When I first heard the expression "gardening on the internet", I
thought "how can that be?" What a ridiculous idea. After all, there is
no actual physical dirt on the internet, and you can't reach into your computer
and pull out a tomato and eat it.
Still the topic repeatedly came up and still I thought 'humbug'. A person
cannot physically garden in cyberspace. Besides, what's the point in having a
virtual garden on the computer when you can have a real garden outside? Quite by
accident a series of events occurred that got me involved with the internet.
Gardening has always been my passion from early childhood to my present
status as Lifetime Master Gardener. My company, Lockheed Martin, hired a
computer guru named Rob Mahan to help drag us Tool Designers kicking and
screaming into the 21st century. With the purchase of new computers, we had
e-mail accounts and access to the internet at work. At home I had long wanted to
learn how to operate a personal computer, but I didn't own one. I wanted to buy
one, but why should I buy one when I didn't know how to operate it. It made
sense at the time.
By sheer fate my brother upgraded the computers at his printing company in
Covington. When that happened, he loaned me an old Macintosh Performa 460.
My brother is a strong advocate for Apple Macintosh computers. When he gets
started talking about these computers, he sounds like a Baptist preacher.
"Yea though the Apple bringeth knowledge and operates like a Cadillac, the
masses pincheth their pennies and purchased Fords." By the way, no Apple
computers has ever had a Y2K problem, as this company took into consideration
that the century was ending.
With the borrowed Macintosh in my possession, I asked the computer guru at
work about websites. What are they and how do you go about setting one up? He
replied, "First and foremost, to have a website you must have something
worth putting on it-" Inherently, I knew that it should have a theme and
not just be pictures of your wife, your house, your dog, your car, et al.
Quite naturally I knew that my website would mostly be garden related. No one
should be surprised at that. First of all, the website needed a name. I called
it Bittersweet Gardens. It had a tricky little URL (Universal Resource Locator,
i.e., my website address):
To make this website address easier to remember, I simply registered it under
the domain name of www.bittersweetgardens.com. This was an added expense;
however, it was well worth it just for the name recognition. The domain
registration works like call forwarding. When you type in bittersweetgardens.com,
it simply forwards you to my Mindspring URL address. A partial description of
some of the things that you will find on my garden-related website are:
articles, edibles, a children's book, a backyard nursery, products, links,
photos, and lots of humor as my first tenet of gardening is that it should be
fun. I like the name bittersweet as it evokes both the pain and the pleasure of
gardening and life. On occasion I have had a problem with people browsing the
Internet and wanting to buy the Oriental bittersweet from me. I do not sell this
plant because of its invasive reputation.
I discovered that everything that was underlined was a link. This means using
the mouse to place the cursor arrow over the underlined characters and clicking
on it will take you to a new location or page. Generally, text is a single click
and icons, which are little graphics, are double clicked.
When you key in my domain name, it brings up a home page. I use the analogy
of a deck of cards to explain how it works. When you are on the home page, you
are looking at the king. The rest of the cards are there; however, you just
can't see them. If you click on native plants, it brings up that particular
page. This is similar to dealing the king to the back of the deck and bringing
up the queen, and so on.
As I write this, I am concerned about preaching to the choir. Many of you
already know what I'm saying and more. Read it anyway. You will either reinforce
your memory, or you will be delighted to find my mistakes.
Major magazines are posting websites to supplement their hard copy
publications. Some nurseries no longer print and mail catalogs and so are
available only online. This amounts to a great cost-saver for them as all
information seems to be gravitating toward the Internet.
At this point the internet breaks down for me into three things. The three
are: my website; other sites which include personal, commercial, organizational,
and educational information; and, e-mail.
E-mail is one of the thrills of the internet You are bound to find out that
some people use e-mail to circulate jokes, chain letters, prayer lists, virus
scares, and such. Nevertheless, that's not too much to put up with to enjoy the
benefits of e-mail, plus the rapid response, the connection to other countries,
and other gardeners. About the jokes, I actually like some of them the first
time I hear them. Finally, e-mail is a hybrid of a phone call and regular mail
and a great way to expand your circle of friends.
Links are very important and most websites have them. They shuttle you to
places of interest where you can refine your search for information, read
articles, post a question, or answer one. Links, like e-mail, bring us together
where thoughts can be shared. This is much like sharing a cutting from a
If you are just getting started the following sites are great reservoirs of
information and resources that will point you in the direction you want to go:
Digital Librarian and Gardening by Mail. These sites are evidently posted as a
labor of love and possibly humanitarian reasons as it is a myth that everyone
with a website is making obscene amounts of money. Chat rooms are a great way to
make friends in cyberspace. One such is GardenWeb
and there are many more.
One of my favorite links is Suite 101. At this link you will find articles
galore on homes and gardens. You will eventually find yourself conversing with
gardeners from other countries. I have conversed with gardeners from Australia,
China, Switzerland Canada and Russia. Language barriers can be easily overcome
using translator services available on the net such as Alta Vista's Babelfish.
The internet puts technology and information at your fingertips. Picture a
spiders web with all its' interconnectivity and you have an idea of why it is
called the World Wide Web. I see this new technology as enhancing our connection
to the real outdoor garden and nature. Patience is a big asset while learning to
browse the Internet and with persistence and practice of using search engines
you can find almost anything. I still have my real garden outside and it is
enriched by an expanding circle of friends and knowledge that I have gained from
the internet. No one knows for sure what the web will ultimately be. So far it
is a hybrid of telephone, TV, library, mail, and newspaper. I hope you will be
encouraged to start exploring the Internet just as I had to do by first
conquering my fear of technology and the mystique of computers. Look at it like
eating an elephant - you don't have to swallow the thing whole, just take it one
little bite at a time.
- URL - Universal Resource Locator / an address
- e-mail - a system for sending and receiving typed messages, usually over
- www - World Wide Web
- internet - same as www
- ISP - Internet Service Provider. These include Mindspring, Bell South, and
America On Line. These companies provide the service of connecting you to the
internet. Once connected, you will need a password and an e-mail address.
- dot - a period or delineator that separates the different parts of an address
- com - commercial
- net - network
- org - organization
- @ - at, part of an e-mail address
- ~ - tilde
- html – Hypertext Markup Language, computer code for building websites