My Garden This Week & Five Years of Blogging


Five years ago today I posted my first blog post.  I remember being very nervous about raising my head above the parapet and throwing my voice out into the world-wide web.  I love the internet with a passion.  I think it is just an amazing invention.  When I think about how easy it is to find out information, to research holidays, contact friends and family abroad compared with 22 years ago I find myself wondering how we managed.  My eldest son was born the same year the worldwide web was created in 1991 so I will always know how old it is.  I find it fascinating that my sons have never experienced life without that wealth of knowledge at their fingertips.

Well I needn’t have  worried as the last five years blogging have generally been great.  It took three posts before I had my first comments which was incredibly exciting and then I joined Blotanical and discovered a world of gardening blogs which has grown dramatically over the last five years.  I have met some great people, learnt so much, far more than I would have from the television or reading gardening books and magazines.  I have had my dreams and aspirations broaden and my thirst for knowledge encouraged.   I have embraced the world of social media in all its forms but for personal reasons first closed my Facebook account and more recently left Twitter.  Now my social media focus is on my blog, connecting with others – gardening and otherwise and continuing to share and learn.


Anniversary aside whats been happening in the garden this week? Well not a lot.  It has been cold and the week finished off with a blanket of snow somewhere around 6-7″ deep.  I said in my last post that I thought the back garden being covered in snow would help me see it with fresh eyes.  You see I have decided to get rid of the back lawn.  I have been thinking about it more and more for about a year now.  Two posts ago I reviewed Beautiful No Mow Lawns and I suppose having a quiet time garden wise has given me time to really think it through and consider what I would put there instead.  This still isn’t very clear but I have talked it through with my eldest son and we have agreed that we will be putting a path in along the top of the lawn – which is a natural footpath anyway, extending the steps from the patio (which was already on the to do list) and constructing some sort of level small seating area.  Because of the slope and the fact that we just never use the lawn I am struggling to see how I should put paths through this area so we have decided to lift the lawn and see how we naturally use the space once planting starts.  I have decided I want to include a small tree – maybe a crab apple or maybe a wedding cake tree but I need to do a lot of research to find something just right.  In the meantime the plan is to plant up where the lawn was with dahlias and castor oil plants and anything else that peaks late summer that takes my fancy.  This will give me more time to prepare the site and also time to think about what will work here.


Today my snowy gloom was lifted by the arrival of my seeds from the Hardy Plant Society distribution scheme.  I seem to have done well and appear to have received 19 of my 20 first choices.  Interestingly my second every blog post was about seeds; this time arriving from the Cottage Garden Society.  My passion for growing from seed hasn’t abated although it had been through a few troughs and I got side-tracked by growing vegetables for a couple of years.  Anyway, I am back to my first love and thrilled that some of the seeds I sowed last weekend in the new propagator have already germinated.  So far I have the following pushing through the compost:

Coleus Carefree Mixed
Caesalpinia gillesii ‘Bird of Paradise Shrub’
Pelargonium worcesterae
Ricinus comm impala ‘Castor Oil Plant’

So whilst it might be snowy and cold outside I have lots of plants to research and in particular dahlias to choose over the coming week.






66 Comments Add yours

  1. Five years? Well done and very impressive, Helen. Yours was one of the very first blogs I read and I must say you have been an inspiration – your frequency of blog posts puts me to shame. I remember too how scary it was to publish for the first time and how exciting to receive my first comment. I didn’t know that you’d left twitter – I shall miss you as one of the regulars I ‘chat’ with (not that I use it very often). Here’s to another five years. Dave

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Dave
      Thanks for the comment and you are one of the people I shall miss on Twitter but we can chat through comments and email. I enjoy your blog too especially your cattle encounters!!

  2. lots of interesting goodies in your greenhouse, Helen! Sounds like you’ve got more snow than us. And I must check out the HPS – you’ve got some really interesting seeds, by the looks of things!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      HI SCG – yes HPS has a good seed distribution but you have to be a member, Alpine Garden Society also excellent and not all tiny alpines

    2. Excellent, thanks for the tips!

  3. Glenn says:

    5 years! Well done! I’ve only done 6months

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Glenn. Thanks for popping by – I cant imagine not blogging now!!

  4. djdfr says:

    Love the photos from your greenhouse, they put me to shame. I used to grow something “new” each year but have slacked off lately.

  5. Congratulations ! 5 years of blogging is a long time !

  6. VP says:

    Congratulations on your blogaversary. 5 years is a very satisfying milestone isn’t it? I’m amazed how the blogging world has changed in that time and it’s great to have blogging friends like you still around to share it with 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi VP – thanks for the congrats. It is amazing how quickly the time has gone

  7. Wow – to five years of blogging, and to your immaculate and productive greenhouse. Congratulations Helen, it is quite something to have persevered through everything life has thrown at you in the past five years and to have kept on blogging. I have really enjoyed reading about your gardening adventures, and admire the honesty you bring to your posts, the way you tackle things like discovering that actually, growing veg isn’t for you. Yours was the first blog I started following, and I am pretty sure it was you that left my first ever comment, on an End of Month View post, so thank you!

    It is really good to “hear” more excitement in your posts as you embrace your first love, plants and growing them. I’m pretty confident that you won’t miss the lawn in your back garden, and taking your time working out how to use the space sounds perfect. I am plucking up the courage to get rid of my – very visible – front lawn before I work out exactly what I am doing instead, as I think it is the only way I will work out what I want…

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Janet – thanks for the congrats and you are so nice to say my blog encouraged you. It hard isnt it to see beyond what is already in the garden when you are trying to do something new

  8. Congratulations Helen, and I am so glad that you started blogging, that we became online blogging friends, and real life friends who blog 🙂

    Like VP I am also amazed how much the garden blogging world had changed in 5 years, I am also amazed how quickly 5 years have passed, as we both started our blogs around the same time. I have to say, just now I admire your stamina with regards to your blog, as I haven’t posted for quite a while now 😦
    PS Didn’t know that you had come off Twitter, but then I haven’t been there for a long time.
    PPS Nice haul of seeds

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Karen
      Thanks for the congrats. You think thats a nice haul of seeds you should have seen the ones I got from the Alpine Garden Society and Jungle Seeds and I have some more on order from the US 🙂
      Thanks for all your support over the years, it has always been very appreciated

  9. James Golden says:

    Congratulations on reaching five years. I think I made my first post in December 2005, just as I was beginning my new garden. We should start a club of blogger “old timers.”

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi James
      Thanks for the congrats, I think I have been reading your blog since I started blogging. Maybe we should have a special badge for the old timers

  10. Holleygarden says:

    Happy fifth blogaversary! That is quite an accomplishment, and a lot of information relayed. Winter is for planning and dreaming, and I am excited for you to be redoing the back lawn area. Sounds like some big plans!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi HG – yes lots of big plans, but I need to finish the front garden first!! Thanks for the congrats

  11. Anna says:

    Many congratulations on five years of blogging Helen – what an achievement! I think that I’ve been visiting for a good part of your journey and still love popping in to read what you write about with such joy and enthusiasm. Sorry to read that you have decided to leave Twitter and will miss your chirpy tweets. Pelargonium worcesterae – I think I know why that one ended up on your HPS seed order 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Anna. Thanks for the congrats. Yes it was hard to resisit Pelargonium worcesterae living where I do!!

  12. Mark and Gaz says:

    Congratulations on five year of blogging! A definite achievement as very few ever make it that long and no doubt I can imagine you will carry on for many years to come. Sorry to hear you’ve left twitter but glad to see your enthusiasm for the coming year, not to mention that bag of goodies from HPS 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi guys
      Thanks for the congrats. Yes it is a lovely bag of goodies from HPS, got some other goodies from Jungle Seeds too which I’m quite excited about

  13. Cathy says:

    Like Janet, your’s was the first blog I visited, the catalyst that encouraged me to poke my head up over the parapet too, the stepping stone to where I am now – only another 4 and a bit years and I will have got nearer to where you are today! Congratulations on everything you have achieved during that time and I look forward to sharing more experiences with you in the future.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Cathy
      Thanks for the congrats and I am so pleased I encouraged you to join in.

  14. Congratulations on 5 years of continuous blogging – an amazing achievement and commitment. I like the sound of your planting choices: Ricinus communis and Cornus controversa are two of my favourite plants in the gardens where I’m studying. I’m digging up grass in the community garden where I live this summer in order to plant it for the same reason as you – nobody uses it! I look forward to reading how your planting and ideas take shape.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Caro
      Thanks for the congrats. It is funny how we are conditioned to have lawns etc and then we never use the spaces, a bit like the front room for special occasions my grandmother had

  15. Congratulations on five years of blogging, Helen, and here’s to five more! I enjoy your point of view, and now I realize we must be of the same generation since my oldest son was born in 1987.

    As for the back yard, I say go for it – but what is a wedding cake tree?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jason
      A wedding cake tree is a common name for a Cornus contversa
      I think it is meant to look like teirs of a wedding cake

  16. Congrats on your 5 years.
    You’ve been my inspiration to have a go at blogging.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi CG
      Thanks for the congrats and its so nice that I have inspired someone to do something positive.

  17. PJ says:

    Happy Birthday – such a great blog so looking forward to the next 5!!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi PJ
      Thanks for the good wishes

  18. Helen, a very happy anniversary…5 years…my goodness! I Loved seeing your garden in snow…we are getting some heavy snow again here. I am still a novice with starting flowers from seed but once started it is addictive…here’s to many more years reading your blog!!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Donna
      The find I love about growing things from seed is that there is so little financial investment for such a big reward and if the seeds fail it isnt the end of the world. I love experimenting with unusual plants to see if I can grow them here in the UK

  19. Sandra Jonas says:

    Congratulations! Five years of blogging is an accomplishment. Starting plants from seed or cuttings is so rewarding. Most of my garden was started from cuttings (shrubs) and I have enjoyed watching them grow up.
    Always enjoy your posts Helen.keep up the good work.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Sandra
      Most of my garden has been grown from seed or cuttings or patiently waiting for tiny bought plants to turn into big plants.

  20. Charlie says:

    I love your green house. It is hard to not be envious. I am planing to build one. There is something really amazing about grwoing from seed and cuttings. I took out my lawn 4 yearsd ago. I would never waste space on a lawn again.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Charlie. I love my greenhouse, it is only little but I use it fully all year round as I love growing new plants. I havent come across one person yet, apart from my Dad, who thinks I should keep the apology for the lawn. Thanks for the encouragement.

  21. Lyn says:

    Happy Anniversary! Five years writing the same blog is a real achievement. I admire your discipline very much. I think yours is one of the first blogs I started following and even though I don’t always comment, I almost always read your posts. I feel I know your garden well, and I think your plan for the lawn area is excellent. It’ll be exciting for you and your readers to see how things unfold.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Lyn
      I like your blog too especially now I know my way round your garden a bit better. I suspect I will keep any redesign of the back garden under wraps until I feel a little confident about it!!

  22. Jamie says:

    Congratulations Helen. I wondered the other day when you started blogging, as I’ll also be up to my fifth blogaversary, but a bit later on, in June this year. It has been so much fun sharing this blogging journey with you (which I really do feel I have done), so interesting to follow your progress through your very different seasons each year, and to see the wonderful way in which you have developed not only your garden but also your ideas about gardening, plants and the part the whole gardening thing plays in your life. It has been good fun, hasn’t it? Onto the next five years, I say!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jamie
      I read a couple of southern hemisphere blogs but yours is the one I visit regularly. Like you I feel that I have shared your blogging journey, and was particularly thrilled when you got a reader in each continent!

  23. blackmorephotographyJames says:

    I’m based in Malvern have done gardening work for various clients. I get asked the ‘ small tree’ for the garden question all the time and often come up with the following:

    Amelanchier lamarkii – small multistemmed tree with wonderful spring flowers and nice autumn colour.

    Acer griseum – slow growing, wonderful peeling bark. Or perhaps one of the other ‘snakebark maples’ don’t get overly big

    Sorbus hupehensis or other sp. – Mountain ash are wonderful small trees with lovely coloured fruits. s. hupehensis or glabruiscula has pink and white fruits respectively – or go for the smaller shrubbier s. cashmiriana or s. vilmorinii. I find the birs love them, especially waxwings and thrush and the berries shine like winter jewels – they’d be in habitat on a slope on the side of the malvern hills!

    Just a few suggestions….

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Blackamorephotography. Thanks for the tips. I already have an Amelanchier and two Sorbus which I love. Oh and a couple of small Acers as well as fully grown Prunus, Willow and Field Maple. I just need either a tallish not too bulky shrub or a small elegant tree for a particular spot. Think this time of year is good for a bit of research. Oh yes I also have a beautiful witch hazel which I really recommend for a small garden.

    2. rogerbrook says:

      I love sorbus too, pity the flowers do not smell too good.
      My own best small tree at home is the wedding cake tree- it just needs a little help with sensitive pruning to get the layers distinct. Mine also sends up the occasional strong vertical shoot, especially from the base. These must be pruned out!

  24. Shirley says:

    Congratulations Helen! Five years is quite an achievement with the frequency of your posts 😀

    I agree on much you say here. We have exchanged a few topics and comments over the years – I’m delighted to have e-met you! Ah… my eldest daughter was enjoying her first summer when the www began so in theory she knew the world before 😉

    Going back to basics and what you love on your blog I absolute get. I feel the same, I’m back at the birds for now but my first love is the plants (I’m a propagator fan) and I need to properly reconnect with my garden and that is what I’d like to focus on this year. Oh… but these birdies keep catching my eye, I get the video camera out and then I do my Stephen Spielberg bit editing… I found myself watching a pheasant in my garden for ages on Sat, a Fieldfare popped by and I was transfixed by flocks of LTT’s

    Good luck with your redesign. I think you need to walk about in the space when the grass is up, looking at plants or features that could become focal points and that will guide your path network and any seating areas. I also think I should get my wildlife pond done this year – its nearly there. Like you committing to lifting all your back lawn for me filling an area with something I can’t really go back from is a bit daunting too. I know in will become the heart of my garden and your new area made do too. All the best for your new blogging year and garden 😀

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Shirley – thanks for the congrats. I love your bird films, they are so good and I havent come across any other good blogs that do the same so you are mny wildlife expert.

  25. Happy 5 year anniversary – and long may you enjoy it. Your comment re you children growing up not knowing what it was like before the www got me to thinking – I remember when my son first asked for a computer – he got it for Xmas and I was so afraid to go near it!
    I’m new to blogging but have already learned and been inspired by so much of what I have seen on the internet!
    A gardening internet friend has done here first year with the seed collection for the SRGC and she is having a grea time!
    I’d love to have a small tree in the garden but I’m rather apprehensive about it. I would hate to make the wrong selection and be disappointed if I had to get rid of it!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Angie
      Thank you for visiting. I think we worry too much about trees in small gardens, there are lots of good ones. Amelanchier is my favourite or maybe an apple on dwarf rooting stock, good nurseries will always advise.

  26. kate says:

    Wow – five years… I am seriously impressed by how you continue to write fresh and interesting content on such a regular basis (and by your collection of seeds – hmmm)…

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Kate
      I suspect I keep up the writing as I have no one else to bore on the subject apart from my sons and I dont want to drive them away!!!!:)

  27. More congratulations from me, too. Five years! I’ve just started reading your blog and thoroughly enjoy your posts and the lovely photos. Glad to hear you’re still raring to write.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Helen
      Thanks for the congrats and glad you enjoy the blog

  28. Congrats on five years of blogging Helen! I tell you I’ve loved getting to know you thru everything. You are most real and it has been a pleasure to visit you! Here’s to many more years!

  29. Jean says:

    I’m late to the party, Helen, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to congratulate you on 5 years of blogging and to wish you many happy years in the real and virtual gardens.

  30. Diana Studer says:

    still clearing an exploding Google Reader.
    Happy fifth blogaversary!

  31. Hi Helen, congratulations on 5 years, I’m just approaching my first year of blogging and it takes a real commitment, so I applaud you. I wondered where you’d got to on Twitter, but now I understand. So much more satisfying not to have to stick to 140 characters! Enjoy your garden and keep blogging about it.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      oh I see you have an exciting project – twitter can be useful that way. Bit galling for me having just forked out loads for Sarah Raven seeds etc but not enough for me to change my mind about Twitter, my head is much clearer these days.

  32. Just out of interest, you say in your blog that your getting some seeds from the US.. can I ask where from..?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jono
      I ordered from Alplains – recommended my Diane who organises the AGS seed scheme

  33. Better late than never to congratulate you on your five years of blogging. You gave me great inspiration when I arrived as a newcomer on the blogging scene and I still enjoy reading your posts. Thanks and may you continue to blog for many years to come.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Charlotte
      Thanks for the congrats. I was surprised it was five years

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s