Reading Carol’s description of her plant cataloging project got me thinking about my own efforts to organize my records. When I first started gardening, I used some large index cards to catalog all my plants. I entered the same info Carol did, but didn’t include the plant tags. On the back of each card I entered the date of first bloom and date of last bloom.
Somewhere along the line I stopped adding cards. These days I put all the information about the plants I bought in a folder labeled with the year, in the hopes of starting back up again some day. I also have had one of those Lee Valley gardener’s journals for several years, and when I remember, I write down when plants start blooming. Sometimes I even write down when certain late emergers show up, so I don’t fret too much about them. (But I have discovered it’s awfully hard to keep track of when a plant stops blooming. You sometimes don’t notice that until days later.) Before I had the Lee Valley journal, I used a pocket calendar about the size of a checkbook, with one month on a two page spread. I could stick it in my back pocket, and I scribbled each plant’s name on the day it started blooming. Those are saved in the file folders, too.
Keep it simple
The best thing about Carol’s system is it’s simple. One reason I’ve never gotten back to a cataloging system is because back when Windows 3.1 was state-of-the-art, I got a pamphlet advertising Gardner Pardner, a gardening database program distributed by J & L Bluebonnet Plantation. This software let you track everything, including when you sprayed or fertilized the plant, transplanted it, or pinched it back. The souped-up hobbyist version let you record who hybridized the plant, when it was introduced, and any awards it has won. (Hemerocallis, hosta, and iris fanatics, the developers were thinking of you.) The more modest version sold for $45, a lot more money back then. Of course I didn’t buy it; I thought, “I could make a better one.”
Never mind I’ve never made a database in my life. Never mind I didn’t have time to keep up index cards. The idea that “one day I’m going to make a gardening database” became firmly entrenched in my psyche, complete with its own file folder. I have lain awake in bed at night, wondering how to set up this database so it could track the same plant growing in two different locations, because of course they will bloom at different times and grow to different heights. And what if you get the same plant from two different sources? One might actually be mis-identified and so should be tracked separately, don’t you think? And once digital cameras and scanners became commonplace, I added photos of each plant to my dream database, and wondered what size they should be, and what file format they should be in.
In the meantime, my card file remains neglected and my sales receipts have remained filed. And, nothing bad has happened. The plants still grow and sometimes even get weeded. When I want to know exactly when I got a particular plant, I take a guess and pick a year and leaf through that file folder. If it’s not in that one, I go to the year before or after, and I usually find it, eventually. And if I don’t find it, somehow I manage to write the blog post without that information, or my friend accepts the idea that I don’t remember when I got it. Thank goodness for understanding friends!
But now I have Carol’s example to light my path. There has never been any need to convince me of the value of keeping records. What I struggle with in all aspects of my life, is understanding that all details are not created equal. Some are worth recording for posterity, and some are not. I still believe God is in the details, but God is infinite, and I am not.
I may one day set up a system similar to Carol’s. Or, who knows? I may one day create that database. But one thing reading Carol’s post has shown me, is that you can start organizing your information at any time. You don’t have to start with the first plant you ever bought and record everything chronologically. You can take it up later and it will still serve your needs. You can even start with the plants you bought this year and add in the others later, even if you don’t have anything more to go on besides the tag. (That was an eye opener!)
And what I’ve learned from writing this post is that my file folders are actually serving me well. They are telling me what I need to know, when I need to know it. They are not my encyclopedic ideal, but they are good enough.
What about you? Are there any record-keeping or organizing skeletons in your closet?