Keeping a record of what’s going on in your garden isn’t for everyone, but it has proven valuable for me, as a learning tool, an opportunity to observe closely, and especially as I have left one garden for another, as a way to remind, recall, and transport what I’ve loved and learned in one garden to the next one.
Records can be kept in many ways, one of which may suit you.
I keep a sort of hybrid of a few of these:
The benefits of recording the garden are many, I’ve found, and it’s especially apparent to me because I didn’t do this much for our first two yards, in Maryland and interior southern Maine. Every now and then I try to recall the name or specific variety of a plant I especially loved in one of those gardens and I am not always successful. Last night, for example, I spent a half-hour online and in my garden books (including a plant journal I kept for our first Maine garden) trying to find the name of just such a plant. After spending so much time, I finally did find it: santolina. But I could have saved a lot of time had I actually written down the plants I planted in that garden instead of plants that I thought I might plant there (many of which I didn’t, and many I planted that aren’t on that list).
A few of the benefits of garden record-keeping include:
Since 1991, I have created and maintained a garden in Maryland (3 years), a large garden in rural Maine (8 years), a small garden in coastal Maine (7 years), and a medium-sized permaculture garden in New Hampshire (4 years and counting). It’s not easy designing gardens, choosing plants, nurturing them …and then leaving them to someone else’s devices.
Not easy, but quite instructive. I’ve learned a lot over the years, practicing in my gardens:
First, a newly formed (previously farmland) 1-acre suburban lot in zone 7 – I started with absolutely no gardening or landscape design experience at all and learned a lot from one designer, local nurseries, local nursery catalogs, magazines (not much internet back then!), and watching what happened to my plants over three years of hot summers and ice storms.
Then, a 10-acre shambling, mostly-meadow-and-forest property in zone 4 – I devoted myself first to a large rectangular vegetable garden, then branched out (ha) into a pond garden, a large front yard border, an entry garden, another large bed by the shed, a cutting garden of annuals, a linear shade border on the north side, and a bed on a knoll overlooking a glade of birch trees. Then I started planting along the driveway. I learned that I love foliage, variegation, shade plants, late summer perennials, and oddly shaped plants, leaves, and flowers.
Next, a tiny, less-than-1/4-acre (and most of it ledge) property in coastal zone 4b/5a, which had already been gardened to the hilt, was fitted with unending brick and plastic garden borders, and required me to fit new plantings in even as I tried to rescue and amend the soil that had been depleted with many non-hardy roses that were continuously dying; the soil was as arid as a desert, not a worm to be found for several years; and it was packed with beautiful peonies!
And now (for now), a 3/4-acre, very flat, zone 5 property with a thin wooded border behind it and a hill of raspberries overlooking it, and which has apparently not been farmed or gardened since at least the 1970s . I was starting from scratch again here, and after watching the property for a year, have created front and back borders, a shade garden, a sunny side garden, a peach guild (permaculture lingo, to be discussed in a later post), a garden in the rock wall running between our property and the neighbours’, a kitchen garden of greens and herbs (and bell peppers this year), with vegetables, herbs and fruits interspersed in some of these garden spaces.
My purpose with this blog is to record, with photos primarily, these past and present gardens (particularly in NH and coastal Maine), and also to talk about the challenges and joys of gardening, over and over, in a place that is only home temporarily.