Who needs a list to be well-organised in the garden? Or to sit down at the end of the day and feel a sense of accomplishment? Hello! We gardeners are so deeply in tune with the songs and rhythms of nature. We know exactly what need to be done...
Writing a List in the Garden
Lists are tricks. They're often made deliberately vague, so that vital boxes can be ticked, come what may. False feelings of pride and accomplishment are easily created - well-ticked, completed lists are the perfect excuse for zooming to the nursery to buy a new plant reward.
Weeding - On the List?
List content is a worry. Take the list item 'Do some weeding'. Any half analytical gardener will immediately be asking - Where? What scale of weed? Fussy weeding of tiny little weeds barely showing past their baby leaves? Or large broom and gorse monsters needing two hands and help from the axe? Faced with such a sloppy directive, a free spirited gardener is inclined to rebel and do no weeding at all!
A Good List?
It is a well-known fact that the human mind rejects any list with more than seven items on it. Give any gardener a pencil and they could, in theory, write down at least fifty things they need to do in their garden. But why then would they want to read it? This would take far too long.
Writing Another List
So the answer must lie in sub-lists, and uber-lists. How complicated this is already getting! Is there a place for lists with general headings and descriptive paragraphs, where the greater details can be displayed? Gardening should be kept simple - shouldn't it?
Lists are actually goal-setting exercises in disguise, and as such the items need to be smart goals. They must be attainable, yet they must encourage the gardener to strive more, to reach outside her (or his) comfort zone.
My comfort zone is set in concrete - more than three hours of anything and I'm starting to sulk and call for a coffee break. I'm not interested in branching out into hydroponic tomatoes, hybridising rhododendrons, or building a maze - though on second thoughts a maze of Pittosporums would be fun...
Gardeners are imaginative folk, and many of us spend time in the fantasy garden word where weeds are benign and plants have just enough of everything they need. Our lists, accordingly, can be full of warm, fuzzy make-believe! See if you can spot the fantasy factors in the following list:
- Buy fifty large-leafed rhododendrons.
- Prepare new iris bed, order in rainbow-coloured irises, and plant in proper order - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
- Dig large new pond.
- Weed all oxalis out of garden.
Well - how many fantastical impossibles did you spot?
But the lists I like best, and absolutely refuse to give up, are the plant-purchasing lists.
Plant Purchasing Lists
I stop in one garden area with scruffy notebook and pencil, and whenever I see a bad gap I try to thoughtfully choose a suitable plant to fill it. To give plant lists a sense of fun, cost is never considered - just the angle of sun, prevailing wind, soil type, and the personal plant phase I happen to be experiencing at that moment. For example, the Yellow Roses phase, the Spring Blossom and Little Maples phase, the Hostas and Heucheras phase...
During my Lavender phase late last summer, five dollar lavenders of every type and colour popped up everywhere, as the result of such a list. They were hurriedly regathered and replanted together by Rusty's dog kennel the following spring. Hmm...
Lists of Verbs
My gardening lists tend to be boring and repetitive, featuring the same garden verbs. Each gardening season gives birth to the same problems (and weeds), and each part of the garden has the same seasonal needs. 'Weeding' is the big all-year-round one, followed by 'cleaning up', 'clearing', and 'raking'. In the summer 'watering' and 'dead-heading' are popular, in the autumn 'pruning' and 'burning'. Boring and repetitive - hmm...
Over Ten Thousand Lists in This Gardening Journal
There are over ten thousand lists in my gardening journal. I could easily recycle all of them each year. Then maybe I could assemble a list of all the reasons why I'm not going to write any more!