Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gardening is a "Long Game"

Do you know what a "long game" is? My husband said to me the other day, that gardening is a long game. It means you play for a long time, betting a lot of money and time, before there is a big, un-guaranteed payoff. It's also sometimes called a "long con," but I prefer not to think of gardening as a con game, because I'm afraid that would mean I'm the mark.

My kitty Magellan -- an indoor cat -- on one of her rare forays outside in the garden

Contemplating whether to explore the garden (she's almost always let out with one of us to accompany her, and always in the back garden, which is completely fenced)

I think it's true that gardening is a long game, although there are a lot of little payoffs along the way, like when you put a plant in just the right spot and it thrives. Or you put together a plant combination thinking it might look good, and it ends up looking magnificent.

Growing from seed is a really long game. Often you start with tiny seedlings that need to be coddled and nurtured. Even with winter sowing, which I've been successful at, you don't get big blooming perennials overnight. It takes years. A lot of the plants in my garden were started from seed, and I plan on starting even more this winter.

Collarette Dahlia grown from seed

Blogging is a "long game" too. I started three years ago, soon after we bought this house in Washington state, and I started to transform the gardens. I wanted to document the changes. The payoff with the long game of blogging is that I've made some great online friends, some of whom I've met in real life. And I've followed some wonderful, interesting, insightful blogs too. I'm still finding new ones that offer something new to learn about, and new people to get to know.

Fritillaria meleagris in my garden

Fritillaria seedpods

Sometimes I post a lot, sometimes I only find one or two topics a month that I really feel enthusiastic about, and want to share with my online friends. For most of August, most of my gardening was basically an internal monologue, that I'm not sure would interest anyone. Should I move those shrubs four feet closer to the fence? What should I do with that orphan bed where everything is struggling because I keep forgetting to water in the summer? Why don't I have more flowers? Why doesn't my garden look its best in August?

Darmera peltata flowering in my garden beside the waterfall

My husband Nigel also recently asked me why I blog. I thought briefly about trying to make my motives sound selfless and pure. "I want to share my knowledge and experience." Then I decided to tell the truth.

"I'm a show-off." Yes, despite my shy, reticent tendencies, I am basically, deep down inside,  a big show-off. Blogging is a way to show off my garden. Without having to risk revealing too much of myself, and thus rejection when people realize what a weirdo I am. I've been lucky enough to have attracted some supportive, encouraging, helpful readers.

Allium cernuum/Nodding onion about to bloom

Lilium columbianum flowering in my garden

I've been betting on the payoff from the "long game" of blogging for three years now. I'm celebrating my three-year blogiversary today. My very first post was called "Getting Started" and it documented the state of the garden when we bought our house and before we started working on it.

I thought I'd have a giveaway to mark my blogiversary.

One lucky reader will get:

Seeds from my garden (Camassia leichtlinii 'Sacajawea', Darmera peltata, Fritillaria meleagris, Lilium columbianum, Allium cernuum, and maybe a few more)
A $15 gift certificate to Renee's Garden Seeds (Renee's has reasonable shipping charges -- You can view Renee's online catalog here)
A cute little metal birdie, bought during my recent trip to Snoqualmie Falls (it's not much, just a little sumthin-sumthin)
A book about Prince Charles' garden estate Highgrove

Little metal birdie nestled in some of the rose petals from our trip to Snoqualmie Falls

Isn't he cute? I bought myself a matching one.

I looked through a local Barnes and Noble for a book about gardening for my giveaway, but there wasn't much to choose from. So I decided to give away a book from my own stash! (Sorry, you won't get any of my stuffed animals)

"The Garden at Highgrove" is a big book with large, sumptuous photographs!

You'll love this book!

Leave a comment, and in one week I'll pick a winner! You don't even have to say anything clever (or flattering to me) to enter. Please feel free to comment, even if you've never commented before. It's always nice to meet new people. And make sure your comment has a way for me to get back to you if you win. (Renee's only ships seeds to the U.S. and Canada, so I'm afraid I'll have to limit the winner to one of those two countries.) You have until midnight, Wednesday, September 12, 2012.

Dragonfly on Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

Good Luck!


  1. I have enjoyed reading all your posts. I like to write, take photos, keep track of changes...and I like meeting nice people (like you) with similar interests. I have also learned a lot from my fellow garden bloggers. Like you, I have met some and hope to meet more of the bloggers. What a great thing this many penpals.
    Love your picture of the waterfalls and the garden.

    1. Thanks Janet! It's great being Facebook friends with you. I love reading your blog, and I'm hoping you make it to San Francisco next year for the Fling.

  2. I don't think of it as "showing off". I think of it as showing others what I've been up to and a sneaky way to get good , free advice. I also can "steal" ideas from others for combo's that I didn't think of, but LOVE....or just even see new plants to try that I never thought of (or knew about).Just in the past 2 weeks, 2 bloggers have contacted me with outstanding advice (that worked!) just because they knew the answer. I love that about the blogging community. So great to meet like minded individuals and discuss our favorite topic, without all the judgements.

    1. I get so many ideas from others on their blogs too, and I've gotten some great free advice here too. I'm glad you got some good advice that worked!

  3. Happy Blogiversary Alison, I'm happy to count myself among the lucky ones who have met you in person! Are you thinking of attending the San Francisco fling?

    1. Thanks Loree! I enjoyed meeting you last year at the Fling too. I am planning to go to San Francisco next year, I hope you are too.

  4. Congratulations, Alison! From what I can tell, you've worked miracles in your short three years in your new garden. As for "showing off", I don't think so: Blogging is a way to share with people who feel the same way you do about gardens and the gardening process. It's a way to enhance the experience of gardening. I'm delighted to have "met" you here, and on Facebook, and I look forward to an actual face-to-face meeting sometime!

    1. Thanks Jane! I'm glad to have "met" you too. A face-to-face meeting would be great! I don't know about the miracles, though. I thought starting over with a new garden would be a way to fix the mistakes in my previous garden, but instead I just made a whole lot of new ones.

    2. Couldn't get a comment box to show up...
      I'm so glad I've gotten to know you through your blog and am happy we've gotten to meet in person several times too. I love watching the projects your working on, you've got lots to show off!
      I've been horrible about blogging lately, but still like to come and visit yours. Happy 3 years!!

  5. Happy Anniversary, Alison! So glad to have gotten the chance to get to know you in both the blogiverse and in real life. I'm looking forward to actually seeing your garden one of these days.
    My ability to start perennials from seed took a huge leap this spring when I broke down and bought heat mats to put under my seed flats. I even have some 'Bishop's Children' dahlias blooming that were mere seeds 5 months ago.

  6. Happy blog anniversary. So you are weird, eh? Well aren't all us gardeners just a little daff? Some of us are slaves to our gardens and we wouldn't have it any other way! I knew there was a reason I liked you.

  7. I had to laugh when I started reading this post. We have a fluffy Magellan kitty too. Ours is a big, orange marmalade boy who likes to go for walks, on a leash. We get lots of attention.
    Your Magellan is very pretty too!.

  8. Congrats! I so enjoy reading your posts. Your garden is beautiful, I don't blame you for wanting to show it off. I'm always amazed at the the variety of flowers you have growing in your garden. Unfortunately, I can't grow most of them in TX. I think this is why I love Washington so much. It is gorgeous and has such beautiful flowers.

  9. I have really enjoyed each and every post of your garden transformation - thank you for sharing them all. Congratulations on three years blogging - you have some truly beautiful photos in this post. The frittilaria are so unusual, and the nodding onions are so cute - I love the transparency. I am too far away for the giveaway... pity :)

  10. You can skip me for the drawing. I just wanted to say that I so love your blog. You take me to the most beautiful gardens and shows. I also love seeing your garden evolve. Thank you for taking the dive as I enjoy reading your posts.

  11. I think we're the nicest bunch of show-offs imaginable...always ready to share a story, a photo, a laugh and quick to offer support. Gardeners are the best. Gardeners who become "blogging buddies" are even bester. Happy Blogaversary!

  12. Happy Blogaversary! Dan Hinkley wrote that a garden needs an audience. I agree. While we may not have lots of live people traipsing through our gardens, it's nice to share our adventures, successes and failures with others in some way. Although I've just started blogging, I've enjoyed other blogs for several years now and am enjoying blogging buddies like you! What a great way to see other people's gardens, learn about plants, and share advice and empathy! Thanks for your three years of sharing!

  13. Happy Blogaversary! I am so excited about your giveaway, it is all so generous and fun, just like you are in sharing so much information and taking us so many wonderful places. I have enjoyed being a follower! xo

  14. I've enjoyed reading your blog and certainly will be following you!
    I love the idea of this competition.. sharing plants and seeds is away to make our gardens full of friends! Congratulations on the anniversary.

  15. It's always nice to hear that I'm not the only person who sometimes doesn't have anything to share for a month... But isn't it amazing how going around and looking at other people's gardens (& blogs) can inspire you to do something with your own? Thank you for providing inspiration to everyone!

  16. Happy blog anniversary! You have such a lovely garden and I always enjoy your photos. :)

  17. Congratulations! I think we all have those moments when we have to question why we are doing something...and quite often, I find, that reason changes the longer we do something :-)

  18. Happy birthday, Bonney Lassie! And happy blogiversary to you, too, Alison. I just noticed that "blogiversary" contains the word "give" -- I think that's why many garden bloggers write, and also comment on each other's blogs. It's a very giving community. It was a pleasure to meet you in Seattle. And thank you for introducing me to Molbak's there!

  19. Hi Alison! Ya know, I didn't know you had a blog but now I do....I'll have to keep up with it! I've spent the last several years playing a certain MMORPG named World of Warcraft and haven't done much else. I have weined myself off it..and similar genra..more or less..sigh. Anyhow, how exciting that you are doing a give-a-way! I don't feel that I should be qualified to enter as I hadn't been following your blog, but did want to say Happy Blogaversary anyhow!
    BTW, of the plants you sent me a few years back, and before our move here to this house, I have only the Epimedium that I was able to the previous house, but thats ok, cos it is my very favorite anyhow. It's still strange to think of you on the west coast instead of the east, where you were. LOL
    Take care...Liz

  20. I love your blog because If I have patience, I too can have a nice garden like yours!
    Now where do I get patience? Are you giving any away in a contest?


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.