We're Blotanists! No, that isn't a typo, and no, we haven't had mid-life career changes either. Recently we discovered a fabulous community for gardeners like us -- people who are so serious about their gardens, they've gone ahead and created a blog to share their garden and their gardening tips, accomplishments, and experiences with others.
Perhaps you noticed this new emblem as you scrolled down the page while reading our blog. Clicking on that little box will take you directly to the Blotanical web site. (Not the box in the post, but the box on the right side of the page.... scroll down, keep scrolling, see it yet?) If you are a gardening friend of ours who is not already associated with Blotanical, think about joining. It can put you in touch with an amazing group of gardeners who share your specific interests.
I found it quite by accident when I was visiting blogs of gardeners who had posted pictures for last month's Gardening Gone Wild monthly photography competition. After I post my entry each month, I visit the blogs of the others who've submitted pictures so I can see their entries. I've learned a tremendous amount from other gardeners, seen some exquisite gardens, and gotten some helpful hints and great ideas from others who share our passion. One of the gals I exchanged comments with sent me a link and suggested we consider joining. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Joining was the easy part. You sign up like with any other on-line group. In fact, even if you don't have a blog but simply want to belong to a group where you have easy access to thousands of gardening blogs that you can easily search and visit, you should join, and you can do that HERE.
The more important second step is to get your blog registered and accepted on the Blotanical group site. The advantage to that is well, prestige, for one. They don't accept just any blog - they actually have a mentor check out your blog and make sure it meets their standards. But doing so gives amazing exposure to your blog. For example, we started keeping track of the number of visitors to our blog at about the end of the third week in April. Over the course of the first month that we kept track, we had roughly 600 visits to our blog. We've been members of Blotanical for a total of ten days - not even two weeks - and during that time, traffic to our blog has more than tripled. We've recorded an additional 677 visits to our blog in just the last ten days, more than we'd seen in the previous five weeks and that is just since we became members.
Many of those visitors either leave a comment - always a nice thing to see - or "pick" us - one of the ways that Blotanical enables blogs to be rated and ranked.And we have been steadily rising in the ratings. When your blog is first accepted by Blotanical, you start at the end of the line and then as you are more active on the site, earning points and being awarded points known as "picks" by other members, you gradually rise in the ratings. We've gone from dead last - somewhere around 3,800 and change, to under 1,200 in just 10 days. What's so important about that? Probably not much, except that for us, it's a major ego boost. People like our blog! We're proud of our garden and our blog, and it's nice to have this positive feedback.
But the real "plus" - actually "pluses" - to having our blog on Blotanical are these:
First and foremost, we are part of a community of people who share our love of gardening. If we have a question, we can find someone who is dealing with it in their garden very quickly and easily.
We can share things we have learned and get positive feedback for the things we've done in our garden and elsewhere. That is important for us as it helps keep us motivated when the weather is bad and the weeds seem to be overtaking our every effort to "garden".
Already, we've learned some things, gotten some great ideas for things we'd like to try in our garden, and we've been able to give as good as we get as well, sharing our experiences and garden practices with others. We found a great source for some shade plants we need, some fabulous gloves and gardening shoes, and some great ideas for staking some of our plants and managing our grapes.
And we've connected with gardeners from all over the world - Singapore, Malaysia, Great Britain, Scotland, Australia, Italy.... and we've learned that as many things that may be different, more are still the same.
But most importantly, we've made some "friends" - people who we have made a special connection with and hope to actually meet in person some day.
But we've hit a few bumps in the road as well. It's not all hearts and roses on Blotanical. Although we have been assigned a mentor, someone we can ask questions of (and ours is really a very nice gal), you need to know what questions to ask.
Navigating around the web site is more than a little intimidating for someone as technologically challenged as me. It's taking me a very long time to master some of the very basics and some of the functionalities are, well, not always functional, and the glitches in the software are not something a mentor can help with - other than to commisserate.
For example, sometimes when I want to post a comment on someone's blog, I get an empty screen. I can (and do) log into the blog directly, not through Blotanical, to leave a comment, but it's a hassle to do that and just as frustrating, I don't think I get any Blotanical points for those comments if they aren't posted while I'm on the Blotanical site. So that is a bit maddening. And the search function mystifies me at times.
This morning, I spent almost a half hour trying to get to a blog that I KNEW was part of the Blotanical community and it didn't come up in any searches. Finally, I went to our message list and found a message the blogger had sent me and tracked her that way. Then I "faved" her blog so wouldn't have that hassle again. But I don't always have the time to do that and so many times, I am going outside of Blotanical to do things I joined Blotanical to make it easier to do. It's annoying since I won't earn Blotanical points for those activities.
I understand that there is a lot going on behind the scene to upgrade some of the capabilities and make things more user friendly and I am looking forward to whatever improvements they are able to make. I'm hoping they streamline and tighten up the search function a bit, and make it easier to travel to blogs within Blotanical.
In the meantime, I am continuing to muddle through and do the best I can to familiarize myself with the website's functions and capabilities because the benefits to us far outweigh the minor annoyances and stumbling blocks we encounter along the way.
Our vote? Four green thumbs up for Blotanical!