Garden Memory-Keeping

Hi Friends!

My favorite days are those with quiet moments of reflection. Beginning my days by writing Morning Pages encourages me to nourish my creative soul. Ending my evenings with quiet time to write in my Gratitude Journal comforts even the busiest of days. As a new gardening season dawns upon us here in the Midwest, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the different ways I have preserved my garden memories over the years…

Thirty years ago this Spring, I bought my cozy, little bungalow with its large, mature garden. Oh, my! There was so much to learn (and remember) ~ both inside and outside!!  My dear, sweet parents would come visit every weekend to help with house restoration projects. My mom offered her sage wisdom as she taught me all about gardening. (Heartfelt thanks, Mom, for sharing your passion for gardening with me!) I definitely needed a place to hold all of this new learning!

That Spring, so long ago, my garden memory-keeping began…

My earliest garden journal was a simple, spiral sketchbook, filled with pencil-drawn maps of each flower bed. As I learned the names of my plants, I would happily add them to the little maps.  Plant tags and empty seed packets were taped into my journal as my garden grew. I took careful notes of how many flats of each annual I bought to add instant color on planting day, every year in mid-May.

Over the years, my gardening style evolved into cottage gardens filled with old-fashioned perennials… and my garden journal grew even more important. Each year, I happily dug, divided, and moved my perennials around and created new flower beds. Every Spring, I was so grateful that I had those little garden maps to help me identify the foliage as the perennials peeked through the soil!

Years later my garden grew again, as my dad and I worked together to build raised beds and a white picket fence to create my Herb & Tea Garden. My garden journal was filled with dreams, measurements, lists of culinary herbs and herbs for tea. (Huge thanks, Dad, for making my garden dream come true!)

Every year, I took photos to document the changes as my garden grew. With the advent of digital photography, my garden memory-keeping took a different turn. Instead of pencil and paper, I began recording the changes in my garden with weekly photographs of each perennial and herb bed. At the end of the growing season, I looked forward to creating a digital slide show of the year in the garden. I adored those slide shows, burned them to CDs, and shared them with family and friends. What could be sweeter on a cold, Winter’s day than to take a year-long ‘walk’ through the garden, while enjoying a cup of tea! It was also a great resource as I planned for the next gardening season.

For the past three gardening seasons, my blog has been a handy place for garden memory-keeping. It’s fun to look back to see when my perennials bloomed and to plan for changes in the garden. It has also been a great way to share plants with nearby friends. After seeing blossoms in blog photos, several friends have come to dig flowers to start gardens of their own. Sharing plants is truly one of my favorite joys of gardening!

Last summer, inspired by the wonderful book The Right-Size Flower Garden, I began making some very big changes in my garden. I decided to eliminate my large Cutting Garden bed, and transplanted several old-fashioned favorites to the borders of my Herb & Tea Garden. Next, I eliminated a very wild Butterfly Garden bed and created a History Garden bed filled with perennials that have been a part of my garden since long before I moved here. After all of these changes, I sketched and watercolored two new garden maps. Thank goodness for the garden maps! Now it is such a delight to watch the foliage of those perennials emerge in their new beds this Spring!

There will be many more big changes here during the 2017 gardening season as I continue to ‘right-size’ my perennial beds in the front yard. It feels like this could be the year that my garden will undergo the biggest changes of all.  In addition to garden maps, photos, and gardening blog posts, my heart has been wanting an extra-special way to preserve this year’s garden memories.

So, I have just begun keeping a journal of “Garden Joys.”

I think it will become a wonderful place for quiet reflection

and feelings about all of the changes ahead in my garden this year.

I’m excited to use a few art supplies from my little Paper Garden studio downstairs

as I document this year’s garden!

There will be a bit of doodling, along with bullet-style journal entries.

 So far, I’m really enjoying this style of memory-keeping!

It’s inspiring to try something so different from my earlier garden journals.

It’s a fun way to nourish my creative soul and grow…  just like my garden!


Do you keep a garden journal or preserve your garden memories in some way?

Hope you will share with all of us!


If you are curious about some different ways

that people document their gardens,

be sure to visit my blogging friend at Jean’s Garden.

Jean has done some interesting research on different varieties of

Garden Record-Keeping and has some very helpful tips to share!


Thanks so much for stopping to visit!

Wishing you gentle showers followed by warm, sunny days…

It’s your time to bloom!

♡ Dawn









45 thoughts on “Garden Memory-Keeping

    • It’s my happy dance season! 🙂 I love seeing the daily changes in the garden. Can’t believe there is snow in our forecast for Thursday! The Daffodils will be wearing snow hats. Thanks so much for visiting today, Jodi! ♡

  1. I have to say I ‘pin’ plants to particular boards to either remember the names or to help with a shopping list. It doesn’t even count when I gaze at your beautiful journals – wow. It is amazing that you take your creative skills and carry them over to these beautiful journals and maps. Very impressive. 🙂 I can only imagine the beautiful quilts you’d make if that was an interest.

    • ‘Pinning’ plants to your boards is a great way to do garden memory-keeping, Judy! I have a wish board on Pinterest, too. I have been pouring over the latest catalog from White Flower Farm lately. Very dangerous…while trying to ‘right-size’ my garden. 🙂 It has triggered so many lovely memories of “I used to grow that long ago!” I think it would be fun to highlight the names of every plant I have ever grown over the years! 🙂

      Your words are too kind, dear Judy! I’m really enjoying my new journal of ‘Garden Joys.’ It’s a very different style for me ~ no fancy lettering, just phrases. I’m trying to write quickly with no capital letters. (That’s so hard for me! 🙂 Once a teacher ~ always a teacher!) It’s a mix of garden facts and feelings. I’m very motivated by playing with my art supplies.

      I just adore seeing your beautiful quilts, Judy! I have always been an admirer and collector of other people’s quilts. I love going to quilt shows and walking through quilt shops, too! Quilting is a most precious art form ~ long-lasting and filled with personal memories. I love the way that quilts become a part of a family history! Alas, I know better than to begin a quilting project. I would never be able to finish it! (Instead, I’m planning to try Punch Needle Embroidery and stitching tiny Penny Rugs. 🙂 ) It’s fun to nourish my quilt-loving heart by creating tiny paper quilts on cards for special friends though! ♡

  2. Well your gardening journals are a work of art! But why am I surprised! I hope you never see mine!
    April always brings such hope to get outside and get to work and then another snow! Yuk! Unfortunately, it has been hot way too soon here. But on the happy side, we had an inch of rain! Just had a wonderful week with my son, DIL, and Grandkids. They came here for Spring Break! My son helped me design my new herb bed, it’s been sitting vacant, waiting for him to come for 3 years! I am very excited. He is very talented when it comes to landscape design! Who knew?!❤️ As a child I couldn’t get him to mow the yard! LOL!
    Looking forward to more pictures of your gardens. Take care.

    • Such a sweet thing to say, Chris! Thank you! It’s fun to start a new kind of garden journal. It just feels like I will want to remember this year of big changes in my garden. Perhaps holding on to the memories will make it easier to ‘right-size’ my garden. All of those perennials that are leaving will still have special place in my journal (and in my heart)!

      Your Spring Break must have been so wonderful, Chris! It’s so great to have a landscape designer in the family. I’m so happy that you finally have your Herb Garden!! 🙂 It will always be extra-special since it was designed with love! ♥ Mediterranean herbs should really thrive during your dry, Texas summers. Keep me posted as you plant and watch your herbs flourish! Hope you will email some photos. My Herb Garden will always be the ‘heart’ of my garden… and I think yours will be, too! It’s so wonderful when garden dreams come true! Sending XL hugs, Chris! ♡

  3. Loved all the photos and comments, as usual. Just came back from a two hour drive to see our wild flowers (poppies, goldfields, lupine) in the hills of Antelope Valley. It was as though the hills had been painted with huge water color brushes of orange, yellow, and purple. Our rains this year gave an extra boost to the experience.

    • So glad that you stopped to visit, Anne! I was just looking at pictures online last night of the ‘Super Bloom’ across the California hills this year. 🙂 Your wildflowers are just amazing!! The hillsides look like a Monet painting. Are you inspired to take out your watercolors? Hope you will continue to have the blessings of gentle rains for the crops, trees, and gardens. (We are having a very rainy day today, with snow predicted tomorrow. My early Spring blossoms will be shivering!) You are one of my favorite ‘wildflowers!’ 🙂 Sending big, squishy hugs, dear Anne! ♡

  4. Dawn, isn’t it the most exciting time of year? I love seeing your beautiful progression of gardening. Walking through your garden in photos is a real treat for me. I find it to be so fun to look back at all of my gardening journals that record happy ( and not so happy times ) in the garden! My journals are really not so lovely as your’s are filled with beautiful art, my friend. But they do record valuable information to greet each task. Some weeks I’m lucky to write in the gardening journal at all! I like the idea of a bullet journal and I guess it’s more my style. You are inspiring me to get busy with mine real soon. Have a wonderful afternoon, dear friend. ♥

    • Oh, it’s absolutely the best, Martha Ellen! Daily changes in the garden make it so exciting. Yesterday, while raking, I discovered Pulmonaria in full bloom. I just love its delicate pink and blue blossoms! I’m sure that your garden journals are true treasures, my friend. Most of my past journals were just sketched in pencil while standing in the garden. One year, I tried recording the information on a large calendar, but there just wasn’t enough room for me. So, I’m trying something different in my ‘Garden Joys’ journal this year. The back of each lined page is a grid, so it will still be practical for sketching little garden maps. I love the idea of adding a bit of color to the pages, too. Today’s April showers are keeping me inside working in my little Paper Garden studio. Sending sunny, Springtime thoughts… from my heart to yours! ♡

  5. Thanks for the shout-out, Dawn. I love the look of your book of garden memories; it really will be a second joy to go back and relive a joyful gardening season.

    • My pleasure, Jean! Your research about Garden Record-Keeping was very interesting. Your tips are most helpful for anyone who is beginning to document this season in the garden. A second joy to relive summer days in the garden sounds lovely! Heartfelt thanks for your encouraging words. Sending sunny thoughts, Jean! ♡

  6. Dawn, I love to watch your garden grow, your blog grow, and your painting/drawing skills grow! You go, girl!

    • You are such a sweetheart, Kim! ♥ Huge hugs! I’ve been crazy busy in the garden in between all of the April showers. Missing you!! Are you ready for another l-o-n-g walk? Let’s get together!! ♡

  7. Dawn your garden blog is so inspiring! I just love the white fenced garden! That has always been a dream of mine with raised veggie beds & a nice path between everything. Two weekends ago I stopped at a estate sale at a old beautiful bungalow in Geneva with what must have been fabulous gardens in the summer, that made me think of you. I was fortunate enough or shall I say very lucky to spy in her books for sale 3 garden books….with a few handwritten notes & comments. Still looking forward to meeting up this spring or summer. ☺️

    • So happy that you stopped to visit, Cynde! My white, picket fence garden is truly the ‘heart of my garden.’ It was inspired by Susan Branch years ago, when her Summer book was published! It is my beloved Herb & Tea garden. Last summer, I transplanted my favorite, old-fashioned perennials all along the inside borders of the fence. So, I can’t wait to watch this special garden wake up this Spring! It should be a-buzz with busy bees, heavenly herbs, and fragrant flowers! 🙂 Right now, it is still covered with leaves for a bit longer.

      I’ll bet you had a great time at the Estate sale! I love the chance to walk through the beautiful, old home while looking at the treasures for sale. I know you will enjoy those garden books, as you make your garden dreams come true! We will definitely make our get-together happen, Cynde. I’m really looking forward to it! Let’s plan on a sweet Summer day! This Spring, I am spending my days digging in the garden. I’m working on big changes as I ‘right-size’ my flower beds in the front yard. It looks like the weather will be nice for working outdoors this week. 🙂 So, I’m feeling very grateful! Wishing you many happy hours in your garden, too, Cynde! ♡

  8. Hi Dawn! I love the idea of a garden journal… what a beautiful way to preserve your memories and thoughts. I’ve kept a journal for as long as I can remember, but never dedicated space specifically to my garden. Maybe this year I’ll try to do that as my garden starts to bloom. 🙂 I hope all is well with you and that the spring weather is making its way into your garden. ❤

    • Oh, Chris! I hope you will begin to keep your garden memories in a journal. It is such a delight to enjoy the garden again on a cold Winter’s day, with a cup of tea! 🙂 Spring has sprung in the Midwest and the garden continues to grow and change daily. Today our Magnolia tree, near the front porch, is just beginning to show its beautiful color and the tiny Grape Hyacinths are dancing in the breeze. This morning, I dug up a few to fill a small pot on the kitchen windowsill. What fun to bring the joys of Springtime inside, too! 🙂 I must remember to save these small joys in my Garden Journal today. Sending sunny hugs all the way to your garden! ♡

    • Heartfelt thanks, Karen! It’s fun to have a new style of journaling this year. It looks different and feels different, too. Instead of just the facts and details, this year I’m writing about my feelings as I make big changes in the garden. I’m already looking forward to rereading ‘Garden Joys’ at the end of the growing season, when all of the hard work is done! Thanks so much for stopping to visit today, Karen! I’ll bet your Florida garden has ♡ grown since you planted it! Have a great week! ♡

  9. Here it is, a week later, and I am finally sitting down to read this uplifting post. This was informative, insightful and inspiring and has me thinking of how I might better document my garden. I used to journal regularly and “talk” about the gardens, especially in our first house. For many years, now, I preserve my garden through my blog and through the many photos I’ve archived by year. I often go back to see what was growing last year, two years ago, ten! Thank you, Dawn. This was just what I needed on such a tumultuous weather day.

    • Blogging is such a great way of garden memory-keeping, Penny! I have also found myself looking back in my blog to see what was in bloom at the same time in past three years. Digital images make preserving our garden memories so much easier than in our early days as gardeners. I’ve always been one to sketch out little maps of my garden beds. I’m really grateful that I did last summer when I made so many changes to the backyard gardens. It is a joy (and a relief!) to see green foliage popping up from my transplanted perennials. I was a bit concerned since we had so little snow to protect the new transplants over the winter. “Tumultuous” is the perfect word to describe our weather today! Hope the wild weather is behind us now. Hoping for sunny, mild days in the garden this week! Sending sunny thoughts today, dear Penny! ♡

  10. You have such wonderful ideas and I always feel so inspired when I stop by. I tried to keep track of what I put in last summer but a journal sounds like just the answer. I drew a diagram but things were happening too fast last year. Hopefully this one will be a bit calmer. Love, love, love the white picket fence. It’s in my master plan for someday. 🙂 I did notice this week that the dogwood I planted last summer survived all the snow and freezing temps we had this year. I thought I had lost it but it’s still alive. I’ve pulled some weeds but many more to go, if it would just stop raining. 😦 Maybe Easter weekend.

    • Many thanks, Marlene! ♥ Your kind words truly touch my heart! Little garden notes in a journal make it so easy to look back at bloom times, pruning tips, and any other special care instructions. It’s always nice to look back and remember the past garden season on a cold Winter’s day. 🙂 Sketching little maps of plant locations within a garden bed helps me remember what I planted where. (I tend to move plants around quite often!) I saw another good idea today ~ A gardener hole-punched all of the little plastic plant markers that come with new plants and she keeps them on a metal ring for quick reference. It’s so practical!

      What a great master plan, Marlene! Even one segment of a white picket fence is such a pretty background for plants. Garden dreams do come true! I’m so happy to hear that your Dogwood survived its first winter. You really had harsh conditions. You will enjoy its beauty all year long! Sending sunny thoughts, Marlene! ♡

      • Thank you for another wonderful idea, Dawn! I like the idea of a hole punch through those information markers. Have mine in a plastic bag that gets lost in the shuffle. I have to ask for permission to put up the fence and then get someone to build it for me. But it will come. 🙂 Have a lovely week and a great Easter. Hugs.

      • The garden always teaches us patience, Marlene! Things take time. I know your white picket fence will happen one day. Wishing you a wonderful Easter, too! ♡

    • So true, Mrs. Craft! Blogging is a great way to document our days in the garden. I have often looked back at my blog posts over the past three years to see what what blooming each week throughout the summer. This growing season, I’m excited to try this new style of garden memory-keeping! 🙂 It’s fun to use some of my art supplies in my garden journal.

      Hope your new Rosemary plant will flourish. It’s my very favorite herb. Here in the Midwest, I have to dig it up each Fall to overwinter it inside. So, I enjoy growing Rosemary in the dining room all winter long! Thank you so much for stopping to visit today. Wishing you happy days in the garden! ♡

  11. One of my favorite places to visit for a respite from the world. I love everything about this post, Dawn. It’s lovely reading about the evolution of your garden. I too have had many iterations, but in different homes and apartments. I have a fern that’s moved with me since 1988. I love your journal, especially your tidy printing and creative “bullets”, the nicest I’ve seen. You do such a beautiful job blending your love of family, gardening, home-keeping and paper crafts into one place. I’ve kept records in the past, always changing. I’ve never landed on one perfect method. I wish I had saved more over the years. Last year I created a page on my blog where I logged all the plants, but since many were new to me after converting to natives, I wish I had drawn a map. BUT no time like the present, so you’ve inspired me to give it a go. Yours are so pretty.

    My dad was a horticulturist and planted the most wonderful garden at our home in Canada. I wish I had records of his plans. I do have several of his landscape drawings framed in my home. They’re treasures. He died when I was 9.

    Thanks for the lovely visit.

    • Warm, squishy hugs, dear Alys! ♥ You always bring such heartfelt thoughts to our conversation here! I just love the story of your special fern. Can you believe that I had a very special fig tree that lived with me for over 50 years?? I grew her in a little pot on the windowsill in my childhood bedroom. Slowly, she grew and grew and after college, she moved with me to my apartment. When I would take long trips in the summer, I would drive her back to my parents’ house and my mom would care for her. (It was a funny sight, for she was quite large and my car was really tiny!) She moved with me to my little house and spent summers on the front porch and the rest of the year in the living room. We had to say goodbye to my special fig tree last Fall. Although I miss her, she is in the background of so many of our photos over the years. 🙂 Just yesterday, I decided I will plant a colorful, butterfly garden in her large pot for the patio. I think it will be a nice way to honor my first houseplant ~ one that introduced me to the wonderful world of gardening!

      Drawing garden maps are my favorite way to preserve garden memories, Alys! In the past, I would just stand in the garden and quickly sketch them with a pencil in my notebook. Now I’m always looking for new ways to use my watercolors and other art supplies. So, I’m hoping that this new style of garden journaling will inspire me to write all season long! This Spring I carried my garden maps outside to help me identify the foliage that is just popping up in the beds that I created and changed last Fall. Thank goodness I drew those maps! It’s really exciting to know that my perennials overwintered in their new homes. Now I check on them every day. I think this entire gardening season will be one of new discoveries in my own garden! 🙂

      It truly tugs on my heartstrings, Alys, to know that you have your dad’s landscape drawings framed in your home! Just one more reason to draw your own garden maps. You might like to add a touch of color, too. It makes me smile just to imagine you preserving your garden memories this way, Alys! 🙂 I see so much of your dad in you, my friend! Earth Day 2017 is the perfect time to begin! Love you, Alys! ♡

      • Dawn, I *love* the story of your fig tree. I remember the days when I could move house with my little car. We seemed to get by with much less, didn’t we? I’m sure it’s felt wonderful for you to put down roots in your house. I’m glad to read that you are planning a butterfly garden in the fig’s pot. What a sweet idea. You would have loved my dad, and I know I would love your dad, too. Ah life.

      • So true, Alys! I can see so many qualities of my dad in me, and so much of your dad in you. These are some of the special gifts that we can share with the world. True blessings! Sending sunny thoughts today, dear Alys! ♡

  12. Dear Dawn, how I love your blog! I loved reading about your garden memory-keeping, and how your gardens have grown and changed. I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with cottage gardens and perennials, which is quite the change from where it all began (a quaint little tomato and pepper patch.) I do so love the seasonal vegetable garden, and have kept my own online journal of it for a few years now. (Since I had the good sense to, anyway.) But like you, I’m finding a shift towards perennials. Do you plant/sow many annuals? If so, what? (I will forever be in love with zinnias, borage, sunflowers, and cosmos.) Are there any flowering perennials you particularly love? Also, your watercolors and journal-keeping are truly inspiring! How utterly beautiful. Please do share them as the year goes by! I can’t wait to see how your garden continues to grow…

    • Welcome to my garden, Sosae! I’m so happy that you stopped to visit today. Many thanks for your kind words and for joining in the conversation here! 🙂 It has been such fun to watch my garden evolve over the past thirty years. I think that cottage gardens will have a place in my heart forever! Early on, I planted perennials close together for a more wild & tangled look. After a few years, I decided to leave space between each perennial so that its form and texture would ‘shine’ in my cottage garden beds. I just love being able to walk between my perennials to snip blossoms for a bouquet on summer mornings! Currently, I am doing a bit of downsizing, as I remove a few flower beds in my front yard. So, I’m very excited to see the changes as my garden dreams take place!

      For the past several years, I have only planted annuals in containers for our front porch and deck. Geraniums are definitely favorites! I also choose a spot to sow Cosmos seeds. I love to see them dancing in the breeze. My very favorite perennials are Hydrangeas, Daisies, and Anemones. I love to cut Hydrangeas to fill vases, crocks, and pitchers. I also adore hanging Hydrangeas from the clothesline in our basement to dry. Baskets of dried Hydrangea blossoms bring the garden inside all Winter long! I love, love, love my Herb & Tea garden. It has always felt like the ‘heart’ of my garden! Hope you will look around the blog to see more of my garden favorites, Sosae. (Just ‘click’ to slide out the blog side bar. The Tag Cloud will help you take a walk through my Midwest garden. Bring a cup of tea… and enjoy!)

      I’m just heading out now to wake up my sleeping Herb & Tea garden. It has been under a warm blanket of leaves since Fall to protect it from the cold. Can’t wait to see what’s popping up today! Hope you will come visit often, Sosae. Happy gardening and creating! ♡

  13. So wonderful! I am just catching up with all of your posts as I’ve been so very busy. I am at a time of my life when I do not have the time for the creative pursuits I crave, but I know that time is awaiting me again just a little down the road, and so I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts and planning for my future!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Ericka! It’s just lovely that you took the time to visit today. I can tell that we are kindred spirits! It has only been recently that I have tried to make creative time more of a priority. It fills my heart with so much joy! I know that your creative time will be here one day soon, too!

      Two books have made a huge difference for me. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, inspired me to take creative risks, even though it can feel scary at times. This year, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again (An Artist’s Way Program for Retirees and Other Creative Souls) by Julia Cameron is truly inspiring and nourishing my creative journey. You might enjoy both books, Ericka! If you have a chance to search my blog archives, you can find my posts about these wonderful books. Wishing you happy Autumn days, Ericka! 💗

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