“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.”
This week I am sharing an interview with another wonderful garden blogger. These are my favorite posts for so many reasons, but mostly because I love to learn about people, and connect with them on a deeper level. And so it was with Margaret@The Gardening Me.
Margaret’s blog is relatively new to me, and I was lucky to meet her last summer at the Garden Writer’s Association’s Annual Conference in Buffalo, NY. I felt an instant connection to Margaret, who has a similar enthusiasm for vegetable gardening in a climate similar to mine. We had lots to share in a short time. Stories of triumphs and catastrophes….favorite crops to grow, weather and critter angst.
And so I wanted to share Margaret and her blog with you. So let’s take a trip to Ontario, Canada, and meet Margaret……..
Margaret, for those that don’t know you, please tell the readers about yourself.
I’m Canadian and grew up in a condo in Toronto. We did quite a bit of camping when I was a kid & I appreciated nature and being in the great outdoors but was otherwise oblivious to the wonders of having a garden. Then one summer, I spent some time on my grandparent’s farm in central Portugal – and that’s when I was bitten…by the gardening bug.
Fast forward 35 years and I now live in a small town in Southern Ontario with my husband and two pre-teens. The gardens on our one acre property were essentially “let go” for several years before we moved in 9 years ago. While I’ve made good progress, it will be a few more years before I approach my overall vision although, as most gardeners know, the garden will never be truly “finished”.
1. Those sound like my gardens that I let go for so many years….lots of work.
So Margaret why did you start your blog?
I’m actually embarrassed to say that I didn’t even realize blogs existed until fairly late in the game – I think around 2010 or so. It was a revelation – normal folks, like you and I, writing about their gardens, warts and all. At the time, my kids were still young and I didn’t have the time or energy to do anything but the most basic garden tasks. Reading those blogs scratched my gardening itch, while at the same time inspiring me to get down to business in my own backyard.
I built my first raised beds in 2011 and, as time went on, my desire to be a participant in the blogging community, instead of simply an observer, increased. So, in 2014, I decided to take the plunge and started the blog.
2. Well I for one am glad you started blogging. I have enjoyed getting to know your blog, Margaret. What is the significance of the title of your blog?
I recently changed my blog name, which used to be “Homegrown – Adventures in my Garden”. The original focus of my blog was my vegetable garden. Over the years, however, my interests have grown beyond edibles and experiences in my own backyard. I felt that the name was too specific and it was also a mouthful (as was the URL), this being another motivator for the change.
This past January, I decided to take the plunge and changed the name to “The Gardening Me”. The idea behind the new name is that we are not singular beings, but rather, we all play a variety of different roles in our everyday lives. We are parents, spouses, employees, artists….the list goes on and on. In my personal life, I’m a mom, wife, knitter, crafter and gardener, to name a few. My blog is all about the “gardening me”.
3. I love your perspective. I am always fascinated about what motivates bloggers. So what keeps you blogging, Margaret?
I enjoy writing about my garden adventures and, hopefully, people enjoy reading about them. Being part of the garden blogging community and cultivating relationships with gardeners from all over the country has also been incredibly rewarding.
Another benefit of blogging is that it’s an excellent way of documenting my gardening journey. Writing about & photographing my garden experiences for an audience requires a more thorough approach than I would otherwise do for my own personal records (which I also keep, btw!).
4. I too love the relationships cultivated through blogging, and how our journeys intertwine. So what other creative endeavors/hobbies do you enjoy on a regular basis?
My 2nd passion is knitting. After a couple of false starts when I was young, it’s something that I always wanted to pick back up. I decided to give it another go four years ago and, this time round, I took a course at a local yarn shop, which made all the difference. I was “hooked” within a few months and now can’t go a day without picking up the needles, be it winter or summer. I find it exceedingly difficult to watch tv or sit in a waiting room with idle hands these days!
5. Oh wow good for you, Margaret. Can you tell me about your creative process? Is it the same or different when creating gardens and pursuing other hobbies like knitting?
I don’t feel as if my creative process is all that creative – I would probably call it methodical. I generally approach most endeavors, be it gardening or other pursuits, by doing a lot of research, weighing the options, then making a decision based on what makes sense in my situation. In the garden, I enjoy trying new varieties and methods – most new gardeners realize fairly quickly that the “best” way of doing things varies based on the person and situation so it pays to experiment (plus it’s so much fun!!). The great thing about gardening is that, even if you make a mistake, each growing season brings with it a fresh start and an opportunity to improve and apply lessons learned in seasons past.
6. I would call your process very creative as you define it, Margaret. And experimentation is an important part of creativity. We can’t be afraid to experiment if we want to create, can we.
I know gardeners love to visit other gardens. What are some of your favorite gardens in the North America, and in other countries? And do you have a special type of garden you love to visit?
I make a point to visit the botanical gardens practically everywhere I go but I don’t have an absolute favourite at the moment. I prefer informal to formal gardens and, in addition to vegetable gardens (of course!), have a particular soft spot for cottage-style gardens.
My absolute favourite type of garden to explore is one that belongs to a regular, everyday individual that simply loves their garden, big or small. These are the gardens that I enjoy spending time in and that also give me the best ideas for my own garden. I’m a huge backyard snoop & have no shame in peeking through the fence wherever I go ☺
7. Oh I would love for you to peek through my fence anytime. So Margaret, what is or would have been your dream career or job?
When I was in university, it never occurred to me that I should pursue a degree in horticulture – I considered my love of plants a hobby, not a career. My dream job? That’s a tough one. I would say traveling to & writing about gardens near and far, as well as the gardeners that tend them, while at the same time still being able to tend to my own garden….we are talking dream job, after all 😉
8. Now that is a dream job. With vegetable gardening being a great passion of yours, what intrigues or excites you most about vegetable gardening?
Trying new things! Most people where I live have never even heard of a scape, much less tried one, and you should see the wide-eyed look on their face when they bite into their first Sungold tomato.
I love to experiment with new varieties and methods of growing – this applies to my entire garden. Vegetable gardening, however, also rewards you with incredibly delicious, nutritious and healthy food. You literally have your cake – the inner satisfaction & enjoyment of gardening – and eat it too!
9. Yes the reward of eating what we grow is huge for me too. What are some gardening projects, close to your heart, that you are working on?
I live on a pie-shaped lot with a good amount of “wasted” space beside the house. I decided a few years ago that I would love to expand the vegetable garden into this area and last year we got started on the conversion.
One of the things that I’m most excited about, however, is the ornamental nature of the expansion. I’m usually a function before beauty sort of person but I’m really looking forward to incorporating decorative elements into this new area. In addition, I will be surrounding the vegetable garden with ornamental borders that will provide not only privacy & attract pollinators, but also allow me to indulge my growing interest in ornamentals.
10. It sounds like a lovely dream garden that I can’t wait to see.
I read you love collecting cookbooks. What got you started, and what excites you about collecting cookbooks? And do you have any particular authors or genres you like collecting?
Oh yes, I love my cookbooks and have amassed “a few” over the years – two bookcases worth!
I watched all the PBS cooking shows growing up – think Julia Child, Galloping Gourmet & Yan Can Cook – and loved trying out new recipes. When I eventually moved out on my own, I remember how excited I was going on that first grocery shopping trip, getting all the ingredients for an inaugural meal – which, of course, would have been based on recipes from my books. Back in the day, not a month went by when I wouldn’t add one or two (or more if there was a sale ☺) cookbooks to my collection.
Once the kids were born, however, our dinners went from exotic Ethiopian stew to macaroni and cheese (homemade, of course!). Nowadays, even with the ability to get practically any recipe online, I still purchase cookbooks (although far less frequently) as there’s just something about curling up with a good cookbook that can’t be replicated with a tablet.
As for my favourites, Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid would rank in the top 5 – their cookbooks (which are all based on their own personal experiences traveling) are filled with wonderful ethnic recipes, travel tales and incredibly beautiful photography (think coffee table books). I love baking bread and turn to Peter Reinhart’s books again and again. There are also a few celebrity chefs that have found a spot on the shelf, including Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten, Donna Hay, Delia Smith, and Nigella Lawson. One little known cookbook that I particularly love is “Simplicity from a Monastery Kitchen” by Brother Victor-Antoine. It’s chock-full of easy, healthy & delicious recipes, with a focus on vegetables – every recipe that I’ve tried has been a winner, even with the kids!
I will have to take a look at a few of these cookbooks as I adore finding new recipes.
Well my goodness I am so excited by all of Margaret’s creativity, and gardening endeavors. She definitely inspires me to look at my simple garden behind the fence as something very important to my creativity. And I agree with her, that blogs are a great way of ‘cultivating relationships with gardeners from all over.’ I hope you enjoyed getting to know Margaret, a bit more, as much as I did!
Please make sure you visit Margaret in all the amazing places she hangs out:
If you would like to read more of these interviews, you can find them on a new page at the top of this blog.
All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella@Gardens Eye View, 2010-2018. Photos are the sole property of Margaret@The Gardening Me, and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.