I have a dear new friend. It’s my garden journal. Have you ever wondered why you should keep a garden journal or even HOW too keep a garden journal?
For years I have been wanting to keep one and I am not quite sure why this particular garden discipline has been so difficult to implement.
I don’t know, maybe it’s the six babies I’ve had in the last thirteen years or something like that?
But my littlest sweet baby turns two in a few weeks and somehow I have found the time to begin this important process of the committed gardener. The garden journal. I’ve been enjoying it early in the morning outside with a hot cup of coffee and my Bible or late at night after a big day in the garden when it’s just me, the singing birds and the susurrus of the trees overhead.
Why keep a garden journal?
Since beginning my journal a few weeks ago I am finding it as important to my garden as the skill of seed starting, dividing perennials or layering one’s garden, for in it I am able to take all the hopes and dreams for my garden and put them down on paper. Instead of ideas swirling around in my brain they become a plan. Instead of being a hope or a thought that will fade with the chaos of my life, they will become a plan for the future. Romantic notions and fond memories of my time in the dirt and among the petals now have a place. I’m noting germination times, flowering dates, sun patterns… this is a new world for me here in northern Wisconsin and I want to KNOW my new environment intimately.
We’ve finished phase one of this new potager which includes a free-standing stone wall with garden gate entrance, a stone wall against the small hill the house is built upon, a large wattle inspired fence to keep out the deer, arches placed just so, here and there on the numerous paths and over twenty different beds. This year those beds are to be very simple. I have been gathering wild perennials from around the property. Lupine growing like mad in spots and leftover lavender from an old perennial garden that is overgrown with close to a decade of neglect. (This home stood empty for many years.) The budget is very small and completely exhausted for this first year of the garden and so necessity, being the mother of invention, demands that I fill in large empty spaces with thousands of zinnia seeds, lettuce and an abundance of herbs. At present, it looks like a mass amount of dirt but we are for sure in the “faith” stage of the garden. Surely every gardener knows this phase. You’ve planned, tilled, toiled and planted and suddenly the earth seems frozen in time as though nothing will ever come of it and all germination rates become one out of one hundred. Yes, the seeds and tiny plants have been installed and I am holding my breath waiting for it to burst forth. Every year it seems like the same thing, it feels as though it will never happen…tick tock, tick tock. But if all goes as planned, it will be a riot of colour and produce before I know it. Though in it’s current state that seems highly unlikely. It’s the faith stage of the garden for sure.
How to keep a garden journal?
It’s tres façile. In my journal, I can note the romantic notions that my garden inspires and keep more practical information too. I am keeping a list of every perennial when it was put in and from where I acquired it. I love this concept of noting where I gathered a particular plant. Gardening is such a communal hobby or dare I say, lifestyle. It’s so wonderful to share plants with friends, family and strangers. Surprisingly, the list fills one page already. Free hosta found on Facebook, fifty raspberry plants from a farmer down in Sturgeon Bay, lupine and lily of the valley growing wild and teeny tiny delphinium that I started in my greenhouse this winter…
Fond stories are recorded here too.
A few weeks ago we were visiting our favourite coffee shop – Leroy’s. He had minuscule Ladies Mantle that had naturalized and spread into his lawn in front of the shop. Ladies mantle, Alchemilla Mollis, is my favourite perennial. It’s so beautiful I can barely take it. When the rain forms its mercury drops on the leaves…there are no words. I digress. I couldn’t help but ask Leroy if I could come by later with a shovel and save those lovely little ladies from what would surely be sudden death with the first time he mowed the grass. And so now, my potager boasts twenty-five of this favourite perennial. We affectionately call it “Leroy’s Mantle”. The details of this silly memory are, of course, noted in my garden journal.
Two of my favourite artists also happened to be incredible gardeners. Precious Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter. Their gardens and sketches and watercolours inspire me beyond measure. My garden journal will give me an excuse and opportunity to use my much, much, much neglected sketching talent. (And I use the word “talent” incredibly loosely) but nonetheless, the paper is there and now I have a reason. My garden journal.
A family heirloom?
Someday I’ll be a fussy old lady, trimming her roses, apron pockets full of seeds (wait, that’s me already)… gray-haired (with red lips!) dividing years and years of perennials to share with my own children and someday, I’ll be with Jesus and I hope my children would enjoy having years of gardening journals kept by their mother. I’m tremendously sentimental so perhaps that is simply something I would enjoy. I’ll risk it and continue to note, sketch and dream.
How a garden journal can be practical. Why you should keep a garden journal.
It’s not just for the romantic or sentimental gardener. The garden journal can be very practical. There is something to be said for journaling the following:
- The first and last frost date of the year
- When your plants begin to bloom (this is vital if you are creating a layered garden that holds it’s colour from the last frost to beyond the first!)
- What pest control you’ve tried and how well it worked (this year I will be working with a variety of my essential oils in my continued commitment to organic gardening)
- How many hours it took you to achieve your look on a particular year (and any extenuating life circumstance)
- When you plant a particular perennial and what size it was
- Good (or bad) brick and mortar or online nursery experiences
It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve committed to the process of journaling my garden and I hope I’ve inspired you on the idea of “why to keep a garden journal”, but I personally, am mourning a bit the twenty-two years of lost gardening notations. Really, I am. But perhaps my new garden journal is for such a time as this. Our dream home here in Door County. The space we are working with is beautiful and yet overwhelming as my creative mind swells to the point of overflow. And thus, the garden journal. What a better place to record this entire process?
Happy gardening dear friend, I’m glad you’re here with me as I create this space over the coming years. I hope you will journal your way as well.
P.S. Need another gardening fix? Here’s an old favourite.