Digging is 12! A blogiversary retrospective

I was in my 30s when I started blogging in February 2006. Now I am 50, a milestone year. Twelve years is kind of a long time to publicly document one’s life, even if it’s mainly the gardening side of my life that I share. I sometimes wonder if the blogging era is an aberration, a time of public sharing that our children, who prefer private texts and Snapchat videos, won’t relate to. Who knows what the future holds for blogs, but I’m grateful to still be here during this blip, if that’s what it is, when many of us are documenting publicly what would otherwise be a solitary pursuit behind the garden gate, connecting along the way with thousands of other gardeners and garden lovers.

Blogging is, as I’ve noted, about sharing and making personal connections. It’s a place of creativity and personal improvement. It’s about commemorating the ordinary yet extraordinary daily life of a garden — which represents all gardens — and what it means to be the one digging in it.

For my 12th blogiversary, I thought it would be interesting to see what I was thinking about as I marked my first blogging milestone in February 2007. Unsurprisingly, I was feeling introspective and family focused. Here it is again:


My grandmother and I in her garden, circa 1969

A couple of months ago, Carol at May Dreams posed the questions, “What makes a gardener? Do you consider yourself a gardener? How did you decide you were a gardener? When is the first time you referred to yourself as a gardener? Where and how did you learn to be a gardener?”

I answered in her comment section:

Though I’ve been gardening for 12 years, I don’t believe I ever referred to myself as a gardener until about two years ago. People who came over to my house might say something nice about my garden, and I’d say, “Thanks, it’s a hobby of mine.” What I didn’t admit—and what must have been obvious to the visitor—was that gardening was a compulsion for me, and that I loved it.

I began to realize that my interest was more than a hobby when people would see me reading a book like Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners or Jill Nokes’s How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest, and they’d raise their eyebrows. One day I was going on about some plant or another to someone kind enough to listen, and she said, “So, are you a gardener?” Without hesitation I said, “Yes!”

A year ago today I started blogging here at Digging. At first I posted my best photos of my prettiest plants, adding notes about the plants’ habits and the weather. To keep a record of my garden’s changes and growth, I posted a backlog of photos and notes from earlier years (these comprise the 1st–4th years on my blog). I wrote to my favorite garden bloggers to ask if they would visit my blog. They did, and even commented, and I felt like I’d joined a club that I’d been wanting to get into.

Garden blogging connects me to a like-minded community. It’s social. It’s informative. It’s fun. It makes me think about gardening, the world, myself.

But it isn’t much related to being a gardener.

What makes a gardener? It was Carol’s first question, and I didn’t answer it. But what else could it be? You just want to grow things.

Maybe it’s in the genes. My mother has always gardened, from simple sweeps of annuals when she was younger to the exuberant cottage garden she tends today. And her mother—who scraped by in rural southeast Oklahoma—gardened as well, planting roses on her fence, moss rose in troughs, annuals in tire-lined flowerbeds. A quiet, mild-tempered woman, she’d shout at us kids to climb down out of her prized mimosa tree that smelled heavenly, worried that we’d damage the limbs. I understand that now.

My mother was her last child, a late-in-life baby. To me, my grandmother was always old and frail, her back eventually bent nearly horizontal from osteoporosis. Yet I remember her regularly hoeing and weeding her garden, wearing a faded dress and an old-fashioned sunbonnet like a pioneer woman.


My mother and grandmother, circa 1960

My grandmother died years ago. Her gardening legacy carries on though. My mother’s garden is a tumble of old favorites like hollyhocks, irises, lilies, and roses. When I talk to her on the telephone, I often picture her in the garden, checking on her plants or resting in the shade of a jasmine-covered trellis.

As they say, blood will out. Probably I owe my love of plants and digging to them both. And so, on my first blogiversary, I dedicate this post to my mother, June, and my grandmother, Demma, who taught me a love of gardening.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin this May 3rd-6th! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2018 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

47 Responses

  1. This is so sweet. What a lovely tribute to your maternal side. So fitting. My goodness, you look like your mother. Your daughter looks like you. I wonder if those garden genes will rear up in her when she gets older and settles into life. Or maybe your son will fetch those gardening genes. You might be as surprised as I was when my son sent me pictures of some flowers he planted and then the next thing he sent was a picture of a raised veggie bed in his back yard. You just never know. Congratulations on your 12th blogaversary. I am so happy I found your blog many years ago. Even though we have different gardens and zones to contend with I have learned a lot and have been entertained all this time. I sure hope you don’t ever tire of blogging. I would miss you and your blog.

  2. Oh, Pam. Happy Blogiversary, first of all. It’s quite an accomplishment faithfully writing about and photographing all aspects of gardening regularly so the rest of the world can share a bit of yours. Thank you.

    The questions you pose are good ones. I have been thinking about them lately and can only add that I have an obsessive impulse to help things grow.

    Cheers and here’s to another 12 years of blogging for you and all of us. Thank you for helping to knit together this wonderful gardening community of ours, the worldwide, diverse, wonderful world of gardening.

  3. Alison says:

    I too have the obsessive need to nurture all the things that grow in dirt, as well as the drive to try to make it better next year, and to share it with others. I don’t know why or where it came from. Neither of my sisters has it, and I didn’t really get it from my parents either. They occasionally grew vegetables, but they didn’t really have a garden. I hope blogging goes on and on. Happy Blogiversary!

  4. Happy #12 (and #50!)…I hadn’t really given any thought to the fact “kids today” are into more private exchanges of ideas and information. I didn’t realize this was the case, thinking they were more “out there” than the rest of us. Interesting to think we are the “oversharing generation” with our blogs.

    When it comes to blogging I definitely think the slowness (it’s not instant) and one-sided-ness (even though there are comments there is rarely the back and forth of say FB) are going to be the end of it. Not that I’m stopping mind you, I enjoy the time it allows me to reflect on the places I’ve visited and the time I spend gardening.

  5. Karin Pereira says:

    I love this tribute to the women of your family, but in my case, my daddy was the gardener and especially proud of his English Lawn (a bit difficult in Germany at the time). Like you, I admit I am obsessed with gardening, plants, and herbs, and I am proud of it.

  6. Lisa says:

    My parents weren’t gardeners, but my maternal grandmother was. I loved visiting her old farmhouse, flower gardens, and vegetable gardens. She needed to garden when my mom and her sisters were growing up, for sustenance as well as pleasure, as they were a working class rural family in northern CA forest land. I think my mom and her two older sisters remembered the strenuous harvesting and canning, and didn’t embrace (vegetable) gardening themselves in the modern era of the 50’s and 60’s! Thanks for the reflection- I have so enjoyed blogging over my decade plus – the records of reflection and observation of my gardening and nature experiences are satisfying to have; and, I’ve realized that it’s the writing that I most enjoy.

    I didn’t call myself a gardener until I’d been actively gardening for over 15 years, I think – at about the age you are now!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      “Gardener” is maybe not the coolest label to hang on ourselves, but for me it’s been the most meaningful, after family relationships. I’m glad you’re still blogging too, Lisa. —Pam

  7. Mark and Gaz says:

    Happy 12th blog anniversary and so lovely to hear your background and legacy your mother and grandmother has left you.

    Hard to let go of blogging, that we found out…

  8. peter schaar says:

    Congratulations, Pam! Not only do you have 12 years of blogging longevity, but 50 years of personal longevity. Yours is one of the very best blogs I follow, and I am most appreciative. I have learned a lot from you, as well as being entertained. And belated congratulations to your mother and grandmother too!

  9. Beth Hamaty says:

    Congrats on the milestone. I always find inspiration when I read your blog and books. It’s revolutionized how I garden. I come from a gardening family, too. Both my mom and dad, as well as my paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother.

  10. Les says:

    Hello Pam, and congratulations on 12 years! I have enjoyed your blog since I first started reading blogs, and then when I created my own. I have especially liked looking over your shoulder as you tour gardens not of my climate, or visit places I have yet to see. In the past year or two my actual life is demanding so much more of me than I want to give, and some things have suffered, including my own blog, as well as being able to follow other bloggers as much as I would like. I wish you at least 12 more years!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks for “looking over my shoulder,” Les. That’s a great way of describing the experience of following a blog. Likewise, I’ve enjoyed your photos and adventures over the years, even though I’ve become a lazy commenter. Let’s both keep at it, as much as we find time for! —Pam

  11. Kris P says:

    Congratulations upon reaching both milestones, Pam! I love your tribute to your mother and grandmother. I’ve pondered the origins of my own gardening gene, which isn’t clear cut. My grandparents on both sides were immigrants and, to my knowledge, none of them gardened. My mother never had the slightest interest in gardening and neither did my stepfather but I have vague recollections of puttering in the garden with my father before he died when I was 6. I can only pinpoint that experience, tenuous as it may have been, for drawing me first to indoor plants in high school and, after college, to gardening. I was “late to the party” when it came to both gardening and blogging but have found fulfillment in both. Thanks for being an important part of the gardening community I discovered!

  12. First, I had to laugh at that picture of you in 1969 as that is when I graduated from college! And that to me is the value of gardening and garden blogging, we can share a passion with each other no matter our age, experience or where we garden. Congrats!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Linda. A love of gardening transcends age, geographical, and cultural differences, and blogging lets us find people who share that love. Now allow me to boggle your mind again: the kids born in 2000, including my daughter, are officially adults this year. Gah! —Pam

  13. Jen says:

    Happy anniversary! So glad to have your blog to read! :) :)

  14. I am so very grateful you decided to start (and have continued) your blog. In doing so, you’ve enriched lives, educated, and helped connect so many friends. That’s NOT hyperbole. Thank you.

  15. Congratulations on your blogiversary! I think my gardening parents and grandparents figured prominently in making me the “gardener” I am today. The British are a nation of eager gardeners so I was probably fated to be one myself, but I came late (if I’m even really there yet) to calling myself one. Mostly, I just gardened and that was good enough for a lot of years, until I started my blog. I think the blog jelled my sense of gardening’s importance in my life and the rest, as they say, is history.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I agree with you about a blog’s influence on how we think of ourselves, Jane. For me it’s an intrinsic part of my thought process about gardens and gardening, which is half the fun! —Pam

  16. Susie says:

    Congratulations Pam. Fifty years old with 12 years of blogging under your belt makes you a wise woman in my opinion. Always enjoy reading your insightful posts. Love the photo of you with your grandmother. My maternal grandmother had a big impact on my early gardening choices–lovely times.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I had to smile about being a “wise woman,” as I still screw up plenty. But maybe I have acquired the wisdom to recognize and try to fix mistakes sooner these days, both in life and the garden — ha! Thanks, Susie, and let’s keep on blogging! —Pam

  17. Beverly says:

    Wow, this blog made me nostalgic and a little wistful, thinking of the lives that were. Old photos do that for me. A bit regretful that those I could have known better in old family photos, I didn’t. I wish they could have blogged, or at least left a diary, so that when I was ready to know them, I could. Blog on Pam. Connecting with people in the here and now and leaving a legacy of 21st century garden weblogging for future generations!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      It IS bittersweet to think about those who’ve come before us and lived out their lives with no record of their thoughts, especially family. And I’ve thought of my blog in that respect — as a record of my life, or at least some aspects of it, for my kids and future grandkids. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Beverly. —Pam

  18. rickii says:

    I marvel at your talent for keeping ‘Digging’ fresh and interesting all these years, with no end in sight. The gardening connection is very strong, of course, but I’m pretty sure I would read on for your way with language and your insights even if I cared not one whit for the horticultural basis.
    By the way, I think all of our grandmothers must have shared the same dress pattern. Bet if we could scroll down on that photo we would see sturdy lace-up shoes with just the slightest heel(?)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I can picture those shoes right now, Ricki. How in the world did our grandmothers and great-grandmothers work so hard, in every kind of weather, in those clothes? Pants are the greatest invention — and sandals. But I digress. Thanks for reading my blog, Ricki, and for your lovely comment. I’m glad to know you! —Pam

  19. Denise Maher says:

    Congrats, Pam, you pioneer blogger! In my own family I’m a complete oddity, so I have no “roots” to point to for early influences — maybe it’s buried deeper in past generations. Love that photo of your mom and grandmother. I want your mother’s dress!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Denise, it sounds like you’re a “sport” in the horticultural sense. I wonder, though, if you have any artistic family members, even if not gardeners? Maybe you just express the creative gene differently, with the garden as your palette. Or maybe you’re a one-of-a-kind original! —Pam

  20. Susan says:

    Congrats Pam! Not only do you have knowledge of gardening but your writing is so engaging. I think I first called myself a gardener when I had my first failures in the garden because that is when I started to learn! I continue to have both success and failure and still continue to learn. In my small suburban east of Dallas yard I have created outdoor spaces that my husband and I can enjoy from indoors which has been so wonderful. This spring we have been rewarded with a bluebird couple who is showing interest in an old birdhouse. We have been here 25 years and have never seen a bluebird. That is the excitement of gardening – always changing and always with a new surprise!

  21. Peter says:

    Happy twelfth blogiversary Pam! Will blogs go the way of fraternal organizations and the Lawrence Welk Show? Who knows, but like you, I’m grateful to be part of this blip. Here’s to many more blogiversaries to come! I barely remember when I was thirty and can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in playing in the dirt. Most of my fondest memories are of gardens, gardeners, and plants.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Fraternal Elk Clubs are making a comeback, I hear, so let’s not write blogging’s eulogy yet, right? Thanks for the good wishes, and yes, let’s keep on blogging and gardening. —Pam

  22. Diana Studer says:

    From across the pond and way down south, happy 12th blogaversary!

    Altho I don’t share your climate, I do share the waterwise view. You have a gift, a knack, for presenting the gardens you visit (and your own) in a way that makes me ‘see’ what I might not have noticed otherwise.

    Still thinking of those elegant window frames in the Sonoma courtyard garden!

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