Getting My Head Round It!

It’s purely a personal thing, in my mind only I expect; something I, at times, imagine is due to my inbuild forgetfulness and which I fear, at other times, is due to advancing years and failing faculties. It’s a memory thing – or a lack of memory, to be more accurate. It doesn’t upset me terribly, though it does upset me a little this lack of grasp I have on sequences in the garden, this lack of comprehension on seeing the garden and its plants perform yet again this year as they have done for the past 35 years that we are here. I really have a poor recall of what flowers in what sequence in the garden and of many, many other things. Perhaps, it is a good thing, to be one who is surprised each year by the reappearance of a plant at the particular time with its own group of companion plants it has appeared for years and years.

The Head Gardener, on the other hand, has a perfect overview of the garden, of all the plants in it, of the sequence and dates on which they appear, and flower, and die away and what plants are there with them, how they did last year…and the year before and the ones before that, where they were bought or who gave them to us etc. With me, each year seems to come along as a blank canvas – not entirely, I should clarify, for some plants stick in the mind more than others – but it is certainly a canvas with a great many gaps in it. It has been like this for years – indeed, The Head Gardener has commented that she must be the only woman in Ireland whose husband wakes in the morning, turns to his wife and asks, “What’s you name again?”

Two favourite views in the garden.

At times I don’t know how she lives with it for it is certainly an annoyance to her or at least a bewilderment when she is feeling very kindly towards me (which is almost all the time, to be honest!). On my part, it is genuinely a bother but I try not to allow it to upset me too much. Crunch moments come when I wish to label a photograph of a plant for the name just won’t come to me but Mary comes to my assistance and I reciprocate by helping her with the spelling of plant names! I also keep notebooks, two notebooks, of my gardening activity. A few years ago, Gerry Daly asked me to contribute occasionally to The Irish Garden magazine and suggested I keep a garden journal. There was a very practical reason for one is asked to write as much as two months in advance of the publication date and the journal allows me to look back on last year, or the year previous, to see what was going on in the garden at that season. My photographs are a better help, to be honest, as I take photographs of the garden and its plants almost every day – I have 15 albums of photographs from the 23 days of April to date, for example. So, everyday when I return to the garage to remove my wellington boots at the end of the gardening day I make a little note of what I had done that day, short brief comments on what work had been in hand and I even occasionally mention what the Head Gardener had been up to – we regularly work apart in the garden (“Couples who garden together should have separate beds” is the old quip for this situation). The other notebook is for snowdrops – a collection of notes of new ones received, who/where from, where planted etc or of old clumps divided and moved with a note of location; also notes of bulbs sent to friends or reminders to do so. This latter notebook is an absolute jumble of entries and I really should put it all into the laptop where I could more easily search for entries on particular snowdrops/persons etc and I may well do that some day or, then again, I may not!

The last action of each gardening day to enter a short note in my gardening notebook. The Snowdrop Notebook is on the left – one of several.

So, that is where I am at this moment, tipping along in the garden – “working well under direction” as the Head Gardener describes it! – and I’ve looked at my garden journal entries for the past fortnight to bring an update to how the garden and its plants are at the moment.

The big work of the past week has been the painting of newly erected wooden panels which screen off the compost bins area. They have each had four coats of “Fencelife Forest Green”

The foliage of Skunk Cabbage plants, an American native, Lysichiton americanus, has grown at an enormous rate in the past week so that it is now filling the dykes and gives a lush feeling to this areas of the garden. There is also a small bed of Summer Snowflakes, Leucojum aestivuum, an Irish native plant which grows on riverbanks in the southeast of the country. These have increased well in number since I lifted them from the riverbank near us whent they were going to be destroyed by roadworks.

The gardening journal is a good aide-memoire and I do look back on it occasionally but am more inclined to flick through my photographs. Here is a selection of images from the past week:

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12 thoughts on “Getting My Head Round It!

  1. What a wonderful gallery of plants. It is amazing to have hellebores and chasmanthe and paris all together – what an achievement. I would not worry about forgetting the odd thing and having a notebook to rely on is a good idea – and one I dabble with from time to time. Now and then I stick to maintaining a sowing book but, regretfully, not often enough. But digital photos are a boon and work well as a reminder.

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  2. I have 25 volumes of garden journaling but I now usually look at my blog to figure out when things bloom and what was in flower with them. Some days I remember the Latin plant names and some days I can’t remember the common name. I’m not worried yet, just annoyed at the time it takes to find a name when I want it quickly. I so enjoy your garden and the fact that you do label your photos.

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    1. Re labelling photographs: I have failed to find a way to label photographs and put them into a slideshow. That is why I use the “Gallery” so often as it allows me to add a caption which will then display when the viewer clicks on the image. Any ideas?

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  3. I’ve been away from WordPress for a while but caught this post and was saddened to hear of your memory problems. I use notebooks for the same reason; it’s very difficult to keep track of plants over many years. If you can’t remember the name of a specific plant, how about giving it a new one? For example, the Skunk Cabbage could be called “Pepe le Pew” which is not only more appropriate in my opinion but funny, too! Garden On, Paddy!

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      1. I hear you, Paddy! Having a hard enough time myself remembering all the names of things planted over 28 years, and my garden isn’t anywhere near as large as yours appears.

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  4. Oh dear! I laughed out loud for a good part of this post because although I might be a few years younger than you, I can *totally* relate to the memory issue! But I love how every year I’m amazed at how beautiful everything is! 🙂 Thank God for your Head Gardener and my husband, who both seem to have better memories than we do! Your garden has so many (beautiful) plants, it is no wonder you wouldn’t remember *everything*!

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