Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gardening in January

The great epic blizzard that was predicted for Tuesday was not so bad here. It snowed a lot, and we are buried, but it wasn't the worst storm ever. The sun is out now, but it's cold (zero degrees when I woke up today -- that's NO degrees Fahrenheit).

On this frigid day and on all the snowbound days of winter so far I have been having a ball gardening. I garden in winter and I enjoy it.

It's all virtual, though.

Planning for the next season, poring over catalogs (Forestfarm's catalog is a slender shadow of the former plant bible; Peg and Ray donated the nursery to a non-profit), organizing my photos from last season, and updating the inventory of plants that I maintain --- it all keeps me busy and in some ways is more rewarding than summer gardening since there are fewer bugs, no humidity, and I can mentally move any plant to any location I want.

I have so many random photos of what my garden looked like over the years that it is impossible to enjoy them. It's utter overload.  But by methodically going through an inventory of plants all winter long, I get to really look at each photo of each plant and see what it was about that plant in that spot at that time of year that I enjoyed. Or how I want to fix it.

The inventory I maintain has grown from a collection of plant tags in 2007, to a handwritten list on paper in 2008, to an unworkable spreadsheet in 2009, to an online photo journal in 2010.

The photo journal has worked the best and I have updated it each year since 2010.

Seeing a picture from years gone by tells me about the growth and habit and health of a particular plant, and by looking at wider photos of the whole garden I can see what needs fixing or what I want to duplicate.

A long list of entries documenting what is no longer in my garden (killed, lost, removed) is humbling.

In this meticulously documented timeline, it distresses me to see the early photos of my garden.

Jim got me a Nikon SLR camera last year and the entire look and feel of my journaled garden improved. The pictures I had taken before with my Lumix point and click show how big the plant was and an idea of where I had used it, but the color and sharpness were way off.  Odd pictures, and out of focus. Everything looked so yellow for some reason. Really yellow.

My online plant journal is definitely not a work of art, so I shouldn't expect great shots in beautiful color, nicely composed. It's an inventory, a record, a before and after document, and it is priceless to me for that purpose. It's not great garden photography and never will be.

 But I like my garden so much more when I see it in sharper focus and in nicer color.

Anyway, it's fun on a cold snowy day. Crop that photo, highlight that part of the shot. What's that? Did I really plant those two things together? When did that amsonia overtake the blueberries? Did the buckeye and the cherries bloom at the same time? Why yes they did, and not happily together. How did my pruning efforts improve that shrubby viburnum? When did the dahlias bloom and should I plant more?

Gardening in January is rewarding.

Very rewarding.

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