For the last sixteen years I’ve kept a record of what happens each year in the garden. I’ve conscientiously photographed each project I’ve undertaken, each border as it changed from season to season, each modification I made or was thinking about making. I’ve stuck these photographs into albums and written comments — about my intentions for a project, or the weather, what I was wanting to do next — in effect, about anything that seemed relevant at the time.
These albums are immensely helpful. They are a record of how the garden has developed. They both show and tell how my ideas and abilities have changed over time. They are a reminder of what I was wanting to accomplish at any particular point, and chronicle my successes and failures. They are a source of interest and amusement, a pleasure to read and re-read.
Over the sixteen years I’ve filled 17 albums — it took a few years before I decided that one album per year was the way to go. In the early years I sometimes added drawings or other decorations, or experimented with different coloured inks.
I veered towards scrap-booking at one point, adding stars for winter glitz…
and watering cans for a bit of summer fun.
In more recent years, these decorative touches vanished. But while some things have changed, others have remained the same. The first page of each album always gives the year and the volume number.
The last page says something about the year as a whole.
Along with the photo albums I’ve kept garden journals. These journals are where I record information about plants, how many I planted, and where, the where I sourced them, their growing conditions and how well they fared.
I also use the journals to keep track of things I need to do later in the year, or in the following year, marking the jobs To do so I don’t forget.
In the journals I sometimes sketch ideas for new projects, or make lists of plants to order, or keep track of who visits the garden and the comments they made.
Add to the albums and the journals the spreadsheets I keep on the computer. One spreadsheet is for plants I start from seed, the other for plants I buy. I list the botanical and common name, the year I bought the plants, where I bought them and how many I purchased, where they were planted and how well they performed. If I transplant them, I note that as well.
All this I’ve done faithfully for 16 years. Until this year, that is, when everything ground to a stop.
Not entirely, I must say. I did make random notes in the journal and sometimes I remembered to up-date the list on the computer. But the albums I ignored entirely.
I’m not really sure why. Writing this blog is another way of recording what happens in the garden, but I’ve been writing the blog for several years now, and this is the first year that I haven’t kept up with my garden album. It was a particularly busy summer, with many groups visiting the garden, not to mention our first Open Garden Day, an event that required a lot of time and effort to prepare for. But others years have been busy, too, so that can’t be the only reason.
Am I tired of keeping an album? Did I decide without realizing it that the albums were no longer of use? Or was I simply forgetful?
I can’t decide why, and figuring it out seems less important than deciding what to do about it. Once I focused on that question, the decision, was obvious. I had to act. I wanted to act. So I sorted through the year’s worth of photos stored on my computer, printed more than I want to count and began to fill my album for 2016.
I’ve completed only part of the job and still have many piles of projects to put into the album and write about. Sorting the photos into categories has taken time but seeing the number of stacks that resulted showed clearly how many different projects we worked on this year.
Writing the comments underlined how much detail I’ve forgotten already. And if these albums are to remain helpful as memory prods, the details matter. To me, at least.
So I’m making a New Year’s Resolution and I’m making it now: in 2017 I resolve to fill the garden album month by month, project by project. Re-living an entire year in the garden has its pleasures, but filling the album, a job I normally enjoy, is tedious when it takes too long.
Am I the only obsessive record keeper? Or am I a slacker compared with other gardeners?
If you keep records, you may want to share your methods with Jean Potuchek, a Maine gardener who is preparing a presentation on the subject. In November she wrote
I’m still soliciting responses for my survey of garden record-keeping. (At this point, I’m almost halfway to my goal of 100 responses.) If you keep garden records but have not yet completed the survey, I’d appreciate your help. The survey is very short and takes very little time to complete. Please also share this survey link with other gardeners you know: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5792QH3..
Whatever type of records you keep, please record this: May 2017 be filled with joy and may your garden flourish!