I am old enough to remember when a gardening newsletter was a real newsletter, one that came in the snail mail and was printed on paper. There were lots of them. I still have several copies of my favorite, “The Avant Gardener.” I am blanking on which others I received, but they were highlights of the days when they arrived. Alas, like so many great things, they succumbed to the internet.
What has replaced these simple newsletters is a sometimes confusing combination of blogs, internet newsletters, websites that list searchable resources and straight to your inbox weekly messages.
I have mixed feelings about the internet replacements for those mailed newsletters. For one thing, most are free and don’t we know what “free” means when it comes to the internet. For another, the older newsletters were very curated with well-respected editors who put their names and necks out on the line. Some of these new, computer offerings are too unsophisticated for the already-into-gardening gardeners, and often serve up ads disguised as gardening information.
But it is what it is, and the days of snail mail newsletters are gone forever. It’s time to move on and learn to make the best of the replacements. I am sure the younger gardeners among us, those who may have never seen a paper newsletter, are adept at navigating through the internet to find the gardening information they need. Some of us are not there yet and need just a bit of help wrapping our horticultural heads around the switch from paper to electrons.
Let’s start with coldclimategardening.com. This is a great example of what I call a comprehensive information site. This one is based in upstate New York, which I know to be very cold with long winters, so I know the subject matter will be useful. The “editor,” Kathy Purdy, is well known for her blog and garden writing. You simply migrate to theses types of sites once in a while to see what has been added or most allow the gardener to sign up to receive notices of new postings. There are a ton of cold climate resources meant for New York gardeners, but many of which are applicable to us. In addition to her blog, there is a catalog section, a cooking section and even book reviews.
Then there are the “heavily sponsored” sites that want to be replacements for newsletters. While these are full of articles and columns, ranging from horticultural travel to seed catalogs and plant offerings, they are nonetheless sponsored. They have nice pictures, useful maps and sometimes feature writers you know, but the products listed pay for the mention. I am not saying these are bad, mind you. You can find a lot of useful information on these sites. However, it is like getting the Costco membership magazine: You read it knowing full well everything is for sale at the store and they make money off of each offering. An example is gardenista.com (which I went to because “gardenista” used to only refer to followers of Heronswood Nursery). Some useful stuff, but be on your toes.
Then there are the sites which are clearly commercial, but nonetheless useful. I am doing some work with Gardener’s Supply Company, which takes me to their site, gardeners.com, often. Sure, their business is to sell equipment for gardening, but there are all manner of articles that explain how their products should be used to achieve a great garden. These types of websites don’t try and disguise what is going on. So, for example, check out the “seed starters buying guide” at Gardener’s to see what I mean. Beginners will find it extremely instructional and useful. More advanced gardeners will recognize the offerings that will make their gardening efforts more efficient and easier (not to mention more successful).
And, finally, there are the newsletters that come through your email. These are often close to the old fashioned, mailed newsletter. A good example is the Garden Design Newsletter (gardendesign.com). It is a weekly and is geared toward “design inspiration ” though it has plenty of gardening information as well. You can find suitable “direct-to-your-inbox” offerings by using a search engine to narrow down criteria to something that is useful and of interest to you. For example, “Dahlia newsletters” (result: sfdahlias.org/january-2021-newsletter/) or “Rose newsletters (result: weeksroses.com).
Those of use that are a bit older often need to adjust to the new ways. Getting weekly advice sent via email or sitting down and spending an hour or two every week Googling your way around to find useful information is now a part of winter gardening. Going to the mailbox is not.
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Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar
Winter light displays, walks, ice sculptures: There is a lot going on at The Alaska Botanical Garden this month. Do check out https://www.alaskabg.org for all the details and to make reservations. Membership, incidentally, has its advantages.
Pelargoniums: If you wintered yours over, prune them back now for flowers next month.
Amaryllis: If you stored yours, get them out and water them, place in light and grow. Buy new ones.