By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
My career and pastime has always been gardening.
I never really wrote anything down when I was a young gardener my successes and failures drifted off with memory.
But when I had children I realized how important a garden journal really was in my busy life.
My journal has become a family history along with a record of my garden successes and failures. Family stories are wrapped up in the pages of garden diagrams, preserved seeds, photos, plant histories, and my own gardener’s bucket list plus much more. My garden journal has become a testament to how my plants and I have grown together along with how growing a garden is much like raising children.
One of my favorite stories in my journal is how red and green balls became a teaching moment for my daughter and I that I revisit each spring. When my daughter was 4 years old she decided that she would help mommy in the garden. She went and got her pink Easter basket and stepped over the little white fence I had around the garden. She then proceeded to pick every ball she would find in the garden. She was so proud of the work she had done as red juice dripped from her chin. That summer our cherry tomato crop was less then usual but the lasting memory of my little tomato farmer was worth it.
The women in my family are all plant collectors. My Great-Grandmother collected plants from her trip across the prairie as a child and from friendly neighbors who were looking for good homes for their beloved plants. She could tell you the history of every plant in her garden. This plant over here came from the prairie, that rose came from a cutting she got on a trip to Louisville, and those voila came from her mother’s home. We all listened intensely to these stories because we knew that we would have to carry these stories on.
My Great-Grandmother who only had a 6th grade education and never wrote anything down so everything was in her mind and passed to us all in her oral history. On my 16th birthday I received my Great-Grandmother’s punchbowl she received when she turned 16 and the choice of any plant in my Great-Grandmother’s garden. I chose a vibrant fuchsia flower with silver stems and leaves.
My Great-Grandmother did not know the name but she knew the history of that plant in her garden. I took both treasures home with me and planted my vibrant fuchsia flowers in my garden. When I got married I took my flower with me and planted it in the garden of my new life. Years later I discovered the name of my plant (mullein rose) but never got to tell my Great-Grandmother she had a stroke taking all her remaining plant histories with her that nobody asked about.
I have several bucket lists. These include a book bucket list, life bucket list, and a gardener’s bucket list. Each January I view my assortment of bucket lists and decide what I want to work on this year. My book bucket list is the easiest one to evaluate. I simply pick the books that interest me at the time, go to the library or order my choices. My life bucket list is the next easiest to evaluate. I simply look at economics at the time and decide what I can afford to do while dreaming about the day when I can do the most challenging things on my life bucket list.
But the most challenging bucket list is my gardener’s bucket list.
This list is full of plants, gardens, gardening techniques, gardening books, and famous gardens I would like to visit. Time, space, and money are my limiting factors to this list but creativity and determination have helped me mark off some of my most challenging projects. My gardening journal has been a testament to what I have been able to do from my gardener’s bucket list. While some only value their family albums or photos on the wall I have a yearly record of our lives as a family, as individuals, and of our land.
We may leave our little piece of earth but our family history will always remain in my gardener’s journal. Today is the day that one should start their own gardener’s journal and their own gardener’s bucket list. Start small and see how quickly your plans, thoughts and memories of your 2010 garden grow and bloom. Memories that will not be lost in time will be valued and treasured as my Great-Grandmother’s plant knowledge was valued and lost due to a stroke.
Allow your gardener’s journals to stand in honor with your photo albums and pictures because as some of my stories have proven they can create a more vivid picture of your time, your family, and your land.