In response to my Yardsmart column suggesting readers start their garden journal on the new year came this wonderful email from Sheila:
“My extraordinary gardener mother is 92, and our green-thumb family members would like to have a comprehensive journal for her to record her numerous plants, and shrubs and trees, maintenance experience, pruning advice, blooming, fertilizing and planting tips and schedules, etc (by month). We would never be able to recapture this lore without a written record. What kind of journal do you recommend? At 92, we have no time to waste.”
Don’t buy a “gardener’s journal”. They’re just too general and not archival enough. For this much wisdom you’ll need a lined bound blank journal with large pages (8×11 inches or so). Be sure it can open up and sit flat on the table because older folks can’t keep pressure on flopping pages while they write.
Next, create headlines on the pages with water color or marker or pen. This breaks all that gardening knowledge into smaller pieces that Mom can manage. That’s how authors do it. When she sees the title it will be her cue to remember the past.
Begin with a twelve month schedule of activities. Title every few pages with a month so she can jot down tasks for that month in the right section. Stick on colored permanent page tabs for books each month’s title page so she can go to them without a lot of effort. Print the letter of the month on the tab to facilitate this.
Follow the annual cycle pages with specific titles such as rose pruning. The more specific you are with categories, the more it will jog her memory about what she’s done over all those years. If you’re not sure what categories to include, go to any gardening book and peruse the index for subject headings - you’ll find plenty.
Scrounge around your house to find any old photos of her previous gardens that can be glued into the journal for visuals. If she still has a garden, take new photos of every aspect of it and every plant if you want to. Then for example, you can glue in an ancient hydrangea bush in full bloom and Mom can write about where it came from and how she’s cared for it over the years.
If you need pictures of plants for Mom’s journal, click here download our free eBook, Online Botanical Illustrations http://www.moplants.com/eBooks.php Inside you’ll find links to the beautiful digital archives of antique plant illustrations you can download and print for free.
Finally, decorate the cover. Include pictures of Mom at various ages or any way you want to personalize it in her own style. Then when she receives it she’s clear on exactly what the book is for.
This seems like such a wonderful project, I only wish I could have a copy when Sheila’s Mother finally sets it all down for posterity.