August 27th, 2006
Old in Blog Years

“I set out to discover the why of it, and to transform my pleasure into knowledge.” Baudelaire.

Kathy, of Cold Climate Gardening begins a series today, an online panel discussion of eight other garden bloggers who have been blogging for four or more years. I’m thrilled to be included. Kathy is putting up one topic a day over the next week or so. Here are the questions she asked with links to the answers. I’ll update the list as she does.

Part 1. According to their respective websites, Blogger was founded in 1999 and Movable Type in 2001. But as I remember, even when I started my garden blog in 2002, most people didn’t know what a blog was, or see the point of it, really. So what in your background or relationships made you aware of and comfortable with the technology? What led you to become an “early adopter”? Link to discussion.

Part 2. Of all the things you could use this technology for, why gardening? How did you see a blog working for you better than more traditional means of garden communication, such as a chat over the fence, a garden club membership, a plant society membership, or a magazine subscription? What problem were you hoping to solve, or what need did you want to fill? Link to discussion.

Part 3. Did your garden blog accomplish what you were hoping for? Any unexpected benefits? Any disappointments? Link to discussion.

Part 4. What do you think has caused the proliferation of garden blogs in the last year? Link to discussion.

Part 5. Thinking over all of the garden blogging you’ve done and the garden blogs you’ve read since you first started, what has changed for the better? What negatives, if any, have arisen? Do you miss anything from the “good ol’ days” of blogging? Link to discussion.

Part 6. Do you think gardeners comment less than other bloggers? Link to discussion.

Part 7. Does it seem to you that gardeners, as a whole, are late adopters of technology? I mean, look at the categories for the Weblog Awards. There’s a category for best craft blog, best food blog, best entertainment blog, best politics blog, best web development blog, etc. The closest gardeners get is best topical blog, which is basically an “everything else” category. Why do you think this is so? (Or make a case for the oppositeƅ|that they’re not late adopters.) Link to discussion.

Part 8. What advice would you give a gardener starting a blog today? Link to discussion.

Part 9. What’s next for gardeners interested in internet communication? Today, blogging. Tomorrow? Link to discussion.

Zanthan Gardens: A History
It’s difficult to reconstruct an exact history: I’ve changed computers, lost email, and completely redesigned the site several times.

Created the first Plant Profiles page: Rhodophiala bifida. (What else! Oxblood lilies are the mascot of my garden.) The original garden site pages were written in html 4.01 using BBEdit.

A few months later, we experimented with Movable Type, and on November 30, 2001 I added a blog page to my garden site. As I have three other blogs and AJM has one, we created the umbrella Zanthan site and thus the garden site name evolved to Zanthan Gardens.

Joined Webring’s Texas Gardening ring. Found some garden sites but no other blogs.

First Google hit on a search for lagerstroemia. (I was pretty excited by this! I’d spent most of the previous month working on my nipponDAZE blog–when I realized people were finding my gardening blog, I realized I needed to get back to work on it.)

First comment (from someone I know).

Redesigned plant profiles to use divs instead of tables.

First comment from a stranger. (Annie, can you guess what topic this was on? Yep. Indian hawthorn. Still my most commented entry.)

I still hadn’t found any garden blogs, but I linked to these garden sites.
Lost Springs in the Texas Hill Country (formerly Spring Holler Ranch).. I’d lost track of this site when they changed their name and URL and just rediscovered them. An excellent, excellent site. I’ll have to update my sidebar now.
Garden Bits by Valerie in Austin. After finding each other online we got together to visit each other gardens and share plants.
Higher Ground: the Life and Times of a Southern Garden. (1999-02-11).

An email from a reader points out that it’s not clear that the blog and the static pages belong to the same site. Some of the static pages still emphasize the old name, “A Central Austin Garden”. However, it takes me almost nine months to integrate the site.

Another comment. They were few and far between in these days. This one from someone that I now know in person thanks to our garden blogs, Pam Penick.

Migrated plant profiles from html 4.01 to xhtml 1.0 strict and css.

Converted the In Bloom calendars to xhtml 1.0 strict. This was a horrible job because I decided to break up the one unwieldy table into 12 monthly tables. I still hate updating these tables although it’s pretty easy to do in August when nothing is blooming.

Updated style sheets to better integrate the static pages and blog pages.

I was discovering more garden sites and, finally, blogs!
Prairie Point by Bill in the Dallas area. He began blogging in March, 2003.
Hands in the Dirt by Don, a former Austinite now gardening in Indiana.
Soul of the Garden by one of Austin’s most renowned gardeners, Tom Spencer.
Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve. Not a blog but I was flattered when their web designer asked me for tips on redesigning their site.

I’m interviewed about keeping a garden journal for our local paper, the Austin American-Statesman.

I license blog content to Blogburst and Zanthan Gardens is picked up for syndication by the Austin American-Statesman.

by M Sinclair Stevens

3 Responses to post “Old in Blog Years”

  1. From Kathy (New York):

    I didn’t know about the items in 2006-04-27. Does this mean you are a paid columnist for the local paper? I don’t even know what Blogburst is–will have to check it out.

    No, I’m not paid by Blogburst or by the paper. Before I lost my job I made tens of thousands of dollars a year writing. Although I’m happy that everyone can publish their thoughts over the net, it does reduce the incentive to pay authors for their writing. I don’t think we’re called writers anymore….we’re “content providers”. — mss

  2. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    An interesting first question. I’m the exact opposite of an early-adapter of new technologies (in fact, my computer-guru husband set up my blog for me), but none of my friends blog, so I feel sort of weird when I talk to them about how much I enjoy blogging.

    I have followed your blog, M., for several years, as well as Tom Spencer’s. Since I started blogging early this year, the Austin garden-blogger scene seems to have exploded, and now I follow not just Zanthan and Soul of the Garden but Transplantable Rose and Great Experiment too. It’s like having our own local garden club.

    Pam, I’m so glad that you and Annie and R started blogging this year. From the beginning, I’ve been looking for other gardeners who shared the unique joys and tribulations of gardening in our wacky Austin climate. — M

  3. From Annie in Austin:

    The history timeline is illuminating, and things have changed rapidly, haven’t they? I’m a big fan of Tom Spencer’s radio show and discovered his site soon after we came here, probably by 2000. Then Google led me to Larval Bits and to your site by 2002, maybe? [And it was not on a search for Indian Hawthorns, either.] Although I did send a few private emails to site owners, I never had the nerve to publicly comment on any blog until February 2004 and am now trying to make up for that early cowardice!

    Your links to the Bookish Gardener and Cold Climate Gardening expanded my universe, M. for which I thank you.

    BTW, the author/designer of Higher Ground has lived in Ohio for a few years. You can sometimes find his comments at the Garden Design forum on GW, called Eric in Ohio or something like that. His site was extremely useful, but the location was a zone higher, leading to grievious plant envy.


    Annie, I’m still trying to piece together history. I was really surprised to see comments from Pam in 2003. When she wrote to me announcing her own blog this year, I didn’t realize that I’d had had comments from her and exchanged email from her before. I was also surprised at how few comments I received throughout 2002 and 2003. I don’t remember being discouraged, though. I think I was too busy keeping up with comments on my Japan blog. Expats in Japan were much quicker than gardeners to jump on the blog bandwagon. Initially, I used the garden blog just to point to “What’s New” on the rest of the site. As more people started blogging, the focus shifted. I doubt if many people look at the rest of the site anymore. — mss