Thursday, February 6, 2014

Journaling for garden planning

Magazines and seed catalogs can help you envision
your goals in your garden journal

Despite all indications, winter is a great time to garden -- virtually.

New seed catalogs are arriving every day, new varieties are available, new plants are introduced, and that hard-to-find plant you have been dreaming of is now listed at your favorite nursery. It’s almost more than a gardener can take in – so many plants, so little space!

The season of winter bestows one large gardening benefit: the time to evaluate and plan. Spending your winter assessing last year’s garden will help you move closer to your ideal in next year’s garden.

Start a garden journal to organize your notes and thoughts. Perhaps you have a stack of plant labels and seed packets from this year? Take the time now, while it is fresh in your mind, to make notes about what you like about these plants and what did not suit you.

In the journal, make a rough sketch of your garden and add notes about plans, changes you are considering, stubborn areas that just won’t become the garden you want. Most gardeners move back and forth between general ideas – “I want more fragrance in my garden”  – to specific solutions – plant a paperbush here, a daphne there, and so on.

Make note of specific problems so you can prepare for them this year. Perhaps one area of the garden did not get sufficient water. Can you install a simple soaker hose irrigation system? Is one are infested by a noxious weed or pest? Spend some time this winter researching how you may control that problem.

Gardens journals can help you plan for the garden next year as well. Create a calendar with seed-starting schedules, planting dates and transplant dates. The calendar could also list your favorite plant sales -- for example the Duke Gardens Spring Plant Sale on April 5.

Do you have multitudes of photographs of your garden through the years? Now is the time to organize those and use them as a tool to plan ahead. With digital photography and camera phones so prevalent, most of us have files of photographs that require hunting and searching through to find the image you recalled.

This winter may be an ideal time to organize those photos so they are useful to you. There are terrific tools that allow you to organize and then easily find any photo in your digital files.

One example is Adobe’s Lightroom. You can devise a system to organize photos by key words -- for example, color notations, season notations, flower, plant or landscape view notations. These key words will help you locate the photographs again when you are looking for all spring views or all red flowers in your garden. Each photograph can carry multiple key words, so you don’t have to choose only one definition for an image. Lightroom also helps you edit and make adjustments to the image, improving lighting or cropping to frame it better.

Duke Gardens is offering a 5-session course in Lightroom beginning Feb. 6. Students may bring their own laptops to class and work with instructor Al Gorham to learn all of Lightroom's capabilities. For more information or to register for this or other Duke Gardens classes, please call 919-668-1707.

The time to assess, re-imagine and contemplate additions and subtractions is one of the pleasures of gardening. The anticipation keeps us out there planting, weeding, and seeking that perfect garden.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens receives roughly half of its operating budget from Duke University. The rest comes from people like you, who value all that this public botanic garden has to offer. Duke Gardens is at 420 Anderson Street. Learn more at

Columnist Jan Little is director of education and public programs at Duke Gardens. This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.

No comments:

Post a Comment