Saturday 9 July 2016

Nearly a million

When I started blogging I dared dream that if I achieved a million readings in my lifetime I would be extremely old and my life would be over. 
So I am starting to worry!

Cajoled into blogging by Cathi and Harry four years ago I think their ambition was that an old man in his dotage might gain some pleasure by passing on his knowledge to a few dozen readers. Even that would be a huge advance on when he wrote monthly in Bolton Percy church magazine.
I used to find writing a chore. Harry despaired when I started to blog and he looked out of his window and saw me fumbling with my camera. I had barely clicked one in the last fifty years. I did not do pictures. As a child if an exam question said ‘with the aid of a diagram’ it filled me with dread and was always avoided.
Harry feared I would get depressed because no one would read me. Brenda suggested I would start to neglect my garden and talked about blogweeds. Blogweeds are things that grow when a blogger is writing when he should really be doing.
Harry would have been thrilled at my success, he was my greatest supporter. Brenda barely concedes that my garden is better when I claim that blogging has concentrated my mind. It has gone to my head and made me a bore.This did not deter her from marrying me last year!

I want to thank Harry, Cathi and Brenda. Without their contributions I would have never got started or ever continued. 

When I rationalise why I started blogging I think it was because as a former teacher I still had something to say. It was no good throwing my toys at the tele when a TV personality yet again said something stupid and wrong!  (This is a common failing of horticultural lecturers and ‘professionals’)
I have had some interesting gardening experiences and wanted to leave some kind of record out in the ether. I do garden in some unusual ways!
I wanted to
  1. record the development of my cemetery gardens and describe how I gardened naturalistically
  2. promote the use of glyphosate as an ecologically sound safe labour-saving land management tool
  3. describe in detail how glyphosate can be effectively used
  4. contribute to the now widespread understanding of the benefits of minimum cultivation to effective growing and preserving the environment
  5. pass on knowledge of dicentras gained holding the National Collection for the past forty years
  6. provide information to gardeners who wanted to get past the endless cycle of repetition of shallow generalised cliches in the gardening media
  7. encourage gardeners to try new things and question much what they are told
  8. declare my main gardening passion; love of the soil
  9. persuade gardeners that sound maintenance and effective weed control is the key to gardening success - oh the chore of pulling out couch grass and ground elder every week because someone failed to comprehend it should be eliminated at the beginning!
  10. reopen contact with former students
I think it is working and now am a bold blogging bore. Almost every morning I am up at about 6.30 and spend perhaps 90 minutes preparing and posting. Other than repeatedly checking my figures and responding to reader’s comments that’s it for the day. Other than whenever I see Cathi or Peter or indeed anyone who will listen I talk about blogs! Other than daydreaming and writing posts in my head. Other than wandering around with my camera. Other than...

Cathi advised me to make my posts short and snappy. Harry insisted I only use high quality pictures and generously shared his collection. Unfortunately not many were of flowers and he and Cathi were regularly in tucks watching me from their window. Brenda’s son Steven suggested I might give tips for the day. That’s definitely not me and it would be no original contribution. Cathi edited my first eighty seven posts and transformed them into  intelligible English. Poor girl my pictures were just add ons and came to her in no particular order!


We have bees in our bonnet and a bird on our head
I am ever grateful to those of you who use the comments column. It would be impossible to mention all your names and I will confine myself to thank the two of you who I have met. Blogger Sue Garett can be relied on for cheeky pertinent comment! Rick always adds thoughtful additions and generally agrees with me.
In point of fact I am happy to take objection and would welcome more debate than actually happens. I fear in the past I have myself not always been delicate when commenting in other places.
I would also like to thank biologist and gardener Peter Williams who lives in the village and has provided articles, advice and ideas. When we forged our friendship ten years ago I am told he said I was a ‘good find’. Ditto Peter and Julie.
I never expected the blog to change my belief system! ‘Fool on a Hill’ blundered in and sparked my intense interest in hybridization and my suppressed childhood thought that it must play a significant role in evolution.To me now hybridity as a principal component of evolution stands out a mile and I find there is evidence. I never imagined I would have the temerity as a layman to enter the fray.

Pondering Past Posts
Now past three hundred I approach each new one with naive enthusiasm. I can never predict which ones will be damp squibs or others more successful. Success bears little correlation to effort.

Half way to the cloud forest in Costa Rica
Temperate and tropical plants overlap
I will mention a few that I particularly remember. I wonder why Mission Unaccomplished was so successful when my other posts about my holiday in Costa Rica were relatively unread? Perhaps googlers were searching for something different.

Achimenes in Peter’s greenhouse

The unsexy titled ‘Her Indoors, Part 3’ about a fairly obscure house plant has been read nearly three thousand times!  I have now done several posts that have been much more successful but that was in early days. Where did that come from?

Calm and defiant 
Harry always said that posts about birds would always be popular. Shame I know so little about them! It was a godsend when he plucked a wayward sparrow hawk that had wandered into my garage and cupped in his hands brought it to our door. Brenda and I snapped away. I now realise the morning light was quite perfect. A modern camera  works wonders....
Those pictures really got my blog underway
It now astounds me that when I check the table of ten day top hits few are about gardening!

When I wrote in 2013 about a scorching phenomenon that occurs in some seasons on Garrya elliptica it hit a raw nerve and has now been read 6500 times! It thrills me that today when I searched for the link the quickest way to find it was to put Garrya elliptica in google and find myself on page one! 
It gave me an even greater thrill when my son Ben reported that his friend searching for garrya had found his father!

Natural browning and May leaf fall on ceder. There is nothing wrong!
I am frequently surprised. Sudden shrub death was one of the first posts when I started to include more detail and became rather verbose. I regarded the post as a failure as it had had little attention. I stumbled on it today and found it has made 5000. Whoops, I found a major typo. My big picture of Betula jaquemontii was labelled Acer jaquemontii - oh the shame. Why did no one tell me… obviously nobody was looking!

No fears of ‘damping off’ in my greenhouse
The posts I enjoy writing the most are those with serious intent but are rather ‘off the wall’.
I was particularly pleased with my effort about not washing pots and why ‘damping off’ is not a problem for me.

This might be your pot’s water profile
Many gardeners do not understand water/soil relationships. I was very serious about my naughty innuendos when trying to explain field capacity with a story about using a sponge in my bath.
It was early days and Cathi feared for my image and muttering ‘shades of grey’ refused to accept it. I stumbled on it a year later and bravely posted. No one took umbrage and hardly anyone read it.

Harry described this as ‘bodge extraordinaire
My post with the obscure name Part BPTA… was an early attempt at humour. It focussed on Harry’s genius as an engineer - and my own incompetence. I include it today remembering Harry who died three years ago

No one wanted to read about the crocodile plant and its curious pollination

No one wanted to read about myrmecochory 

What happened to no digging?
It’s all still there. I have exhausted the main arguments for not digging and discussed all the reasons why gardeners dig. I don’t wish to repeat myself. (Well not very much). I of course continue to incorporate my minimum cultivation philosophy in posts but I do urge gardeners who wish to seriously stop digging to read my previous articles linked in the themes column. Similarly those gardeners who are persuaded that their gardens can be improved by using glyphosate should study my series of glyphosate posts. That will be hard work and some of my methods are unorthodox - and horticulturally dangerous in novice hands. I can say without much contradiction that they are fairly unique!

The week I started blogging we bought a lovebird. Poppy changed our life even more than blogging.  Poppy got several mentions. He was named after early reader Poppy Murray. She mildly protested that he was a male!
Last year our pet died. We were distraught. I could not bring myself to tell you.
Against our better judgement we are grateful to Po Simpson and Cathi who brought us Sparkle, a conure. Last week was his first hatch day. I am told they live for thirty years….

Do you think Poppy was trying to warn me about the referendum?

serene celebratory dance


  1. Congratulations to this blogging milestone of yours, Roger! As I am typing this, the counter on your blog tells me that you've had 1,000,006 hits - well done!
    I have quickly checked my own and am not surprised to see that my blog has had less than 250,000 hits, from May 2010 until now. (I actually started my blog in 2008, so I am not sure why the first two years are not included in the statistics.)
    Like you, I sometimes wonder how come certain posts are viewed (not necessarily read) so many times more than others. It is interesting to look at key words, traffic sources and audience, isn't it.

    Keep up the good work, I say - both on- and offline!

    1. Thanks for the insights. I am not sure how long a post has to be clicked on for it to count as a hit!

  2. Well done, that was an early start, nice Blog
    Never in doubt

    1. Very early - I wanted a lie in! More gobbledegook - it was already there in draft and I just pushed the button when up in the night!

  3. I'd better start my comment with something cheeky and pertinent, so here it is. You took Cathy's advice then!

    I too am always amazed at the posts that receive most positive comments. They are very often posts that you would not have expected to be popular. I guess that most older posts Havel had longer to achieve a decent number of readers. When I first started my blog felt that I had to stick strictly to gardening issues and because I called it Green Lane Allotments specifically allotment issues. As I pstarted to stray I realised that visitors liked to have a little bit of diversity and liked to find out something about you that person. That way they can develop a rapport and know who they can be cheeky to.

    I was really sorry to read that you had lost Poppy. He was quite a character. When we came to your last open day he amused us by sitting on the windowsill and watching us enjoying Brenda's cake.

    1. PS That was brave of Harry picking up a sparrowhawk with bare hands.

    2. You have not failed me in your propensity to pertinence. You are the most pertinent person I know - and one of the nicest

    3. Yes he originally had his gloves on but took them off!

    4. I love reading your blogs now they drop straight into my mail box. I found your blog through searching for something sensible and truthful about eradicating horsetail which lead onto the delights of the rest of your posts....including a video of dancing with a bird! The picture of you both on your wedding day is a joy.

    5. Glad you liked the wedding pics Alison
      I have just added your picture of the marestail root to the end of that post!

  4. Well done on your blogging achievement. I, for one, always enjoy your posts and your straightforward style of writing.

  5. What an achievement, congratulations!

    1. When Cathi comes round tonight after our Pilates we will drink to it!

  6. Congratulation Roger! A million is quite a milestone! Thank you for all the personal details. I feel I know you better now!

  7. Congratulations on your success, somehow, a name like (Roger Brook) just rolls off the tongue and demands success. Mind you, your style has a lot to do with it and maybe your dad dancing.

    1. When I read 'The Launching of Roger Brook' by Dennis Wheatley it really blew my mind and I was never the same again!

  8. Congratulations Roger, you have the knack of making the driest of subjects come alive and interesting to the reader. I wish there were more like you challenging often outdated horticultural dogma.

    1. Thanks for the compliment Rick. Perhaps its because the driest of subjects - such as soil - is fascinating to me!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...