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Scrapbook your way to a better garden – Record Keeping Inspiration

July 30, 2015

I tell people I can’t grow Baptisia – but the reality is that about 5 years ago I planted 8 of them in the fall and then in the spring I’m pretty sure that accidentally weeded them all out. I didn’t realize my mistake until much later in the summer when I recalled planting them and wondered what happened.  Only to have it dawn on me that there were a bunch of really healthy looking weeds that I too briefly pondered before yanking earlier that year.

Honestly, there are days – particularly in the garden – when I have forgotten the name of the plant or that I even planted something somewhere, when I begin to wonder if I might have early Alzheimer’s. Do you ever feel that way?

garden scrapbook / notebook by rochelle greayer

In the heat and humidity of late July, where I find my time in the garden limited to early mornings and late evenings, I’ve been thinking of ways to keep better records – so that I don’t feel like I have to store it all in my head.  I had my hand at making a page – for a yet to be created scrapbook – that documents some of the most recent additions to my garden.  Besides a picture (which for me seemed easily remedied by cutting up the beautiful Proven Winners plant tags that they came with), I made sure to note why I had planted it.  I had three goals and built my page around them:

  1. Plant for fall berries that I can use in arrangements (Viburnum Red Balloon and Amethyst Coral Berry – Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii ‘Kordes’  where added).
  2. Add plants around some of the structures that we have in the garden (namely the new pergola and the old fence).  Vitex ‘Blue Diddley’ now frames the gate to the veg garden and punctuates the corner. And Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’ is going to be amazing climbing over the new pergola (the idea of black and deep purple in the garden is very exciting to me!)
  3. Have interesting and exciting container plants around the patio (you know, stuff that makes visitors ask what it is – so that I can publicly shame myself when I can’t remember).  For this, I’ve planted Chinese Fringe Flower in hanging containers so that I can enjoy it now, but can take it inside later this fall.

I’m not entirely happy with this page, but I figure it is a start… which is most important, as my biggest obstacle to good record keeping is simply making a habit of doing it.  I figure the artistic development of it will happen in time, after I get over the hump of just getting started.

My record keeping efforts are inspired by others – namely these pages from Dan Pearson’s Vitrine.

Dan Pearson garden sketchbooks via

I love the time he has taken to draw and use water colors to capture his notes.  It seem luxurious but with practice and the conscious effort to remind myself that I can take a few minutes to be creative, I feel I would not only become a better designer and impromptu artist, but it will help me retain my sanity (and maybe even my memory) as I fly through my overbooked days.

rambling rose garden scrapbook via


These books, kept by Patty at Tuscan Rose inspire me to press leaves and flowers, layer in images, and to let the tactile nature of the garden inspire the record that I keep of it.

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As I explore these ideas, I am struck by my complete aversion to the many apps and digital tools that are available for garden record keeping.  I love my phone for one reason – and that is because I can take photos with it  and I can edit them – the rest of the tools (like being able to get online, make phone calls, check my email, text, blah, blah, blah) are useful and well used, but I can’t say I get any real joy out of them.  So the idea of tying myself to the device in one more way, perturbs me (to say the least).  But I am very curious, how you keep records?  Or do you bother?  What do you think is important to write down and record? And am I being stubborn about the app thing and starting to sound old and curmudgeonly before my time?


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners. I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own.

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Keeping records for the garden can be a PITB- but making them pretty can inspire you.

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  1. Mario says:

    very well desing, like hand made book. And well posts.

  2. The great advantage of computers for record keeping: speed. I’ve started hand drawn and water color journals before. And I’ve found that, beautiful as they are, they take a big chunk of time.

    Digital camera, database software and Keynote (Apple software) and I can make a much more detailed record that I can actually keep up with.

  3. Being the organizer, type-A person I am, I love the advantages technology has to offer in terms of keeping records together. I never thought of doing it for my garden but I like the idea of it! Hopefully, this system continues to work for you!

  4. Glenda Berman says:

    Thank you for the great ideas. The books with the illustrations are wonderful but not being talented I rely on my trusty camera. Each month I take photos of my garden areas so that in the winter I can look at them and decide what I like, any additions that are needed and what should be moved.

  5. Reese says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing! For more cool gardening tool, visit this site

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