Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia


I’ve not been around for long when it comes to blogging or ‘Blotanicaling’. I don’t take the best pictures, write the most inspired words or, to be frank, have anything like the best garden. In fact, I don’t know all that much about plants. So why do I have a garden blog and love hanging out with other garden bloggers at Blotanical? Let’s cut a long story…long (sorry!)

I started my blog referring to myself as a lazy and ignorant gardener. I don’t mind admitting either of those things, as they are quite true, but there is a little bit more to it than that.

Part of the garden in January 2010, one each of live lemon and lime trees. Lots of weeds. And one departed lime.

Last year was a year from hell for me, I won’t go into the gory details too much, but basically I took on a job that was beyond my skills, or more accurately, my emotional endurance. After months of living in a totally stressed out state which was horrific for both me and my long suffering little family I finally realised I was drowning and didn’t have to be. I finished up. I was utterly exhausted and an emotional train wreck, but I was free!

A fairy contemplating what to do about the oxalis

I’m happy to say from a point several months down the track (now working part time in a job I love) that no permanent damage was done. But it would also be fair to say that my garden reflected my emotional state at the time. It wasn’t a pretty picture. My roses were buried in weeds. My fig tree was dying. One of the limes was dead. Couch grass was an arresting feature of the garden and the blackberry was making itself very much at home.

By Christmas time 2009 I was starting to return to my old self and looked around at the state of things. It was pretty overwhelming. It was very hard to know where to start. But I did finally start and wondered how to keep myself motivated with the hard work to come.

I should take some photos of my progress I thought. Hmmm. But they’ll all end up in a random jumble on the computer I thought. Hmmm. Ah, I know, a blog – that can be like a visual diary to keep me motivated and my record a little ordered.

So I was quite content to talk to myself on my little blog and in some ways, I still am. There is something about blogging that makes me think about trying to represent one aspect of myself truly and not worry too much if it is not terribly fascinating for anyone else. Which is possibly not the point of blogging, but there you go!

Anyway, it wasn’t long before I started to look around and discovered that there was a world of very interesting gardening blogs out there, but I was a bit intimidated by them. Luckily, I soon stumbled upon Blotanical.

Gratuitous clematis shot from 2007

Most of the bloggers I have ‘met’ have been directly through Blotanical. I didn’t really think of it as a gardener’s social network site at first, but more as a library. It has turned out to be both. It is certainly a wonderful reference point where I can find answers to my gardening questions and learn about things I’d never imagined. But it is also a place to meet incredibly generous and kind gardeners from all over the world.

And the generosity of other Blotanical Members is truly amazing. From the moment I appeared as a ‘Blotanist’ on Blotanical I had people popping in to my Plot (home page if you like) saying hello and/or inviting me to have a look at their blog and make a comment (this was surprisingly important to me in a way, as I was hesitant as a novice to comment on the blog of an experienced blogger/gardener in case they thought I was some upstart!)

Work in progress

It wasn’t long before I was collecting ‘favourite blogs’ like a magpie and trying to stash them all on my Blotanical list (my blogroll doesn’t let me keep up to date with the blogs I like). Ah, but there I discovered that there was a trick to it all!  To keep collecting sparkly new jewels I needed more points. So I learnt about ‘picking’…and that is a whole other hot topic I will leave to others in the Blotanical community for now.


A little viola peeking

Anyway, some Blotanical bloggers also took the time to pop in and leave comments on my blog, which I just loved and still do. I am still surprised that some experienced gardeners not only visit my blog, but make lovely comments. I am truly delighted when another gardener offers helpful advice or warm words of encouragement. It keeps me motivated.

Our resident male model 'helping' with some pruning

Even though I haven’t been around long I feel part of the Blotancial gardening community. There is little I would change* and will roll with whatever eventuates. If I can find and keep in touch with other gardening bloggers I’m happy; it’s all I really need.  So thank you Stuart for building this wonderful community. And thank you to all the lovely Blotanists that have made me feel part of the community.

Anyway, getting back to the point for a moment, the garden is still a mess, but it is getting there and there is nothing I love more than immersing myself in it!

(* if there is one thing I would like at Blotanical it would be a library cataloguing system to track down those posts I’d like to read on blogs I haven’t discovered yet!)


Comments on: "Blotanical…ing" (40)

  1. Gardening a certainly great therapy, whether you are recovering from a job you hate, or dealing with the loss of a loved one. Everyday you can go out in the garden and be inspired. I started my blog as a garden journal, (I had been keeping a hand written one for years), but it has certainly become much more than that. I also have met so many lovely people, who provide advice, encouragement and yay, snowdrops!
    Blotanical is a wonderful site, long may Stuart rule!

    • Hi Deborah, indeed it is good therapy! I can’t wait to get out there whenever I can.
      Now I’m wondering if the few little snowdrops I had in the back of my garden survived!

  2. I think Blotanical has been the most important asset that we garden bloggers have besides our gardens 😉

    Isn’t it wonderful the freedom you feel when you leave an awful job? I think our gardens reflect what our emotional state, don’t you?

    • Hello Noelle, I agree about that, Blotanical certainly is an assest! And there is nothing like the sense of freedom of finally getting out of an awful job (or any awful situation I guess)!

  3. Good post, illustrating the power of digging and planting. Gardening is one of the most effective self-help activities in the world. Fellow gardeners are some of the most supportive.

    I have a little fairy like yours, except mine is dressed in green. I had to put her away in the shed because the dog developed a taste for ceramic objects.

    • Hi Nell Jean, I am constantly amazed and delighted at just how supportive other gardeners are.
      You had me laughing with that last line, that dog of yours is certainly a character. Poor fairy!

  4. I can relate with your job description of stressful working conditions where it is literally making you sick.I tried for three years once to get the stressful job situation changed but could not get any changes made from the upper level. They figured I would just keep putting up with it like I always did until one day I just knew I would have to leave or collapse. Then they had the nerve to act dumb founded. But it was the biggest load taken off of my shoulders. They are gone now. I joke to everyone that every job I ever had is no longer in business and if they want to hire me. LOL! Now I think back at how stupid I was to have put up with it as long as I did.
    So I am glad you found a way out of it too. Somethings are just not worth it. Gardening outdoors and working with beauty just gives you a peace and I am glad you found yours.
    There is a wonderful community of gardeners on Blotanical who freely give and share their expertise.
    I have enjoyed my time so much since coming to Blotanical. We are glad you are here with us.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Hello Lona, I’m glad that you managed to change your situation too. It’s like getting your life back isn’t it?
      I’m with you on the peace of the garden too. No matter what garden thug I’m wrangling with there is something soothing about being out there with your hands in the dirt!
      I hope you have a lovely weekend too 🙂

  5. Elephant's Eye said:

    ‘was quite content to talk to myself’ But it is just that spark of – you are interested in your garden, and what you write about – that does reach out and draw us readers in.

  6. So glad you managed to wriggle out from under that awful job! I’ve had my fair share of those, as I’m sure most of us have. Life is too short for that.

    Like you, I started my blog for myself. Ultimately, it still is primarily for me, and as a way to keep in touch with friends and family. It helps me track what I put in the garden, and when…most importantly, it helps me to remember the names of things I planted. I swear as I get older, things fall out of my brain faster than they go in! I also wanted to use it as a tool to see how the gardens here evolve over time. I’ve never kept a diary, but I love keeping this digital garden journal.

    That said, Blotanical is a wonderful resource, and it’s always fun stopping by other blogs, and having blotanists drop by your own blog…from all over the world! I don’t mind talking to myself…but it’s nice to know that once in a while somebody else is out there too…

    • Hello CV, it’s kind of comforting to know that you are using your blog to keep track of what and where you planted things too! Although I’d bet not too much falls out of that brain of yours 😀

  7. Great post. I am glad you found Blotanical and I found your blog. I know all the Blotanists who left comments before my comment and am a richer person for reading your and their blogs. Nice viola and cat pics. jim

  8. I agree, more than points, favs and picks, though both lovely, the comments people leave are the best reward for blogging. Thanks for all your comments and continued visits!

  9. So glad you got out of your job. Jobs can be so stressful and take up such a big part of our lives. You should get a red star from Stuart from this post. Not sure how you do it since I haven’t done a Blotanical post but it gives you some extra recognition. I felt exactly as you when I began blogging. I was so intimidated by other blogs. Not so much the comments because I like to talk and dared-gasp-to comment on new blogs, but the awards. Gosh, every blog I visited but mine had awards and I kept thinking gee, how great these blogs must be. Then I realized they are more like a meme. Silly me. It can be tough being a new blogger and Blotanical sure helps by keeping us together in one central place. So glad you like it. P.S. Your post wasn’t long at all. Now go tackle that lime tree!

    • Hello Tina, thank you for your lovely words. You made me laugh about the awards because I had the same sort of reaction 😀
      BTW – I promise I have been out in the garden today – the surviving citrus is doing well now (no helping the lime in the photo, it was already gone!) and even the fig has a new lease on life. But I’m personally ready to keel over from spending the day digging out yet more kikuyu and couch grass!

  10. I’ve been at Blotanical since it started and it has turned into an amazing place to meet other garden bloggers. I love how you referred to it as a library, and now that Stuart has organized the posts alphabetically it has turned into an amazing library of garden blogs. We are just entering spring and garden season won’t be far behind. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment.

    • Hello Crafty Gardener, It’s great to meet someone who has been here from the ‘start’. I think it would have been wonderful to participate in the community as it grew over time, but I guess you would have seen some ‘growing pains’ happen as things got bigger and bigger too!

  11. aloha,

    what a beautiful post and i loved reading the entire transformation from frazzled and hopeless to embracing and connected, plus your plants are pretty happy to be cared for again…

    very nice read and i do enjoy visiting your blog regularly

    • Hello Noel, thank your for that very lovely comment!
      If only my roses would show their gratitude for my caring in some other way then swiping me with a thorn when I’m trying to weed around them!

  12. I’ve been late in answering your nice post on my blog – thank you for your comment. I enjoyed this post of yours, and agree that gardening can be very therapeutic. For me it has made all the difference in my difficult transition from a long life of hard and interesting work to retirement, so I can relate. Hang in there! Barbara

    • Hello Barbara, thank you for popping by with your lovely words too! I really enjoy your blog and look forward to learning more about sustainable gardening from you 🙂

  13. It definitely is a common theme … gardening saves our souls and our sanity sometimes! It was true for me also … isn’t it amazing how your post hit the spot for so many gardeners.

    There’s just something so beneficial and restorative about getting out into the world of Mother Nature … it’s so relaxing, calming and satisfying (putting aside all the battles we have with weather, climate, pests and weeds!!!) Great post.

    • You are spot on Bernie – even when I’m utterly exhausted from battling the weeds, I feel a great sense of satisfaction. I love the word you use ‘restorative’ because there is such a sense of being replenished by the garden 🙂

  14. Oh MY….I think we’re sharing a life experience across the continents. As some of my friends know, I took a job last year that I thought I was suited to. I was more than capable of doing the job–but not of handling the office bully, who sadly happened to be part of the ownership of the business, nor of being away from home all week long because they wouldn’t let me telecommute. I left after 4 1/2 months, and it took quite a while to find myself–and my garden again.

    I’m so glad you joined the Blotanical community, and so glad to have ‘met’ you across the miles. Your blog is a delight, as is your garden.

    • Hello Jodi, I am saddened that you went through such an awful experience at work yourself and to have been far from home when it happened. It really is a bit of a shared life experience – sadly right down to the bullying issue (although not one of the business owners for me thank goodness!) I’m glad that you managed to escape and rebuild again too.
      On a lighter note, hopefully the shared experience will mean some of your gardening skills might rub off on me across the miles too 😀
      Thank you for your lovely compliments, you’ve made me blush – I’m very happy to have met someone who makes me feel so at home from so many miles away!

  15. What a great post! You speak for many of us, please be assured! Your Blotanical experiences are not lonely, isolated ones, but something I have experienced as well. So if there’s two of us, I’m sure there’s more! I share your boat…I’m not experienced…something I openly claim. Additionally, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by other gardeners and bloggers…all their experience in the garden and on the web can make anyone shrivel! However, you speak the absolute truth when you talk of the kind, generous, well intending personalities on this network of garden bloggers! I’ve never felt so welcomed and found such a place of common interest. You’ve spelled it out well in your post. Wonderful!

    • Hello Kimberly, it’s lovely to hear that you can relate to this experience too! It is also lovely read your posts and have you visit because you are always so full of warmth and enthusiasm – a little always rubs off on me!

  16. I enjoyed reading your well written post. I agree and admire you for getting out of a stressful job situation. Do what you love and love what you do….i like that quote and I’m not sure who said it.
    I am not an expert gardener, either. I have been learning as I go along. I think you confirmed a lot of feelings out in blogland about the support, motivation and connection.
    Also, I love your photo of your resident cat right in the middle of the plant!

    • Hi Amy, that quote rings so true! My Grandmother used to like to quote “You should work to live, not live to work” too – not sure where that one started from either, but it’s true – life is so much better if work can be in perspective! I’m lucky I was able to choose to stop.

  17. It’s been wonderful getting to know you, and now with this post, to know you much better. Good to hear you are in a more comfortable place in time.
    The Blotanical blogsphere is still rather wondrous to me after more than a year, when you consider the gazillions of ways people can choose to connect in cyberspace, or the options gardeners have to get together.
    Thank you! for sharing, and for the chance to be privvy to your garden-making in Victoria,
    Cheers! Alice

    • Hello and thank you Alice! I don’t think my little garden is much when compared with the beautiful gardens you showcase for us – but I’m glad you enjoy ‘visiting’!

  18. roundrockgarden said:

    Awww, thank you for that from-the-heart entry. While I don’t know you, I am happy to hear that you are doing better and have moved on from the craziness that “didn’t have to be”. I, too, was in a crazy, stressed out state of a train wreck working in an industry I shouldn’t have been in. Only, that lasted eight years. I was at my wits end and they put it to me this way, “We’re not saying you have to choose between your family and your job, BUT …”

    I knew exactly what they wanted me to choose, and I chose my family. That has been the best choice and I haven’t looked back (well, only to say, THANK GOD I moved on!). Growing my family has turned into growing other things as well. Working with plants is a very rewarding, grounding, centering, and yet challenging endeavor. I’m glad you’ve found some peace there.

    I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs of Blotanical, but it is exactly as you put it. Everyone here is gracious, helpful and genuinely interested in one another’s gardening efforts. The people and blogs are great research and idea-storming tools, but there is also community. So, HERE! HERE!

    • Hello ’roundrockgarden’ and thank you for popping in to say hello! I will have to check out your blog from home later as I haven’t discovered it yet (just sneaking in a few replies on my lunch break :D) There are always new blogs for me to discover which is wonderful!
      Glad to hear that you too managed to escape from what sounds like a very oppressive work environment into more time with your family and the garden!

  19. What a great post. I am so glad you came to Blotanical and are sharing with us. I felt like you in the beginning. Technically, there are a lot of computer things I haven’t learned to do yet, and how could I tread in such deep waters with professionals who knew so much more and had such fabulous gardens? But Blotanical has welcomed me, and I love the way gardeners of all types in all areas of the world can share ideas and appreciate each other’s gardens.

    I have always thought that gardening is the best way of refreshing my body and spirit. The end results are great, but it is the process that makes us whole. I am glad you have come through a stressful year into a new and better place. Happy gardening!

  20. Hello Deborah, I love the way you put that and I agree wholeheartedly that it is the ‘process that makes us whole’. I feel like anything approaching an end result is a long way off for me, but my happiness and sense of achievement is there regardless!

  21. I am certainly among the most inept of gardeners when I compare my gardens with some of those on the garden blog. But for me, as for you, gardening is a wonderful release, and a calming therapy as long as I don’t try to keep up with the “Jones’s” of the gardening world. It is the little accomplishments that thrill me, like the fact that my snapdragons are actually coming back this year and I didn’t kill all the foxgloves. And the knowledge that someday, someday, my garden will look exactly the way I imagine it can be! Enjoy yourself! Jeri

    • Hello Jeri, I love to see the little things emerge too – watching the first bud or first little leaf appear lifts my heart. I have to look away from the ‘Jones’s’ too – I think if I was getting competitive or judgemental then the pleasure would all ebb away.

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