Grow Write Guild #3: Ch-Ch-Changes


Sometimes, when I look back on the photos I take in my garden, I can hardly believe how much transpires within a single growing season. In the springtime I can see the pathways between beds and most of my plants are just a few inches tall. Everything is exposed. By the end of the growing cycle the garden is a wild, unruly beast. The pathways are devoured by foliage and there is no exposed soil left. How and when did that happen?

So the days float through my eyes, but still the days seem the same.” -from Changes by David Bowie

It’s amazing when you think about it. Our gardens begin as one thing, and stealthily, silently they transform into something entirely different in just a few months only to start over and transform again, and again and again. Some years, I lose perspective. While I am in the midst of it all, I forget what has transpired. I don’t appreciate the work I have done, and focus instead on what I haven’t done. Sometimes, while knee-deep in the late-season struggle to keep things neat and tidy, I start to take the amazing growth around me for granted — it becomes something to rail against rather than something miraculous to behold.

I want you to appreciate the work you do in your garden. I want you to walk away at the end of the season with a sense of satisfaction regardless of how it went, and a focus on what you have accomplished, rather than on what you haven’t. One way to achieve this is to document and record change. For this reason, we will practice this exercise a few times throughout the growing season, beginning with our gardens as they are now. It will be fun to see how they progress and perhaps even see how our attitudes change with the seasons.

Grow Write Guild Prompt #3: Describe your garden right now.

Stand in one spot in your garden and describe what you see in front of you. Turn to your right. Describe what you see there. What’s behind you? Your left side? What is underneath your feet? What do you see above your head?

Use the following questions and strategies to help spark different approaches to this prompt. Feel free to ignore this if you don’t need it.

    Further Questions & Notes:

  • If your garden is small, you might consider writing about all of it or decide to focus on just one area. If your garden is large, consider focussing a small, manageable area or just one bed. If you’re feeling ambitious, feel free to write about everything that you can see as far as your eyesight will take it.
  • If you are unable to stand in your garden or your garden is some distance away, you can try imagining it in your mind’s eye instead. It might be interesting to see the difference between how you imagine it versus how it actually is.
  • Stand in place and take digital photos of all directions. You can then use these images as points of reference when you are indoors writing at your desk, or wherever it is that you prefer to write.
  • Another option would be to write point form notes on paper, or make sound/video recordings of what you see using the video function on a camera or cellphone.
  • Consider this as more than just an exercise in descriptive writing. Include your feelings about what you see. What do you like? What would you like to change?
  • Why not include other senses in your description. What do you hear? What do you feel? Is there a breeze or wind? Is it raining?

The Grow Write Guild is a creative writing club for people who love to garden. Everyone is welcome to participate! Click over to the Grow Write Guild FAQ to learn more about it.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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31 thoughts on “Grow Write Guild #3: Ch-Ch-Changes

    • On the bright side, when we do this exercise again later in the season, the changes in your garden will be very dramatic!

  1. When I first rented this place almost 10 years ago, the previous tenant bequeathed to me a strip of daylilies and hostas. That’s it. There was about a quarter acre more of unused yard to play with and luckily I saw beyond what was already there and pictured expansion, a perennial garden, raised beds and tons and tons of planted containers on the barren deck. It took the full ten years but now I have just what I pictured at the time. I had started a garden journal documenting every effort to fulfill my yearly goals, complete with photos and diagrams of my garden and tags of all the plants I bought. And each Spring it is an event to pull out the journal to make more plans and lists, more diagrams and sketches.

    This year my focus seems to be on this tiny patch of garden I created when my Dad passed away in October. I planted a variety of Tulip bulbs and Muscari with various perennials from my favorite farmers market. I had done the same for my Mom in their yard on Long Island just days prior to Superstorm Sandy. After the funeral, we came home and I got busy in the dirt as it was the only form of comfort I could grasp that day. I planted the same types of bulbs for her with the hope that come Spring my Mom could find comfort in their beauty. The storm, which damaged so much in my parent’s home, fortunately did not have any impact on my plantings. During a recent visit, I noticed the leaves coming through the earth as I followed the flight of a single Dove who perched itself on the fence behind my little memorial garden. True story. Nature has it’s way of healing and of comfort; of showing us hope. I believe that Dove showed me exactly where I planted the bulbs because all my markers had been blown or washed away in the storm.

    A passionate gardener himself, I think my Dad’s spirit lives on in my inheritance of that same passion. And I continue to appreciate his presence in my life as I watch today each and every bulb and plant come to life.

  2. How weird I have just done something similar as part of the wordpress weekly photo challenge but its not quite the same as its not about standing in one spot and describing what I can see so I might have another go

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