My Year in Gardening: 2012

Happy New Year!

I wrote my first year-end wrap-up post in 2010 and continued with it in 2011. As I sit here at my desk the end of 2012 [note that I began compiling this post just before the New Year], the garden buried underneath a blanket of snow, I feel compelled to continue the exercise, in part, because I can hardly remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, never mind what I did over the last year! I have a tendency to be onto the next thing the second the last thing is done. Exercises like this are a good memory jog and a way to slow down, look back, and remind myself of the things I accomplished in the recent past.

Year Start

2012 began with a tranquil week in the desert or more specifically, coastal Baja California desert chaparral. Oh, how wonderful it smelled. There was rosemary in bloom and sunshine on my face. There was an organic farm with a head gardener who could match me in his enthusiasm for seeds and interesting edibles. We plunged our hands into warm soil and pulled out fresh carrots. We spent our nights cozying up to a fragrant wood fire and toasted our escape from the frozen, scentless world at home. I loved every minute of it.

Serenity NOW was followed by an OMG manic 36(ish) hours in San Diego that included an eye opening visit to tide pools (a childhood dream fulfilled), lacklustre fish tacos, Dr. Seuss plants, and heart attack inducing driving. I love California; hate the car culture.

And then I fell in love with a scruffy dog. All of that within the first month.

Year End

The last weeks of 2012 have been about slowing down. I am calling it Slow Leisure. The effect of this has been a sudden burst of creative energy. We didn’t go away this year so there will be no touching plants for a while yet other than those that are in my own home. Spring can not come fast enough.

Most Surreal Experience of 2012

My second book, “Grow Great Grub” was translated into Croatian, German (this one is a hardcover), and Portuguese (in that order) and I did my first interview with a foreign language publication!

Favourite Post of the Year

I wrote “Here I am. This is Me.” just before my third book hit stores. I have long compared the work I do as a garden writer/communicator with the role that Show and Tell played in my childhood.

I also really like this post about the currant tomatoes that grew into a tangled mess in my garden this summer.

Favourite Plant of the Year

I don’t think I can possibly nail this down to one plant. I saw and grew a lot of new plants this year and they were all wonderful. Instead I will say that this is the year I really embraced my love for dry soil plants. I’ve always loved them but never really had the right in ground conditions until we moved here. A trip to Denver in 2011 raised my excitement level up a few notches and that excitement was later blown through the roof by the trip to Rancho la Puerta in early 2012. Slowly, once I began to absorb these varied experiences, I made deliberate alterations to the portion of my garden that I call the Dry Bed. I added more hardy cactus and succulents that can withstand the winters here, sought out interesting oddities, removed plants that hogged too much of the little space that I have, shifted a huge patch of irises to another part of the garden, and eventually committed myself to transforming that part of the garden into something that I’m really excited about. I can’t wait until the spring when I can observe the way new plants develop in their second year and really see the fruit of the changes I instigated in the eleventh hour right before winter hit.

Favourite Garden Visited

I finally had a chance to make the trip to Margaret Roach’s garden in upstate New York. Margaret has exceptional taste and a keen eye, but beyond that is the care, love, and devotion that she has put into cultivating this beautiful piece of paradise. Unfortunately, the trip was far too short and I was so off-kilter while there that I did not manage to capture many images of the garden that do it justice. A longer and more relaxed return visit is in order. Still, I am hoping that once I sit down with the images I did take, I might find enough to piece together a small glimpse into her world.

Favourite Picture Posted in 2012

There was no single photograph, but a series of photographs that I started taking weekly back in May. The series, called “Herbaria” are a collection of plant parts from my garden that I artfully assemble/arrange and photograph each week. While I am no longer posting every single week’s image here on the site, I have continued with the project behind the scenes and will keep going until I have made it through to a full year. Of all of the Herbaria photos I’ve taken, I probably like this one best.

More Highlights of 2012

- My third book, “Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces” was released.

- I wrote a weekly column for HGTV.

- I teamed up with Margaret Roach of Away to Garden.

- The poppy was a strong theme in my garden this year. I grew several types and enjoyed each one immensely. I plan to continue with this theme in 2013 and a few new additions have already been added. Also see ‘Buttercream’.

- Davin and I self-published a pocketbook called “Drinking the Summer Garden

Looking Forward

My primary goal as I head into the new year is a focus on narrative. I need to tell more stories. Over the last few months I have pulled back on commercial work and shelved a few projects that were slated for the spring in favour of writing stories. Since then I have found that the further I get into this mode of working, the more I am driven to incorporate other mediums into the story telling. I am looking back on my old photo work, drawing pictures, and have even rekindled my love of fabrics and embroidery. I am not yet sure if this comes from a desire to reconnect with old art forms that I had previously left behind, or if it a sly and devious tactic that my brain has adopted in order to slow down the scary work of committing these stories to paper in complete sentences. To be honest, I don’t know where I am going with this and the feeling of going with the flow without clear direction is often painful and frightening. I worry that this is a foolish and self-indulgent waste of time. All I know is that this is what I need to do right now. Onward and… onward.

What are you reflecting on at the start of 2013?

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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10 thoughts on “My Year in Gardening: 2012

  1. “I don’t know where I am going with this…is often painful and frightening… I worry that this is a foolish and self-indulgent waste of time.” I can relate, as I have found myself with much the same feelings lately. The nursery business is my “career”, but it has been painfully slow these last couple of years. I would love to do more writing, but it does take me from work, and makes me feel somewhat guilty. Yes to more storytelling! Your Herbaria is something I haven’t seen before. Segmenting the flowers and leaves in those little squares is oddly comforting, and beautiful. Here we go, onward into 2013!

  2. It would seem that horticulture is in a state of flux/upheaval all over the world…here in Australia (Tasmania to be precise) it is a hard industry to be in and the unemployed masses are undercutting our gardening routes…time to step up and get our own 4 acres together so that we can at least feed ourselves should the need be made physical. Cheers for this wonderful blog and the thought and care that goes into it each time you post. I love your little collections of flowers, vegetation and care that you post for us to see. Heres to a productive and vegetitive 2013 for us all :)

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