Why photograph the garden?

Right after a whole post on not giving advice…… here I am in the very next breath doing just that. But it’s garden advice, not personal – aimed at no one except those who wish to improve upon their gardening practice.

I don’t know about you, but I have tried to keep garden journals over the past several years. You know, where you record the weather, what’s good in the garden, what pests or problems you encountered – all with the aim of being able to compare year-to-year and improve your gardening knowledge in the meantime. I think this is an admirable practice, for sure, but I have never been able to stick with the garden journal for more than a few weeks before I forget about it in the dazzle of greater sun and warmth.

So much for my fantasy of impeccable garden records – after three years of gardening in this spot, I have all of five garden-journal entries to show for them. BUT! What I do have by the dozen are photographs.

I started photographing my garden as a kind of artistic activity – working on my macro-photography skills and capturing particularly artistic aspects of plant life. From moving into our house, I have also blogged extensively about our yard landscaping and work – and photographs are an essential to showing you all what I am trying to describe. Between these two practices, I have discovered what the real advantage of taking endless garden photos is – it has made me a better gardener. How so?

  1. It helps me remember where things are. Perennials that die back, spring and summer bulbs may be destroyed when you go digging the beds – but a quick look at photos helps to refresh your memory of what was there last year. Also, as I plant an increasing number of bulbs, it helps me to look back at what colour schemes I have going on in different months.
  2. The act of taking a photograph requires a “closer look” at everything – giving me opportunities to find pests and diseases that may not be immediately observable otherwise. Photographs can magnify an area, aiding the naked eye in doing plant inspections.
  3. My photo records help to manage expectations in the spring and to compare different weather years by the plant development I have recorded. One of the great things about digital is that dates are automatically encoded in the photographs. So much better than my shoeboxes full of photos without info recorded on the back!
  4. Going out in the garden with a camera regularly (every two weeks or so) allows me to focus on the different stages of plant development, and has given me new insight into how the human and plant lifecycles are similar and connected. I recognize that I could just spend time reflecting without the camera, but it really helps me hone in on what is unique or important about various stages.

My best photos, I upload to Flickr, adding notes and tags to aid my memory. The rest of them get sifted and sorted into appropriate folders on my laptop just in case I want to reference them later. I don’t find I go back to those much, the general outlines on Flickr being enough to remind me what each plant was doing and when. I think this year I will aim for a lot more photographs, in particular of the frontyard as we move ahead on the second phase of landscaping and plant new and exciting things….. this photographing being something better than a journal for helping me imagine and organize my outdoor spaces!

One Comment on “Why photograph the garden?

  1. It’s funny, I sat down to write a post on exactly this topic, and this turned up in my feed. I am so terrible about keeping a journal, but I take tons of photos of my garden and it’s so helpful to be able to look back at them.

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