After three years of garden blogging, I've found a number of blogs that offer something special I want to come back to - a unique sensibility, creative insight, knowledge, humor, a personality I'd like to get to know. It's taken a surprisingly long time to find what I might call a community of, not like-minded bloggers, but bloggers with a core of serious interest in gardening. One of the great things about this new technology is the ease of crossing oceans and sharing with other gardeners in every part of the world (common language permitting).
I've never considered myself an Anglophile in any way, but I've discovered the UK gardening scene offers an awareness of gardening culture and history, and a view of gardening as a serious endeavor, that is lacking in much of North America. Just consider the range of regular newspaper gardening columns or the many TV programs available in the UK. There's nothing like this in the US. Because the British gardening world shares our language, it also makes for a convenient entry point to gardening in Europe and the rest of the world.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries many American writers struggled to find a culture that would allow development of a mature, complex, world class literature that was "American" yet still universal in its concerns. Many turned toward Europe, even moved there - Edith Wharton and Henry James among the most notable. In the end, they found what they were seeking both here and there, but a conflict between the culture of the "old world" and the "new world" always remained. Today, we still seem to feel that conflict, even in the gardening world.
Europe has, in fact, been at the forefront of the ecological planting movement, and is the source of many of the plants we think of as native in some sense. Many of our perennials, though they originated here, were developed and introduced as cultivated plants in Europe. This isn't to say the North American gardening world is in any way inferior, just that the European (and Australian, South American, Asian, etc.) gardening cultures have accomplished much, offer diverse reflections of their vastly different cultures, and can contribute to a broader and more humane understanding of gardening as an essential part of the humane life.
The ThinkinGardens website is one source of extremely varied, highly opinionated, well written, and knowledgeable writing on gardens. It treats gardens seriously, and as worthy of the same kind of critical analysis as literature, music, and art.
The old riposte that the British climate makes most of their garden advice rubbish for those of us who live in the much more rugged North American climate is true only to a degree; it is relatively easy to "translate" British gardening writing. I know very well I can't grow many of the plants I see in British gardening books, but their design ideas, their diverse intellectual debate about gardens and gardening, and their rootedness in centuries of gardening history is a part of my own as well as your gardening story.
We might all benefit from opening ourselves to the broader world of gardening. ThinkinGardens is seeking to extend its readership and find contributors in other parts of the world. I hope you'll try it out. Read some of the essays, garden reviews, letters and see if you don't find it a source of new ideas and possibly even a source of entertainment and a delight.