If you are wondering how to create a garden journal, the most obvious answer is: Write.
As usual, however, obvious answers are hardly ever true answers. Many times, they are insults thrust toward what a true answer might be.
As the creator of this website and blog: Cottage Garden Living, my intention is multi-faceted.
Purpose of the Website and Blog Cottage Garden Living
- To share real-time photos of my own garden and to share tips for how I have achieved one thing or another in my garden
- To share the benefits of my garden research about plants, herbs, building garden structures, etc.
- To document the dates with thing perform in my garden. This will help me now what to expect in future years. It will also help other people know when theymight expect those same plants to perform in their garden.
- To share the paintings that I have done that were inspired by my garden.
- To share my garden journal posts day-by day
- To share tips for anyone else who might want to create the writing for their own garden journals
- To illustrate my garden journal
- To share tips for how I created the illustrations for my garden journal
- To share tips for how to bind the pages of an illustrated journal into a book
As you see, I have many things to achieve via my website Cottage Garden Living, but today, I want to focus on some writing tips to help people get started with the writing of their own garden journals.
My first piece of advice to anyone who wants to create a garden journal is to NOT simply write. My advice for the would-be garden writer is to go outside and to look and to see, and then, to write.
Step 1: Go Outside and into Your Garden [No, your garden journaling is not an armchair sport. You can’t write in a garden journal while sitting inside and propped up, watching television. You gotta go outside.
Step 2: See — Don’t Merely Look at What Is There — See!
I’ll approach each of these areas, one at a time, but today, I want to focus on the writing part of creating a garden journal.
In an earlier post, I talked about Dorothy Wordsworth, who I’ll call the Mother of Nature Writers. Dorothy Wordsworth lived and wrote 200 years ago, and I can honestly say that she is one of my greatest inspirations as a diarist–especially as a diarist who records nature.
The following is longer than most of Dorothy Wordsworth’s daily journal entries, but it sets the stage:
MAY 14TH, 1800.—The lake looked to me, I knew not why, dull and melancholy, and the weltering on the shores seemed a heavy sound. I walked as long as I could amongst the stones of the shore. The wood rich in flowers; a beautiful yellow (palish yellow) flower, that looked thick, round, and double—the smell very sweet (I supposed it was a ranunculus), crowfoot, the grassy-leaved rabbit-looking white flower, strawberries, geraniums, scentless violets, anemones, two kinds of orchises, primroses, the heckberry very beautiful, the crab coming out as a low shrub. … I resolved to write a journal of the time – Dorothy Wordsworth Grasmere Journal
For too many years, I’d begin a journal of one kind or another, but I’d get mired in the trap of too much — too many words, too much editing, too many flourishes, too much polish, too much fakeness, just too much. But too much of anything is not the way to begin keeping a garden journal.
The following is an entry that is a little shorter than the first one was.
FRIDAY MORNING, 16TH.—Warm and mild, after a fine night of rain…. The woods extremely beautiful with all autumnal variety and softness. I carried a basket for mosses, and gathered some wild plants. Oh! that we had a book of botany. All flowers now are gay and deliciously sweet. The primrose still prominent; the later flowers and the shiny foxgloves very tall, with their heads budding. – Dorothy Wordsworth Grasmere Journal
And here’s an even shorter entry:
Saturday.—Incessant rain from morning till night…. Sauntered a little in the garden. The blackbird sate quietly in its nest, rocked by the wind, and beaten by the rain.
I plan to offer an online course in Garden Journaling, and Here is my First Exercise, Free of Charge:
Create a Garden Notebook:
- Go Into Your Garden Almost Every Day
- Look Around Until You See Something that Interests You
- See It!
- Paint What You See with Words.
I have recorded excerpts from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal. Read those excerpts. Learn how little it takes to create a daily garden journal entry. If you want to do so, pick out a few of Dorothy’s entries and use them as templates to write your own entry.
But keep in mind that Dorothy’s writing is 200 years old. Unless you are still wearing a bonnet day and night and unless you are still wearing long, black dresses with frowzy collars, and unless you talk everyday in the ways that Dorothy Wordsworth talked daily, you should not be writing like her either. Don’t make the mistake of trying to write with flowery words that are not real for the you who lives in the 21st Century. For Dorothy Wordsworth, her words were real. They were raw, and her entries were economical. At the time that Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal, ladies were not supposed to be writers, and Dorothy had no idea that anyone, except perhaps her brother William, would ever read her journal. She had no reason to impress anyone with fancy words. Dorothy Wordsworth’s writing was true to herself, and yours should be, too.
I’ll insert another note here: William Wordsworth was one of the most esteemed of the British poets during the Romantic period of literature. It was many years after both William and Dorothy lived that people discovered, in reading Dorothy’s journals, that William literally “stole” many of Dorothy’s words. But that is fodder for another post.
Your Garden Notebook is like a sketch would be for a painter. You may continue with and flesh out one of your daily notebook entries later, but begin with a few raw words. Strive for a Garden Notebook today. Later, you may or may not move beyond a mere notebook and begin to do lengthy writings daily, but keep it simple at firstl: Just begin with a garden notebook.
Following is My Fleshed Out Entry for Today, August 29, 2021
For anyone new to writing, please understand that I have been writing and journaling for years. in New Jersey, I taught Memoir Writing. I am not new to this pursuit. Don’t get the cart before the horse. To start, just begin jotting a few word pictures in your garden notebook. You can jot down what you planted and when and how you planted it, too. You might even add notes about where you got the plants that you planted. Or you can talk about the garden clogs that you need to order in your garden notebook. Your Garden Notebook can be a place that you record any info that you want about your garden. But develop the habit of seeing and describing at least one thing every day.