Section III: Learning From Experience

Catalogus plantarum ... A Catalogue of Trees, Shrubs, Plants, and Flowers, both Exotic and Domestic, which are Propagated for Sale in the Gardens near London.

Illustration depicting a garden tour from Catalogus plantarum ... A Catalogue of Trees, Shrubs, Plants, and Flowers, both Exotic and Domestic, which are Propagated for Sale in the Gardens near London, 1730.

There is no such thing as an armchair gardener – no matter how many books or magazines or nursery catalogues we read, or how much time we spend looking at other people’s gardens, the only sure way to learn about gardening is through our own lived experience. Since so much depends on locality gardeners must learn first hand about their own particular conditions of soil, precipitation, sun exposure, local flora and fauna in order to be successful, whether we garden in a container on a highrise balcony or on a large country property. Trial and error is the only method that will ultimately produce results, and this requires patience, optimism, creativity, and a certain amount of record-keeping. Keeping accurate records has even been seen as one key to success. 

All gardeners at some point feel the need to keep track of the plants we are growing, to note precisely which plants we have, where those plants are situated, how we obtained them, and how well they thrive. Like Cook, we make notes about successes and failures. We record which plants are in bloom when, what tasks need to be undertaken at certain times, the harvest we reap each year, and our plans for the next growing season. This section of the exhibition will explore some of the ways gardeners have documented their own gardening activity.

Section III: Learning From Experience