Some garden blogs tell the story of gardening like a university course in horticulture and others lean towards photojournalism. And then there are those like Natural Gardening by Lisa Wagner that read like a gardener’s journal. About four years ago Lisa began what would become a constant in her life; ending her days writing about her observations of nature and her gardening activities. What started as a personal project evolved into a way to share her garden life and experiences with friends and her students at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens.
With two gardens under her keep, Lisa has much to write about. The newest recipient of our Best Gardening Blogs 2011 distinction shares stories about gardening at her home in the Piedmont in Clemson, South Carolina and at her small mountain home in Asheville, North Carolina. Her writings about gardens, her love of native plants, and passion for eating locally grown produce are woven together in post after post to tell the bigger story; that gardening is a way to bring people back to nature.
Much of Lisa’s writing is light and easy, like a conversation with a friend. Tucked into her stories of discoveries along the Blue Ridge Escarpment and time in the kitchen, Lisa offers a bit of encouragement.
“If I’ve been thinking about something like local food, or battling woodchucks, there often is a subtle educational element,” Lisa reflects. “But with my blog and with my work I am more of a garden coach than instructor. I try to motivate students and readers to go out and try new things in the garden and life in general.”
Lisa and her husband, Tim, are plant ecologists by trade and have been involved professionally with native plants for many years. But it wasn’t until they purchased their Piedmont home that they got to flex their garden muscles.
Perched on an acre and a half of mostly lawn, yuck, (her word and an indicator of what was to come) the Piedmont landscape was the blank palette Lisa needed to indulge in her love of native plants and vegetable gardening.
“I have had so many wonderful gardening lessons and experiences,” Lisa recalls. “My favorite has to be transforming our Piedmont landscape from a non-wildlife friendly lawn to a mix of woodland and meadow habitats that are not only lovely and peaceful, but full of life with birds, butterflies, bees and other creatures. It’s wonderfully rewarding to know that my husband and I are responsible for its creation.”
Some gardeners may find transforming a landscape to be overwhelming. Lisa calmly reassures her readers that it is not. As she says, you just need to get planting! Should you feel like throwing in the trowel or you simply need to spend time in the shoes of another gardener, Natural Gardening is a wonderful place to regroup and find a bit inspiration.
Jenny Koester, AKA The Landless Gardener, is the Garden Blog Editor for Horticulture magazine and the author of The Garden Life.