gardens according to their trend sensitive minds, and about what kind of flowers colours and designer products we should choose to our gardens.
This year, they have come out with five different trends for the Swedish gardens: "romantic minimalism", which according to them combines 30's style pots and furniture with topiary and some natural touches; "the old-fashioned garden" combines full-blown romantic style plants and high-quality, antique accessories; "the exotic garden" in Mediterranean style (here they miss totally the current "Asian trend" with Buddha statues strewn between the fir trees to add to the serene feeling of the garden...); "the experimental garden", containing both veggie-growing and ecologically oriented gardens ("experimental"? Isn't growing your food one of the oldest things to do in a garden?) and last but not least, "the fairytale garden", where the owner gives free reign to his or her fantasies. Nothing new, basically; haven't we seen these "trends" happening in our gardens for a long time now? And are they really trends, or just a simplified summary of all possible directions that our gardens take?
Such shallow, superficial thinking, missing the whole point of gardening: a garden is the result of the "act" of gardening; which is both one's work and all the individual and personal thinking involved in the process of making, growing and maintaining gardens. Nothing that should be just bought off the shelf and changed as the latest trends move on. Of course, why bother, as no real gardener would ever seriously listen to these non-gardening trendsetters. But at the same time I feel sad that something that I love and appreciate so much is reduced to petty trends for visual effects and accessories, something to be followed in order to be "right", to adjust and fit in.
Bears breeches, Acanthus spinosus, in the Entrance garden of Bellevue Botanical Garden.
The second article was published last Thursday in Financial Times, with title "Blogging and its shaggy tail". It was a response to a recent column in another newspaper (which I also read), about the over 133 million existing blogs of which over 95 percent had not been updated for the last 120 days (well, I'm still doing comparatively well here...). According to this writer, the majority of these bloggers have shifted to Facebook and Twitter instead, stating that many of these blogs were of no real consequence anyway. "Apart from a very small percentage [of blogs] which are informative, original or entertaining, they have little or no value. They are vanity publishing, only made feasible by the removal of costs".
Well, if he is right, being a blogger myself I would possibly be the last to admit it... I follow several, seriously worth-while blogs written by very personal contributors all around the world, and I think vanity publishing is not a big issue for garden blogs; most of them show clearly the writers deep love to the act of gardening, to plants and to gardens, together with a desire to share this love with other like-minded people. Still, this little article has occupied my thoughts more than I wanted to, poking my mind with the uncomfortable question that in the end, wanting to publish our thoughts and pictures to others, are we really being just ...vain?


Iga said...

I enjoy reading your blog so much. Don't stop! :-)

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Thank you, Iga, and it is so nice to meet you here...!

Ruben said...

Instämmer helt i din syn på trendanalyser. Egentligen innebär väl ordet 'trend' en analys av något pågående, men man anar klara spår av kommersialism bakom det hela.
Bloggarnas värde tror jag man inte behöver analysera så mycket. De är värda det de är värda för varje specifik person. Ungefär som en patient har så ont som den upplever att den har (ursäkta liknelsen). Nu vet jag inte hur 'vain' ska översättas, så jag undrar om jag är 'värdelös', 'fåfäng' eller 'egenkär' som bloggare. Nej, egentligen bryr jag mig inte.
Ha det gott! /Ruben

nilla|utanpunkt said...

Hallå, och kul att se dig igen! Om trendanalyser – det verkar onekligen lite oklart vilka trädgårdar trendnissarna hade som underlag för sin analys. Annars tycker jag man säkrast kan se trender när de är passé – det tar ju en hel del år från att en ny trend först uppstår (ofta bland proffsdesigners och trädgårdsmästare) tills att de hittar ut i privata amatörträdgårdar. Egentligen är det roligare att titta bakåt, och så tydligt se vad som slog!

Om bloggare – jag tillhör nog dem som tycker det är förfärligt mycket skräp "där ute", dessvärre skymmer den enorma mängden usla bloggar sikten för de som är bra. Man får vara bredd på att leta för att hitta kvalité – men visst finns den!

Petunia's Gardener said...

There are vain bloggers and trendy gardeners (and maybe one & the same) just like there are vain and trendy writers (and a handy statistic for support never hurts). But we also know there is a whole world out there that doesn't fit in the little box that makes it to broadcast/print.

Hope to see you Sunday!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Hej Ruben och Camellia, så trevligt att höra från er. Jag är lite förvånatr att jag "träffades" så av dessa artiklar, men så är det... och undrar vad som händer när trädgården tappar sin trendighetsfaktor; tillbaka till 60-talets lättskötta berberisträdgårdar? Nåja, det kommer alltid att finnas riktiga trädgårdsentusiaster och bra blogg, också. Som era :-)

Hi Petunia; I am coming, it seems that I got a babysitter for the girls. Now I just have to figure out the address to Daniel's garden. See you soon!

Lavender and Vanilla Friends of the Gardens said...

This is funny,advice from the ones who never had and never will have dirt under their fingernails, whom have never had their hands deep in the soil, thinking about the whole picture when planting, sowing, pruning etc.etc. and harvesting! Gardening is a liftime's occupation, a pleasure, those superficial people will never experience.

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Titania, good to hear from you again. I totally agree with you. As so many times, these people have no idea about gardening, and don't even know this; just talk, talk...

Karen said...

Well, anyone who would follow gardening "trends" is probably not doing their own gardening, just hiring someone to do it for them. On the second topic, I have found such great enjoyment in a wide variety of blogs, and when they go dormant, sometimes I feel like I lost a friend (I was just talking about this with Jean on Sunday). People seem to do it for different reasons, and maybe vanity comes into it sometimes - but we readers also have "free" choice to follow the ones we find worthwhile and leave the other 99% alone. I am so glad that you continue to write on whatever schedule is possible (and really, who are these people who have time to garden, be with family, work, and still blog daily??!!!??), and I hope you keep doing it. Your deep, original insights and genuine knowledge of your subject are so compelling, I would really miss you if you decided to stop!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Karen, thank you so much for your words, you really "made my day"! And I agree with your thoughts, totally.

Tina said...

Oh I'm glad I'm not the only one who has stuttered - although I think you might be doing better than me! Some writers write with passion and conviction whether it be on a blog or in a newspaper or magazine. At least with blogs we write when we have something to say - not just to fill space!