Gardening: The Activity From Which You Never Have To Retire

By: Duane Pancoast

In my area, this is the only gardener I could find, and this guy was in British Columbia, Canada. It’s the same in many other regions, a perfect opportunity for knowledgeable, enterprising people who want to garden for a living.

You can take an interest in gardening as a child and continue that interest all through your life.  Or you can take an interest in gardening at any point during your life. Perhaps the biggest gardening myth is just now being busted: that seniors have to give up their favorite activity when age starts catching up with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can stay one step ahead of old age by continuing to adapt to compensate for our new challenges.

You may have heard of the Aging-in-Place movement. Businesses are springing up to provide services that help seniors keep living in their homes for as long as they can. The outdoor component of that movement is called Adaptive Gardening. And that’s what I write about in a blog called thegeriatricgardener.wordpress.com.

At age 82, I have a wealth of experience to draw on, as well as a growing amount of information on the internet, primarily from Extension Service sites. Conditions that create a need to adapt include mobility limitations and arthritis; cardiopulmonary and respiratory conditions; and sensory problems, such as fading vision and memory loss. Limited mobility caused by arthritic joints, especially knees and backs, seems to be what leads to most adaptive gardening.

The whole idea of adaptive gardening is to enjoy your garden more than you enjoy gardening. That means reducing the amount of work needed to maintain it. You don’t have to be a certain age to begin adapting. Gardeners in their 40s and 50s who are planning garden renovations, might consider incorporating adaptations for the future into their plans. Construction costs aren’t going down.

There comes a time, though, when aging gardeners need help. I’m all for asking family and friends, particularly children and grandchildren, for help. Working together can be a bonding experience. Who knows, it may become a new, lifelong passion for the younger family members, and a source of future GardenComm members.

Those who don’t have family willing and able need to hire outside help. In many areas of the country, finding a professional gardener can be next to impossible. There are many landscape professionals but most don’t offer gardening services. This niche could be a good opportunity for those GardenComm members who offer garden installation and maintenance service to develop another profit center. Be forewarned, however, the client will probably want to work alongside doing the jobs that they can handle. They are doers, not just watchers.

About the Author: Duane Pancoast is a garden blogger and speaker who has just written a book titled: The Geriatric Gardener, Adaptive Gardening Advice For The Senior Gardener. He has been a member of GardenComm since 1985.

POWER CIRCLES 2021 ~ All for One and One For All

Power circles are gatherings of three to ten GardenComm members who share the same goals and agree to meet regularly to help each other out and spur each other on. They are a member benefit of our organization, and not open to non-members.

Power Circles are NOT webinars, run by a leader or expert. These are more like study groups, where all members are responsible for planning and the growth of the group at large.

Every Power Circle member agrees to take responsibility for the planning and facilitating of at least one meeting. The person responsible for that meeting will decide the subject of the day and if there will be a guest speaker. The facilitator of each meeting will also be sure that all members have a chance to speak and be heard.

A power circle will only be formed if one member agrees to be the facilitator for at least the first meeting, and agrees to the power circle guidelines. As facilitator, that member will poll members to find the best time and day to meet, then inform everyone about the first meeting. The first meeting is usually a time for introductions and to clarify the goals for each participant.

Some groups find that it’s easiest to have one person be the coordinator for sending out emails and reminding the group of future meetings. That person is not responsible for providing continual content, however, nor is that person expected to be a group expert on the topic.

Time zones can be a problem for meetings. If some who sign up for a Power Circle can’t meet when the majority of people are available, a second group on the same topic will be formed, calling for others in that time zone to join. Note that it’s best to only be in one Power Circle at a time, so pick one and save other areas of interest for the future. Some groups meet for a few months and are finished, while others continue on for a year or more.

Watch for the notice in the GardenComm Clippings emails about how to sign up for the following power circles, which will begin to meet in mid-January.

Groups forming in January of 2021

Finding My Why and How: A power circle for members wanting to clarify the focus of their garden communications and plan for taking that passion into a business plan.

Getting A Garden Book Published: This group is for members who are planning or working on a book about plants or gardens. It’s a group that will support each other through the process of refining visions, writing a proposal, and either submitting to publishers or self-publishing.  

From Non-Fiction to Fiction: Many garden writers are either writing novels or planning to do so. This power circle is for those who have either written a novel and are ready to take the next step, or for those who are finishing a work of fiction.

Speaking In 2021…And Beyond: This power circle is for those who want to expand their speaking business, both virtually and in-person once the pandemic is over. Topics covered could be self-promotion, speaking skills, presenting virtually, and more.

Content Marketing: If you’re interested in providing content for horticultural businesses or institutions, this power circle is for you.

Increasing Income From Garden Communications: This is a group that will help each other explore how to earn more money from their garden communications. Members might be in need of broadening what they do, or focusing on a specialty more intently in order to raise their income.

Garden Photography: A power circle for those interested in improving their skills and finding ways to market their work.

Marketing Your Brand: Whether you are promoting a book, blog, or business, you need to promote your brand. This group is for those interested in doing a better job with marketing, be it on social networks, local media or beyond.

If you don’t see your area of interest here, you can suggest a topic as new Power Circles can be formed throughout the year.

For information or help, contact Kathy Jentz: kathyjentz@gmail.com or C.L. Fornari clfornari@yahoo.com for assistance or information.

It’s Nuts, Y’all

Karen Ott Mayer

In my first garden built on a Missouri farm, I came to know a relentless interloper called bindweed. A terrible, mangled mess that mats a garden like a woven rug, I gladly left it behind when I moved back South. For years, I longed for that farm, but never once that weed.

In my recently dug hill garden here at Moon Hollow Farm I have found a new sworn enemy: Nutgrass. Just like fire ants, the weed had largely remained off my radar in another garden built 25 miles north at a former residence. This persistent, slender grass-like weed is really a sedge and multiplies by setting its long underground runners. From above, the weed looks line an individual blade of grass that’s easily pulled by hand – which I happily did in the spring.

Had I read more, I would have realized this weed is also a bit sinister, silently wishing a naïve hand will pluck if from the ground. Why? Because then it simply set more runners and produces more plants, laughing quietly behind your back. My lovely tulip bed, the raised bed packed with white yarrow and a fledgling dahlia bed all succumbed to a dense grassy mat by late summer, just about when scorched-earth gardening happens. When the heat relented, my resolve returned and I began earnestly figuring out how to control the beast in the raised beds and hoop house.

If hoping to avoid the chemical route, options do exist. First if all is out of control, mow it down simply for some instant gratification. Because I was dealing with a large area, I then chose the smothering method. I covered the hoop house floor with plastic, cardboard, old tax records and anything else that felt weighty. I walked away and then dealt with the raised beds where I found good news. Filled with soft, friable pro mix, the boxed developed a record-breaking crop of nutgrass; but with a hay fork, I found the whole mat could be pulled out in chunks and tossed aside. I spent less than an hour in each 4 x 10 raised bed. Using a tined tool instead of a shovel prevented the dreaded chopping of the runners.

Despite my brilliance, anyone who has dealt with nutgrass knows the real trick is preventing its early establishment. If you see one blade, get it gone. If you see two blades, it’s time to sell the property and move – preferably to a large city with acres of concrete.

Karen Ott Mayer published her first garden-themed article in 1999 in Mississippi Magazine. Since then, she has traveled extensively across the U.S. and around the world, where she’s worked with media and business affiliates in various travel, horticulture, agriculture and health care fields. Today, she works in Mississippi, on her farm, Moon Hollow Farm, in the hills of northern Mississippi. Moon Hollow Farm is her focus now, growing cut flowers! 

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp interviews Natalie and Joe Carmolli about their upcoming performances in ‘A Betrothal’

Dear GardenComm members,

Greetings from the chilly Midwest, where fall has finally arrived and winter is just a few weeks away.

2020 has been a year of firsts:

• First COVID19 pandemic of our lifetime.

• First time companies of all kinds had to shut down and then adapt to first-time curb service, deliveries and online shopping.

• First time the GardenComm conference and expo were virtual.

• First time many of our lives have gone virtual with friends, families and clients.

• First time Zooming for many of us and the first time for Zoom (or similar apps) as the only way we can do programs.

When things are so challenging, what can we do? 

Let’s put on a show! One with a flower theme! Done!

GardenComm will present its first end-of-the-year special event fundraiser. A Betrothal is a 35-minute comedy about two iris growers who meet at a competition under a tent during a rainstorm. Natalie and Joe Carmolli will perform in the play by Lanford Wilson, which will be videoed by Adriana Robinson of Spring Meadow Nursery. Pat Stone, publisher of GreenPrints, will entertain with a musical introduction.

A Betrothal will be video taped making it available on demand December 3 through 6. This makes it very easy to select a convenient time for viewing …and to pause it for a break, if needed. We hope you, your family and guests will enjoy this GardenComm special event. Tickets are available now here!

BROADCASTING YOUR VOICE through Garden Podcasts

By Kathy Jentz

More than half of all Americans listen to podcasts and that number is increasing every month. A quarter of those listeners report they regularly listen to a monthly podcast episode. Of those listeners, 80% listen to the entire podcast, or most of each episode. Businesses everywhere are trying to capture this new, loyal audience by either advertising or sponsoring podcasts or by starting one of their own.

If you have ever entertained the thought of having your own radio or television talk show, podcasts put that dream in your own hands. You can create one for little up-front investment and it can be a source of customer marketing and connection that is extremely valuable.

Before launching my GardenDC podcast earlier this year, I spent a month listening to every garden podcast I could find. There are many available but compared to other subject categories like sports or crime, horticulture is far under-represented. We are lumped under DIY, Home or even worse, “other” on podcast networks.

Getting Started

On your desktop or laptop computer, you can record your interviews online using a free site such as Zencastr.com. Add to that a good quality microphone and download an audio editing program, like Audacity. There is a bit of a learning curve, but there are many tutorials on YouTube and once you do a few episodes, it will be much quicker and easier for you.

There is also “an app for that” – actually, several – which allow you to do everything on your smartphone. They include apps such as Spreaker Studio, which has all the bells and whistles, down to the very basic “just get ‘er done” like Podbean.

Next, you’ll need to research and find a host service to post your podcast out on the Internet for you. There are many of these services. I can recommend Libsyb, Blurbrry, and TalkShoe.

Create Content

If you have a blog, book or a newspaper column, you likely have plenty of material you can gather and pull from already. You can collect and read several blog posts on similar topics and make an episode from that material.

You don’t have to do it alone. You could partner with others to share hosting duties or you could be the only host and interview a different expert on each episode.

Maybe you offer regularly scheduled talks to local garden clubs or other groups. Those talks could easily translate into podcast episodes.

FAQs you gather from readers could also be the basis of your podcast material. Tackle a few of those and expand on them for your audience.

Market It

Letting folks know that your podcasts exists will be your biggest challenge. A few of us established garden podcasters have started a Facebook group in the effort to share our episodes and build the awareness of garden podcasts in general. It’s a public group and you can join at https://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenpodcasts. One of my goals in writing this blog is to get more GardenComm members sharing and building up each other’s podcasts. As they say, “a rising tide floats all boats.”

Whenever and wherever you can, you must get your podcast listed. There are several podcast networks such as Apple iTunes and Spotify where you will want a listing.

Building an audience will take work and you should be prepared to spend a great deal of effort to get those first listeners and reviews. After that, things should start growing nicely as folks will search for, and find, your quality content.

Monetize It

Let me be frank here, you are not going to make money with a podcast. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of podcasts earn nothing. You can view a podcast as a means to market your speaking business or your books. A podcast is another tool in your arsenal to publicize your brand.

There are a few ways to make back some of the cost of your time and equipment. One is to solicit listener support. There are various programs such as Patreon where listeners can go and donate a sum to support your work.

Another way to earn some pennies is through sponsorships and advertisements. This takes a bit of work on your part as it entails basically selling and you need to have a certain level of listener numbers to attract advertisers or sponsors.

Tips and Tricks

First, length matters. Amazingly, shorter is not always better. Podcasts averaging an hour in length are among the most popular, so think in terms of topics showcasing your expertise.

Personality reigns. You want great content, of course, but what keeps listeners coming back again and again is a connection with YOU. The want to listen to real, authentic people. Share your mistakes along with your triumphs and don’t be afraid to give listeners a window into your family or home life as well.

Be consistent.  Set a schedule and stick to it. Whether it is weekly or monthly, your don’t have to commit to doing a podcast from now to eternity. You can start out scheduling your podcast as a limited series. For instance, you could create a 10-part series following your growing season and check in every two weeks with what you’re planting and harvesting.

Podcasting takes time. You should budget about five hours per half hour episode in your schedule. That average figure includes creating the content, recording it, editing it, then posting it.

Finally, keep it fresh. Record while you have good energy and are in a good mood. No need to rehearse it to death. Feel free to laugh and smile. You can edit out any pauses or “ums” later. Remember that “done” is better than “perfect.”

A previous version of this article appeared in the Mid-Atlantic Grower newspaper.

About the author:

Kathy Jentz is the editor of Washington Gardener magazine and a long-time DC-area gardening enthusiast. To book her for a garden talk, find her at: http:///greatgardenspeakers.com/listing/kathy-jentz.html.

Her latest foray is as the host of the GardenDC podcast. She can be reached by email at KathyJentz@gmail.com

You say Spring, we say…Kambarang

By Andrea Whitely

Acacia in bloom by Andrea Whitely

Right now, in Perth, Western Australia we are experiencing an abundance of native flora exploding in stunning colour all around us.

We have Acacias in full bloom bursting forth like tiny suns of yellow blossom and Anigozanthos ‘Kangaroo Paws’ and teeny tiny orchids popping up through the bush. The carpets of Rhodanthe ‘Paper Daisies’ which were hot pink in September all over the state are fading to fields of white, now. Banksias are beginning to bloom, providing valuable sweet nectar for the tiny marsupials like Honey Possums (Tarsipes rostratus) and small birds who rely upon them as their key food source.

People are bike riding around the city with black cable ties sticking out of their helmets (compulsory here in Oz) in an effort to prevent being swooped my nesting Kulbardie birds (Magpies) and snakes and other reptiles emerging from their winter hibernation.

This is the season of Kambarang here in Western Australia, it is so called, in local Indigenous Nyoongar language, as the season of birth -it is our second spring, a transformational time of the year with warmer drier days, balmy evenings, still oceans and with that an abundance of flowers and follows Djilba-the season of conception, our “first spring” which is in August-September.

Over recent years, I find myself connecting with the land on which we live, more and more, gardening by the the seasonal descriptions offered by our first nations people and to be honest am gardening much more effectively because of that, whether growing native species or exotics.

Nyutsia floribunda West Australian Christmas Tree Image courtesy of Kings Park and Botanic Gardens

I am very much looking forward to seeing the Nyutsia, also known as the West Australian native Christmas tree in bloom in about a month or so, it’s a stunning gold flower display which bursts out of the grey bushland dotted through the landscape on the outskirts of our city and a little further north of Perth. The native Santalum acuminatum ‘Desert Quandong’ are fruiting right now (great for jam) and look like tiny red Christmas baubles hanging from the small tree. This fascinating tree is a hemiparasitic plant which needs the Acacia to survive and thrive.

It’s an exciting time of the year, the weather is warming, days are getting longer, our swimming pool is looking more inviting again and in my own garden which is punctuated by native Eucalyptus trees such as a large old Corymbia calophylla ‘Marri’ and her garden friend the Eucalyptus marginata ‘Jarrah’.

My roses (pruned in August), a collection of David Austins and Floribundas are about to bloom, I am super excited about the climbing ‘Pierre De Ronsard’ which I have pruned differently this year, following the online advice from the USA company Heirloom Roses and owner Ben Hanna. I can’t wait to see how well I watched and listened to his help, things are looking very promising so far.

Flowering perennials like my collection of colourful salvias, Verbena Bonariensis, Double cream Brugmansia, Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus Day Lilies, Gaura and many, maybe too many, Pelargoniums and true Geraniums are in bud too. My wisteria is flowering and she smells divine. Our Magnolias ‘Kay Parris’ have lost a lot of leaves this year to make room for new ones and are full of flower buds. I am planting some annual petunias in pots for Spring/Summer colour.

These past few weeks, I have adopted a more considered fertiliser regime, preparing the garden better for what I think might be a longer, hotter, drier summer. I can feel it in my waters. Our soil here is ancient grains of depleted-of-any-nutrients, gutless sand and that said, I am being generous, so I have added more organic matter with mature compost and what felt like was a small mountain of straw mulch and also applied a newish liquid seaweed fertiliser which is like a tonic for the soil, jam packed full of humates comprised largely of humic acid and fulvic acid. The soil in my garden has had more lovin’ than every before. Healthy Soil, healthy plants, right?!

In the vegetable patch, I have Blueberries (Sunshine Blue) in flower, Broccoli still coming on and lots and lost of Rainbow Chard and Silver Beet. I have planted my Basil, Heirloom tomatoes, Chillies, Snow Peas and plenty of herbs for cooking.

So, Happy Fall to you all, down here, it’s all about flowers and fragrance right now and I am just a little bit excited!

Briefly, the “C-word” COVID-19, here in Perth and Western Australia, we have used our title as the worlds most isolated city to our advantage and we have had no community transmission of the virus for 6 months and so life here for us is very weirdly and almost surrealistically pre-Covid-19. We don’t wear masks, we do sanitise our hands at every store and business but we definitely hug and we kiss when we greet our friends, as a “hugger” that’s an important thing for me. Some businesses are still having their staff work from home but restaurants and shops are open for trading, the only thing is we can’t leave our state. This has meant a boom for all of our country towns who have never seen more visitors, people are getting out and about (we call it wander out yonder) and we’re enjoying the incredible state that we live in rather than jumping on an airplane and heading off to Bali, which is something most West Australians tend to do because Bali and also Singapore are such close trips for us. Anyone travelling here must remain in either home or hotel quarantine for two weeks before they are allowed out into the community. So, our state is doing pretty well financially, largely due to the continued work of our mineral rich land and Iron Ore and Gold mines. Some businesses are still suffering badly like Travel Agents and Airlines for sure but on the whole we are well governed by stable politicians and life is good. The landscape and nursery industries are booming but we have a future problem looming that demand has outstripped supply for plant material so we will have to see how that pans out.

We have had to give up many freedoms in order to achieve a life like this and life is very hard for families who are separated but maybe our life here offers hope for the rest of the world that life living with Covid-19 can be OK.

“What in the world have you done?”

“What in the world have you done?”

“You’ve left social media? How will people find you?”

“Aren’t you going to miss important updates from your friends and family?”

These are just a few of the questions Dee Nash and I got when we decided to walk away from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We did a social media detox, and we did it in the middle of summer, in the middle of a pandemic, at a time when people were more physically isolated than ever before.

Like most journeys, leaving was not as easy as it looked. It required some preparation to ensure success. Right away, we faced doubters who didn’t think we could abstain from social media for even a day or two and were ready to tell us so. But there were others who watched us—we like to think with a bit of longing as we walked away— and asked for updates because they, too, had considered doing the same thing.  

Now, well over 60 days from the date we originally left, we are ready to tell the story of our journey away from social media and where we go from here. Did it affect our outreach as garden communicators? Did our podcast stats go down when we no longer promoted new episodes across social media? How many people took the time to read our blog posts which were no longer also tweeted out, Instagram storied, or Facebook Lived? What do we do instead to promote our work as garden communicators? Did we go back?

And, perhaps the most important question is, should you try it too? To help you answer all those questions, sign up for GardenComm’s upcoming webinar, An Easy Approach to Sensible Social Media Presence: How to Keep Social Media Platforms from Taking Over Your Life and Business scheduled for November 5, 2020 at 7 pm EST.  Dee and I will tell the tale of our journey and how we are keeping social media from taking over our lives and still staying in business as garden communicators.

Carol Michel is an author, blogger, gardener, and podcaster. You can visit her website at caroljmichel.com or email her at carol@caroljmichel.com.
Dee Nash is an author, blogger, gardener, podcaster, and garden coach. You can visit her website at deenash.com or email her at reddirtramblings@gmail.com.

Ever Made a U-Turn for a Garden?

By Cris Blackstone

Bet so! How about made a u-turn when you saw the actual gardener? I had admired a particular small garden, lining the sidewalk from the driveway to the front door, of a house I drive by doing errands. It’s on a main street, where the road bends, so the fact the garden had so strongly caught my attention last autumn is more remarkable.  Year ‘round, two plywood 3’ tall penguins flank the steps to the front door, adding intrigue and whimsy. 

On a rare foray out of our home during the Stay-at-Home orders, I saw a person, sitting down, actively gardening. I made a U-turn, grabbed my mask and yelled out the window, “I just want to let you know how much I admired your garden all last autumn – the colors were so enthralling!” Her smile was as wide as the sidewalk from the driveway to the front door was long. “Hey, Hi, let me grab my mask,” she replied, grabbing her mask from a worn in basket.  We ended up talking about her color palette, (reds, oranges, yellows) and the textures the yarrow brought in which softened it all a bit. I left with several packets of zinnia seeds she saved, in carefully folded seed envelopes and labeled with her own names for the colors, since the seeds were originally gifted to her where she and her husband lived in Pennsylvania two or three houses ago.

Besides those seeds, I was reminded about how much I love alyssum – need to add it as a groundcover in an annoying area of my garden – and an Echinacea seedling she dug up for me as we spoke. Camera in hand, I also left with grasshopper photos on yarrow flowers.  Moreover, I got a real treat – meeting the actual gardener I had long wondered about, and made an authentic connection over gardening.  Something was glaringly missing from the conversation, though.  This gardener never once ever said a word of apology about the garden. She didn’t need to remind me that it was a “work in progress,” or share apologetically “this area sure needs a lot of work.” I could clearly see what was going on, where there was a trumpet vine that didn’t get pruned last fall, or a half-finished woven twig fence around a veggie garden. She didn’t ever steer me away from the places that had last year’s hanging baskets in a pile, not planted with dreamy, draping flowering vines this year. Those phrases and apologies were not necessary.  The authenticity I saw and felt from this gardener was so refreshing! Here’s wishing you a chance meeting with a gardener, and a revived appreciation of gardening with authenticity.

Six months and exhausted

By Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
GardenComm President

Six months. Working sporadically. Seasonally. Some days not at all. Yet, I’m exhausted. Exhausted.

I don’t know what to do next. I don’t want to do anything and I want to do everything…run the sweeper, change the sheets on the bed, pick up the papers on the floor, deep clean the kitchen, take a shower, do the laundry, fold the laundry, work on GardenComm business, write blogs and next month’s newsletter, return calls and emails, water the plants, mow the lawn, deadhead the plants, walk the dog, make a list so I can cross things off.

I try to accomplish at least one task each day and congratulate myself on the effort. It might be wash a load of clothes. Tomorrow I’ll move the load to the dryer. Some days I might complete two tasks. That’s a good day.

Another good day recently was when my sisters (the twins) and I had a delicious confab in my front yard. The weather was perfect and my sisters brought carryout from our favorite Mexican restaurant. I’m so grateful for them. It was a wonderful relief to be with people, even if 6 feet apart.

Learning stuff

Like a lot of people during this time of pandemic, I’ve been trying to figure out how to earn money. I need to refresh my website to let more people know that I’m available for Zoom programs and that I have some new ones. If it weren’t for Zoom, I would not have had contact with friends, family and colleagues. I’ve been meeting garden coaching clients, but it’s outdoors, we all wear masks and stay socially distant.

So what do we do? We think of new opportunities. These energize us, get us focused and moving forward. 

I’m researching a quick-and-dirty winter arrangement plan…one, maybe two styles pre-arranged, delivered, something people could plop into an existing container or use as is. I had some success doing this with pots of spring edibles, but I had too many SKUs. 

I’m also exploring and hope to develop soon a membership group. I’m working with Katie Elzer-Peters and The Garden of Words team to get the infrastructure set up, marketing ideas and other advice. One of my sisters will help with some of the administrative tasks. I have Noelle Johnson to thank for her GardenComm webinar this summer about this very initiative.

What I wrestle with is: Will people pay a fee to get access to me to answer their gardening questions? To get my insight? They sure as heck don’t mind emailing me all the time, or asking on social media.

My plan is to offer a weekly member benefit. It might be a downloadable tip, plant of the month care sheet, an hour-long, live Facebook meeting w/the group to talk about gardening, answer questions, have occasional guest experts (such as for houseplants, succulents). Wondering if number of questions should be limited.

Professional development

And then there’s GardenComm. So many challenges for our group, especially financial. Just like with us self-employed folks, cash flow is king. That’s why our webinars are so important for us in two ways. 

  • They keep our mind sharp, help us stay in touch with what’s going on in the biz, teach us ways to improve our revenues and provide an opportunity to be with our GardenComm friends and colleagues.
  • They build GardenComm’s reputation as a solid source of professional programming that is meaningful, helpful and many times, invigorating and inspiring, just like our in-person conference sessions are. 

So, please consider sharing webinar info among your colleagues and various social media groups you are involved with. Feel free to forward any ideas for programming.

Regional or Connect Meetings are another important way to stay connected. These meetings also have gone virtual, with several members in some regions Zooming once a month at a regularly scheduled day and time. Don’t mean to sound preachy, but our experiences with GardenComm are better when we’re involved and participate.

Finally, I folded and put away three loads of laundry yesterday. Today, I finished this blog, had a GardenComm Executive Committee meeting and met with a coaching client. Two good days in a row. Stay well and safe.

Power Circles Activated!

By Kathy Jentz

A few years ago, C.L. Fornari introduced the power circle concept at the annual Gardencomm meeting and posted sign-up sheets on various topics from publishing your first book to hosting a radio show. Many of these groups were short-lived or had little follow-through, but several came together and met regularly. A few are even still active now.

I find these power circle groups to be one of the best member benefits of being in Gardencomm and can attest that being in them has brought me networking connections, learning experiences, and increased income.

What is a “power circle,” you might ask? Basically, it is a blend of a mastermind group and an accountability circle. A set of colleagues can explore topics and share tips, wisdom, and research—and not everyone has to do it individually on their own! You have a trusted group you can bounce ideas off of and who can help you amplify your efforts.

For the past few years, I have been helming a power circle for a small group of garden bloggers — all members of the Garden Communicators International (Garden Writers Association). We have monthly phone calls on various topics ranging from marketing tips to affiliate marketing to content ideas. In between meetings we communicate via a Google group and store documents on a shared Google drive folder. The group is has recently refocused and expanded both our topic focus and membership.

The members of the power circle are the ones who shape it and decide how often it will meet, how it will meet, the discussion topics, size of the circle, etc. I recently joined a power circle on using Zoom and that group meets bi-weekly and there is a power circle on podcasting that also meets twice a month. Some topics have more urgency.

I’m also in another power circle for garden speakers. We have monthly meetings via Zoom on various topics ranging from one-sheet critiques to tax tips. We each take a turn being that month’s topic facilitator and none of us is expected to be the “expert” on that topic, but to do a bit of research and lead the conversation on it.

One of the power circle members, Carol Michel, writes, “One thing I think makes this group stand out from the other Power Circles I was in is the use of Zoom. Seeing everyone and not just hearing people on the phone I think improves our ability to share. It also helps that everyone takes a topic to lead. Even if you don’t know much about the topic, being willing to go out and research it is helpful. And we all know the teacher learns more than the student. Plus, the Google Group is helpful for storing documents, more so than sharing a Google Doc.”

If you want to start up a power circle on any topic, my recommendation is to post that desire on the Gardencomm Facebook group page and on the Gardencomm website’s Communities Portal forum. You could also form a group by directly contacting several Gardencomm members and inviting them to join.

Your next step is to set up a Google group or other way of keeping in contact and posting meeting notices. Then, you would schedule your first meeting. At that, you can brainstorm future meeting topics and ask for volunteers to lead each of those discussions.

I find it easiest to have one person who is the “facilitator” or leader of the group who keeps track of inviting folks to shared Google group, posting the group’s meeting schedule, sending out meeting reminders, and following up after meetings, if needed. This is a bit like being the group’s “mom” and can get a little tiresome being the chief nagger, but without this key position a power circle can easily fall off people’s radar and cease to exist.

About the Author:

Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener Magazine and a long-time DC-area gardening enthusiast.  To book her for a garden talk, find her at: http://greatgardenspeakers.com/listing/kathy-jentz-4c818b5cdacc5.html.

 She also edits the IWGS Water Garden Journal and is a columnist and guest blogger for several other publications. Her latest foray is as the social media voice for horticultural brands. She can be reached at KathyJentz@gmail.com.