When Rochelle Greayer flashed that quote across the big screen in a ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead, I felt a surge of emotion rising from my chest. I looked around me, surreptitiously dabbed the tears from my eyes, and knew exactly why those words had moved me so.
I was sitting in a room full of people who, like me, absolutely believe them to be true.
And that, in a nutshell, is my experience at Garden Bloggers Conference 2015.
For those of you who follow me on Facebook and saw my breathless posts of all the cool things I did and saw and learned, you already know I spent several days in Atlanta last week to attend the Garden Bloggers Conference. Today, I would like to introduce you to some of the people who helped to make that experience so enriching, people who have inspired and encouraged me in my quest to inspire and encourage you, and people I am fortunate now to count among my friends.
I hope you take the time to check out my new friends and all of the great things they are doing in the world of gardening.
Garden Bloggers Conference 2015
Here we are, courtesy of Kelly Fitzsimmons and her demonstration on how to use a selfie stick. Kelly is a talented photographer who shared her tips and tricks for taking great photos using a mobile phone. Her amazing work has been featured in numerous food and gardening publications. You can check it out at Kelly Fitzsimmons Photography.
Lisa Steele: Lisa was one of the first bloggers I started following when I began raising chickens. Her website, Fresh Eggs Daily, is my go-to resource for all things chicken, and her book of the same name is the bible on raising happy, healthy chickens the natural way. Lisa spoke at the conference on building a blogging brand and, with well over 400,000 Facebook followers, she definitely knows what she is talking about. Even better than hearing Lisa’s presentation was sitting with her at lunch one day and talking about, what else, chickens. And to my husband, if you are reading this, Lisa is fully on board with my plan to let Hazel hatch some baby chicks this spring. You need to be, too!
Linda Ly: Okay, I have to admit that I had to try very hard not to go all fan girl on Linda when I met her, but I just love her and her awesome blog, Garden Betty. Linda (or Betty – she answers to both) writes about edible gardening, farm-to-table cooking, and raising chickens on an urban homestead on the California coast. Yep, she has chickens, too. But Linda and I have a lot more in common than just gardening, cooking, and chickens. We both love hiking, kayaking, and skiing, and you can read all about her outdoor adventures on her blog, which she calls “the diary of a dirty girl.” (Love it!) I told Linda that I like to think of her as a younger, cuter, Southern California version of me. High praise, I am sure. Linda’s presentation provided practical tips on creating great blog content – exactly the kind of information I was hoping to get when I signed up for the conference – and her first book, “The CSA Cookbook,” will be coming out any day now. Check her out.
Rochelle Greayer: Beyond her mere ability to move me to tears during her presentation on the power of personal branding (see above), Rochelle is a pretty incredible person. She is a landscape designer, a blogger, the author of a gorgeous new book, “Cultivating Garden Style,” and the founder and editor of Pith + Vigor, a new literary publication for gardeners. And she’s a freakin’ rocket scientist! Literally. Rochelle has a degree in physics and worked in the aerospace and defense industries before deciding to chuck it all and pursue her passions for gardening and writing. Hmmm … sound familiar? (Okay, I’m no rocket scientist, but I am a recovering attorney.)
Nick and Allison McCullough: These two have to be the most adorable couple I have ever met. Nick is an award-winning landscape designer and author of the Thinking Outside the Boxwood blog, and Allison works in their business, Red Twig Farm, raising and selling peonies and ornamental twigs. (Yeah, twigs. All of those decorative stems that you find in the floral section of Michael’s? They have to come from somewhere, right?) Nick also happens to be a social media sensation, with something like three gazillion Pinterest followers. During their joint presentation, Nick provided his tips on building a brand through Pinterest and Instagram, while Allison played one of the best straight men I have ever seen in a comedy duo. Did I mention they are adorable? Anyway, they told me they are planning to get chickens and will look to Counting My Chickens for advice, which almost makes up for the fact that I apparently now have to sign up for Instagram and figure out how to use my languishing Pinterest account if I want to be a successful blogger.
Jan Bills: I didn’t really get a chance to talk to Jan other than just a few words in passing but, what the heck, I’ll count her among my new friends, anyway. Jan is hilarious, as you might suspect from the name of her Michigan-based garden business: Two Women and a Hoe. She had the audience in stitches during her presentation on branding and maximizing revenue for a blog or website. (For example, on Googling herself, all that comes up is a list of payments due in January.) I definitely will be following her on Facebook for even more entertainment.
But it wasn’t just the speakers who made the conference so great; there were a whole lot of amazing people sitting around me in the audience. Here are just a few of them:
Sarah O’Neil: Sarah traveled all the way from New Zealand just to attend the conference and, for coming the farthest, was awarded two magnums of sparkling wine. And it wasn’t just because she shared her bubbly with the rest of us on Friday afternoon that I found Sarah to be thoroughly charming. She has two beautiful books, “The Good Life: Four Glorious Seasons in My Country Garden,” which she basically wrote on her blog as part of a competition for New Zealand writers, and “Play in the Garden,” which is a super-cute gardening book for children. Sarah’s warmth and authenticity shine through on her blog. And one big bonus of following Sarah The Gardener comes from the fact that New Zealand’s seasons are the exact opposite of ours. When your own garden is buried in snow during the North American winter, it’s summer in New Zealand, and you can live vicariously through Sarah and her garden. How neat is that?!
David Calle: From neighboring Wisconsin, David used to have a stressful job as a corporate executive that required frequent travel all around the world. While on those business trips, he began visiting gardens as a way to relax and get outdoors for a bit between meetings, and soon caught the gardening bug. David has since given up that stressful job, but not his love of gardens. He created his blog, The Good Garden, to share stories and photos of historic gardens from around the world, as well garden design tips and resources. His blog is a thing of beauty.
Rita Perea: Hooray, I found another Iowan at the conference! Rita lives just a couple of hours away in Des Moines, and I’m already planning to pay a visit to my new friend’s garden this summer. Rita welcomes visitors to the garden, and believes that a garden should be a place of healing and mindfulness. In fact, she is the founder of the International Contemplative Garden Association, a new non-profit organization that has as its mission to “sow the seeds of mindfulness.” I can’t wait to learn more.
Finally, although I didn’t get to meet him, I would be remiss to omit Doug Scott. I have been corresponding with Doug for a while now but, unfortunately, he was unable to attend the conference. Doug and his wife Brittany are the co-authors of Redeem Your Ground, a fabulous blog about their family’s efforts to find a simpler, more meaningful life in their home and garden. Because he couldn’t be there, Doug asked that I notify him when the Garden Bloggers Hall of Fame Awards were announced on Friday of the conference. And I had the pleasure of letting him know that Redeem Your Ground was named Best New Blog! It really deserved the award; it’s that good. And you should read it, too.
So those are just a few of the highlights from the conference. If you currently follow any of these bloggers, please let me know in the comments section whose work you enjoy reading. If you haven’t checked them out before, please do.
And now it’s time for me to digest all the information I learned last week so I can bring you more – and better – content to inspire you on your own gardening adventures.