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Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2002

Winter days are a good time to plot gardens in a journal

February 21, 2002

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Gardens are deceptively dormant in the winter. They are gray-brown and icy-crisp above, but they stir with small signs of life below.

So it is with gardeners.

Their tools may be oiled and shelved, their sun hats hung and their gloves lifeless, but in winter, gardeners are thinking about their gardens.

Winter is the ideal time for such planning. The chores of spring, summer and fall do not allow for rumination. So gardeners have learned  the hard way  to write down their winter inspirations in a gardener's journal.

"Winter is sort of a dream time," says Sharon Dick of Lutherville, Md.. "It is how I keep my garden alive in my mind."

Hers is a very small garden, so the drawings and notes that she keeps in her journal must be precise.

"Every inch of space has a record. I have to know where I am not to dig."

Right now, Dick has her garden charts in front of her, with her catalogs fanned out on one side, and snapshots of her garden in various states of bloom on the other.

She doesn't plan for the sake of the garden, as much as she plans for the sake of the creatures that are attracted to it.

"I am concentrating on spicy, floral plants that are blue because bees are attracted to them," says Dick.

Bookstore shelves are crowded with commercially produced garden journals to keep pace with this ancient occupation, in full flower once again.

These journals are often quite lovely, with colorful pictures and delicate drawings, bits of poetry or wisdom.

They can be practical, too. Some have calendar pages; grids for drawing in beds; formatted pages for listing botanical names, bloom times and other data.

Some have how-to articles, zone maps, plastic sleeves for photos or plant tags, lists of garden literature or seed sources, Web sites and local information. The best ones have room for several years of notes.

These might be too frilly or too confining for the down and dirty gardener. In that case, a simple three-ring binder works just fine.

Journaling may sound like a waste of daylight to a gardener, until volume and complexity overrun short-term memory.

That is what finally motivated Diana Jones of Baltimore to undertake the tedious task of graphing her yard to scale: "I skewered too many bulbs," she said.

"I started pacing off and recording the hardscape," she said. "The house, the fence, the gazebo."

Over that drawing, she layered several pages of tracing paper. On one page, she would record bulbs. On another, perennials. All in color. Anyone, she says, can look at her drawings and stand in her back yard and see where things will come up.

"It was very labor-intensive," said Jones, who has the advantage of a background in art and design.

"But in the end, I was able to chronicle the colors and the seasons of the garden."

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