Tenth birthday for iGarden!

Sunday, 02 September 2018

Justica rizzinii, a photo from my first blog in 2008

Almost exactly 10 years ago, I penned my very first blog for this website, a short paean to the beginning of spring in 2008. I had no real idea of what I was doing or why. The only people who knew of the existence of the website were my husband and two daughters. The website owed its existence mainly to the fact that my recently retired husband appeared to need a project ('Nothing to do? How about you make me a website?'). Blogs had become a 'thing', and I was intrigued with a simple website on which a girl in America talked about what she was going to cook each week: surely, I decided, I could write about what I was doing or thinking about in my garden each week! I also thought that it might be good to have a centralised depository (if only for my own reference) where I could distil my knowledge for all the information I had garnered over the years from books, magazines, garden clubs, gardening talks and lectures I had attended, gardens visited, conversations with friends, plus my own experience of gardening in Sydney and what plants did and didn't do well in our climate.

I'd been a Sydney gardener for 25 years by that time, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears had gone into the creation of two successive gardens. I had learned the hard way that the ubiquitous English gardening books and Melbourne-based garden magazines were not all that relevant to our climate. I thought if I could document the plants that had worked for me into a sort of plant directory and write regular blogs about my gardening experiences, this might help other Sydney gardeners.

Cotyledon orbiculata, suggested by several readers as a good doer

I tentatively mentioned my blog to friends, who kindly started to read it, and somehow gradually I garnered more readers, whose feedback encouraged me to continue on. Those who regularly commented on blogs came to be like friends. I have learned much from readers, from suggestions of different plants or gardening techniques to try, to gardens and nurseries to visit. Some of these suggestions in turn became topics for blogs. Ideas for improvements to the website were also often very helpful. Some people even sent me plants. On occasions, such as at open gardens that I was involved with, I met some readers, which has always been a delight.

Salvia dorisiana, which I have grown for decades

My attitude to gardening has evolved over the past 10 years in lots of ways, which is reflected in my blogs. Changing weather patterns, especially with the recent trend to longer, hotter, drier summers have seen me abandon the less-than-tough plants I once loved and focus instead on the more resilient. Sustainability in gardening has become a central preoccupation of mine. I have turned away from all forms of chemical sprays and tried to find other ways to control pests and diseases, as more and more research has shown the harm of such sprays on human health and the natural world. The importance of soil, compost and mulch has become ever more central to my thinking about gardening, along with the vital role of healthy microbial activity in our gardens. I have become more interested in growing some of my own food, which I am thoroughly enjoying. I constantly discover new plants, part of the endless fascination of gardening. My garden is a somewhat mad melange of semi-tropical flowers, grasses, foliage plants and the odd cottage garden specimen from a previous gardening phase, as well as, of course, the survivors from my various plant crazes over the years (most notably Salvia and Acanthaceae plants). I have yet to have much success with native plants in the heavy clay of my Beecroft garden, but am experimenting with them elsewhere with other gardens I am involved with.

A colourful cow greets visitors to the New Secret Garden & Nursery

I've become a firm believer in the importance of community in our lives, especially where gardening is involved. Garden clubs, community gardens, horticultural therapy centres, plant sales and open gardens for charity fundraising, and other good works have had my support wherever I can provide it. I believe in the importance of gardening to retain our sanity in an increasingly bizarre world, and to help us stay in touch with the rhythms of the natural world. I am more and more convinced that gardeners have the secret to a happy life: gardening provides enjoyable exercise; a way to create beauty; a form of beneficial mindfulness meditation as we potter, totally absorbed, amongst our plants; a solace in times of stress and sadness; and a conduit to social bonding, by getting to know other gardeners. Gardeners have the capacity to find joy in the simple things in life: the blooming of a favourite plant, the sound of rain on the roof, the singing of a bird, the germination of a seed. We are the luckiest people on earth!

With 402 blogs after that first one, I still enjoy finding topics to write about, and I still haven't completed my Plant Directory yet! Thanks so much to all my readers for your feedback and support over the past 10 years. Without you, I would have given up years ago. I look forward to continuing to explore the challenges and fun of gardening in Sydney!