By Paige Patterson
Perhaps you too have spent the last couple of days digging through your car sorting out all the different tools and gloves and garden stakes that are really not necessary at this time of year, and perhaps you too, like me, discovered 11 different little garden journals and sat down to read through them all. And you too encountered your own set of garden lists.
I love making lists. It’s one of those things I truly excel at. And I am brilliant at always having a notebook nearby, something I’m rather proud of. I do, however, seem to have too many notebooks –but isn’t that what winter is for – the reading and adding to of the notebooks?
Hopefully, you all got garden journals for Christmas. I have given up on my family, and now just buy my own each year; so don’t feel bad if you didn’t, but every gardener needs a couple little notebooks nearby just in case you have to jot something down the next time you are in a nursery or a garden or reading a gardening book. Or like I, you can also start keeping notes on your iPhone – I’m feeling quite clever about that. I have notebooks in my car and in my bags and in my coat pockets and in my husband’s glove compartment, because one never knows when you will see something, or realize something, or experience something and you will need to make a note.
It’s like garden photography, I wish I would bring my camera with me and take more photographs, I grab some on my iphone, but it’s never the same.
Anyway, when you record something, it stays with you, if not in memory, it least on the pages and, in the last day of the year when you’re sitting by the fire leafing through your notes or photographs, you will be inspired all over again.
It appears that although I don’t really remember anything any longer – I am almost always surprised by the insightful notes I’ve made over the year – I am pleased to see that I am consistent. I have written down the same notes in a number of my 11 notebooks. And yes, although I did remember wanting to invest in more nepeta for 2014, I have lots of other brilliant plant combinations and ideas I’d totally forgotten. Of course I need more ferns, why wasn’t I looking for those on sale in the fall? And I completely forgot that I wanted to put variegated Solomon Seal in the magnolia bed, and there was tons of it available in October at good prices. I also forgot I was going to grab a sale edgeworthia in the fall from Fort Pond Native Plants, as well as a couple more Orange Rocket barberry from anyone who had any since they’ve been declared an invasive species and will be illegal on Long Island come spring. Sigh.
Some of my notebooks are actually home to thoughts and random jottings over several years so I also can track the roller coaster of my enthusiasms. I can see when I was really jazzed about adding more native plants, and when I was so excited to have a deer fence that all I wanted to do was invest heavily in deciduous azaleas. I always love lady’s mantle, it’s in all my journals every year, but my tulip wish lists are getting longer and longer each season and one can see whenever I’ve been reading English books and blogs, because there are tallies of varieties that you can’t find on this side of the Atlantic.
I have a personal vendetta against Saran Raven as she does this to me all the time, blogging about and offering for sale varieties I just can’t get my hands on. Hideous lady.
I actually do think I want to revisit the deciduous azalea idea, especially in the back forty where I’ve snuck in a few more beds. Wouldn’t you know I just planted a mass of winterberry (ilex verticillata) back there? It’s an item that has lived in my notebooks for at least 10 years, especially whenever I start thinking native plants. And since the winterberries aren’t that interesting until the fall, they need a showy spring companion, how perfect. Oh course, I hope the compost we threw down in thick piles just last week will have suffocated the weeds by spring. We got all the beds cleaned before the snow came but not everything got compost. I know that I’ve preached about leaving the leaf litter in the beds for the fall, but this spring was such a nightmare when it came time to try and remove the soggy mass without hurting the tulips, that I’ve caved in and cleaned them all out again. This means huge leaf piles, good for next year’s compost, but I’m worried about the bulbs and hellebore flowers that were poking up before this pile of snow fell.
Which takes us back to the lists I’ve found in my notebooks. It seems that there are, still, according to my notes, quite a few hellebores I “have to have.” Their names are sandwiched between lists of snowdrops I want and phlox I lust after, and below a scribble that reads, “How does one salt dry herbs?” A large section in two different notebooks explores various combinations of golden foliaged plants inspired by the book, “Louis Benech: Twelve French Gardens,” which was definitely one of my favorites this year. There is also a boldly unlined statement, “2014 will be the year of the euphorbias” that rides high over a list of varieties that I have no recollection of writing nor wanting. Another note reminds me to put fertilizer in with the garlic when I plant it this year, a good thought that I did not remember at garlic planting time, but oh well. And finally, after a note that the talented English garden designer Arne Maynard uses hazel sticks to stake with and that we should stock them at Marders, comes another plea for Salix elaeagnos, the rosemary willow I’ve been searching for in a decent size, for ages. I’m just going to have to cave in and get a little mail order one – if I had done so when I first started lusting after the thing it would have grown up to be large already. Silly me.
Paige Patterson’s husband just found her locally raised Northern Bobwhite!