As Seen On WordPress & HGTV

At some point in the midst of COVID madness, I received a message from the WordPress gods that my blog had reached its 9th anniversary, the gift for which is pottery (hence, the opening photo). That announcement, in combination with all of the quarantine days and weeks and months I’ve had to work in the garden, I’ve had some — and by some, I mean a lot of — time to reflect on this blog… where it began (during my time as a Long Island gardener), where it is now (during my time as a South Florida gardener), where it’s going (I haven’t a clue), and all points in between.

When I made the decision to start this blog, I was at a very stagnant time in my life. So much was about work, and there was very little time for anything creative — and I felt I needed to do something, anything, to be able to breathe. Gardening has always been that for me, but the idea of a blog was a way to reignite my passion for writing, reading, and photography.

Along the way, I’ve had some posts I’ve been especially proud of and some that were outright clunkers. Similarly, some photos are “meh” at best, and others still have the ability to take my breath away.

There’s also you.

When I began this blog, I always told myself that it’s perfectly okay if no one reads it. The blog was meant for me, a warehouse for writing and photos — but it amazed me then and still does now to post something and to see the first readers’ responses, whether it’s a “like” or a “comment.” On my dashboard, I’m also able to see a map of the world and each time someone reaches my blog, his or her country lights up, and the color deepens with each hit from that country.

It reminds me of how I’ve always felt about the blogosphere, especially the gardening neighborhood. I feel as if we all live next door to one another. Each time we post or leave a comment, it’s as if we’re neighbors having a chat across the garden fence — and in these current times, that means so much more.

There are also the adventures… like the artist, Cathyann Burgess, who reached out to me after finding an interview with me on another blog about bloggers who drink coffee and have a dog. She saw a photo of Murphy and me there, but she was quite taken with one particular close up of my dog. She contacted me and asked if she could paint Murphy’s portrait for a pet rescue fundraiser. Of course, I agreed — and she sent me a copy of it. Now that Murphy is no longer with us, I cherish each brush stroke of that furry face.

I also enjoyed interviewing authors (like Linda Holden and Dr. Twigs Way), celebrities (like Dante), and gardeners (like Margaret Roach, who invited me to be a part of her book blog tour before I even knew what a book blog tour was). To be honest, as much as I enjoy the interviews, I really enjoy the challenge of the hunt. Some might call it stalking, but if I read a tidbit that a celebrity gardens, I’m on their trail to make contact. I’ve done that since I was a young teenager, writing fan letters celebrities to get their autographs. (At this point, Joe would say, “Nerd alert.”)

Finally, there’s the potting shed. Let’s face it, it’s always been about the potting shed and it will always be about the potting shed. Technically, my potting shed is no longer mine. It now belongs to my nephew and his wife, since they bought our house before we moved to Florida. Still, though…

It’s difficult to remove that picture from the side of the homepage, or to take away its own page, the one that has all of Joe’s hand-drawn building plans. Heck, it’s the cover model on my book, Seeing Green: Life Learned In The Potting Shed! (Shameless plug: the book is for sale on Blurb, a print-on-demand service. If you decide to get a copy, always check Blurb’s homepage for promo discount codes. They do that a lot!)

I have to admit something here. Although I have a beautiful area along the side of my Florida house, where I can garden and write on the same potting bench that once was in the potting shed, I still miss looking at and working in that potting shed. I loved — and love — that shed. I love every memory that was made there, especially during those white winter days, when I could garden under glass while snow fell just on the other side of the panes. As much as I love the sight of the shed alive with flowers and color… I keep a photo on my phone of the potting shed in the snow, and despite its frosty appearance, just looking at it is like feeling the embrace of a warm hug.

Apparently, I’m not alone. Occasionally, I receive emails from people who have used my potting shed plans to build their own versions of it, from full-size to miniature! I am thrilled to know that so many people are smitten with my potting shed and that I’ve been able to share it.

Similarly, of all the posts, the one that consistently gets the most likes, the most traffic, the most links, the most questions, the most shares is the one about the potting shed, The House That Joe Built. In fact, whenever those WordPress metrics gurus alert me to a surge in site traffic, it’s always because someone has shared the potting shed’s link to their own blog, website, or Pinterest page.

That’s what happened a few months ago, when a writer for HGTV found the potting shed. After contacting me, she said she would like to include it in a selection of great garden sheds. She had questions for me and I had to sign releases — and now, my potting shed is number two on HGTV’s website, and I can proudly say, “As seen on HGTV.”

I’m not sure if all of this attention has gone to the potting shed’s head, but I’ve warned my nephew that he may see garden paparazzi lurking in the shrubbery. That being said, blogging has been a remarkable adventure, packed with mostly smile, occasional tears, and always flowers. Thank you for being a part of this adventure. I’m looking forward to more. Stay safe and, as always, happy gardening.

My Means To My End

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. For me, they create too much pressure — and within a week, they’ll be in the trash heap and I’ll be spending the rest of the year beating myself up because I didn’t go to the gym or lose weight or learn a new craft.  Besides, in my world, each day gives us a chance to get a fresh start — hence, the sunrise photo at the top of this post.

This year, though, is different.

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And The One Lovely Blog Award Goes To . . .


Streaked Sphinx Moth

I was as surprised by the emailed notice as I was by the mysterious moth resting on the edge of a terra cotta strawberry pot. My blog was nominated for The One Lovely Blog Award.

I know blog awards receive mixed reactions. Some people love ‘em; some people don’t. Some see them as an honor; others see them as a chore.

Personally, this particular nomination could not have come at a better time.

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Bloomin’ Update 53: New Year, New Look, New Plants



It’s been some time since I posted a “Bloomin’ Update,” because — well — I had nothing bloomin’ in my garden because I didn’t have a garden in zone 10.

But as 2014 changed into 2015, so too did the garden change. Where there was once only lawn, there are now beds. Where there are beds, there are now plants and pots and paths. (Speaking of paths, I’ll describe the path I took to create this garden in a future post.)

With all of the changes happening around me, I decided to make some changes to this blog. For a while, I’ve considered purchasing my own domain — which I have now done. It’s official, I am now Nitty Gritty Dirt Man dot com.

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A Gardening Life Remembered

Lee May April 15, 1941 - December 3, 2014

Lee May
April 15, 1941 – December 3, 2014

When I started this blog, the first piece of advice I received was to find other blogs that I admired, blogs that I thought would appeal to the readers I hoped to attract. After scrolling through blog after blog, I found one that stood out from the rest.

It was classic and classy, well-written, witty, and wise.

It was Lee May’s Gardening Life.

I left a comment immediately and added the site to my newly learned term: a blogroll. For some time, Lee May’s Gardening Life was the only blog listed on that roll.

It had been a long time since I had written. Prior to blogging and prior to my life as a school social worker, I had been a journalist — but that was a long ago chapter in my life. So when Lee — a much-respected journalist — replied that he liked my writing, he provided water to my young sprouting blog and to my soul.

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When The Fog Rolls In — And Out

Foggy Night

There’s no other way to describe my brain during these frigid January days than this photo of a foggy, foggy night.  I admit when I first saw the lights beaming through the misty mid-winter air, I thought of a scene from “The X-Files” — you know, an alien spacecraft had landed just on the other side of the trees behind my house.

But the more I stared at the photo, the more I thought about the tangled thoughts and clouded emotions and glimmers of light in my head.  There’s a lot happening up there, and very often it’s difficult to make sense or to accept what it all is.

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2013 In Review & Auld Lang Syne (Mairi Campbell)

I know I said I would see all of you in 2014 — and it may already be that in some parts of the world — but I wanted to share this post, compiled by the stats helper monkeys.  It’s the annual report for this blog and the data is fascinating — from a listing of the most popular posts to the most frequent commenters to the global location of commenters.

Not only do I thank the statisticians for keeping this info, but I also thank all of you — because without you, there would be no statistics to keep.

Following the stats are my plans for 2014 and one more tune to end the year.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Plans for 2014

I’m not one for resolutions — they don’t last very long — so I’ll stick with a to-do list.   Here are a few highlights:

  • I’m currently compiling the posts from this blog into a book.  My dilemma is which self-publishing platform to use.  It’s a bit overwhelming.  So far, I’m debating using Smashwords or publishing straight to Amazon, where a book could be distributed to Kindle or print-on-demand.  There’s also Blurb, which creates coffee table books.  If anyone out there as any experiences/opinions/ideas — I would love some guidance.
  • I was also nominated for a blogging award, and the acceptance post is on its way.  As with many of these awards, there’s a place for seven random facts about me — so if there’s anything you would like to know about me, please leave a question and I’ll choose some of those (or at least those that I can answer).

The Tune

Just when you thought I had exhausted the December with yule tunes, I had to share one more — one of the most beautiful renditions of “Auld Lang Syne” I’ve ever heard.  This is Mairi Campbell.

Happy New Year!

Spring Cleaning — Better Late Than Never



“My name is Allison MacKenzie.  Where I was born, time was told not by the clock or the calendar, but by the seasons.  Summer was carefree contentment.  Autumn was that bittersweet time of regret for moments that had ended and things that were yet undone.  And then winter fell, with a cold mantle of caution and chill, it nipped our noses and our arrogance and made us move closer to the warm stoves of memory and desire.  Spring was promise.  But there was a fifth season, of love.  And only the wise or the lucky ones new where to find it.”

This is the opening monologue from the film Peyton Place.  It’s here because a few weeks ago a reader, Camille, commented on an earlier post entitled Autumn In Peyton Place.  She had been searching for the verse and could I help her.  I popped in the DVD and took some dictation.

But after I read over the words, it occurred to me that if only seasons could be so easy and uncomplicated that their description could fit into a single — albeit melodramatic — paragraph.  If only . . .

Because lately, it seems, seasons are not so neat and tidy.  This spring, for example, has been one of the coolest — make that coldest — and dampest ones that I can remember.  Even this Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, had snow falling in upstate New York.

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Margaret & Me & A Cup Of Tea

Margaret Roach Garden

Margaret Roach.  For years it was just a name, one that I had seen in the masthead or the editorial pages of Martha Stewart Living.  Occasionally, it appeared at the bottom of the television as I watched Martha’s show, an identifier of the woman sitting next to the host.

Yes, Margaret Roach was just a name.

When I started this blog, I also learned of the top gardening blog in America, A Way to Garden — and once again, I was staring at that same name: Margaret Roach.  Maybe, I thought, there was a reason her name kept entering my world — and maybe, it was time to discover if there was more to Margaret than a name.

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