}

January 1, 2014

HERE'S YOUR CHANCE - ASK ME NOW

More travel is tops on my list of things that I would like to do more of in 2014. I was planning on visiting Chile this Holiday break, but my fathers deteriorating health has put that on the back burner for a while. But there are other things I can do to make this blog more interesting - share your ideas now. What are you not seeing on other blogs?

As things start to settle down after the Holiday season, it's time to start the new year with a fresh slate.
Even with three full weeks off from work, I never seemed to work on redesigning this blog. As a digital designer, one might think that this sort of task would be a dream job, but the reality is when one is designing for ones self, (the worst possible client), nothing seems to seem right. So I ask you - my loyal readers -- What would you like to see more of on this blog?

I know most bloggers like to keep this thought process secret, but I have no problem with opening up the question to my readers.

Right now I am working on my new sidebar categories, something that I have been wanting organize better, but I need to know what you guys like or want. Look at the list below, and let me know what means little to you, or what you might like more of? The same goes for posts, of course - what your you like to see more of here in the coming year?

Here is one idea on possible categories (let me know what categories you like better than others, or which ones might be missing).


Home Grown - (about Veggies, or should this be organic vegetables? How about raised beds?)
Bloom – Floral Inspiration ( I think I need a category on cut flowers, or flower design?)
Collector Plants ( for the collator - various plant collections)
Rare Bulbs ( a place to share my greenhouse bulbs - might need a better title)
Containers ( all sorts of container planting ideas, colors, textures, ideas)
Alpine & Rock Gardens ( troughs, alpine gardens)
Plant Craft ( topiary, forcing, bonsai)
Matt’s Projects – (those step-be-step projects I do, like growing poppies or mastering sweet peas)
Cooking (with Plants) Canning, home preserving, recipes

Wanderlust (travels, hikes, expeditions)
In the garden, now ( a "what's in bloom now" section, so imagine JANUARY) ?

There must be categories of topics that you would just love knowing more about, please share.

ANOTHER CATEGORY IDEA

Here's an idea: What if I simply organized sidebars by plant type? Orchids, Bulbs, Perennials, Greenhouse plants, house plants, vegetables?


While I have your attention, any thoughts about the following would be very helpful, too:


PLUS NEW CATEGORIES AND FEATURES

I REDESIGN PART OF YOUR GARDEN
How about a section where you can send in your trouble spots, garden design issues, a photo of your front entrance, your back yard, a special bed…. and I redesign it…draw up a plan, supply a plant list, would that interest you?

SUBMIT YOUR GARDEN QUESTIONS
I could answer questions about most anything

TRENDS
How about design trends in gardening, landscape design, floral design, color trends - that sort of thing?

VIDEO
I've been toying about with adding video, which totally freaks me out, but I did design the greenhouse so that this could be possible. Would bi-weekly video segments interest you? Imagine topics like sowing difficult to grow seeds, forcing bulbs, creative crafting like topiary and espalier?

SLIDE SHOWS
I have yet to add slideshows to my site, feeling that since I have so many images, that the site already feels like a slide show. Thoughts?

SHOULD I WRITE A BOOK?
If I write a book, what would you like it to be about?

OK. I've been avoiding this one, but perhaps the time is near. Now, I most likely would only bother with a book if a big publisher was interested, you know - like Taschen or Cronicle Books, because, I would want an awesome cook-book quality book, naturally (really dreaming here, I know! But hey - if cookbooks can do it….).  So if I did write (and yes, designed) a book, what would you like it to be about? Here are some suggestions:

I've been throwing around ideas such as traditional garden craft (hard core topiary, building a root cellar, pleaching hornbeams, forcing vegetables like sea kale, rhubarb, etc).

Or my dream book - a quality book showcasing the garden in a month-by-month photographic journal and then excellent content along with this journey. 

How about the ultimate how-to-grow vegetables book? You know, grow and force your own Belgian Endive? 

A garden cook book? There are SO many out there, but  I can't think of one that actually shows how to grow a plant, and then shares recipes. Salsify from seed, step-by-step, and then recipes. It would need to be seasonally organized, naturally.

A greenhouse book? There really isn't a decent one out there.

How about one about collector and connoisseur plants like rare clivia and those lost conservatory plants? Plant collections.

Only dreaming, but it would be nice to know if there is any interest in any of these topics.

DESIGN MY OWN PRODUCTS
Is there any interest in products which I have designed? Container, pots, tools, my own seeds, clothing, vases, TShirts, soil mixes, bulbs, plants from my greenhouse?

MORE GIVEAWAYS
I am always approached to give away products, but I am selective. Let me know if I am being too selective or if you love all sorts of giveaways.

A MAGAZINE
I used to publish PLANT SOCIETY, a small, self published magazine. Is there any interest in something like that again? What if it was an annual? Or more thematic, such as one issue on how to start a vegetable garden? I've been toying with that sort of concept also.

More  garden tours? Famous gardens, inspirational gardens, back-door access to places that you have never seen like amaryllis growers in Holland?


I am also open to any other ideas that you may have. This is the time folks, to request what you would like to see come from me without me freaking out.


33 comments :

  1. even though i think that Growing with Plants is very Mary Poppins in that is is "practically perfect in every way," i love that you think enough of your readers to solicite their input!!

    your sidebar proposals are all very good. i would love to see an addition of entertaining and maybe something along the lines of a monthly "my house now" showing how you are bringing your garden inside through decoration, parties, recipes, moving stuff around to accommodate, for example, seed starting, indoor herb gardeing, etc. blog readers are a teeny bit nosey and love seeing how their favorite posters live (or, maybe, that's just me :)).

    you absolutely should write a book, you are a wonderful writer. my favorites are those that combine useful knowledge --recipes, gardening knowledge, how-to's-- with gorgeous pictures and essays, observations, notes & little vingnettes of the everyday life of the writer. a journalistic approach to a how-to book, that is organized and beautifully presented.

    that's it :)!

    many happy returns to you & many thanks for a lovely and informative blog.

    nanne

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    1. Oh, spit spot. Nanne, your are brilliant! Entertaining is something I never throughout about, and to be honest, I never think about adding anything about the indoors, yet, that's where it all started. Thanks too for your kind words about writing ( although, I think I am a terrible writer, speller, grammar, etc, but at least, I try to keep it honest and close to being conversational, or how I naturally speak, so that helps. Let's say that I would need a big, fancy New York editor with a big stick. I do love the 'journalistic approach as a how-to book, as that it the exact sort of book that generally stays at my bed side, or in a big chair on snowy days. Thanks!

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    2. Matt-
      I would love to know where you got your greenhouse? Who is the manufacturer. I am new to your blog and I am planning to move to an acreage. A greenhouse and gardens are part of the plan, but I haven't found a greenhouse that I liked until I saw yours. Are you willing to share any information about the greenhouse or the layout of your gardens. I am at a loss and would appreciate your help.

      Thanks!

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  2. Trends - yes

    Giveaways - sure

    I'd be interested in the details of owning and growing in a greenhouse. I want one myself, but it's a few years away. Posts about what grows best, how to organize one, mundane maintenance tasks, etc would all be good.

    A post about making your own pots would be cool. I think I read you did that in another post.

    Lastly, your take on the 'basics' could be useful -- things like best potted soil mix, proper fertilizing routine, or anything where your opinion varies from conventional wisdom

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    1. JP - Funny, I was just talking yesterday about doing more pots, as it's been about 6 months since we've moved the wheel and kiln into a new location. I usually throw pots starting in February through March ( it's my mud-season thing!). So stay tuned. I really like your Idea about 'the basics', as others have asked for that too. I know that I somethings get too into the details. Great ideas.

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  4. Anonymous8:57 AM

    Hi Matt. I've been getting ideas from you for garden projects. Started tuberous begonia from the seed source you suggested and grafted tomatoes. I love reading about the plans even if you just mention them and don't get a chance to actually bring them to fruition. I've mostly been a plant collector but have recently started growing vegetables again and have really been enjoying it. Trials of best varieties, hybrid vs heirloom would all be interesting. Think I'll trial a few heirloom tomatoes this year and maybe go for a little hybridizing. Keep up the good work. Lori

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    1. I am impressed - Tuberous Begonia from seed. Nice. I only did that once, and I think I was in high school! But begonia from seed does sound like a good project for me to undertake, as I am getting smitten by the begonia bug. Time, perhaps, to revisit Tuberous Begonias too.

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  5. I second Nanne's comment above regarding entertaining/decor topics. Also, don't be freaked out by video! I would love to see video of your greenhouse and garden layout, cute puppies would be a bonus, and a video profile of some of your rare blooms would be fascinating.
    Love your writing--it is casual yet well-researched and always informative! Keep it up.

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    1. I promise ktsquizzie, that I will start video this week - but be prepared, as I will only be using my iPhone, in a 'selfie-style' manner, as I don't have a decent camera that shoots video yet. It's on my to-do list. But it will get me started for now. Eventually, I will get a better set up and kit, if I can get over how I look on-screen!

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  6. Anonymous6:51 PM

    Matt, yours is the only garden blog I read regularly, I think because you hit most of the topics I'm interested in. South African bulbs, plant collecting, vintage ideas, garden design are my favourites. I'm glad you don't spend time on real basic garden skills or generic "what to do this month" as there are lots of other places I can find that info. I am on a budget, plus live in Canada, so mostly grow my plants from seed - info on starting some of the trickier seeds would be great. Keep writing! Jill P.

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    1. John OConnell10:41 PM

      I agree, more rare and unusual. As a grower of orchids, succulents and bromeliads, I read for the unusual stuff that nobody else writes about.

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    2. OK, Guys. You got it. I can't help myself, any excuse to grow more orchids ( cool growing ones, at least), and bromeliads have been on my 'must-get' list for some time now. Clearly headed in that direction. Do you grow yours indoors, in a greenhouse or outdoors?

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  7. Good on you Matt! There seem to be a few bloggers who are worried that blogging is losing its finesse - what with Tumblr and the likes... so its refreshing when a fave starts moving forward with ideas. You've definitely the knack for writing down to a fine art, so yeah, move into videos. Seeing and hearing the face and voice behind the blogger can be fun - and nothing reels me in quicker than seeing and hearing the PASSION when a fellow devotee is pontificating about their favourite plants. Maybe a section on what got you interested in plants: your mentors [short bios], family members, first gardens, and of course why your favourites are your favourites. Looking forward to witnessing the transformation first hand..... but don't panic, things are pretty damned near perfect the way they are. Happy New Year!

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    1. Thanks Barry. That's sure encouragement! I've received many emails directly to this request, and I am surprised at how many people like the content as it is rather than simplifying it, or focusing on on easier to grow subjects. One reader/friend, Abbie Zabar in New York, provided a link to a NYTimes article about how specialist and hobby magazines and thriving in a publishing world where bigger, or more generic titles are struggling. It seems the greatest growth in publishing is with with these hobby subjects - wine, cigars, food, specialty gardening and model trains. All good news, I hope!

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  9. Sometimes you don't know the answer until you hear (or read) the question. You answered most of your own queries:

    "A greenhouse book? There really isn't a decent one out there."

    "What if I simply organized sidebars by plant type? Orchids, Bulbs, Perennials, Greenhouse plants, house plants, vegetables?"

    I vote with the folks who like your blog content.

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    1. Thanks Jean, I suppose that you are right. I may have answered my own question, but believe me, that list can go on and on! I think I need to group things together more. For example: should I group all bulbs together? Or separate them into sidebar links for SUMMER BULBS, WINTER GREENHOUSE BULBS, etc?

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  10. I love your blog. I read you from Spain, you know.
    The best I like is information and photos -yours are excellent- about bulbous plants and rare bulbs. And bulbs in general.
    But your blog is gorgeous.
    Happy new year!!!

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    1. Wow, Maria - I love Spain! I haven't been there for 20 years, but it's such a beautiful country. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, I do know that a good portion of my audience enjoys content that is rarely found on other blogs, after all, that was the key reason why I started this venture - I wanted more from my media sources, and magazines, TV and video were just moving in the opposite direction - more mass media and sound bytes, and less deep content. Not sure if I can enrich the content here, as I think I need to appeal to a broader audience, but I do know that I will need to focus a bit more, so that everything doesn't become just a bit of this, and that. Again, my gut tells me ( and most of you) that there might be enough lifestyle blogs out there, and that there is still a space for the more serious, yet design-conscious plant lover who still wants to see inspiration and new things.

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  12. Taylor7:13 PM

    Matt,
    LOVE the idea of a plant collector book. Like a bookshelf, says so much about a person.
    And I'm with other plant nerds...keep up with the plant collector/rare plant posts. Never too many of these!

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  13. Anonymous9:34 AM

    YES...to everything. I love learning about new plants. Love the greenhouse, love the veggie garden. Love your dogs. Love it all!
    Melanie from Ohio

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  14. Michael11:57 AM

    Matt,
    I most enjoy your "projects," particularly the investigation of garden plants or practices that have fallen by the wayside yet were the mark of advanced horticulture at one point. Knowing a bit more about the nuts and bolts of a cold-region greenhouse would be welcome, too (which made the new video of interest). We have a 3-season greenhouse in Montana, but heating it in winter is more than we care to take on. And knowing what motivates your passion for gardening and how you express that. All good fodder, especially during a northern winter.
    And many, many thanks for a tasteful and limited number of ads.

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  15. Anonymous10:38 PM

    love your whole blog, i 've tried to expand my skills because of your inspiration. would love more design ideas, pots , flower arrangements, whole garden design. nothing in the current garden design field thrills me. what would you do if you were to start a new place. you are so creative, i would love your input. i just saw the video. loved it! your having fun and it shows. thanks

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    1. Oh, I often think (dream) about starting a new garden at a new place…not sure if I will ever have the confidence to do so, but someday, I probably will have to as my neighborhood is pretty sketchy now, as the city grows around my garden.

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  16. I love the plants, but I'm not interested in "decorating" or "holiday themed rum cake recipes". No qualms with "extra" tips about cooking ,but there are too many sites which treat plants as secondary to the design, and your strong point is your depth of knowledge and experience. I can appreciate plants taken back to the house for aesthetics, we all take our pampered plants out of their homes to live in the unforgiving human house for a bit. But like you said, there's enough "how to bloom paper whites and Amarylis for Christmas", so please leave out the crocheting!

    I personally would like to hear more of the plant's story, where it came from, who collected it, how, what sort of intrigue happened to bring about this plant. Also "basic" may be an inexact term for "details" about culture and maintenance, i.e. soil vs. scree, fertilizer regime, all the gory details about actually fulfilling the needs of the plant excite me.

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    1. Thanks Bill, I can't agree more, but as a designer too, I admit I am attracted to both using good horticulture and design in much of what I do. I mean, collecting and growing Lachenalia is geeky fun, but then thinking about how to present them in the proper, or new way, is one reason why I started this blog in the first place. Only a few people may grow the smaller species narcissus, but even fewer, if any, cultivate them in small, hand-thrown pots. Not that I am special my any means, but that is my foundational premise for what I try to do. I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas - especially about the backstory of some plants. Thanks for the input!

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  17. Matt i like thinking of you as an underground, male, Martha Stewart with a proclivity for plants. Something that i think you should do more of is your projects. It's fascinating learning about rare species, collectibles, etc. But the most rewarding aspect from following a blog like yours is learning the skills to have some of these things in my life as well. Your sweet pea posts inspired me to grow my own, and they were a complete mess, but i still got blooms and it was very rewarding at the end of the day.

    You don't have to go into great detail when sharing a rare specimen, but when you have something that you think your readers would be interested in growing themselves a step by step is always welcome.

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    1. HI Danny, That's great advice. I guess I would look for the same sort of inspiration on-site, and I think you are right, I often miss the early Martha Stewart Living articles where her editors for focus in on a specific plant like German Bearded Iris, Citrus, or on a specific gardening project. Thanks!

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  18. Anonymous9:31 PM

    Hi Matt, I read your blog on a very regular basis and always look forward to it. I like the sidebars you mentioned, would add a category for outside plants other than vegetables, your interest in annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. I most enjoy reading about what you are doing in the garden and in the greenhouse and suggest you continue to concentrate on that. I get to experience your gardens and greenhouse vicariously. A Year at North Hill has always been one of my favorites, and I go back to it time after time. You could do something similar, A Year in My Garden and it would be popular and timely. Then follow that with a Year in My Greenhouse. I'm interested in your travels, membership in plant organizations and garden tours. How did your planting of Galanthus come out? Lets see that this spring. Best wishes. Thank you for your writing and sharing! Mark W.

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    1. Thanks Mark. I have to admite that A Year at North Hill is my most favorite gardening book, ever -period. It came to me at an important time in my life, and I have read it so many time, that the cover is coming off of it. I don't know what appeals to me exaxctly with the book, as their ( Wayne Winterrowd and Joe Eck) other books are most enjoyable, but not as much as that first book. I do think it is the photography ( just the right amount to leave the imagination filling in the gaps) and the step-by-step journey through the seasons. I just love that book. I take it as a great compliment that you compare my site to their life, even if just a little bit! Thanks so much. Best, Matt.

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  19. I would love a book about the history of your garden and the challenges you have gone through. I am amazed that you work and have such a garden. Would love to know how you do it and then I would include recipes from the bounty of your garden. I just found your blog and I plan to tell friends and colleagues all about your blog.

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