When I first moved to New Jersey, I was a bridal gown designer with no gardening experience.
As a child, I grew up in a row house in Brooklyn and then lived in apartments in New York City. There wasn’t much to garden in either of those locations.
When we moved to NJ, to a one acre lot with nothing but swaths of lawn in front and back, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And as the story goes, we planted 2,000 tulip bulbs and the rest is history. But to be honest, I really had no clue what I was doing. My new husband entrusted me with the task of choosing and ordering the necessary bulbs so I figured if he had faith in me, I must be able to do it. Or at least I wouldn’t let on that I couldn’t.
So I placed the order bravely. I went for reds and yellows around the two large trees and a “Rembrandt mix” to go down along the sides to the driveway and property lines. I calculated the square footage and somehow came up with the quantity of 2,000. Anyone who knows me knows how much of a stretch that was; math has never been my thing.
Fast forward to the following Autumn, the bulbs arrived and we set to work.
My husband grew up on a sheep farm so I was sure he would have some idea of how to proceed. This is how it went: He dug the trenches, I placed the bulbs and shoveled the dirt back on. It was backbreaking but finally it was done. And then came spring and holy cow, we actually did it. It was beautiful and a sight to see.
From that point, I was hooked.
But I still had those two swaths of lawn and not a clue what to do with them.
Once again my husband played a part and bought me a book called, The Complete Garden Flower Book. It had everything in it: bulbs, annuals, perennials, shrubs, climbers. It became my bible. Every time I bought a plant or ordered a bulb I would research it and make notes, regarding light, water, etc. I would plant it, photograph it, wait and watch.
Most importantly, I kept all that information in a binder along with the tags that came with the plants. I added to the binder season after season. Little by little the garden—and my knowledge—grew along with my binder.
Each season in early spring and again in fall I would take lots of photos to document the growth.
Year after year, the changes in the garden were amazing. Where there was once a lot of dirt and a few plants, there was now no visible sign of dirt, just plants. I also moved things frequently, which of course drove my husband crazy. But what I realized is, if it doesn’t work in one spot, often the requirements are such that it will work in another. I kept that binder for the 14 years we lived in that house. Not only did I learn a lot, I was also able to see and appreciate the progress as well as the process.
We’ve been in a new house for the past three years.
For me now, the binder has changed into more of a diary where I keep to-do lists, plants’ purchase dates, major changes, etc. This past year we did a lot to our home gardens and I liked documenting it all. I still take lots of photos and make lots of notes.
The long and the short of it is, we have a world of information at our fingertips today. You can find information about anything, more information that you can imagine ever needing. But in the end, I owe a lot to that binder. It was a sort of a home study program which served me well over these many years.