Thursday, February 21, 2013

Good Gardeners take Notes...

Time to dust off your garden journal or start a new one!
In much of my reading this winter, I keep running into this: good gardeners keep a garden journal.

They take notes on what blooms when, what the weather is like, what plant combinations they like and which ones they do not.  They makes lists of what they need to remember to change in the spring, in the summer, or the fall. And then they read them, do what they recorded, and cross them off!

And this is the moment to start: as flowers begin to bloom!


In the book, The Winterthur Gardens, Denise Magnani says that Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur's creator, "kept notebooks of all sizes on the garden alone. The most important, in terms of his personal aesthetic development and the creation of the garden, contain sequence-of-bloom lists. The first entry, dated February 1, 1902, reads simply, 'Scilla'... By the 1930's, he was keeping track of thousands of plants" (pg 78).

Just one step, or rather one flower, at a time!  That should encourage us gardeners to persevere in this important practice in the art of gardening - keeping notes on our gardens.

The English Garden magazine did a beautiful spread in the fall on Great Dixter and its head gardener, Fergus Garret. When asked for gardening tips, Fergus said, "A gardener's notebook is much underestimated. Don't make notes only on good plants and good combinations, but also look for ways of editing your garden. I always put an asterisk on improvements to be made... Having observed and then noted improvements, make sure that you go through your notebook and put words into action. Once done, cross then off - this gives great satisfaction... Using your eyes and being critical is vital to success" (pg 28, Issue 94 for North America).

Notes of my seed list and purchases in March 2011.

Last fall I outlined how I use a date book as a garden journal. That method has worked well for me, but of course there are many other ways to do it!

Tech savvy people might to use Evernote to store random observations, or Trello to make your task lists right on your smart phone as you walk around the garden.

Or a $1 notepad from the corner store will do. Just start! When you stop for milk this week, pick up a notebook. You too can start like H. F. du Pont did so many years ago...

February 1, 1902: Scilla

Some pretty datebooks that I love to use for my note taking. They are available on Amazon
Read more on how I use a date book as a garden journal


16 comments:

  1. Lovely this post regarding taking notes. I have gardener's journals of years and years and it's fun to read them back in winter.

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    1. Yes it is! The first photo of this post shows me comparing March in three different years. There is a vast difference in that month! It gives me a sense of the seasons in a detail that my mind cannot remember.
      ~Julie

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  2. That makes so much sense. I still feel like a newbie, so I just use my blog to log what work I'm doing, and what blooms when. Pinterest helps me keep a wish list of plants with certain growing conditions, but a simple notebook and a calendar is what I really need. Thanks for the tip :)

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    1. Emily,
      Glad this post could help you! Keeping a calender for your bloom success would be really helpful. Blogging is helpful, but I find it easier to look at what is blooming in a more condensed form which helps me to see where my gaps are.
      ~Julie

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  3. Very good advice, Julie. I remember being very impressed last year whn you wrote about your date book.
    I have made a start this year. I chart the max and min temperatures in the greenhouse - I need to do it for the garden too, I know. I'm also keeping a spreadsheet of dates when I sow seeds, when they germinate and when I prick them out and plant out - hopefully when I harvest the first time too. I use my photographs to show me when things flower but a date book would be better for that, but I'm not sure I'll achieve that. Thanks for all your excellent advice. Christina

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    1. Christina,
      One thing I have done is to use my blog to help fill out my succession records. You can look back at your GGBD posts and see what was blooming, writing them down on a calender or list. Then see where you might like to add more or lengthen your display in the entire garden or by each area.

      Your gardens are full to over-flowing already, so I am sure you do a lot of this succession planting in your head! Notes on seed planting, etc are so valuable too!
      ~Julie

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  4. I took your advice and purchased the garden journal from Amazon....can't wait to take note in the garden. I think I will start officially today to remind myself...although it is just snowing again.

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    1. Great Donna! You can start today too - write down that it is snowing. Also record the low night temperatures, and whenever you have an unusually nice day. It is surprising how those "unusual" warm days happen at regular intervals throughout most winters.... I have learned to look forward to some garden chores even in mid-winter by looking for those breaks in the cold weather.

      I am excited to hear how it works for you!
      ~Julie

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  5. I have a little journal my mom gave me that I started taking notes in a couple years back. It helps me remember the little plant here or the plant over there! I hope that one day mine is filled with thousands of plants too!

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  6. This is one area where I have always fallen short. I do sometimes make lists of things to do in the garden, plants I want to order or move, but I have never kept a consistent garden journal. OK, you've convinced me: this will be the year!

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    1. Whoo hoo! Good for you!
      Looking forward to reading about your garden journal adventures :)
      ~Julie

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  7. This is great advice. I always "think" about a notebook, but have yet to follow through. When I visited Monticello and Mount Vernon this summer, I was inspired at the level of detailed notes kept about the gardens there. It seems like it would be very interesting to read through year by year. OK! You've convinced me. This is the year for a notebook. I'll start by tracking the seeds I plan to start within the next couple weeks. Thanks Julie. Great post!
    Susan

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    1. Susan,
      It really is interesting to read through and compare year to year. I actually enjoy seeing the weather patterns, as well as the bloom schedule. Our lives are so comfortable these modern days as compared to the days when wind blew through the cabin walls, etc. I think my journals have helped me better understand the ebb and flow of the seasons... helped me be more a part of it than separate from it.

      I look forward to seeing how it works for you!
      ~Julie

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  8. Definitely a good idea...I need to start one!

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  9. I take a few notes, but I need to be more organized about it. I sort of think of my blog as my garden notebook, but having it in a physical, written notebook would keep me more organized!

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  10. Hi, Julie

    I keep notes too, but only from time to time ... I must be more cosecvent :) Thank you for inspiring me with your words !

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