Dan Cooper comes from a long line of gardeners. His grandparents were avid gardeners and imparted much of their wisdom to him. According to Dan, his childhood was defined by plants, experimenting with seeds and tending to his parents’ garden, and by the age of fourteen, he had acquired a greenhouse. Dan started his blog, The Frustrated Gardener, in 2012 and uses it to talk about his two tropical garden plots, one which is by the seaside in Broadstairs, Kent and another in Highgate, London. In this spotlight, Dan, who appears on our gardening ranking chats to us about being a plantaholic, his passion for gardening and why the personal touch always works for him when it comes to PR outreach.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog? My name is Dan Cooper and I’m a plantaholic! I’ve loved flowers from birth. I am never happier than when I among them. Photographing flowers and writing about them comes a close second. I have a very busy job as a buyer for a department store and started the blog to help retain all the knowledge I had built up over the years. I was in danger of letting work take over my life. Little did I know that, 5 years later, blogging is competing with work to see which can take over my life first!
Why did you start the blog? It was an experiment. I didn’t really know what blogging was all about. I learn by doing, so I just signed up to WordPress and started writing. I hadn’t had to write anything longer than an e-mail for 15 years – it was quite appalling how bad my English had become.
What is gardening to you (how important is it you to have a garden in your home)? I enjoy the practice of gardening, but it’s a means to an end. What I love is plants and flowers in all their infinite and fascinating variety. And, whilst I collect books, I find I learn so much more by doing something and observing the outcome. I am a very observant person – I like to watch and learn.
What type(s) of plants do you grow? Any that will fit in my tiny garden. Like people, I find it hard to identify any I don’t like. I am a shameless magpie, so anything bright, shiny or curious tends to catch my eye. And once it has, I have no will power.
Did you anticipate for your blog to become this popular and successful? To be honest I didn’t know what successful looked like and I still don’t. I get lots of likes and helpful, friendly interaction with my followers which is reward enough for the effort. Plus I am left with an enduring record of my garden and hundreds of others I have visited.
What is your major challenge as a gardener? Space. Although I garden in both London and Kent, my plots are extremely small. That rules out growing a lot of trees and large shrubs. Fruit and vegetables are a challenge because ornamentals tend to come first. One day I want to plant an arboretum and get it out of my system.
What advice do you have for others wanting to start their own gardening blog? Just get going. Write about what you know – it will flow more easily and read better. Give a personal perspective: we can all get the textbook stuff from a textbook. I think readers want to learn something new. And be truthful and accurate: I am always conscious that someone might take my advice, so if a plant is tricky to grow or disappointing to look at, I will say so
How do you like to work with PRs? I only write from personal experience on topics that are relevant to my audience. That does not mean just anything garden related. I like to hear about subjects which deepen my knowledge so that I can pass it on to my followers. If it’s something I can participate in, so much the better. I am highly selective, but when I set out to write about something, I do so with conviction.
How can PRs improve their blogger outreach? The personal approach works best for me. I want to know PRs have looked at the blog and can see a place for their content to fit it. It’s really lovely when someone starts an e-mail expressing how much they’ve enjoyed reading a particular post.
What do you see in the future for your blog? That’s a tricky one. I would like to devote a lot more time to it, but that’s unlikely in the short term. I hope I am all about quality – if I don’t have good photographs and the right words I simply won’t post – and that’s how I’d like to continue. One day, I do have the ambition to turn it into a more commercial enterprise….or even a book.