Hindsight has the benefit of experience and experience is the best of teachers. Looking back to when I began this blog seven years ago, I had no idea where it would take me and what I would learn along the way.
Last weekend my computer crashed totally. Thank God, I had invested in a remote backup six months ago! It took a full day to restore my files.
After the restoration was complete, I discovered that my software no longer functioned. Another day to find the startup discs and reinstall software like Photoshop.
Just when I was beginning to feel like things had returned to normal, I was locked out of my email account for most of a day (some weird password issue). And if that wasn't bad enough, suddenly the only sound my iPad seemed capable of generating was static.
So here I am at the end of the work week, and I have very little to show for it.
Seven years of photography and my poor Mac is groaning with the burden of storing it all. I urgently need to find more storage and clean up my archives. Yesterday, I began the process of deleting some image files. It was funny to look back at pictures that I took in the early days of this blog. Some still make me proud, but others are grit-my-teeth-terrible.
I'd love to tell you that I had clear goals when I began this journey, but I didn't. Somehow this blog managed to determine its own direction and I just followed along.
For the most part, the gardens I feature on this blog aren't grand, historic or famous. Instead they are the gardens that ordinary people have made. If nothing else, this has taught me that everyday people are capable of creating quite extraordinary things.
Experience has been a great teacher when it comes to gardening as well. If I could go back in time, I'd council myself to trust my gut instincts more. Too often I overthink things. Sometimes my first idea is my best idea.
When I first started making my garden, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to create. That clearness of vision hasn't stopped me from having doubts, but even when I have gone off on some new tangent, I have always turned around and retraced my steps back to those first ideas. That initial bit of inspiration continues to serve me well. My only mistake has been questioning it.
In hindsight, I rushed into making my garden. I wish I had taken the time to plan a bit more carefully. Instead of guessing how much sunlight each area of the garden received, I should have taken the time to make a drawing of the property and make notes on the actual hours of sun each area got. I think I would have been surprised to discover how much shade the house casts on the front garden in the morning and the true impact that each of the tree canopies had on light.
Small failures have taught me to be more realistic about what I really can grow. Though I love woodland plants that require moist, loamy soil, they're just never going to prosper in my dry summer garden. Over the years I've come to the conclusion that there is no point in wanting what I can't grow. It is so much better to embrace the conditions I actually have.
I have also come to realize more and more that a garden starts with the soil. The successful gardeners I so admire feed their soil with compost and leaf mold. One of the projects I hope to do this spring is an overhaul of the layout of my compost bins.
It would have saved me so much money and heartache if I had created a nursery bed for new plants right from the start. In a large garden it is to easy to lose track of new arrivals and miss a critical watering. The perennials that you get in those four inch pots dry out so darn quickly even after they've been planted in the soil. My success rate with new plants is so much higher when I gather them into that nursery bed where I can keep a eye on them. I let them settle in and mature for a season and then plant them out in their final position in the second year.
Spring seems to have finally arrived. The other day I saw the first bee of the season visiting the snowdrops that have peeked up out of the soil into the cool air. Then yesterday, when I was walking the dogs, I saw a robin sitting at attention on the neighbour's lawn watching for a meal.
The garden is bare and drab, but experience has taught me not to worry. The garden looks barren now, but give it a few weeks. It's all there waiting for the days to get a bit warmer. Soon it will be as lush and green as my memory assures me it will be.
I owe so much to the generosity of the gardeners who have welcomed me into their private spaces and allowed me to photograph their gardens. Thank you all!
There are times I feel discouraged, especially when it is almost the first of April and there are still pockets of snow on the ground. But then I will write something that gets a good response or I'll take a picture of which I am proud. Blogging forces me to struggle with my sentences and doing regular blog posts keeps me disciplined. Taking photographs only serves to make me look at things more closely.
Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog and left or emailed me kind comments.
Creating this blog has truly been a pleasure.