Remeber the history

phdnc(z6NW-No.Car.)February 3, 2004

Personal opinion, that the garden and history are synonymous. The very nature of a garden is working its own history, human touch aside. Adding the human element, Gardeners hobby /professional have been passing along information,plants, seed and growing techniques as long as there have been gardens grown. The world over. In fact this is what this web site is all about. History is the recording of events pure and simple. The seeds we hybridize record their events in genetic code. We record their "marriages" on disc or an old spiral notebook. The bugs we killed, the weeds we pulled and what we used. Not grand world changing histories but small personal ones. Gardening is the human fascination of growing.

I am willing to bet that every one of us could mention one or two gardening mentors that inspired and taught us. Handing their thoughts and theories and knowledge down to us while working along side, pruning, trimming, planting, what have you. Folks that we will never forget and indeed pop into our mind when we're pulling that last weed or we see a certain flower blooming. We can read the books and study the designs on the internet and in the hall but true garden history comes from these quiet teachers of our memories.

Gardening and History, we can not have one without the other.

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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

A lot of people keep garden journals. That's something I have never done, and I wonder why I haven't. Garden journals are personal history, but there must be an underlying commonality in the writings of all those gardeners, over time, who have kept daily records of what grew, what didn't, what looked good next to what, new plants added, and all. There is much to learn from comparing notes.

I've noticed that on the Farm Life forum, regular posters put up a monthly journal thread, to which they and others post what is happening on their farms and in their lives from week to week. Every month, like clockwork, a new journal thread appears with the date carefully included in the subject heading.

That might be a good path for we people who frequent the Landscape Design, Professional Gardener and Garden Restoration forums.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 11:29AM
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spectre(SZ 24, US 10b)


Cool topic and I'll probably write more later, but I need to get going to the Bay Area. I will come back tonight, but I have a quick question so I can check it tonight. . . who would your mentors be, Perry and Cady? I've always answered this question in terms of greats that I emulate, but not in terms of who's out there with me (in spirit) while I tend to my garden.

To that, I'd say Roberto Burle Marx and Made Wijaya and two local luminaries in SoCal, W.D, Sinjen and Kate Sessions. Three designers and one horticulturalist. And one more . . . my Dad. I hope five is not too many.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 11:46AM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

I find keeping a garden journal very valuable. It not only records the history of my garden ("when exactly did I plant that camellia or magnolia") but also helps me keep track of the weather ("did we have a warm or cold spring after that record snowfall back in 1996").

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 11:48AM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)


My mentors... I would have to say that they were more role models, as I didn't have any hands-on mentors guiding me. My professors at the University of Rhode Island - College of Resource Development: my crops & soil science profs, horticulture and plant science profs, my botany prof, landscape design and urban planning profs, my environmental law prof... You get the idea. Collectively, they informed and inspired me, even though they would likely be puzzled by my assignation of them as role models. They were just down-to-earth people who loved their earthy sciences.

Another inspiration was Mrs. Auerbach, who lived next door in a house she and her husband used only for the summer. She always had flowerbeds full of cleome, alyssum and other annuals, and when she left for her urban home at the end of every summer, she gave me permission to pick the flowers. I always dug up some and planted them in my yard, where they bloomed for another two months.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 12:18PM
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Spectre, several come to mind. There was an owner of a small garden center/nursery who hired me as his general manager after I had left the wholesale nursery world. "Mr.R" I'll call him, as I don't know if he wants his name spread throughout the WWW. Mr.R taught me the finer points of grafting, plant propagation and the pure pleasure of watching all those seedlings pop up that you planted. Took in all the ideas of this "young know it all" and tempered them and let me try them out on his nursery and buying public. Sticking cutting after cutting boring & healing work that gave me time to reflect and chill out in a tumultous time in my life. To this day I enjoy the mundane parts of gardening and use as a sort of meditation.
My Grandma & Grandpa had over one hundred rose bushes growing in their yard in the foot hills of Albuquerque. I was "his hired hand" helping him prune and water. I guess Grandpa was practicing unconditional love, because he used to let me climb his Japanese Maple tree without a word being said. lol

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 1:17PM
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The Garden Journal has its roots firmly rooted in history.

Garden journals of Gertrude Jekyll were remade into a set of books and the archival journals of such collectors as the Swedish botanist Linnaeus are as interesting to read as any non fiction.

As a young horticultural student it was expected that we kept journals when working in the greenhouses and later on as a horticultural internist it was part of the curriculum during each 2 week review period that the head gardener would review our journals.

This methodology of historical bookkeeping followed me out into the trade.
For 6 years I maintained the gardens at a pubicly viewed garden up on the Mendocino coast and for every day during those 6 years I kept a horticultural journal.
These journals still hang in the gardeners maintenace barn along with 18 years worth of other horticultural journals from gardens who came after me.
When ever I have the chance to make the trek up the coast to visit this garden the barn and the journals are one of the first places I like go to catch up on the ongoing history of the lands develpment.

Subsequently after those years up on the Mendocino coast I have gone on to either design or be retained as the horticultural consultant on several large estates and wineries in the Napa, Sonoma, Marin and Monterey county areas. For each new large garden project the Garden Journal system has been set up for the head gardener to take over.

Not only does a garden journal track the amount of time that one spends doing a particular task but it is a vehicle to learn from.
Suppliers and ordering dates are documented, spraying dates and pruning times are registered, the trials and tribulation of overcoming certain lawn fungus are noted as well as many other work tasks and chores that a gardener faces on a daily basis.

I have a garden journal set up for my own home garden. It is not as rigorously attended to as I would for any of the paid positions I have set up but it documents my efforts in the garden as well as the plants that have been planted , transplanted and removed.

When it comes time for me to either sell this house or lease it out I will leave the garden journal for the next gardener to learn from.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 2:21PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Thanks for that, Mich. It's valuable information. The more I read about garden journals, the more they remind me of a ship's log. The captain keeps the log, and leaves it for his successor.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 2:32PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

Does this mean that I could read your journal the next time I visit the Mendocino Coast Botanic Garden? That would be cool!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 3:53PM
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Sorry to disappoint you John, but it wasn't the Mendo Bot gardens but the gardens of St. Orres Inn whose property now encompasses over 40 acres with wonderful spring time shows of thousands of wild flowers and flowering bulbs under the old craggy sculptural apple trees in the upper meadow.
There are also the beach side and cliff side plantings of California native seaside plants, a lovely shade garden that stretches along the leg of the seasonal creek that runs down thru the mountainous redwood forest and ends at the Pacific oceans mouth , culinary gardens, display gardens and smaller private garden rooms designed for each of the individual cottages.
Also the interior hanging gardens in the main dining room are quite nice as well as the cocktail lounge in the solarium.

It certainly is not anywhere the caliber of the Mendocino Botanical gardens but it is a nice piece of property to explore and was a wonderful outdoor classroom for me to learn and work in.

I very much appreciated the opportunity that was given to me to work on that garden , it is one of the loves of my life.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 4:53PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

Those are great gardens, too! Splendid job!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 5:05PM
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spectre(SZ 24, US 10b)

Mich and John:

Very basic question, but how do you keep a journal? I'm not one for diaries, but your descriptions of keeping track of a garden intrigues me. I'm used to taking many pictures and keeping mental notes of feeding, etc., but I've never gone to the lengths that you have.

In your journals, what do you write down? In other words, what's important for documentation and in what format? Is it a narrative or a table with temps or all of the above? Any info is appreciated in advance.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2004 at 10:47PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

Mine is very basic.

I set up a different "chapter" for each month. For each date, I have a basic template, like this:

Thursday, 5 February 2004
Weather Data:

Low: °F

ºF ºF

Then I type daily info into each slot. [I do not use brackets in the journal.]

Thursday, 5 February 2004
Weather Data:
[Here goes information like, "Overcast. Rain. Sunny. Snow. . . . "]
Low: [XX]°F [I have several recording digital and liquid thermometers.]
[Here goes basic info: what I did in the garden. How the plants are doing. What's in bloom. Who ate whom (today a sharp-shinned hawk got a house sparrow) and whatever else strikes me as interesting on that day. Sometime I only put down a short sentence; sometimes an epistle.]
[XX]ºF at 6:00. [XX]ºF at 15:30. [Used to record sudden changes and patterns of temperature change.]

That's all. It works beautifully, especially since the computer's search function will help me to quickly ump from entry to entry. (Like on what days did we have frost. Or when did I plant a certain camellia.)

At the end of each month, I add that "chapter" to the master file for the year (but keep the months separate as well.)

My journal is spotty from 1993, when we bought this house, to the end of 1996; it is pretty complete from 1 January 1997 until today.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2004 at 11:49PM
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Just happened to find this. It might be of value. We've gained a lot by studying history. EP

Here is a link that might be useful: History of NW gardens

    Bookmark   February 5, 2004 at 2:12PM
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spectre(SZ 24, US 10b)


Thanks very much for taking the time to write that info down; I'm very much appreciative. Just one more question and I'll leave you alone.

You mentioned computer (as opposed to writing down). Do you use MS Word, Excel or another database app? Thank you again!


    Bookmark   February 5, 2004 at 2:14PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

While I use a basic word processing program for most of my writing, I use MS Word for my Journal, because it allows me to enhance my text with digital photos. (Which I should have mentioned as another way of documenting the progress of my garden.)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2004 at 2:41PM
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