Monday, November 8, 2010
The Garden Diary
Most gardeners have found it helpful to keep a journal or diary in order to record the seasonal happenings. Year after year, depending upon one's memory becomes impossible as a first garden slowly turns into successive decades of them. Lovely gardens visited, names of plants, and often disastrous experiments may be lost to the memory entirely unless there is a reminder of them. Not to mention the sorrow of accidentally severing sleeping bulbs while planting new ones. Left to chance, the established garden may suffer unless careful records are kept and a three to five year journal is best.
Now is a good time to review the endeavors of the season and make note of exactly which plants thrived and those we accidentally killed. I have a list of those I have loved and lost, and often wonder if my favorite roses will greet me in heaven. I also have a list of those that will not acclimate to my garden; like the detestable Rhododendron which was finally sent to the rubbish heap, banished forever from the garden. Year after year it was a struggle to keep it alive, moving it from place to place, from sun to dappled shade, from various drainage and variable soils, until at last I forced myself to abandon it altogether and promise never again. The same is true of Hydrangeas who will absolutely refuse to live here for any reason and are a waste of otherwise well-spent money.
The winter months are less than exciting if not planning for the next season. By reviewing a journal, one may note when to expect the early Crocus, the Stars of Bethlehem and Peonies. Or when the first freezes arrived and how the fruit trees fared. Journals may include diagrams of the locations of perennial plants and bulbs so there will be no mistakes when adding new guests in the garden. The growth cycle from planting the seeds to enjoying full bloom may be noted, as well as the scent of flowers and the taste of vegetables at their peak, and which years were best. If left to recall, crops may not be rotated yearly which may result in poor yields.
Photographs of the gardens according to year are helpful as well; to look back five, ten, even twenty years and see how plants grew, how light changed is an amazing trek. Gardening is so dependent on the weather that some gardens that were spectacular in May were gone by July with no rain and 107 degree heat, yet some years have been rewarding all season. The beauty of the garden is really at the whim of circumstance no matter how much we try otherwise. Late freezes, freak hail storms, torrential rain, no rain, wind, temperatures over 100 degrees for days on end, hoards of locust… we gardeners face some daunting obstacles and yet remain the eternal optimists!
And for those of you who are in love with a gardener who is without a journal, giving them one this holiday would be an excellent gift! *My 1999 Rosemary Verey diary is dog-eared and tattered, but valuable beyond measure.