Saturday, January 2, 2010

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

First Bluebonnet of 2009

2009 was an interesting year for me, personally and in the garden. I spent much of the year looking for a paycheck and also trying to figure out where my future lay. For the first time ever though, I found more of my time focused on one of the real joys in my life - gardening.

Blogging and Writing
Wow, I did not anticipate, when I started blogging in the summer of 2008, that I would get so into it. Granted, I don't actually blog as much as I'd like to and I don't get to read as many blogs as I'd like to. But boy has it been fun. I attended the garden blogger's Spring Fling in Chicago, not really knowing what I would take away from it but knowing I'd see some great gardens. It was SO MUCH MORE than great gardens. Getting to meet some of the bloggers and really connect with some was such a highlight. Reading their blogs now is like chatting with a friend.

Cindy, Beth, and Pam at Chicago Botanic Garden

Over the year I picked up a few pass-around awards and then was surprised to see Blotanical subscribers award my blog Best Louisiana Blog. And then to find out that Horticulture picked my blog for one of their Top 20 garden blogs. Well it was almost too much.

I have been writing the newsletter for our farmers' market this past year. That effort combined with my blogging confirmed that I wanted to pursue more writing so I am happy to say that I have almost completed my first article for a garden magazine, scheduled to come out in June (I'll let you know about that when it happens).

Learning and Sharing
In 2009 I decided to pursue a Louisiana Master Gardener certification. In order to retain your certification you must contribute hours to other efforts, mostly ones that benefit the community. Our class decided to update a garden bed in a local park as a teaching tool on butterfly and bird gardening. Although it was a group effort, I designed the planting plan, learned how best to measure a garden bed from my friend Alexis, and learned how to stay patient when the fall rains wouldn't quit!

Kathy and Virginia busy planting the butterfly garden

I gave a talk at a local nursery about butterfly and bird gardening and plan to give another talk in March on perennials. I started a garden coaching business but it's growing VERY slowly.

I worked part time in a nursery, learning more about the plants that folks in this area prefer and hopefully sharing some of my knowledge of different plants with them.

I managed to visit several public gardens that were great (and some outstanding). Here's some links to posts I did about them: Wildwood Gardens in Little Rock, Chanticleer Garden in Pennsylvania here and here, Chicago Botanical Garden, and Briarwood Garden in north Louisiana. And here's some great private gardens I visited: Layanee's Ledge and Gardens in Rhode Island and Rick Bayless's garden in Chicago.

I also learned a lot more about photography through the Gardening Gone Wild photo challenges and hints from my photgrapher brother Brian.

The Gardening
Well, the gardening was frugal but fun. The successes? Finding some plants that are more native to the area.

Viburnum obovatum ‘Mrs Schiller’s Delight’

I also managed to plant and even grow some favorite plants from my past gardening experience (by travelling back to Texas to buy them!).

Malvaviscus drummondii, 'Turks Cap'

I was also finally able to attract some much wanted butterflies to the yard.

Monarch and Coneflower

The failures in the yard in 2009 include very few fall tomatoes, mis-labeled daylilies from the big box store, a rose that grew way out of its normal bounds and on to the driveway (The Fairy), and the inability to find any plants in this area in the fall that weren't pansies, snaps, or mums.

Although there's not much I can do about it, the rather strange weather was a bit much - first, no spring rains; then too much spring rain; then August temperatures and drought in June and July; then June-like weather in August and September; then 40 days and 40 nights of rain; then early freezes. Hmm.

Looking Ahead
Now what? What will 2010 bring? Well I hope it brings me more garden blogging friends, more opportunities to pursue my writing, more garden coaching clients, more learning opportunities, perhaps a steady paycheck, and a chance to grow into my full potential as a person.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. I'm so glad you came to Spring Fling & I got a chance to meet you & become familiar with your blog. Your honors are well deserved. I hope the new year brings you even more success and delight.

  2. Jean, no doubt about it: You had a very, very busy and interesting year! Here's wishing you a wonderful new year with more opportunities and a regular pay check. Good luck to you.

  3. Wow you had a busy year full of fond memories. Best of luck persuing your dreams in the new year.

  4. Jean, I think you have had a great year of learning new things, and trying to follow your passions. I know that you will continue to do well, so don't give up on those that are progressing slowly! Think of your coaching business sort of like perennials - sleep, creep, leap. I am glad I "met" you this year, and look forward to reading many more great posts. Kathy

  5. Congratulations on a very successful year Jean! I enjoy your writing very much and your photos are lovely! May the coming year bring you more adventures, lectures, garden writing assignments, juicy tomatoes and honors! Happy 2010! Carol

  6. Although the expression is a bit cliche, gardening in general, and becoming a master gardener volunteer in specific, really did help me grow as a person. My journey is similar to yours--I've had clients, I've done garden writing, and I speak. I never ever would have gotten into public speaking if it weren't for gardening. And I've met so many nice folks through blogging, which I also would never do if it weren't for my love of gardening. Happy new year!

  7. Hi Jean, you have had an outstanding year! Congrats on all the writing gigs past to come in the future. You definitely have a way with words, and plants! It was fun meeting you in Chicago, I wish we had spent a little more time together, that always happens at these events. Next time you are coming through my part of TN, do stop by, I promise not to be sick next time. I hope! :-)

  8. I wish you all the best for your goals in 2010, and you should be very proud of this past year's accomplishments! I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to get to know each other at Spring Fling! It was a very busy weekend and I hope this year we can have a chance to talk in person.

  9. Jean — Taken all together it sounds like a good year with more good things in store! You are so right about reading blogs after Chicago Spring Fling — you can picture everyone and even hear their voices!

  10. The bluebonnet is sublime. It sounds as though you are finding a comfortable yet challenging niche in LA. I remembered with fondness your visit and hope that it will not be the last one. The poppy picture was also a great reminder of our terrific time at Spring Fling. Buffalo 2010? I hope so. Can't wait to read your article.

  11. What a wonderful post! I found myself nodding my head agreeing with almost everything you said! I myself have been bitten by the photography bug, and have purchased a new camera to help with that addiction (only problem is that it isn't in yet!). I also never anticipated making friends with other bloggers (not that I was against it). I have made so many wonderful frienship with other bloggers. If you don't know something...I can gaurantee you that one of them will!

  12. I would say you've had a very successful year, Jean! I, too, am so glad I attended Spring Fling, not only for the opportunities to see so many wonderful gardens, but also for the chance to meet new blogging friends like you. I signed up for our local Master Gardeners' class which begins in a few weeks. I am wondering how I will find time for all the required volunteer hours and still keep up with my own garden, but I'm looking forward to learning so much more about gardening.

    Somehow I missed this post; glad I came back and found it! Good luck with your ventures--I look forward to reading your magazine article!

  13. Jean, I enjoyed this post and I must agree, the bloggers' get-together in Chicago was a highlight of my year. I'm very much looking forward to renewing friendships made there in Buffalo and in meeting even more garden bloggers! I hope you and I get a chance to hit a nursery or two before then ... let me know when you're coming to Houston!


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