On the weekend, while I was in Melbourne, I popped into a lovely nursery in Albert Park (The Garden of Eden, highly recommend if ever you’re in that neck of the woods) which I’ve had my eye on for awhile. I drive past it often when I’m down at my mum’s and I always mean to stop, then on Sunday I found myself with only one child to chase through a nursery…so in I delved. I was looking for a few specifics: a white variety of upright sedum, some purple statice, osteospermums to sprawl under our silver birch, a pink pig face as a ground cover in our natives up the driveway and some society garlic to continue a bit of a border I have happening in our main garden bed (although didn’t like my chances getting a society garlic this time of year). Chatting to the very friendly and helpful nursery man, I mentioned about my garden book. My little book of garden knowledge, at least when it comes to the goings on, success, failures and varieties I’ve planted in the Brindabella garden. Helpful nursery man was impressed, and like a proud fatherly figure: “Oh a book! Well done you! So many people come in asking to match their society garlic…with a blurry iPhone photo as reference.” (There are literally hundreds of society garlic varieties). I think he was pretty chuffed to find an enthusiastic gardener, with obviously a large country garden as opposed to a small inner city courtyard or balcony. I often find other friendly nursery men and woman equally chuffed to find a young (31 is still young, yeah?), gen y, busy mother who is so into her gardening, and in particular some pretty old school plantings like scabiosas, penstemons and plumbago rather than succulents, yuccas and pittosporum (I have an issue with the endemic proportion of pittosporum in gardens these days!) Apparently I’m a bit of a novelty – ha!
So yes, I keep a book. A gardening journal of sorts, where I try and record when I planted things, where in the garden, sometimes where I bought it from if it’s something particularly sought after (although more often than not it’s from a Bunnings clearance trolley and not that special!) My current garden book starts in April 2014 when we moved back into the farmhouse here at ‘Brindabella’. Prior to that I kept a track of things we planted at ‘Carlton’ in South Australia, and I believe I even recorded everything I did in the first cottage garden I tended at ‘Ythanbrae’ in Yea. I wonder how that olive tree and Wendy’s Wish salvia are going? Living for short stints in various farmhouses was such a sad and frustrating thing for my twitchy green thumbs. We lived in the cottage at ‘Ythanbrae’ for almost four years, so got a good run in there! Then one year here at ‘Brindabella’, and only one year at ‘Carlton’….
I did keep a gardening journal when we lived here between 2010-11, but unfortunately don’t have it anymore – I honestly didn’t think we would ever live here again so I think I turfed it in all the moving about/gypsy living of 2012! Then in some unpacking I did find some tree tags stuffed in a plastic pocket in a folder, precious gems of the trees we’ve planted here which we were gifted for our engagement in 2010. Gosh, those trees are eight years old now! Things like the roses I planted along the western side of the carport though, have been excellent to have the varieties recorded. Often I’ll get a question on Instagram about what rose that is – and I know the answer!
I try not to be too rigid or pedantic about recording things, sometimes I do retrospective writing down of dates… “Spring 2016” instead of the specific month is often the case. That’s okay. And not everything is recorded, there is definitely wiggle room for error, a bit like the process of building a garden itself. I try to go back and write if something dies, or if I move something around. My thought was to just rip out those pages/tags with failures (much like the plants themselves!) but I’ve kept them in the book as I think it’s a good reminder and memory jogger as to what works, what didn’t work, in what spots etc. I also have a terrible tendency of not having a real grasp on how big things will grow. Case in point: the acacia I have growing behind our weeping cherry tree, I’ve been thinking gosh that’s getting quite big…I always thought it was an acacia ‘mini cog’ (growing to about 75cm), I flicked back through the trusty garden book and discovered it was in fact an acacia fettuccine, which grows a bit taller. Mystery solved. But another problem proposed: should I try and move it? Trim it? Leave it? Hmmm… Gardening is always an exercise in balance, shifting goal posts, two steps forward and one step back.
Some of our little cottage plants have come from cuttings or dug up from Matt’s mums garden. I haven’t recorded these, as generally I don’t even know what they are, I just throw in the ground and hope for the best! Then if they succeed and are going great guns, I might try and identify them and record. I use a great app on my phone called ‘Garden Answers’ which tells you what any plant is is you take a photo of the flower. So handy! I use it often if I’m in somebody else’s garden or see something I like rambling over a fence. You can save all your favourite plants and I often refer back to the app when I’m planning what to put in where next.
My garden book has so far proved itself as the ultimate gardeners tool, I highly recommend keeping one for any aspiring gardener. And I’m only a few years in to creating our big, rambling, country garden of our dreams! I know that in five, ten, twenty (!!!) years time I will be so grateful that I’d recorded all those little successes and failures in the earlier years. I don’t keep it religiously, most often I’ll sit down and do a big ‘batch’ of sticking in tags and jotting down details, but: early parenting days, most nights I’d rather be in bed! Gardening is such an evolving process, it’s good to see where you started, to what you have achieved and how far you’ve actually come. So often I think my garden hasn’t done a whole lot, but I just have to look back into my trusty book to see the progress, hard proof on paper buoys confidence enormously. My garden ebbs and flows with the seasons, as does my enthusiasm for it sometimes. Nothing happens overnight either, creating a garden is the ultimate practice of patience and often…restraint.
Do you record all your gardening ventures?
Got no idea what acacia you’ve got growing either?
Or have a folder stuffed with plant tags and no real system?