What garden blogging means to me, & my favorite images from 2011

Do you ever think about what a garden blog requires? Entertaining and informative writing, arresting images, and, for fodder, all those hours spent gardening or visiting other gardens. Keeping a garden blog “fed” regularly is like working a part-time job—for free.

It’s also, of course, a creative outlet like no other, where you can publish anything you want (with no editor or publisher saying yea or nay), and where you can converse with others who share your passion. And all that gardening and garden visiting that gives you material for your blog? Why, that’s pure joy! That’s why we’re all here, because we share a love of gardening, plants, and nature.

The new year has me ruminating over what Digging has meant to me for the nearly six years I’ve been blogging. The best analogy is that it’s a magic portal to a world I’d never have discovered otherwise, peopled by fellow garden lovers, beautified by their gardens, and brimming with shared experiences. I am so grateful for all of you, your interest, your comments, and your friendship. Thank you for sharing this sweet old world with me (and thanks to Lucinda Williams for the phrase).

Enough sentimentality. This post was meant to be a response to a year-end post by Les at A Tidewater Gardener. Les is an incredible photographer, especially of open vistas of natural beauty. He chose his top 10 images from 2011, and I decided, spur of the moment, to do the same. I quickly learned that choosing a favorite image is not an objective process; each choice hinges on the emotional or technical back-story. If you take photos, try it—you’ll see. For this moment in time, however, here are my favorite photos from 2011, and why.

Pictured at top, colorful roses floating in a birdbath in Lucinda Hutson’s festive, romantic garden last spring. Aside from the beauty of this vignette, I like that it reminds me of Lucinda’s garden and her hospitality and her special touches to make everything lovely.

This one appeals to me for the pattern and lively form of the plants, which I saw during a visit to Big Red Sun. Aren’t they fun?

During a stay in the San Juan Islands, Washington, this summer, we visited Lime Kiln Lighthouse at sunset. This is my favorite image of the dozens that I took.

Another instance of being in the right place at the right time. I wrangled a last-minute, early morning visit (brazenly inviting myself over) to Michael McDowell’s prairie garden during a trip to Dallas and happened to catch it at peak fall bloom, with the morning light illuminating the garden beautifully. Thank you, Michael!

A quieter image, but I like the whorling form of the fern and the contrast with the glossy, blue leaves in the background. This is from Seattle’s Dunn Gardens, and it reminds me of the lush beauty of that region, so different from the rugged, prickly beauty of my home terrain.

Stars and rosettes. This, to me, is a happy image from my own garden during a difficult summer. The freckled beauty is ‘Bloodspot’ mangave. Plant love!

‘Salmon Waves’ at Chittenham Locks in Seattle. I like this photo because I was able to capture a little girl’s face in the curl of a wave as she darted by. This sculpture was so dynamic, and her presence adds to the overall feeling of motion and gives the photo a focal point.

Hm, I had a lot of colorful shots to choose from. Why this one? Not because of any technical superiority, obviously. I think I just liked the warmth of the pumpkins, and fall is my favorite time of year. And it reminds me of a fun visit with my family at the Dallas Arboretum last October.

A child’s wonder. I shot this at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, one of my favorite haunts throughout the year.

I like the modernistic geometry of this one. It’s my stock-tank pond and surrounding stone path after Austin got an inch of snow in February.

I love the humor of this one. Last April I showed Southern Living photographer Ralph Anderson around some local gardens. Ralph got interested in a close-up of a couple of irresistible miniature donkeys. I’m sure he got the better shot, but I still smile when I see this one.

What do I love about this shot? The smiling chorus-line of faces of garden blogging friends, and Kathy shooting the view at the end of the row, as we rode the ferry on the final day of the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling. I hope to see old and new garden blogging friends—and capture more scenes like this—at this year’s Fling in Asheville, North Carolina. All you bloggers who haven’t yet attended, find a way to make it happen! The destinations, which change yearly, are wonderful, but it’s really meeting the people behind the blogs that makes it worthwhile.

Plants, gardens, friends, and fun—that’s what blogging has given me. And I hope Digging has given you similar enjoyments. Here’s to another year!

All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

32 Responses

  1. Les says:

    Pam, thanks for sharing your top photos. I think my favs here are the lighthouse, but then again I am such a sucker for a seascape. I like the quiet photo of the ferns, and I like the last shot because they look like they are having such a good time. When I heard the fling would be in relatively nearby Asheville, I was elated, but when I saw the dates I was deflated. There is no way I can take time off “in-season”. Oh well, maybe next fling. Happy new year to you and your family!

    Rats! I was so hoping I’d meet you in Asheville, Les. But I understand about the busy season. The Fling in 2013 is tentatively planned for San Francisco—a bit farther away from you but an irresistible location, no? —Pam

  2. Helen says:

    I enjoyed this post. I think you summarise why we blog very well although there are some who seem to have other agendas but generally they dont stand the test of time.

    I would love to come to one of the US flings but every year the finances dont seem to stretch far enough – such a pity

    Helen, I hope to meet you at a Fling one day—fingers crossed that it will happen. Have you been able to attend one of the blogger meet-ups in England? Those sound like fun too. All the best! —Pam

  3. Heather says:

    Hi Pam,
    I found you a little while back through Michael McDowell’s Plano Prairie blog – I see one of those photos made it into your top 10 for 2011! I just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog and looking through your beautiful photos. My husband and I were in Austin for 2 weeks in October and got to enjoy the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Centre. A very Happy New year from a fan in the UK!

    Hi, Heather. Thanks for your kind note! How wonderful that you’ve been to Austin and got to visit the Wildflower Center. It’s a treasure. This was a difficult year for Austin’s gardens because of the drought, but October’s a great month to come. I hope you enjoyed your trip. All the best! —Pam

  4. Ally says:

    Thanks for inspiring me throughout the year with all your garden pictures. I think the biggest inspiration has been your use of cactus mixed in with perennials. I’ve been trying to add more winter structure and this concept really works for me. I’ve added 3 color guard yuccas, and now I’ve got my eye on one those bloodspot mangaves. Happy New Year!

    Thanks, Ally! I’m so glad you’ve found some inspiration here. Those ‘Color Guard’ yuccas are really stunning, aren’t they? Once you start adding yuccas and hardy agaves and succulents, I think you’ll find you’re addicted. (I’m such a pusher. Ha!) —Pam

  5. Layanee says:

    Pam, you have said it well. The garden blogging world gives back so much more than the time it requires. It has become a labor of love in addition to an outlet for creativity. I love that last picture although all are wonderful as your photos never disappoint. The photo I remember from your blog is the one of Mt. Washington (?) in the background with you and yours in a boat. Somehow I don’t think it was Mt. Washington but you did get some great shots when you were in Seattle… as always. Happy New Year to you Pam.

    Layanee, was it the photo at the top of this post? http://www.penick.net/digging/?p=13431 If so, it’ll also give you a chance to laugh at our crazy astronaut gear that we wore for the boat ride! I’m so glad to know you through blogging, and in person through the Flings. One of these days I’m going to make that trip to Rhode Island that I’ve been wanting to do. And I’m still awaiting your Austin visit! —Pam

  6. gail says:

    Pam, Happy New Year. Thank you for initiating Fling…it started the garden blogging ball rolling for me and what a wonderful adventure it’s been. Btw, love these photos and how delightfully you capture people and gardens. xogail

    A wonderful adventure—so true! I’m so very glad to know you, Gail. Happy New Year and see you in Asheville! —Pam

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Pam, this is a genuine statement of the whys of blogging. Your writing is so energetic and informative and your pictures always are like icing on a cake. I look forward to another year of your “free” efforts. I know it takes time, thought. I appreciate every tap on the keys and click of the shutter.

    Lisa, your always encouraging comments have meant much to me over the years. I’ve come to count on a visit and comment from you with nearly every post (no pressure though). Thank you so much for your support over the years. Happy New Year! —Pam

  8. VP says:

    Pam – you’ve said why we blog so perfectly :)

    I have a similar photo of ‘Salmon Waves’ – it’s a very photogenic sculpture and one of the unexpected finds of our trip across the pond. I could choose my top 10 just from the Fling alone :)

    Here’s to a great 2012 to you and yours and here’s hoping that 2011 isn’t the only year we get to meet!

    VP, it was such a treat to meet you at the Seattle Fling. Yay for you for making the long trip across the pond for it! Hope to see again one day at another blogging event. —Pam

  9. I know how much work blogging can be. But, it’s an effort of love. I’ve ‘met’ so many fun people in the blogging world.

    You have been an inspiration to my efforts here at Patchwork Garden…the blogging and the gardening. I’ve learned so much about gardening in Central Texas from your blog.

    Here’s to another year of those good lessons, punctuated by your wonderful photos.

    Happy New year!

    Linda, I have enjoyed getting to know you and learned much from your blog too, particularly how little “deer-resistant” really means. :-) Here’s to a better year for gardening in Central Texas in 2012! —Pam

  10. Yael says:


    Happy New Year!

    These images are lovely, as always. I am particularly drawn to the stacked pumpkins and image of the face showing through the curlicue.

    Here is hoping the New Year brings many more events and reasons for sharing.


    Happy New Year, Yael! I hope you too have a great year in the garden in 2012. —Pam

  11. Carol says:

    Happy New Year Pam. It sure was windy on that ferry ride to Bloedel Reserve. I love your sentiment that blogging is like a magic portal to another world, one we would never have known if we hadn’t taken that first step to create a blog and keep it fed.

    It is magic, isn’t it? Can you imagine not having the friendships and experiences that blogging has brought you, Carol? I can’t. Here’s to more of them! —Pam

  12. Jean says:

    Great photo pics Pam! I love them all, and I can just imagine how hard it was for you to choose just 10 from your slew of great photos! Blogging is indeed like a part-time job. Guess that’s why I have a hard time getting to it these days. I miss the camaraderie though, and would like to make 2012 a new and better blogging year for me.

    Jean, the great thing about blogging is that it’s always there for you when you come back to it. And we all know how Facebook and Twitter have taken the place of blogging for many of us. But blogging brought us those connections in the first place, and I’m grateful for it. See you in the blogosphere! —Pam

  13. “Plants, gardens, friends, and fun—that’s what blogging has given me”…well said Pam! I love the fact that you placed your photo from the Dunn gardens right above the “Stars and rosettes” photo from your own garden, each beautiful and each a great representation of their region.

    Unfortunately no Asheville for me this year, but if I start saving and scheming I should be able to pull off SF in 2013, oh what fun that will be! (and dangerous too if I drive, imagine the plants I could take home!).

    Loree, meeting you and seeing the Danger Garden was a highlight of my year. I’m sorry I won’t be seeing you in Asheville but am hoping for San Francisco—and for an Austin visit from you someday! —Pam

  14. Pam, I love the photo of Michael McDowell’s prairie garden and the Stars and rosettes are gorgeous! What a wonderful post!

    I wish you a very happy new year and great 2012!

    The same to you, Christine! Have a wonderful year in the garden! —Pam

  15. Barbara H. says:

    Pam, your wonderful blog was one of the first ones I started reading, probably back in late 2007 or early 2008. Your photos are always fantastic and it’s been a pleasure visiting your gardens and the ones you’ve toured and shared. I loved your previous garden and am in awe of how you have made the new one totally your own work of art. Just reading blogs takes a lot of time so I can only imagine how much time writing one takes. Thanks so much for sharing your time and the art of gardening with us.

    What a very kind note, Barbara! Thanks for reading and commenting, and I wish you a very happy New Year! —Pam

  16. Lost Roses says:

    Hi Pam, I may not be feeding my blog but I sure enjoy reading yours! You have an amazing eye for the right picture and we’re lucky you share them with us. Thanks!

    I miss your blog, Lost Roses, but it’s so nice to hear from you again. All the best in 2012! —Pam

  17. Scott Weber says:

    Happy New Year, Pam…you’re spot-on in your musings about the appeal of Garden Blogging. I always enjoy my visits here, and more often than not, come away with a new bit of inspiration!

    Thanks, Scott. I feel exactly the same about my visits to Rhone Street Gardens. Thanks for blogging! —Pam

  18. Mamaholt says:

    I LOVE Digging and credit you for getting me into gardening. Yours was the first garden blog I ever read. Happy New Year to you and thank YOU for Digging!!!

    Mamaholt! After Austin’s challenging gardening year, I’m just glad you don’t resent me for getting you into gardening. ;-) I’m so glad to know you and Wabi-Sabi. Keep on blogging! —Pam

  19. Mamaholt says:

    PS The photographs are fantastic, as always.

    Aw, thanks! —Pam

  20. Cheryl says:

    I always enjoy your photography and your writing. You have given me so many ideas and fired up my creative juices on many occasions. Thank you for Digging!

    Cheryl, thank YOU for your visits and kind comments. I appreciate them more than you know. Happy New Year! —Pam

  21. All great photos. Of course, I am partial to one photo in particular.

    Like Mamaholt, yours was the first garden blog I ever read. I came across it a couple of times by accident while researching plants. At the time, I did not know what a blog was. Once I figured out you had new posts on a regular basis, I was hooked. You are great at your unpaid part-time job.

    Thank you, Michael! Of course, blogging has paid me many times over in new gardens visited and friendships made. I’m so very glad to have met you this year and seen your lovely prairie garden in person. —Pam

  22. Pam, thank you for another thought-provoking and visually rich post. Your generous personality shines through in your writing; each of your posts is a real gift.

    Evelyn, thanks for your kind comment! I’m so glad to have met you this year and spent time touring gardens with you, and I’m always learning from your experience as a writer. —Pam

  23. Tara Gruber says:

    reposting this: I’m always in awe of your beautiful photos but I have to say that both the lighthouse and the girl-running-by-sculpture photos are truly stunning. They look like something I’d see in a magazine or book! Beautiful, just beautiful. I stopped and lingered for a while at the one of McDowell’s prairie garden as well – wow. I loved the snow one too and of course the helpful information and photos on mangaves and various agaves. Curious – what is the lovely peach-colored rose floating in the birdbath? It’s so pretty . . .

    Tara, thanks for your kind comments! I wish I could ID that peach rose for you, but it’s one of Lucinda Hutson’s many lovely roses. She added a few yellow flowers from Jerusalem sage to her birdbath bouquet, creating an unusual and beautiful combo. —Pam

  24. Greggo says:

    Trying to find the words to comment. hmmmmmm. GREAT Post! Ditto on what garden blogs mean to me. Contemplating on doing a top ten photo list myself. Didn’t Les do a great job? Happy New Year and visions of sugar plums for 012. lol.

    Greggo, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m certainly glad to have discovered your blog last year and always enjoy your lovely photographs. I look forward to your top ten photo post! —Pam

  25. Town Mouse says:

    Great photos! Happy New Year, Pam.

    And to you, TM! Thanks for stopping by. —Pam

  26. Happy New Year, Pam! Glad I have been able to catch up with your beautiful photos here!

    Have a wonderful new year in the garden, Chookie! Thanks too for your always generous comments. —Pam

  27. Denise says:

    Beautiful sentiments and photos, as always. Happy new year!

    And to you, Denise! I look forward to sharing another year in the garden with you. —Pam

  28. Love that shot of the little girl in the water sculpture, ‘Salmon Waves’…you captured it at such a perfect moment. Blogging means many of the same things to me, as well, Pam. I have spent WAY to much time on Facebook this past year and plan to spend more time blogging and blog-reading/visiting. I think I might even be able to get to Asheville in May…not 100% sure yet, but hoping! It would be nice to finally get to meet in person. I know you have a lot of interesting garden ‘stuff’ in Texas, not just the Agaves that I am not a huge fan of;-) I enjoyed this post very much. Happy New Year to you and yours!

    I hope you are able to go to Asheville, Jan. For me, the blogger Flings have been very special, allowing me to meet so many people I only knew through their blogs, and of course you also get to see a lot of very nice gardens. Hope to meet you there in May. —Pam

  29. Hi Pam, I enjoyed your photo review and you’ve inspired me to do the same. I gave you a shout out on my post. Love the garden bloggers shot. I need to try to make it to the next Fling. I know I would enjoy it — what gardener wouldn’t!! Happy New Year :-)

    Toni, you would definitely enjoy the Fling if you like meeting other passionate gardeners and seeing beautiful gardens. And as you said, what gardener wouldn’t! I hope I get to meet you there. Happy New Year! —Pam

  30. Shirley says:

    Beautiful photos, I’ve been inspired to post my favorites this week.

    Fantastic, Shirley! I’m off to visit your blog. —Pam

  31. Dee says:

    Great shots, one and all. I’m partial to that last one. Some of the first and best friends I’ve made blogging. Yes, let’s all go to the Fling. Happy New Year Pam to you and your family. Let’s hope the Death Star takes a bit of a break in 2012.~~Dee

    I second that hope, Dee, and look forward to catching up with you again at this year’s Fling! —Pam

  32. Jay Nolan says:

    I love the photo of the snow on your stock tank and bricks. I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’ve always been enamored with scenes of untouched snow. Especially in person. Probably because it’s so rare for me and in an instant it can disappear. I also love the photograph of the photographer. My wife is a photographer and I like to take photos of her in action.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the pics, Jay. Thanks for stopping by. —Pam