What’s in a Name?

Thinking - kinda!
Thinking – kinda!

I have alluded occasionally over the last few months, maybe longer, that I have been making plans, sorting things out.  I suspect some would try to label my mind-set at the moment as ’empty nest’.  I disagree but I do think I am at one of those moments in life when you feel that things could change.  I don’t mean I am at some sort of cross roads metaphorically, or in reality, or that I have had some sort of revelation.  No, it is more a feeling that I am entering a new phase of my life and that if I choose to I can change some things.

I think it is true to say that some of this could fall into the ’empty nest’ category as both my sons now work and the youngest will probably be relocating to Devon in the next month or so but I have been in that situation for a while and I don’t feel a need to fill any void.  I have for some years now been in a position where if I fancy doing thing and work and funds permit I do it.  My life is also quite full with a job that can be demanding and can have long days and I am involved with two horticultural groups, serving on the committee of both and then there is the blog and that’s where the block really is.

I have been writing this blog for around 8 years.  I love it but sometime, like now, it feel onerous.  I have tried walking away from it in the past but it is like turning your back on a really close friend.  They are after all rare and you never know when you really might need them so it is best to solider on through the less fun times.  Recently I have become somewhat obsessed with the stats and my position in a league table.  This is not good, it is in fact quite unhealthy and taps into my competitive streak which rears its ugly head from time to time.  I have been working hard on the blog, leaving comments on others, responding to comments, trying to keep the content regular etc but the key expression here is ‘working hard’.  Blogging shouldn’t be hard work, it shouldn’t be onerous, you shouldn’t do it just to come further up a league table than someone else.

Why should you blog?  One of those questions that each blogger will give you a different answer to. I have always said that I blog for myself but I love it when it engages with others and this is still true today.  This is why it doesn’t work when I am chasing stats etc.  But now I come to another stumbling block which has crept up on me over the last few months and relates to the sense of change I mention above.  My blog is entitled ‘The Patient Gardener’ but my interests are diversifying and I want to, and do, other things so why don’t I blog about them more?  Is the blog name too prescriptive, am I letting it block my thought process, am I over thinking this – probably! When I first started blogging I got excited when someone left a comment, I got excited to find a new gardening blog, or I saw a plant I hadn’t seen before – but familiarity breeds contempt, well not contempt as that might be going to far, but you know what I mean – and I have lost that thrill.

I love my garden, I enjoy ‘working’ in it but I am struggling to get enthusiastic about always blogging on this subject. I have been looking for something recently, I haven’t been sure what, but I have felt that something needs to change.  I have even looked at moving house but realised that I love my house and garden too much to move – the neighbours have put their house on the market this week and I had a quiet tentative cheer!    I have started walking and my interest in wildlife is returning.  Also having played around with different crafts I have found myself enthralled with embroidery again and getting absurdly excited when I find an embroidery blog, they are few and far between, and positively stroking the cover of the Inspirations magazine when it arrived from Australia full of projects and plans.  Whilst I am going on a garden visiting holiday this year, and I have been on them before, I don’t feel an overwhelming urge to go on more.  I love visiting gardens but there is so much more to the world and I want to see it.  I have a list of places and things I want to see and strangely there are few gardens featuring:

  • Cuba
  • Iceland including the Northern Lights
  • Highland and island to see Golden Eagle and Otters
  • Whale watching
  • Peru
  • Southern Italy
  • Sicily
  • Isles of Scilly
  • Costa Rica
  • Halong Bay
  • Anka Wot
  • China – the Terracotta Army and Forbidden City, as well as the rice fields
  • Petra
  • Istanbul

and that’s just off the top of my head.  I am in a position to start planning these trips so why not?  I have found some companies that do trips specifically for solo travellers, which aren’t aimed at people looking for partners and which don’t charge a single supplement.  I have two solo trips coming up over the next two months which will test how I get on.  This weekend I am off to the South Coast to visit West Dean Gardens, Great Dixter and Sissinghurst.  I am staying two nights on my own in a B&B so that will be the first challenge.  Then in July I am going on a trip to visit gardens in Ireland.  It is an organised trip but I have to find my own way to Dublin, not that hard I know, and it will be interesting to see how I get on spending a week with complete strangers but people who have a similar interest. I am feeling more content with life as though I have served my time over the last 20 something years bringing my sons up on my own, penny pinching, working hard and now its time to rediscover the things that really matter to me (aside from my sons of course!)

So what I think I am struggling with is sharing all of this on a blog which for the last 8 years has focussed on gardening and gardens.  I have tried having a separate blog for crafts but it was just too much.  Do I carry on with the same blog name or should I come up with a new one?  What would that be – The Whims of an Empty Nester – sounds a bit sad really! Or The Patient Gardener and other musings – too long? Or What Helen Did Next – sounds possibly more interesting than it might be? Would a new name attract new readers but also lose some of my regular readers? Would moving away from a niche mean that its harder to attract regular readers, build up the community of readers that I have been reading about today – does this matter? I don’t want to turn my back on writing about gardening I just want the blog to reflect my life better rather than one aspect of me and I am stuck on how this would work




53 Comments Add yours

  1. owenldn says:

    Ha ha I love “What Helen did next” 🙂 if it is a simple matter to change your blog title- and makes you feel better then I would do it- this is your place to express your thoughts so dont feel contrained by a title or what people might expect ‘expect’. Your list of places to see sound marvelous! Good times are ahead I can tell!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Owen
      I think it’s pretty easy to change the blog title but I need to be sure I am sure I am happy to give up the current one and the new one is good. I quite like What Helen Did Next too

  2. I have a gardenblog too but I added travelling and art after a while, when we travell we are interested in gardens , nature and animals but also in art so I think you can add whatever interests you. Just have fun !

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Gwen
      You are right i am just very stuck in my ways and need to break out of the rut

    2. 😀 good on you !

  3. Gina says:

    I’ve only just found you so I would welcome the opportunity to get to know you and your life a little better. ( I’m Welsh and therefore nosey). At the end of the day it’s your blog to do with as you wish. My blog will be mainly quilting with some gardening and baking thrown in for good measure. Those that are interested will like it and those that aren’t won’t. xxx

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Gina
      Welcome, I didn’t know that the Welsh were known for being nosy! I will come and check out your blog. I think I need to just do as you say and post what I like but it’s breaking a long established habit

  4. sweetpea2love says:

    What a wonderful post you’ve written here today. I’ve colored outside of the lines of blogging decorum, so to speak. I thought about it for months on end which One topic I could pick for my blog, after almost forgetting about it all together I went with what ever was fresh in my own mind at the time of posting. On my blog you’ll have a wide selection of topics to choose from, gardening, crafts, fiction, cooking, and the list goes on and on. Everything I’ve read about blogging and being successful was to pick ONE topic and stick with that to gain a follower base. Hum…but that’s not me ~ not just a gardener, or a writer, etc.. I say my dear for you to follow your heart and what feels good to you will most definitely be good for your readers.. Enjoy your trips that are coming up and your future trips in the wishing stages. We will love to read all about them when you’re back home.. I’ve always loved reading your blog, and what ever you choose to do ~ I’ll continue to be there as a cheerleader loving your post..

    Take care and happy blogging to ya, from Laura ~

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Laura
      Thank you for your kind comment. You are right, maybe if I manage to break out of the rut I am in I could organise the blog with tabs like you suggest

    2. sweetpea2love says:

      Helen, yes indeed…I’ve seen tab on other peoples blogs, but sadly I’ve not found out yet just how to do that in my own blog. So, if you do tabs, perhaps you can do a post for people who are less talented with this computer age…Just a thought.. best wishes to you my dear..


    3. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Laura
      I have tabs already. You need to set up pages and each page becomes a tab. I don’t use them very well. If you look on WordPress help there is advice

    4. sweetpea2love says:

      Oh my goodness, thanks for the info.. I will check into those and maybe I’ll get them to work for me.. it would make it easier for folks to find certain topics, other than the categories. Have a peaceful day and evening my dear…


  5. Benjamin says:

    Hulloooo Helen! Whatever direction you decide to go (and blog) in, I’m sure I will enjoy following along. Looking forward to reading of your travels, crafts and whatever else you may decide to blog about. Bon Chance! Ben

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Ben
      Many thanks

  6. Julieanne says:

    I don’t see why you can’t change the name of your blog. You can always add in smaller text underneath ‘formerly The Patient Gardener’ & keep that there for a few months so old friends don’t get confused. And other commenters suggestions of adding tabs is a good one. I do like What Helen Did Next.

    I’ve always had ‘and other musings’ as part of my blog name. I see myself as primarily a garden blogger but have ‘room’ to move for when I do occasionally write about other topics. We aren’t one dimensional and do have other interests; it’s our blogs and we can write about what we want! You garden readers will continue to enjoy your gardening related posts, and new readers will find you via your other interests. Go fot it.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Julieanne
      That’s not s bad idea, will explore if I can have old title in small writing. The url would change as well so presumably people would need to change what they follow or maybe that happens automatically, more to research!

  7. Your list of wanna see places and mine have some overlap. I’ve been to Istanbul, but none of the other places you mention. I would really like to see Iceland, Sicily and Southern Italy, but also Barcelona, Granada, and Holland. Part of the problem is we loved France so much that if we get to take another trip to Europe it will be hard to resist going back. Let’s hope we both get to all our special destinations.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Barcelona is fabulous, very different to other cities I have visited. go for a few days then carry on to France! Granda should have been on my list, I have my eye on a trip to Andalucia which includes a trip to the Alhambra!

  8. Anna says:

    Helen – I think it’s the wrong time of year to get hung up about stats as most gardeners are out there doing it rather rather than reading about it 🙂 Perhaps because we have been blogging about the same subject for a while now it sometimes feels that you have said the same things before. I know that I’ve been thinking that of late when it comes to my blog. You should feel free to write about whatever you wish to – after all this is your virtual domain. I think that like you all your readers have varied interests too and would be happy to read about other subjects that matter to you. Maybe keep the title which a lot of people are familiar with and fond of but change the strapline?

  9. annincumbria says:

    Helen you just go ahead and write about whatever you want i will still be reading your blog, looking forward to joining you on your travels

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Ann
      The travels will be spread out due to cash flow but they will start appearing soon.

  10. Linda B. says:

    Helen, I started my blog the same time as you and have felt many of the same things regarding stats and competitiveness. My blog name is broader, making it easy to write about embroidery and art projects, food, travel, even politics. Most of us have a number of interests and would be happy to follow your other paths to the degree you want to share. I say keep the name as gardening/nurturing/growing can be applied to many areas.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Linda
      Thank you, I didnt have the foresight to some up with a broader name when I started, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

  11. April Mwf says:

    How about “The Patient Pupil”? That eliminates the sole focus on gardening and could mean you are a learner of all things. It fits with your education background, and it speaks to the fact that you are open to new experiences and endeavors.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi April
      Nice idea – but having read all the wonderful comments people have left I suspect I will keep the blog title, after all as my son says its my brand!

  12. Diana Studer says:

    Do you know this blog? Embroidery blog? This is the one I read.

    I’ve have never, since I began blogging six years ago, felt obliged to stick to gardening. My blog, my rules.
    I don’t have as many readers on the new blog, as I did on the original one. Blogging has changed, people move on to other things.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Diana
      No I dont, I will check it out. I tend to read Needle N Thread as it is very good for tutorials but it is good to discover another one. I think you are a freer spirit than me, I need to care less I think and you are right blogging has changed especially since Blotanical disappeared which was a real boon when we started

  13. Yvone Ryan says:

    Hi Helen – sounds exciting. Love your ‘wish list’ of countries. I have always loved seeing other peoples photos of exciting places so will love your traveling and observations. I can’t see me actually doing them myself as ‘no money’ but that dose’nt stop me dreaming and wishing! My eldest daughter has just had 10 days in Cuba and loved it. Music, dancing the son samba) colour people etc. Loved her photos. 3rd daughter just arrived back from Europe yesterday and Turkey and Greece was on their itinerary. Yet to see photos. Grand-daughter also was in Cuba but also other south American and Central countries. I hope they have cleaned up Ha Long Bay before you go there! I loved Hanoi!! Really nice having a friend on the other side of the World with opposite seasons. Keep blogging! Live is short so go out AND ENJOY! XX

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Yvonne
      I am always surprised when I read your daughters have been to cuba etc but then I realise that I am thinking of the world as a flat map and it isnt really any further from NZ than from here! You are of course right that life is too short and I intend to seize the opportunities when I get them.

  14. I blogged about gardens and life lessons for about 4 years…but once I decided I wanted to write more about life, and post poetry, I started a second blog….www.livingfromhappiness.com….you can go either way…a second blog or a new blog title and we will be here to read about what you are doing….have fun deciding and wow would I love to travel to many of those spots….especially to see the northern lights!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Donna
      I can see why you started another blog, I suspect a bit like me you like to have things neat in boxes but I couldnt cope with two blogs. I suspect when I go to see the northern lights they wont be there, I have been on day trips to see seals etc and there are never any to see. On one boat trip even the reliably rabbits on an island we went round were hiding much to our guides surprise!! I may get banned from nature tours for this reason!

  15. Jennifer says:

    I think it’s your blog, so you get to set the rules! One thought on your name, it is describing you, not your garden. You are the patient (or not so, if I recall correctly) gardener. So your blog name is describing you and your activities, whether they are solely garden related or not.

    I for one am enjoying your posts about the Malvern Hills. It’s inspired me (at last) to look up the location of Malvern on the map so I have a better sense of where you are. I enjoy reading your crafting adventures and other vacations. But part of that may be reflected in the blogs I read…sewing, knitting, gardening, cooking, and other more generic ones as well. Part of why I read blogs is to learn more about things I enjoy (cooking, gardening, sewing) while others are to get perspectives and see experiences that are different from mine.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jennifer
      More wise words for a reader – thank you. Yes I am supposed to be the Patient gardener, although I am very impatient with some things! I;m glad you are enjoying the Malvern hill posts. I was only wondering yesterday which one I should do next but it wont be for a week or so as I am away.

  16. Christina says:

    Dear Helen, I am in my fifth year of garden blogging and I have started to contemplate the question if I should blog more about my other interests besides gardening as well. I am not completely decided yet, but I am pretty certain that I will incorporate other topics like antiquing, traveling, cooking, English Afternoon Tea, our dog etc. more often. I have done it on occasion already, but feel I just would like to do more of it.
    By the way, I find it very sympathetic that you admit that you have become a little obsessed with the blog statistics and your position in a league table! Honestly, I have a strong feeling that most “more serious” bloggers are, but nobody talks openly about it. I can also understand your concern about loosing readers when you change the content of your blog. It takes a long time and a lot of blog posts (and yes, sometimes that can feel like work!) to build up a readership and, of course, nobody wants to loose readers for that reason alone.
    What ever you decide to do, I am wishing you fun and contentment with writing your blog!
    Warm regards,

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Christina
      I think you are right, I just need to give myself permisson to move out of the box. I think I also wonder whether I will loose readers if I stray off topic but as someone else has said so what, its my blog!

  17. Helen, I read your blog -every post- and have never commented .I sometimes have issues with comments on WordPress blogs and hope this one works ! We met extremely briefly at SF Fling -we were on the same bus. That was my first Fling and I started reading blogs of many I met there . I can’t tell you how much I enjoy yours-it’s so straightforward and I find following along with a gardeners progress to be of great interest. I always feel as though I have stumbled upon a garden essay by Barbara Pym -I’m afraid some of us Yanks have a little of that Anglophyllic thing going on. I think I would enjoy reading whatever topic you blog about-there are plenty of garden bloggers who throw in non-garden related posts from time to time.It’s your blog-you have the power to make it what you want it to be ! The world is out there and I for one would enjoy reading whatever observations you care to post–
    Best Regards..Kathy in Napa

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Kathy
      I have neve read Barbara Pym, will have to look her up, but I will thank you for what I am assuming is a compliment! There were so many faces at the Fling that I can only remember the few I met up with in the evening so sorry if I can’t place you. I havent been to a fling since either which probably doesnt help. Thank you for your kind words about the blog and I will seek yours out – the link on your comment doesnt seem to work.

  18. MCH says:

    ‘The Patient Gardener Branches out’ sounds like a good title. Does not limit the possibilities.
    Will love to continue on following whatever you write about. You have a wonderful way with words.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi MCH
      Thank you

  19. I’d stick with Patient Gardener, Helen. It’s your “brand”, as they say in corporate marketspeak.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jamie
      That was my youngest’s response. Says I have spent 8 years building up a following, it would be stupid to change – think you both have a point

  20. Ogee says:

    No need to be too literal about the term “gardener.” You have much to share. And all of it of interest, whether it is of plants, travel or life in general. “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ~Marcel Proust

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Ogee
      That is a lovely quote – I might use it on my header instead of Jekyll.
      Thank you

    2. Ogee says:

      Seemed perfectly suited to you!

  21. nanacathy2 says:

    Hi, I found your embroidery posts first. I wouldn’t worry about changing the name, just write about what you fancy and when you fancy. I get bored with single topic blogs, much more interesting are ones about everything and anything. Forget the stats too, just look at the number of comments you get, clearly you have a readership. Go blog!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Cathy
      I love that you found my embroidery posts first, I was hoping people would find them. I get bored with single topic blogs as well these days, always looking for something new

  22. Jim Stephens says:

    I enjoy your blog because you seem to have a broadly similar take on life to me. I have been playing with a gardening blog for a couple of years without it ever feeling like its going anywhere. I have a garden and an allotment, I travel a bit, I enjoy walking and wildlife. I was made redundant last year so the months since have been a time of adjustment. On the other hand I don’t do embroidery. Carry on writing and I shall carry on reading. If I am free to read what I choose, you should be free to write what you choose.

  23. Your blog, your rules – although I do like the idea of “The Patient Gardner – Branching Out”…!

  24. Alice C says:

    I have been blogging for 8 years and am now writing my 4th blog. Three of those are sequential – similar styles but slightly different content reflecting the different stages in our family life. The fourth blog consists of a series of posts which crossed over between two blogs and are therefore collated in one place. In my experience most readers will travel with you and those that get left behind are not interested in the new material that you are writing, a loss which is balanced out by new readers arriving.
    I have always written for myself rather than any intent to monetise and I think this gives me the freedom to do as I please. I can see that if you are concerned about losing your brand identity changing topics becomes a problem but you might want to look at Cornflower who has two parallel blogs with different topics or Annie Cholewa (formerly knitsofacto) who changed her blog name to reflect the fact that she was no longer including content about knitting as alternative examples. One thing I do feel strongly about is that if the style or content of your blog no longer bring joy something needs to change!

  25. rusty duck says:

    I love the idea of including different subject matter, especially travel which I’m sure is an interest many of your readers would share. I’d agree with the comments above about keeping the name as it is. You are still a gardener and gardening will feature, it doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself to that. I hope you’ll still continue with End of Month View. It’s great to see what everyone is up to, it keeps me on my toes as well!!

  26. Lydia says:

    I am reading your blog for the first time this morning – a thankfully rainy day over here in Western Australia – so I have had a very pleasant time. I like the name of your blog – I know only too well that creative interests can stray many many miles from their starting point. Ideas come from so many directions and it is fun to take this path or that along the way. So, I will follow your path for a little time this morning and add a thank you for all the time and care that you put into your beautiful blog.

  27. Jean says:

    Many years ago, an American sociologist named Lillian Rubin did a study of women at the “empty nest” stage of life (the book is called Women of a Certain Age) and found that most of them experienced this new life stage as an exciting new beginning, not a depressing loss-filled ending. When I have been at these points in my life (most recently, when I retired), I have often thought of them as moments of “turning to a new page in the book of my life and realizing that I can write anything I want on it.”
    I began a second blog when I wanted to write about my retirement experience, but I understand the disadvantages of trying to juggle two blogs. I think you should go with your desire to broaden the focus of your existing blog to reflect your broadening life interests and then give it a new name to celebrate that new focus. Good luck and enjoy your solo travels!

  28. Pam/Digging says:

    You really are on the cusp of big life changes, Helen. Seeing your kids off into the world frees up a whole lot of time for you and your own interests. I’m an obsessive blogger but not an obsessive stats checker (I check maybe once a quarter), but I do wonder why if I get few comments on a post, so I guess it all comes to the same thing. I say forget the stats. If you’re bored, shake it up. Write about what you love, and readers will love to read what you write. That’s my philosophy anyway. I don’t know about changing the title. But if your current title hampers you, change it. What Helen Did Next is pretty fun.

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.

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