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Keeping A Garden Scrapbook
by Carole McCollum
by Carole McCollum

What I've learned over the past five or six years since I put my first pond in is that a pond is a wonderful addition to your landscaping - bringing in birds, butterflies and beneficial insects (and some not so beneficial - another reason to have fish), but you have to make the commitment to it, just as you do with a garden.

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July 15, 2012

Four years ago, I bought a garden-variety scrapbook (please excuse the pun), and started drawing a plan of my garden areas, the plants within, and noting successes and failures. Along with that, I pasted in photos of my gardens, in various stages throughout the year. I just didn't find regular photo albums conducive to writing the info that I needed. I used clear acid-free clear corners (found at craft stores) to hold the photos, and the pages were large enough that I could write in some detail about the photo- the plants in it, the layout or the changes that were made. It is such a pleasure now to look back at the older photos, and see the change in my garden and pond. It is also a treasury of remembering which plants did or did not survive. I keep the plant markers from the pots when I purchase them (or the care stickers for shrubs), and tape them on a couple of pages at the beginning or end of a year. There is always enough room to write some info about them - like how aphids seemed to love a few of them to death. I never use any chemicals in my garden, and have gradually been able to wean out the plants that are susceptible to various bugs (except that I love hosta, and so inevitably do the slugs - and the dog loves the beer I would set out for the slugs). Each year I make notes at the end of the season when I am pasting in the photos as to what I would like to change for next year. A garden diary is great, but pictures really are worth a thousand words!

To start a scrapbook

  • buy the type of scrapbook that has newsprint type pages at least 9x12 - this will allow you to put two or three 4x6 photos on each page - two landscape, and one portrait
  • start your first year out with a pencil sketch of your garden - it doesn't have to be perfect, just an outline, and then mark in the approximate location of various plants, in particular your perennials.
  • save the plant markers from plants that you purchase during the year, and tape them in with some information on each plant - where it was planted, sun exposure, type of soil etc. This will help you if the plant struggles. If I've started the plant from seed, I tend to tape the seed package in the scrapbook as well, although I seldom do this with annuals. There are so many new varieties of annuals to grow from seed, I'll never get back to ones that did well. I have to keep trying new ones all the time.
  • take pictures during the year - from early spring to late fall - I find keeping an 8x12 envelope around marked garden photos helps keep me organized, because I spend more time in the garden in the summer than doing what I consider cold weather paperwork. It's easy to sit down this time of year and remember what was where, and how it grew, especially if you have photos to back it up. If you camera doesn't have a date imprinter, write the date on the back of the photos with a felt tip pen as soon as you get them.
  • at the end of the year, save a page for notes on which plants did well, and make yourself a list of plants you would like to obtain for next year, and where you plan on putting them. Do a quick drawing of any changes you made in the garden through the growing season.

I'm just finishing the last page of my first scrapbook, and it now contains four years of gardening history. I'm planning on going out and buying a new scrapbook soon to get ready for next year.

Carole McCollum is an avid "ponder" living in Northern Ontario and maintains a personal website for those who seek information on establishing and maintaining ponds.

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