blotany lesson

We didn’t get any snow today, after all.  I awoke to just the barest tinting of white in the landscape, akin to a heavy frost, and the rain has made short work of that this morning.  So instead of a snow photograph today, as I had hoped, I’ll present you with some snowdrops I encountered during my latest visit to the South Carolina Botanical Garden.

Snowdrops have not ever been on my list of beloveds.  I’m not sure why not.  For at least the last decade, they’ve practically been off my radar entirely, consigned to the category of bulbs and plants for whom I was never going to develop an attachment.

Yet all of a sudden, as I stared at them Thursday morning, I found them adorable, especially the way their fat, green caps match the little flash of spring green in their underskirts.  So tiny as they are, they even arose from among the bare stems of ground-hugging shrubs and in little crannies that seemed too cramped to hold anything, much less a hint of spring.

I guess that’s how life unfolds.  One second you’re sure of something, and the next everything is changed.  I’m thinking now of my hatred of tomatoes as a child, which with the flip of some internal switch one summer turned to adoration bordering on obsession.

I’m also reminded of how by just beginning to learn a foreign language and penetrate its mysteries, I discovered my passion for language and my wanderlust, and how traveling and living elsewhere quickly revealed to me my ignorance about other cultures and peoples.  All of this in a strange way helped me to rediscover my own language, meeting it at a deeper level, almost like greeting an old friend who gladly meets you at the airport after you’ve lived abroad for a few years.

And I’m telling you about this now because I’m feeling similarly awed by my discovery of a site called Blotanical.  (See, that’s not a typo in the title.)

Blotanical:  where garden blogs bloom is a site created by Stuart Robinson.  (Thank you, Stuart!)  It’s sort of like Facebook for garden bloggers, only much more pleasant than a social networking site because it’s all about plants and the people who love them.

Plus, even though it’s about plants, it doesn’t have any stupid games called “Farmville,” with people excited to have harvested a cartooned icon’s worth of corn or sending you notices they’ve leveled up with an anatomically incorrect drawing of a chicken.

Oh, and by the way, if you truly want to annoy the granddaughter of a real farmer who lost the family land to the bank after a record multi-year drought, go ahead and play a ridiculous computer game in which you pretend to be a farmer while simultaneously pretending to your boss that you are working, and invite said granddaughter to join you in your game, while steadfastly ignoring her invitations to real activism on behalf of small farmers and continuing to play your game as the culture marches on crushing small family farmers every day.

But I digress.

Anyway, Blotanical members are more likely to tell you funny or poignant stories about their actual chickens and display real photographs of colorful vegetable harvests, beautiful enough to make you salivate.

I joined a little over a month ago, but between a wedding, a honeymoon, the holidays, and a major work deadline, I really didn’t start getting to know the site well until a couple of weeks into January.  Now I think it’s safe to tell you I’m in love.

My wanderlust has calmed down considerably in the last few years, as I’ve felt a longing for roots develop in its place.  But that doesn’t mean it’s disappeared entirely.  Via Blotanical, I can now travel the globe daily, vicariously enjoying the sights of magical gardens in distant lands, interacting with gardeners in almost every far-flung corner, observing weather patterns, water features, and wily weeds.

I can learn about invasive plants delivered from my own continent to others, and exotic (to me) native plants that make me remember their otherwordly beauty or their alien weirdness for weeks.  I watch experiments unfold step by step and am encouraged to try clever new solutions to my own gardening dilemmas.  On the same day, I can choose to tag along on a visit to a famous formal garden in England and on a fantastic hike through untamed jungle.

I’m invited to share in the collective sorrow over heartbreaking plant losses and to celebrate the brilliant successes, both in the gardens and in the gardeners’ lives.

Over and over, it makes me feel part of something bigger, a huge group of us doing our bit to nurture life on this planet, whether that’s inviting back the migrating songbirds to a poison-free acre, sharing the latest harvest with neighbors, or propagating a handful of hand-pollinated daylily crosses.  I think I’m not wrong in perceiving gardeners as a kind of tribe, connected by our love of the trees and the soil and the sky and the seeds, all of us so avidly following the cyclical patterns of life and death, working always for the benefit of life, to help our little pockets of the world thrive as best we’re able.

It’s a beautiful thing, really.

There is probably somebody you’d love to meet over at Blotanical.  So far I’ve discovered gardeners who focus on the history of their area; gardeners attracting bees, butterflies, or hummingbirds to their back yards; gardeners restoring huge swaths of habitat; gardeners specializing in a particular species of houseplant; gardeners who want to save the world one harvest at a time; gardeners who are amateur plant-breeders; gardeners who are busy preserving our genetic seed heritage, and gardeners who just want to come home from work and relax beneath the vine-draped pergola.

There are garden photographers, therapists, activists, engineers, teachers, designers, writers, philosophers.  Some are growing on an urban balcony the size of a couple of desks.  Some are growing their family’s entire food supply.  Some of us are beginners, and some are so experienced and wise there’s not really a title to convey that level of expertise.

I’d invite you to visit.  This tribe is always ready to welcome another of its own.

38 Responses to “blotany lesson”

  1. I enjoyed that. BTW Was the wedding yours? Congratulations?!

  2. Ok, I think Stuart needs to award you TWO STARS for such a nice writeup about blotanical. Awesome! And also, a wonderful story of the snowdrops changing your attitude toward them. Hank

  3. Blotanical is fun, isn’t it. I don’t think there’s anything comparable.


  4. I agree, two stars…and congratulations on the wedding too!! I haven’t been a blotanist for very long either, but I’m really enjoying Blotanical, and making lots of connections with like-minded gardeners. The only problem I have with Blotanical is keeping up with soooo many great blogs! I really should go outside for a while and plant something!

    • Thanks for the congrats and the vote of confidence. 🙂 I have the same problem with Blotanical. Can there be too much of a good thing? What will we do once the spring season begins?

  5. I will visit that site right away. Social networking. The Farmtown thing is so annoying to me. I just can’t imagine people taking the time to do that. I have a Facebook page, but am just on to wish Happy Birthday to nieces and their friends and my old corporate co-workers (who seem to be doing that farmtown thing with a vengeance. Is there no work over there? I ask you.) 🙂

    • I hope you enjoy the site, Lynn. It is so much more fun than Facebook, anyday. That makes me laugh about your former co-workers. 😉 I cannot see you lollygagging like that at work ever!

  6. Hello Meredith,

    I discovered Snowdrops on Blotanical. They do not grow in our desert climate, but I love the glimpses I get of them through my fellow garden bloggers. It is a wonderful place to belong :^)

  7. What a lovely, heartfelt post, Meredith. I especially loved the rant about Farmville, or WTH it’s called, on Facebook. I couldn’t have said it better. And snowdrops are just amazingly adorable, aren’t they? They hooked me a few years ago, and I’ve never been the same.
    Blotanical is a great place, and it’s been fun to see you jump in and get so involved. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

    • Thanks, jodi. I try to control the rants around here, but sometimes they just will out, you know? 😉

      I am definitely enjoying my jumping in and getting involved. It took me a while to warm up by the edge of the pool there…

  8. Meredith I see a red star in your future. LOL!
    There is just a world literally full of knowledge from all of the gardeners and designers on Blotanical. You will find them always ready to give you advice on the ups and downs of certain plants or gardening. I have learned so much since joining it.
    It is funny how your tastes change throughout our life time. Things we did not like now we love. I am still trying to convince myself that I can like orange flowers but that may take some time.The drab olive green and orange of the sixties still haunt me. LOL! ( I just aged myself) I am trying to add a few into the garden beds though.I use to hate pizza and now love it so maybe orange will be in my future plantings.

    • LOL, Lona. Well, I won’t count any red stars before they’re born. I, too, have been amazed by all of the expertise and experience in the garden bloggers’ world. And the advice and info is, as you say, given so freely.

      Don’t worry about planting orange! I love orange. In fact, for a while it was my favorite color, especially the tangerine shade when paired with bright turquoise. But I’ve been gradually coming around to red. Bright scarlet is the star now. I think these things go in phases in our lives… besides, I’m old enough to remember that old gold, rust, and olive drab phase, too — all over my parents’ ’70s kitchen walls in the form of the ugliest harvest wallpaper I’ve ever seen! 😉

  9. Meridith, that was a beautiful and moving post. I am finding Blotanical to be a wonderful community too and have been amazed how some very experienced gardeners are so willing to share their knowledge and offer a word of encouragement.
    You write so eloquently about your passions and I am going to enjoy following your blog!
    PS: Congratulations from me too 🙂

    • Oh, thank you, gg, for the kind compliments and the congratulations! We are nearing our two-month anniversary now… whew!

      Community is what it’s all about; isn’t it?

  10. Meredith, what a great post! I’m stuck in a blogger’s rut right now, so I am really enjoying reading the many wonderful blogs of my fellow gardeners. I’m counting the days until I get home and get back to the real garden!

    Congratulations on your marriage!

    • Thank you, Granny. 🙂 I have to say, I was stuck in a winter rut, too, frustrated and wondering how I was going to continue this blog adventure when it was supposed to be a daily journal of my kitchen garden — and there was no more kitchen garden, only a dreary dormant landscape out my window, and the blogs of fellow gardeners inspired me so much. I can’t wait to see your real garden! (I think I should peruse your archives more thoroughly. ;))

  11. That is one great picture. Nice post.

  12. Well that’s just about precious in every way.

  13. Dear Meredith, You are incredibly beautiful! Your spirit and soul are revealed in your excellent fine craft of writing. You are a beautiful writer! I love how you wove this piece together from the delightful observations ” especially the way their fat, green caps match the little flash of spring green in their underskirts.” of snowdrops… leading us into love of language and travel … landing in the land of blotanical!! You have earned your red star… actually you deserve three! Really it is so delightful and inspiring to read your narrative! Oh and I forgot to add a very important part of this tapestry of a post… I am so sorry to learn that your family lost their farm! I join in your activism by calling congress weekly to demand, plead and encourage justice and support for our farmers… and I am not speaking of the mega corp farmers here… as you know. You have a gift for weaving the light and delightful with what pierces a heart… then leaving us with a feeling of community and hope. Brava! Fantastic post! In admiration and gratitude, Carol

    • Oh, Carol, I can’t tell you how much you’ve brightened my day with your comment. You even write comments beautifully, and with such careful thought. It amazes me.

      Thank you for your compliments, sympathy, wisdom — and especially thank you for your dedication to the farmers! I’ll sign off in admiration and gratitude, as well.

  14. Your description of Farmville cracked me up. I managed to block those updates from posting on my wall. Can’t say it seems all that fun.

    I loved your description of the snowdrops. I could picture them (well, I could see them in the photo, but if there wasn’t one, your description was perfect).

    • Elizabeth, I have been told that I can block a lot of stuff on Facebook, and that it was my fault I didn’t realize I could do so. I’ve been thinking of at least giving it a try again. (I mean I could always let my friends know when a blog post is published, right?) I quit cold turkey about six months ago, leaving my profile frozen in time. 😉

      I’m glad you liked the description of the snowdrops. They seem such friendly, dainty little beings. 🙂

  15. Meredith,

    I think it’s so wonderful that you’ve found Blotanical (and yes, at first I thought you made a typo but knew it had to end up making sense somehow)! You made it sound so wonderful that I–who has yet to grow anything but a Chia Pet–want to join! I have learned so much about plants and their beauty from your blog. This is one of my favorite posts; I could really, really feel how passionate you are about this.

    • LOL, I *knew* someone would think it was a typo. You and I share that proofreader’s eye, Alisha. 😉

      I have a feeling you can grow a lot more than a Chia-Pet, hon. (Although they are quite fun; aren’t they?) Remember you are currently nurturing two little ones, helping them grow both body and soul. But come enjoy the gardens and gardening blogs, by all means!

  16. What a great post! We are so glad you joined Blotanical!

  17. aloha meridith,

    you mean you don’t want to play farmville with me???? I can’t believe I actually have alot of friends that love it and I just don’t get it either…what a waste of time when you can really meet more wonderful people at blotanical…by the way I just faved you and give you (three) stars, but thats just me 🙂

    • Noel, that is so kind of you! I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I’m so glad it’s not just me who doesn’t understand the allure of fake farming. I’d definitely much rather spend time on Blotanical. It’s such a pleasure to find a community of people who get it, you know? 🙂

  18. Need to echo the many comments here and tell you how much I enjoyed this post. Blotanical truly is the garden blogger’s network.

  19. Hi Meredith I remember you starting on Blotanical and at that time you didn’t have your kitchen garden blog on Blotanical at the time – well you sure did get some inspiration didn’t you in those first few weeks. You’ve summed up what Blotanical is like so well – its such a welcoming, encouraging place. I hope Stuart gets to read this too – I am sure he would be delighted to read that his website does this much for so many fellow gardeners each day. I never took the plunge into Facebook – and hope I never do………….. Blotanical is so much better.

    🙂 Rosie

    • I do love Blotanical, Rosie. I’m so glad I found this supportive community. 🙂

      (Just a note, though: I did have this blog already, since August. But it was not approved for a couple of weeks after I joined. I get the feeling Blotanical is growing by leaps and bounds, and I think there’s only time to deal with us newcomers in batches now. 😉 I wonder if Stuart is going to need to hire help soon, and how the changing needs of the community might affect everything long-term.)

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