I've been getting intrigued by the way some garden blogs, which I consider to be really good, chuntle along for years with very little attention from the garden bloggers' community, while others zoom into popularity within a couple of months of start-up. What makes the difference? Is it content? Visual impact? Or what?
After spending a week avidly reading all sorts of blogs, I still don't know. Garden bloggers often seem to fall into categories, but the most popular blogs may come from any of them. However, the categories themselves are intriguing. So here they are - see which category you think you and your favourite blogs fall into. They're not mutually exclusive, so don't be surprised if some blogs fit into more than one category. Oh - one thing before we start. I've got favourite blogs from all the categories, and I know that a lot of blogs which I read less regularly are followed avidly by a lot of other people. So this isn't intended to be a criticism of anyone or anyparticular category. there are pros and cons to all of them. And in any case I am not, repeat not, talking about you.
1. The purists vs. the bifurcated vs. the butterflies.
The purists write about gardening, gardening and more gardening. You can read their blogs for months and you'll have hardly any idea about the rest of their lives. The odd mention of a family member may creep in, but that's about it. Do they have jobs? other interests? problems? You'll never know - unless it's gardening related of course. Their blogs are really interesting, and often give you loads of ideas, but can occasionally get a bit impersonal - is there a real person in there somewhere?
The bifurcated have two main interests and their blog reflects this. One subcategory of the bifurcated are the wildlife bloggers, who focus as much as the birds, insects and animals in the garden as on the flowers, while the other are the hobbyists. The garden is one hobby, but there's another - and it shares the blog. How you feel about bifurcated blogs much depends on whether you share the second interest. If you do, they're double value for money. If not you can sometimes get fed up.
The butterflies, on the other hand, will blog about anything interesting that happens to them or comes to mind - whether it's garden related or not. Their blogs are often fun and lively, and you soon start to feel you know the writer personally. You sometimes wish they'd get back to the garden though.
2. The informative vs. the chatty.
Most of us in the garden blogging community would cheerfully admit to being amateurs. But there are professional gardeners within our midst, and also an awful lot of amateur expertise. (Amateur doesn't necessarily mean "amateurish - Olympic athletes are amateurs too.) Some bloggers, especially professionals such as nursery owners focus on being informative - giving details of plants, growing techniques and so on. And they clearly know what they're talking about. They're at their best though when the blog isn't just there to publicise a business, but when they genuinely want to blog. And when they tell us about their experiments and failures as well as their successes.
Writers of chatty blogs don't consider themselves experts at all, and just want to talk about what's going on in their gardens. They'll ask for advice as often as give it, and their comments boxes are often the place where the real information comes out.
3. The writers vs. the scribblers
And then there are the professional writers, often journalists. They can come up with a topic which might never have occurred to the rest of us and write about it in a way that fascinates and intrigues - seemingly effortlessly, and without the wrestling matches that we scribblers have trying to make words work for us. Take notes of how they do it - their posts are frequently the best of the bunch, and I'm usually green with envy when I read them. But on the other hand, they can sometimes be too polished and impersonal - somehow the appeal of the blog format is that blogs are written by ordinary people who can't spell antirrhinum, and not by professionals.
4. The photographers vs. the illustrators
Very few garden blogs have no photos at all. Even when there isn't a relevant photo to go with what we're saying, we add one anyway - lijke the one at the top of this post. But most of us are illustrators. We just plan a few nice photos to go with our posts, and pop out and take them. We may even find ourselves apologising for the fact that they're out of focus or that the colour's a bit off. But some blogs have pictures which are just breathtaking - you can see every vein on a petal, or every grain of pollen on a bees back. I don't know how they do it. Yes, they probably have far superior equipment to my bottom of the range Canon. But I suspect that even if we swapped, they'd still produce the best photos. The downside of the photographers' blogs? Sometimes thay can go over the top on the photos without having very much to say. But then, the photos often speak for themselves ...
5. The decorators vs.the essentialists
If you use a blog provider like Blogger, you get offered a choice of standard blog formats. But for most of us that's not enough. We want to decorate our blogs and add fancy backgrounds, different colours, widgets galore in the sidebar ... It all helps turn the blog into a personal statement and serves to make it more attractive - as long as you share the same taste as the blogger. And decorators' blogs can sometimes be hell to load. The essentialists' blogs, on the other hand, load in a moment. But they can be a bit boring ...
6. The frequent vs. the occasional
How often do you blog? Some people blog every day (occasionally twice) while others may let a couple of weeks pass between posts. Is there an optimum frequency of posts? Personally, I don't think so. I'd rather read someone whose posts are occasional but who has something to say than someone to feels they "have to" post daily. But then, a lot of people are frequent posters and do have something to say.
7. The copious vs. the concise
How long are your posts? Some posts don't go over a couple of hundred words - which for me is usually too concise and leaves me hungering for more. Others go on, and on, and on - with thousands of photos and copious amounts of text. A bit like this one really.
8. The community members vs. the individuals
Community members don't only blog, they also visit other people's blogs, leave comments, contribute to forums, suggest memes, network on Blotanical and generally contribute to the "social constructivist" aspect of the net (Google it!). Other people don't. They're not particularly interested in the wider community - they just want to produce a record of their own garden. Pros and cons? The community members really get things going, and we'd be lost without them. But you do sometimes and in some cases (and no, remember I said that I don't mean you) wonder if they're just trying to publicise their own blogs. But then, aren't most of us. The individuals are more "take me or leave me". Reading their blogs you don't feel pressurised to comment - but neither do you always feel they're particularly interested in what you would have to say.
So where do you fall? And where do the posts you like best fall? Mine, as I said, cut across the categories. Maybe that's the whole appeal of the gardening blogosphere. In the end the blogs are all as different as the people who write them.