What’s That?: When A Gardener Neglects Her Garden Journal

– Posted in: Mud Season, What's up/blooming
9 comments

I actually like keeping records. I can get obsessive about it, and that has gotten me into trouble in the past. So last fall, when I was frantically planting out the plants I had kept in containers–some of them for two years–I left the documenting of that planting for “later,” applauding myself for not getting uptight about it. (The neglected record-keeping, that is–I was kind of uptight about getting everything planted before it snowed.)

I had to make the best use of every decent moment outdoors, since decent weather was becoming less frequent, and when I got back inside I had to do the things that had gotten put off while I was outside scratching my head and wondering where the heck I could shoehorn in the current specimen in need of a permanent home. I scribbled locations on labels or plant names on roughly sketched maps and tossed them in a basket, thinking I would have plenty of time this winter to sort things out and write them down.

Winter is just about over, and the basket is still full.

The snow has finally melted on all but the north side of the house, and on my first walk around the garden, I found myself surprised and puzzled by what I saw. Perhaps this has happened to you, too?

green sprouts under Japanese maple

What are those? They don’t quite look like daffodils…

snowdrops by flowering quince

Huh. I don’t remember planting snowdrops there.

Spring snowflake, Leucojum vernum

What’s that? The leaves look like a daffodil, but it’s too early for them to be blooming.*

fall crocus in spring

I thought these autumn crocus sent their leaves up in the fall…

gnawed flowering quince

Uh-oh. I think this flowering quince has been gnawed to death.

mislabeled eranthis

This does not look anything like winter aconite (Eranthis) foliage.

Every garden walk is filled with anticipation, as I never know what I’m going to find. As I’ve been pressing heaved plants back into the earth and noting the worst weed patches, I find myself wondering where I planted the Arisaema candidissimum, the most expensive single bulb of my fall Odyssey Bulb order. It says it needs partial shade…I’ve got plenty of that…and well-drained soil…I don’t have any of that–so if I were me, where would I plant it? I’ll let you know if I find out!

*Eventually it dawned on me that the prematurely blooming daffodil was actually a spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) given to me by the plant enthusiast who writes Sorta Like Suburbia.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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Lisa - Ontario April 13, 2015, 8:52 am

At the moment I’m trying to remember where the double snowdrops were planted. I understand the “now if I were me”.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern April 13, 2015, 7:19 am

Ah, so admirable and what a beautiful journal! You’ve just reminded me to “record” all the seeds I planted over the past few days so I can track germination! I tend to rely on my blog and a sketchbook. But I sure do like the looks of that journal! I have some things coming up that I’m not sure of – more likely I’ve simply forgotten. No sign of the winter aconite I planted last fall, either – bummer. I used to record all the comings and goings of the birds on my project feeder watch calendar but I didn’t join this year as I would be “away.” Missing it.

Pat Webster April 13, 2015, 6:32 am

I agree with Carol. My record keeping is spotty, despite my best intentions. Yesterday, taking my first garden walk-through, I spotted crocus blooming where I’m sure I never planted any. I guess I can thank the squirrels.

Kathy Purdy April 13, 2015, 6:59 am

Oh, yes, the squirrels and the voles go grocery shopping and drop groceries along the way. I’m glad you finally got to take your first garden walk-through!

Joanne Toft April 12, 2015, 8:12 am

I was doing that this week as well. I have daffodils coming up in places I planted 2 years ago. They didn’t grow last year so I was sure they had been eaten.
I am interested in your garden journal. I am using a old mead notebook but I likes yours with the years together. Where did you get it?

Kathy Purdy April 12, 2015, 8:17 am

That is the 10 year journal from Lee Valley Tools. Lucky for you, they are having a free shipping promotion right now. The journal by itself almost gets you over the $40 minimum.

Mark April 12, 2015, 7:53 am

I used to be much more meticulous in my perennial garden record keeping but now that it’s mostly full up I’ve relaxed some. When planting bulbs I actually purposely let myself forget what I’ve put where so I can give myself a spring surprise. that gets frighteningly easier as I get older. The big down side is when I accidentally dig into a bulb when I’m shuffling plants around.

Jane / MulchMaid April 12, 2015, 12:23 am

Recordkeeping? I am happy to keep a plant tag long enough to add it to my database, let alone noting where and when I finally planted it in my garden 🙂

Carol April 11, 2015, 9:40 pm

“Been there, done that” or rather have also not done that. Spring is fully of mystery as one plant after another shows up and you wonder just who planted it, knowing, of course, that you planted it.