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What is this To help gardeners understand which plants will grow well for them, the entire USA has been segmented into ‘Plant Hardiness Zones’.

Garden Bloggers Unite

garden Bloggers Fling

Wouterina de Raad's sculptural Wisconsin garden comes complete with a fire pit, cut-wood storage, seating, and a shrine. But that's not even a fraction of what you'll find there!

Have you ever been garden-drunk?

As in tipsy, woozy or otherwise un-sober while surrounded by flowers, foliage and someone else's intoxicating vision of a backyard paradise?

It happened to me.

Just last week, after spending 3 days in Minneapolis for the 2016 Garden Bloggers Fling, I found myself totally done-in by inspired gardeners and their landscaped works of art.

minnesota Grapes

The grape breeding program at the University of Minnesota.
horsetails in a container

Horsetails, a 'living fossil' in a hand-cast, de Raad mosaic container.

I was exposed to so many deeply-moving, developed-over-the-decades gardens that I didn't know which plant to turn to, where to point my camera, or which once-in-a-lifetime question to ask of the gardener.

Garden Bloggers Fling

The Garden Bloggers Fling was started in 2008, by a group of Garden Bloggers living in Austin, Texas. The Austin gardeners, who had begun to meet in person, thought that some of their other blogging friends might just make the trip from Cyberspace to Texas if an invitation were extended. The idea was to get together and tour a bunch of exceptional gardens - all while finally getting to spend some face time with one another.

Garden Blogger: a talented writer and photographer who uses the power of the internet as an excuse to never, ever, ever shut-up about plants.

The meet-up has continued every year since, changing locations and swapping out organizers, but the focus always remains the same: fun, friends, and over-the-top garden discovery.

Fling Highlights and Takeaways

As a Fling virgin, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect; I was mostly looking forward to putting some faces with the names I’d reaped from the blogosphere over the years. (I started my first garden blog in 2008 and had already interacted with some of the bloggers that were signed up through a now-defunct garden-blogging social network called Blotanical - RIP.)

Each morning, we filled up two charter buses which brought us from garden to garden - about 8 gardens per day. By garden number three on Day One, I realized that I needed to develop a plan of attack.

Lilypads at the Como Park Conservatory

Lily pads at the Como Park Conservatory
wisconsin garden with style

Mini-alpine gardens in painted styrofoam fish tubs.

My personal gardening interests include:

  • Foodscaping aka Edible Landscaping
  • Medicinal plants, natives, and celebrating 'weeds' as showpieces
  • Creative wildlife and pollinator habitats
  • Garden Vibes, as in the immediate emotional recognition of the gardener’s personality, or the mood they are trying to create in their outdoor space. I always appreciate how a garden feels.

Luckily, I found stellar examples of all of these interests to celebrate during the Fling.

I will let my fellow Flingers do most of the talking here, as I've so enjoyed reading their takes on each garden:

Celebrating Weeds in Style

However, there is one garden that really stood out to me that I haven't seen a post written about yet, and that's Squire House Gardens in Afton, MN. I feel they deserve some extra praise, not because they served us 5 flavors of effervescent ice-cold lemonade (including lavender and pomegranate) in wine glasses, but because they celebrated weeds as showpieces like pros.

While I love attempting this in my own garden, admittedly the weeds don't look that out of place, as there's a 'wild' vibe already in play. But here, at Squire House, everything is formal. Statues, reflecting pools, fountains, and walls of shrubbery transform the mullein and thistle into bold, architectural statements. I think I swooned.

architectural Mullein

This photo doesn't do justice to the striking architectural quality of the spiky Mullein plants.
squire house gardens afton MN

A hidden sculpture is set-off by a Bottlebrush Buckeye (not a weed, just a showpiece).


The veggie garden, which appears in the Mullein photo above, was a bit hard for me to photograph in the moment - but I so appreciated its casual grace. There were also many tall, branching thistles around that got blown-out in the harsh sun.

I fell in love with a brand-new-to-me plant while at Squire House: Climbing Asparagus. While not an edible plant, it does produce the wispy, fern-like foliage and round seed pods that I love to see in my regular asparagus beds. Best of all, it climbs and vines vertically - so I added it to my running 'plants that offer privacy' list.

trumpet lily and climbing asparagus

Climbing asparagus paired with Oriental Trumpet Lily Robert Swanson.

How to Tackle 24 Garden Tours in 3 Days

Click here to find out more about next year's Fling in the Washington DC area, organized by Tammy Schmitt of Casa Mariposa.

As I mentioned, I started to fall apart early on. Let's just call it sensory overload. You find yourself in this weird limbo of wanting to be completely alone, which reduces the amount of elbows, knees, and other peoples' fingers in your photos, and wanting to tie yourself to one of the many horticultural wizards who can id any plant, any where, at any time.

My brain was begging for a way to organize what was I was taking in. So, I returned to a project that I had started earlier this season and concentrated on photographing simple, yet inspired, 3-plant combinations.

No matter where we went, after I shot some quick, wide shots to remember the entire delicious scene by, I got to relax and enjoy 'the hunt' for beautifully grouped plant trios.

And that is how you tackle a wild and speedy garden tour!

Inspiring Three - Plant Combinations

Ligularia Daylily and Rudbeckia

Ligularia, Daylily and Rudbeckia
Kale Echinacea Yarrow

Ornamental Kale, White Coneflower and Yarrow
Echinacea Popcorn Cassia and Ornamental Grass

Ornamental Grass, Popcorn Cassia and Echinacea
Variegated Hostas and Fern

Variegated Hostas and Fern
Lamb's ear Red-veined Sorrel and Bidens Beedance

Red-veined Sorrel, Bidens Beedance and Lamb's Ear
Allium Echinacea and Violets

Allium, Echinacea, and Violets


What about you - do you have a garden blog you'd like us to know about? Feel free to leave your details in the comments below!

16 thoughts on “Garden Bloggers Unite”

  • Kylee Baumle

    Just beautiful! And as a six-time attendee of the Fling, I hated missing it this year, but I'm loving all the great photos! Thanks for sharing them!

    • Jenny

      Thanks Kylee! I so hope to meet you next year. I'll be the one with just one button on my name tag! - Jenny

  • Pam/Digging

    Three straight days of garden touring can definitely result in sensory overload. I like how you dealt with it, Jenny -- by homing in on 3-piece plant combos in each garden. I usually charge to the back or else hang back in front in order to see each area of the garden after the mass of bloggers has moved on. I like to experience the gardens solo, but the tradeoff is not getting to hear the owner talk about his or her space and missing chances to simply relax in the garden. Each Flinger chooses her own approach, whatever works!

    It was lovely to meet you at the Fling, and thanks so much for sharing my blog post about Rhonda's garden. Hope to see you at the next one!

    • Jenny

      Thanks Pam - that was really my first hardcore garden tour and I had to find my 'inner organizer'. She's not always present, so I was lucky to come up with any plan at all! I enjoyed it all so much, organized or not. And I'm already looking forward to next year... Happy to share your post and your great book :) - Jenny

  • Gail

    Wow, love the trinity photo combo in each garden... That is a great organizing idea. So glad you were at Fling and look forward to seeing you in DC/VA!

    • Jenny

      Thanks Gail - I am so looking forward to next year's Fling! This year was actually perfect, as we only visited gardens in my exact zone. How lucky was that? And yes, next year, I'll likely still be photographing plants in threes! Excited to visit your blog - Jenny

  • Janet, The Queen of Seaford

    Nice overview of the first day and impressions of your first Fling. Enjoyed meeting you and look forward to getting to know you better next year. I like the idea of focusing on three plant combos.... there were sure great ones from which to choose.

    • Jenny

      Janet! Yes, I really enjoyed meeting you also - and next year is already on my calendar! I'd say I can't wait, but I'm pretty inspirationed-out at the moment... Got to build myself back up (down?) through another long, boring Vermont winter :) - Jenny

  • Beth @ PlantPostings

    Oh, I like your strategy of focusing on three-plant combinations! That's an excellent way to clear the head a bit AND to think of ways to incorporate plants in one's own garden. Yes, the Fling is definitely an exercise in sensory overload. Your definition of a garden blogger is spot-on! Thanks for the link! It was great to meet you, and I hope we'll both be able to make it next year to DC. Cheers!

    • Jenny

      Hi Beth - I also like taking the three plant combo shots because it helps me to think about my framing and I find that I don't have to change my exposure as often! Plus, no extra body parts in the shots means that I can enjoy making photographs AND have a nice conversation with the person next to me; win/win! Great to meet you and I definitely hope to see you again next year :) - Jenny

  • Helen at Toronto Gardens

    Jenny, it was great to meet you at the Fling! Thanks for the shout-out about my post. Wasn't that an amazing garden? Your 3-plant profile is a great idea, and I just might steal (er) borrow that for future Flings. Great post.

  • Casa Mariposa

    It was so great to meet you! After my first Fling I came home with hundreds of photos and was so inspired to make changes to my garden. I'd never seen so many gardens in one weekend before. You captured some excellent plant combos! I like the three plant idea, too. It's easier to process. :o)

    • Jenny

      Hi Tammy - it was great to meet you as well. Everything I saw was incredibly inspiring but I need to be reasonable with the changes! I like my garden as it is, but I do have a whole shady area that needs some reorganizing. It's always been just for chickens and compost and now I see how it could become a beautifully designed woodland space - with chickens and compost. I am really excited for next year and I'm so impressed with how much work you've already done. We will be there! - Jenny

  • Diana C Kirby

    It was so great to meet you, Jenny. You hit the nail on the head - the Fling is a sensory overload, but now I feel like I've got lots of time to digest and review everything through my endless photos! Thanks for highlighting my blog post - I'm getting a slow start on them but there's another one on the agenda for today. Look forward to following your blog and to seeing you in DC!

    • Jenny

      Hi Diana, I really enjoyed talking to you, as well! You gave me some terrific insights through the eyes of a professional garden writer and designer; I loved hearing your passion as you talked about what goes into approaching an article (thinking of your jonquils vs. daffodils example). And I'm glad I'm not the only one who needed to take a breather before going through all of my photos and notes. Whew - still catching up. Looking forward to reading your next piece! - Jenny

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