I lost all my Echinacea to last year’s winter. This horrible truth I came to realize gradually. I’d note an empty space and think to myself : “what was that now?” On further inspection, I’d see the tell-tale woody stalks, rotten at the root and pull them out with ease. All of them. Gone. Even the hardy pink standards that grow everywhere. Hot Papaya? Forget it.
After such a loss (don’t get me started about my lavender or autumn ferns), I decided to heed my mother’s advice and begin a garden journal. She even bought me one, years back, when I first moved in to my home. It was the perfect gift, in hindsight. She knew what was coming. And this was her unobtrusive way, of offering support.
And so I began: “May 2017. After two rough winters—long, dry and bitterly cold…” On these pages, I could spill my guts about the pitfalls of gardening in the north. Here I could organize my garden plans, which can be overwhelming and convoluted at the best of times.
I also use the journal to keep track of what I’m planting or what I’m replacing: “two Cardinal flowers, front bed; 3 pasque flowers and a single red scabious; three Chinese Pagoda Primroses to replace the small English Lavender…”
And I also use it to mark the garden triumphs: “The back hill has come alive this year! The male ferns have earned their place among the periwinkle and the Lady’s Mantle, rewarding my patience with lush fronds and generous groupings. The Solomon’s Seal has finally naturalized, and my vision of them curving over the Annabelle Hydrangeas has materialized, save for one that’s growing the wrong way…”
And I note the soil and what needs amending: “The order of one Wonder Tote of Supersoil Garden Mix from Futurescape Landscaping is truly a thing of beauty–the texture of it, the smell, the colour—all combine to create the perfect growing conditions for my new bed. As such, the side bed is thriving. It seems at least three years old, and yet it is only in its early second year. I must tell the world of this miracle product! Or at least order one more tote to top dress the front garden…”
And so I’m doing more scribbling lately, by hand, the old fashioned way and looking forward to it. Every day, I’m met with sage advice or a thoughtful quote: “With the first warm days, snails will come out of hibernation. If you don’t like snail bait, you can protect tender shoots by encircling them with ash.” Ash! Indeed! All along, I’d been setting out eggshells (so much work) and diatomaceous earth (expensive and kind of messy), but ash I have plenty of! I just dig it out of the fire pit and slop it around my Hostas.
A garden journal is a fine way to talk more gardening. Who else wants to listen to all your trials and successes? And think: You’ll be joining the ranks of other distinguished garden writers before you. Perhaps, posthumously, your journals will be found and published for their sage wisdom and charming tone, offering advice to novice gardeners who are green all over. If not, at least you’ll know where you put in that damned monkshood last fall.