Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Lessons learned - Keeping better records

Tulipa National Velvet

I've been secretly scolding myself for weeks now.  I touched on the subject of me keeping better records of where and when I plant spring flowering bulbs in my EOMV post.  It's hardly surprising that my lack of effort has resulted me in not knowing my Alliums from my Tulips.  In my defence, if I have a valid one that is - there seems to be many tulip bulbs appearing and I don't ever remember buying as many, let alone having many tulip blooms.  I vaguely remember having a pot of Tulip Queen of the Night and Tulip National Velvet at some time in the dim and distant past.  I find I have  pictures to confirm that too.  I can only think that I would have popped them in the front garden, on a wing and a prayer, where their chances of survival will be improved by the better drainage conditions out there.



I had not intended to write a post to link with in Beth's Lessons Learned meme but something else happened yesterday and it has only gone to confirm that I need to take action sooner rather than later!

Contemplating a new spot for Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena - where she is planted makes it
February 2015
impossible to appreciate her beauty throughout the winter months. She still has a few blooms left and intend to move her when they've finally gone over.  In preparation for the move, which probably won't be for another couple of weeks, I wanted to move the wee clump of snowdrops that are growing at the base. I hadn't remembered planting them there and was rather disappointed that they hadn't flowered this year.  In my ignorance, I blamed this on me possibly moving them there at the wrong time of year or maybe I cut back the foliage too early last year.  I could see no labels, therefore thought it safe to assume that they were Galanthus nivalis.  I don't label or plot them when I move them around the garden.  Are you seeing a theme?

As every gardener that has the habit of moving plants around the garden will tell you, it's never safe to assume that any bulbs planted there or thereabouts will stay firmly in the spot you intended them to be.  That added to the occasional self seeders, can make things just as confusing, particularly if some don't come true to their parents.  I won't even bother adding wrongly labelled bulbs into the equation at this point.  I've had my fair share of those too!

I identified a suitably bare spot for the small clump of the afore mentioned G. nivalis.  I dug the receiving hole and off I trotted back down the garden to lift them from the soil.  As the trowel went in, it hit something hard, I immediately thought it was a stone, I dug around and discovered it was a clump of snowdrops that had been planted in a pond basket.  The fact that the basket was there means that I had intentionally planted them there and therefore were not G. nivalis.  I scratched my head, what on earth were they?  I had all my special snowdrops detailed in a word document and detailed in an unpublished page on my blog.  I could not recall any that I had lost track off!  I also noticed very nearby, about six inches away there was signs that another snowdrop was trying to grow, although the foliage was small, I had also assumed that it had made it's own way there.  There are a few single blooms dotted around the garden.  As I dug down, I found that it too was in a basket.  I was so annoyed with myself, why couldn't I remember?
Found snowdrops
Can you spot the label?  I wondered if the other had a label too and would what ever I had written on them still be legible?  Fingers crossed!


Phew, the names are clear.  Galanthus Hill Poe on the left and G. Galatea on the right. With no dates written, would I be able to whittle down as to how I acquired them?
  
As I back filled the holes that were left by the removal of the baskets, a foot or so away, I noticed yet more unfamiliar grow popping up through the winter debris.  What on earth have you been up to Angie?  I asked myself.

Emerging foliage March 2015
My first thought was Muscari?  I then decided that the foliage was perhaps a bit too fine to be such.  I felt down into the soil to see if I could find a buried label but no.  I didn't want to disturb them too much.  Just then I noticed the tiniest speck of what appeared to be white plastic poking above the surface but it was around 6 inches away.  Dare I hope?

Narcissus rupicola label

Written clearly, Narcissus rupicola!  Might this be them?  I have no idea, time will tell I suppose but if you are familiar with them, I'd be grateful for your opinion.

This of course was when it all came flooding back.  Last spring I received a few bulbs in the green from a gardening friend.  I had something to work with now.  Emails would be checked when I got the laptop switched on.  Described in an email as 2nd year seedlings of Narcissus rupicola, therefore this year will make them 3rd year seedlings, if in fact that is what they are.  Therefore it will be safe to assume that they will not flower this year. 

So, just what lessons have been learned this winter? More importantly how do I intend to rectify my mistakes.

  • To adopt a better system than I currently use to record bulb planting/moving
The system I currently use only lists each species and variety I have.  I think I now need to include specific planting details.  Info that might be worth recording is how many bulbs I plant, where and when bought/received from and the exact spot in which they are planted.

Do you keep a bulb log?  What information do you record?  What, if anything else, do you think might prove useful?  
  • Never depend on you memory, no matter how good you think it is, it will at some point fail you.
When you consider that bulbs are dormant and out of sight for pretty much most of the year, it can be all too easy to have them slip your mind.  The expression Out of sight, out of mind springs to mind. The same of course can be said about perennials and other plants around the garden but there are often more obvious signs that they exist.  If I had a record of already having G. Hill Poe in the garden then last weekend there would have been no need to buy another and I could have added an alternative to my collection. 

  • The importance of labelling/tagging plants in my blog posts.
I always start with good intentions of labelling plants as they appear in my posts.  It's far easier to do when only a few plants are in each post and is not always practical on longer posts.  I use Bloom Day Posts as an example.  Despite having the search facility on my blog, I was unable to find mention of any of the plants I feature today.  How on earth can I expect visitors to find my blog and the plants I feature if I can't do so myself!  The fact that blogger only allows a specific amount of characters in their label facility does not help matters.

How do you decide which plants to label/tag or not to tag in your posts?  Do you use a general label for longer posts such as Bloom Day posts? 

  •  To keep a note book to hand.
As of this week, I have placed a small spiral note book and pencil on the ledge by the back door.  It will take 2 minutes to write things down.  Not all plants have fancy nursery labels that can be collected or saved for reference.  Which reminds me, I need to work through those too!  Occasionally plants will be moved on a whim.  Plants received as a gift or swap can be easily noted.  Friends who pop in with a plant gift for you may not have had the foresight to label said gift or perhaps you picked the plant up at a plant sale, those wee white plastic labels are easily lost.  
  • Plant special snowdrops in baskets.
Had I not had these named varieties in baskets, they would have otherwise been relegated to the garden as G. nivalis.  I had considered planting this year's additions to my special snowdrop collection directly in the ground without baskets but this episode has made me wary of doing so and baskets will be used every time now.  It's not worth it for the sake of a few pence, is it?  Another benefit is that the entire collection could be easily uprooted at anytime of the year for whatever reason.  It's odd to think that my friend and I had the exact same conversation after the SRGC show as we went shopping for pond baskets.  I also know that it is often recommended to growing bulbs in baskets to help deter critters.  Not an issue I have but know many of you that do. 

Does anyone else grow bulbs in baskets out in the open garden?  Do you have a specific reason for doing so, may one I haven't thought about. Perhaps one you'd like others to be aware of.        

I know that over the course of the past year I've received a few plant swaps from readers of my blog.  Please be safe in the knowledge that I have recorded said welcome additions to my garden and have the emails we exchanged saved too. 

Have you learned any lessons this winter?  If so, please put together a post and pop over to Plant Postings and put up a link so we can all read it.  You never know, we might learn from you!   

Thanks for reading.   





   

38 comments:

  1. I think it's an exciting way to garden, Angie. It's like a treasure hunt and a mystery all rolled into one. Unfortunately, I have lists of everything that has ever been planted in my garden along with planting plans. It is very dull to know what to expect, when and where. Stick to your way - it's much more fun.

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    1. I hadn't looked at it this way Sarah and you know what, you might just be right :)

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  2. I like your "never depend on your memory". I have a rather good system set up but, stupidly, I don't always follow it. I often think - well that is so obvious, I don't need to write this down. Big mistake - still, I continue making it. Last summer I had 6 to 8 identical lilies come up in a clump. I did not recognize them and still have no clue where they might have come from. You would think your memory could hold on to a clump of big lilies - obviously not mine.
    One of my pet peeves is permanent markers. Sometimes they turn out to be permanent but not always and then labels with traces of making on them turn up. Good luck with applying your learned lessons!

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    1. I know exactly where you are coming from Alain! Odd re the lilies, I'd be certain I'd remember them too.
      I find the permanent CD markers better that the others, they last a bit longer and being that their point is thicker helps too.

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  3. I keep very bad records as well. Sometimes I'm sure that I've posted about a plant, but when I search for it, I find no sign of anything. I guess I was just thinking about posting.

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    1. I've done that too Alison. I've even gone as far a seeing the image I captured in my mind and yet when I go look, it's gone! Maybe we have gremlins doing their worse with our posts ;)

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  4. What a relief that the labels were still intact! I had to chuckle because some of these things happen to me, too. I've never found the plastic or wood labels to stand up to the weather very well. I guess I need to get some metal ones. Maybe in my next garden. ;-) Thanks for joining in the meme!

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    1. I agree, metal ones are the way too go Beth. I don't know about costs over there but they are quite costly here for the decent ones. I should add them to my Christmas list ;)

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  5. Good sleuthing, Angie! I keep a spreadsheet, which over time has become massive - I record section of the garden, official plant name, projected height and width, flower color if applicable, sun requirements, source of purchase, planting date (sometimes as a rough estimate as it often takes me a month or so make updates to my file), and any special information I have (e.g. drought tolerance). However, I'm very bad at a) recording bulbs (I've no excuse but most of the lapses in my recordkeeping involve bulbs) and b) updating the file to record plant losses. I'm also haphazard about including plant moves. On-line sources can be helpful in filling in gaps, especially when it comes to plants I've inherited with the house.

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    1. I have a list of every plant I've ever bought but forget to edit it when something goes or dies. It is handy in so much as at least I have a reference point for the names but not planting positions Kris.
      I find my impulse moves are where my system falls down. I'm thankful that pretty much all the plants I inherited have now gone.
      Your garden is massive compared to mine and keeping track must be even harder.

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  6. Wow, I'm impressed! I must do more than I do at the moment, because my memory is now letting me down. I do have my special snowdrops clearly labelled but that is really to stop me planting something later on in the year when I see what I think is an empty space!

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    1. That's a hazard too Pauline. I think that is why some of my bulbs come up through the centre of other plants! I am going to take better pictures this spring, which might help me too.

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  7. I agree, Angie,we have to write the all we move or dig or plant. I do the same as you: I dug a hole to plant peony and found an old basket with lilies, deep on a bed. What a memory!
    So now I have a thick diary and write there and in my tablet, doubling my acts.

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    1. Nadezda, only this afternoon I sliced through what might be a Hosta when moving around some G. nivalis. I'm not sure just how much damage I've done, we shall see.
      Doubling up makes sense, a paper record is often handier to access if the device is not too hand.

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  8. We keep a list of the bulbs we buy and when planted but not the where, Some bulbs also date before list making. Lucky that the labels were intact when I find one it has usually snapped and I only have half,

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    1. Label keeping is another let down for me Sue. I don't like to put them in the ground, therefore they end up in boxes and like my plant list never gets edited. Maybe I should do something about that too. A job for summer when lounging outdoors I think.

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  9. super, wünsche einen guten Tag, Klaus

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    1. Danke, demselben zu Ihnen Klaus.

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  10. Your post made me smile somewhat ruefully Angie. If only I could turn back time I would have kept better records. Nothing like that sinking feeling when you dig into and damage bulbs that you've forgotten about. As for my special snowdrops I've got at least a dozen pots where the label has gone awol. However in the plus side I've had some lovely surprises over the years :)

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    1. Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn't it Anna :) If I can do a fairly decent job of keeping track of things, I'll be pleased.

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  11. Like Anna, I smiled while reading this post. My record keeping is atrocious and I'm always finding surprises in my garden. In addition to bulbs moving with other plants, I have some very helpful gardening squirrels that have been busy this winter replanting many of the bulbs I planted in the fall. There are some unusual and interesting combinations happening outside right now! Most likely, when I'm gone, my garden beds will be mowed down and turned back into lawn so I don't worry horribly about the future.

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    1. Peter, I already know what will happen to my garden when I'm gone. My son has told me that he will do exactly as you describe so save all the effort. He'd like a couple of garages too, or so he informs me. I don't worry about that as I won't be here to see them.

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  12. I disagree with you Angie, and I say , good on you for having LEGIBLE labels! Mine are always indecipherable and/or faded, so the mysteries never get solved.

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    1. The fact that the labels were still legible is pure luck Jane!

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  13. Great post, we all start with good intentions have mine on a data base, very organised, but I still slip up! I record name, date and place acquired, place planted in garden and any notes relevant to the plant. This works well and I update it as I go. Which is fine if you keep it backed up which I was under the impression mine was until 3 years ago. My Laptop died taking 20 years of work and records of everything in my life with it. Where were the back ups my ex had supposedly made? No one knew. So I had to start from scratch, there are large information gaps in the new data base, there's no way I can remember where and when I bought every one of over 1100 plants. Lesson learned, everything is backed up on an external hard drive and Drop box now. Every so often there is the move or the plant I forget to update, nothing is infallible :)

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    1. How awful that you lost all your recrods, very frustrating. Good though that you have learned and are now keeping them safe. Those 1100 plants are a fair amount to keep track of and as you say nothing is infallible.

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  14. You sound so like me Angie. If I don't write things down on the day I do it then I will forget forever. When I started blogging just over a year ago I also started a notebook, but it has some horrible gaps. I also started to put all my plant labels in plastic leafed folders. That worked really well as I could leaf through different areas of the garden and remind myself of plant names. However I now have as many labels thrown in a box as I do in the folder. Next I started an Excel spreadsheet, mostly to help me easily find the names of plants when I needed to label my photos on my blog. I categorise plants by type e.g. bulb, shrub evergreen, shrub deciduous, herbaceous small etc. I also note where and when the plant was obtained and where in the garden it is. I hope to put when it flowers each year. Great system you may think. Yes, but only if I keep it up to date, allowing enough time after shopping or gardening to actually update it. Here's to both of us getting our act together this year!

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    1. You don't have to tell me about boxes with labels Annette - I've many of them and just shake my head at my efforts to do better. I had hoped my blog would have gone some way in helping me with my records but as not everything makes it into posts, they isn't perfect either!
      I think the knack will be to keep it simple and less of an effort to do. Maybe we will surprise each other that by next year, everything will be perfect! Mmmmm, doubtful!

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  15. My main record keeping is in my head and it fails me all the time. I really need to come up with something that is both written down and systematic.

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    1. If you come up with something simple let us all know Jason :)

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  16. So true Angie - it's hard to keep track of everything, especially the little bulbs! Sometimes I think the garden "surprises" are just as much fun as the planned/kept track of plants in the garden though.

    I do *try* to keep track of everything - I keep one huge master list of every plant I buy in a computer document. It's organized by area in the garden, so for each area I have a list of the plants there, plus info about where and when I purchased them. If something dies or I remove it, I keep the listing but use strikethrough font and make a note of the (apparent) reason for its removal. This doesn't always ensure that I know exactly which plant is where, since I don't draw a detailed map, but it's usually enough that I can identify the name of things when they come up. Works pretty well for me!

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    1. It is nice to get these wee surprises isn't it :)
      Like you I have a list of all my plants and is useful when these wee surprises pop up but I need to work on the editing of it year round instead of as and when I remember to do it!

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  17. Ah, record keeping: the third rail of gardening. I keep trying to perfect mine, but always fall short. In the heat of the gardening season, when keeping track would be most useful, there's just so much more interesting stuff to do.

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    1. You are right Rickii - it's always when we are busy that our record keeping fails us or falls short. I'm hoping that keeping a brief hand written note will help - I just need to make sure I don't use abbreviations I won't recognis 3 or4 months down the line!

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  18. I gave up tracking my plants a long time ago Angie, I always started with the best of intentions keeping lists or even plans but eventually I either lost them or they became badly damaged and illegible after leaving them in the mini-tunnel then watering, plus you actually have to remember to update them :). My labels always fade and at one time I was tempted to buy a proper label printer but decided it was just too expensive. I now mark up with a handful of gravel anything precious that may be dug up over winter and for the rest of the time rely on minimal cultivation and the occasional set of photographs to see me through.

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    1. Oh Rick, I might just steal that handful of gravel tip. That might just work for me. Minimal cultivation is the way to go but my bad habit of moving things around is one I need to break.

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  19. I move bulbs every year when I transplant but purposely don't mark down where they went so I can be surprised when they pop up. It's a funny trick I play on myself every year. But I do take tons of photos so I know where all the perennials are and when I redesign an area, I use my photo software (PicMonkey) to write on the photo so I can remember where all the new plants have been placed. It's really useful.

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  20. I have this same issue...no records of anything just my memory...now that is bad and must be changed....you have given me the push to do it.

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