How to find your way around The Gardening Mind
Who I am, how Substack works, and how you can find all the different sections here on The Gardening Mind
Hello and welcome!
My name is Jo Thompson and I’m so delighted to have you here in my proper home: The Gardening Mind.
So who am I? Well, most people know me as a garden designer. I sometimes pop up on Gardener’s World. Over the years I’ve even won a few Chelsea gold medals for my work, which to this day still surprises me, truth be told. I’m also a rose obsessive, a Labrador-lover (expect to see lots of my gardening helper Basil here), as well as someone who passionately believes that anyone - and I mean even the most clueless gardener in the world - can become a wonderful plantsperson. How do I know this? Because that clueless person used to be me.
I knew nothing about gardening until I hit my late 20s. Before that I was a primary school teacher dreaming of a little more space in my tiny west London flat. I found that space by creating a garden oasis on a teeny forgotten terrace that came with the flat. I didn’t do much to it - a few plants, flowers, a couple of chairs..nothing more. Certainly nothing extravagant. It not only transformed my home, but it transformed me. After that I retrained to become a garden designer. That was nearly 30 years ago now, but in that time I’ve accumulated so much knowledge- as well as a hell of a lot garden trivia! But here’s the problem: who do I have to pass it on to? The answer, it occurred to me, is YOU.
So that’s the journey I’d like to take you on in The Gardening Mind. I want to teach you everything I know. But I also want to continue to build this community of garden and nature lovers. I want us to lean on one another. Ask questions. Have the occasional meet-up. Who knows where this will take us? Two years after I started this publication, this still is really only the beginning.
“Hi Jo. I subscribed because I came across your newsletter and thought how refreshing it was to read something that I actually understood! I'm not a complete beginner but I've only really been gardening for a few years and I don't understand a) Latin names or b) have the time of a retired person so I find most gardening related media a bit complex and/or unachievable! I'm so excited to be part of your community. Thank you!”
My main newsletter goes out every weekend and some of it will available to all for free. You can share it with friends and across social media if you want to be helpful but really all I ask is that you hopefully enjoy what you read. And if you don’t, you can email me. Free subscribers will also be part of my Gardening Mind community, part of the Chat.
For many people, however, you might want to go more in depth and therefore you could become a paid subscriber:
Firstly, paid subscribers allow me to write The Gardening Mind week after week and keep it free for everyone. For that I am beyond grateful. You’re the backbone and without you, it simply wouldn’t exist. That’s the truth of it.
I spend around two days a week on The Gardening Mind, so I hope you see the value of investing less than £1 a week in that. I go through my archives and records, I research, I talk to people, I go to libraries and I talk to the experts in my address book, all to ensure that you get the very best advice and knowledge.
So here’s what I give in return to you as a paid subscriber:
The bulk of my writing. Every so often there’s a completely free article, but usually, the key part is reserved for paid subscribers. You also get access to all design courses such as Small Garden Design, Border Design, and the How to Garden series. You can join in at any time.
You’ll be able to participate in our ‘Ask Me Anything Gardener’s Question Time’ section where we have a really good delve into what’s on my mind, and share ideas and inspirations. You can comment, ask questions and yes, you can ask me anything!
You can also start off Chat discussions - see more about the Chat below.
A true mixed bag, in this paid-for area there’ll also be further courses going into depth on how I design gardens, tips and advice on garden design and planting ideas, news updates, and some previews of current work.
Excerpts from my recent writing and upcoming books are also included in the paying subscribers area, as well as the latest news and early access to new dates as they are released, for my one-to-one mentoring Meetings, with a discounted price for these.
I’ll also be giving you previews to the Show Gardens section: behind-the-scenes tours of events in the gardening world. Chelsea Flower Show, Hampton Court, and more….. The main point is that being a paid subscriber will be worth it - I need to make it worth your support, and worth your while. It works out at less than £1 a week - and I have committed to ensuring that all the extras you receive are absolutely worth it. All your support so far has enabled me to devote some time each week to creating content for you. I’d love to give you more
AND THEN, THERE’S….
The Gardening Mind continues to receive new Founding Members every month. Founding members enable me to spend even more time working on content. As a Founding Member, you will receive a signed copy of my latest book, The Gardener’s Palette, (and a copy of my new one when it’s published!) plus free access to all Zoom courses and a big discount on all one-to-one mentoring sessions with me, which in the long run works out much cheaper if you decide to have regular sessions.
A founding principle is that for every 100 paying subscribers, I donate a subscription to someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it and who would enjoy it. One you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to let me know if you know that person.
“All the elements go to make up the very best gardening magazine available anywhere, whether in print or online. Here's to another great year with The Gardening Mind! Thanks Jo. :)”
You won’t have to worry about missing anything. Every new edition of the newsletter goes directly to your inbox. I did think very carefully about emails from me appearing in your inbox, but I figured that if you didn’t want to hear from me, you wouldn’t subscribe in the first place. So I got over that concern.
Join the crew
Please do join us - you’ll be part of a warm, friendly, welcoming community of people who share your interests. These interests in the world of all things to do with the magic of nature and landscape are the best interests - so we’d love to have you with us. And you can also gift this subscription - I know we have a lot of members who have been gifted their membership - gifting a subscription makes for an easy thoughtful present, and avoids the buying of stuff which you kind of feel people just don’t want any more.
Now, the bit that explains
HOW TO FIND YOUR WAY AROUND:
With The Gardening Mind having quickly grown into a kind of magazine for us all, I’ve got a feeling that now might be a really good time to just have a bit of a look round the home page, in order to do a bit of orientation.
There are lots and lots of features here, and as Substack develops, more things are added, and so I’m gathering up the key elements here for you to have a bit of a poke around and a play with. Always know that I try to make all of this content to suit you, so that you can observe from a quiet place, or engage - a little, or a lot. You have total freedom to read and think, suggest subjects, ask questions, send in ideas, be quiet, be loud - whatever and however you like best to go about things. It’s for you.
As you potter around, remember that The Gardening Mind is meant to be fun and I really hope you enjoy it. So….. do scroll around, tour around and have an investigation around the following at your leisure.
And look out for the Zooms that I hold on ‘Finding your way around Substack and The Gardening Mind’ - there’s one coming up very soon.
On your computer
You’ll see something like this at the top:
Now, this might look different depending on what screen you’re using - the app/phone screen differs a little.
Across the top of the page are various headings where I file posts in the right department so that you can readily find them later - there are lots of categories, so do scroll all the way along.
Below these headings, there are a variety of posts which I think will be of interest each week. You can decide whether to look at these, or you can go directly down to here:
The New tab takes you to the most recent post. If you hit Community, you’ll be able to access the most recent comments, and if you go to the really useful magnifying glass icon, you’ll be able to search the whole publication.
There’s also a Substack app for your phone, which is fun as it means we can continue to chat - just open the app, see a comment and hit the speech bubble to reply:
Here’s where you scroll along:
… and it goes on!
You can also see these following categories below the main posts - just scroll down the page:
Home is what it says on the tin - and anything underlined has a link with it, so by tapping that word, it’ll take you to some more information, or to the page I’m talking about, as in this example.
Chat is a link to download the Substack app on your phone and then you’ll be able to join in the Chat itself, which is kind of a whats-app group for us all. I can start discussions off for us here, and so can paid subscribers too. The great thing is that you too can post your photos here, and we have our regular Sunday Show Us Your Plots photo-sharing - it’s fun! I often hold Zoom sessions for paying subscribers on how to use the various Substack features, so look out for new dates!
Meetings Many of you have questions, subjects and general thoughts that you’d like to explore on a one-to-one basis: this Meetings feature is for exactly that. Whether you’re a student, new designer, homeowner, keen amateur, professional - there’s a true range of you who take up the slots as I release them. Subjects we’ve talked about have ranged from regular career mentoring, how to design and submit a show garden, garden quandaries, and specific planting design issues, just to name a few, and it’s just so lovely to receive your feedback as you implement ideas I’ve suggested and discusse. The good news is that due to demand, more of these slots will be released in the coming months: paying subscribers get first access to these. I started off many years ago as a teacher, and I absolutely love it. No question is too small or too silly.
Access all Areas at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an occasional series, which will be revving up again as we get nearer the flower show season. I designed my first show garden 15 years ago, and, having now become a garden selector and a judge, I can see the whole process from all sides. So insight, trials, tears and tribulations - that’s what’s to be expected in this behind-the-scenes category.
What’s on Your Gardening Mind is our very own Gardeners’ Question Time. And your interactions here are simply fabulous. My goodness, the subjects that come up. Ponderings have included the very real issue of a soggy flowerbed in Massachusetts, along with how best we can market our gardening skills and what are good plants for a shady nook.
New News is a self-explanatory category.
A Kinder Way to Garden covers a range of subjects, from ways to look after wildlife and ourselves: useful stuff such as recommended gardening gear (including long johns) to recommended nurseries, and tools to use if you’re finding a bit harder to get around.
Small Garden Design is a place where as a paying subscriber, you can gently explore ways of improving a garden spot. We have Zoom get-togethers, and there’s a bit of homework if you want to do it. It’s where I explain how I go about tackling garden design - it may not be the way the books tell you to go about things, but it’s where I really try to unravel my own process and share with you tips and tricks, to inspire and to delve into the depths of my design mind (yikes).
Roses - what more can I say? Well, plenty as it turns out, actually.
What Makes a Garden is one of the cornerstones of The Gardening Mind. Have you ever wondered how to design a garden? If so, this is a section that’ll be right up your street. It’s where I unpick different aspects of the creation of a garden, taking it from the garden design’s beginnings and then showing how it got to where it did and how and why it works. Design, philosophy, atmosphere, emotions, thought, mulling-over, as well as what could be boring old practicals like location, surveying, balance of 2D and 3D design, garden design harmony, planning regulations, and drawing up plans. But they’re never boring here on The Gardening Mind! No! There’s lots and lots of sharing of ideas, and I make sure it’s fun.
Planting Design - the possibilities are endless!
Plants we love is where the focus is on an individual plant, perhaps one that I’ve noticed, or often, one that readers have brought to our attention through a comment or a message.
How to Garden - the latest series which does exactly what it says on the tin:
Colour and how we see it in the garden.
Anyone for Venice is a collection of pieces about Venice and its gardens which started a year ago and which has led to many return trips, and many discoveries of the most secret of gardens. There is much more to come.
What not to do in your garden stemmed from my getting flummoxed by all the advice and by a spirit of rebellion when I’m faced with a To-do list. Always to be taken with the lightest of hearts, it’s a place where we can query gardening advice and look to see how we can make things as stress-free as possible. That’s the intention, anyway.
Archive is where you find all old post in chronological order.
About is where I tell you my story, and where you can find all the different membership benefits, from Free, to Paid, through to Founding.
And then, after all those categories, we have the buttons which enable you to get involved. Here are 3 key ones:
There’s the very, very important ‘Leave a comment’ button:
And the very, very important ‘Share’ button:
If you want to become a regular subscriber, this button is also useful:
Please do let me know if you have any questions - I’m really hoping this tour around the platform has been useful.
Have the very best of days, and as ever, thank you to you, friends old and new, for making The Gardening Mind what it is today in just a year. The possibilities ahead are very exciting.