It took me a long time to come up with a system that works for me. For the longest time, I just planted willy nilly, with no concern for names of plants, their locations or performance. Then I joined HPSO and the focus shifted. My first attempt at following what was happening in the garden was to make notations on one of those big calendars with lots of room for each day. It soon became obvious that knowing the year-to-year shifts would be nice. By changing the color of the ink in the marker, the calendar could be stretched to cover about three years. That seemed like a lot at the time. Silly me. Hadn’t I noticed that once the gardening bug bit one soon began thinking in decades?
Those were the days before digital cameras, so I had already started a file for prints from the point and shoot, organized by year. In front of that, I placed alphabetized index cards where a card with pertinent info on each new plant purchased could find a home. It soon became apparent that some names were (for me) impossible to remember, so at the front of each lettered index card goes a list of common names with the Latin equivalent. All plant cards are filed under botanical names. When a plant turns up its toes, its card gets pulled and transferred to the dead plant section, with comments on what did it in. I also have extra lists of trees, grasses, succulents, ground covers and anything else that becomes an obvious category. If something was ordered from a catalog, the picture goes on the card. I also cannibalize catalogs for pictures of plants purchased elsewhere. Since the digital camera has taken over, the picture file has thinned out, but I still keep a yearly file and throw all my receipts, etc. in there.
The problem of tracking changes from year to year remained unsolved, until the hanging files came along. The green files in front are filed by categories. Magazine articles or newspaper clippings on subjects of interest can go in there. Have you ever tried to go through old magazines to refind an article? Any luck? Me neither. The “plant” file has alphabetized sub-folders. The next bank of files, the yellow ones, are sorted by month. Wandering around the garden (an almost daily event) a clipboard intermittently comes along, to make note of when things bloom, conditions in the garden, etc. I include lists of plants purchased or moved and where they are located. Most of the time, everything that happens in the garden in the span of one month fits on a single sheet of notebook paper. I find it both satisfying and informative to pull out the pertinent file at the beginning of each month to compare notes from years past. This year I failed to follow this plan, depending on computer files from Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-up to provide the data. I guess I am just a paper person. Wonderful as those two events are, they just do not give me the scope of information I seek. From now on I will go back to the methods outlined here and enjoy the new-fangled stuff for the visual feast that it is.
How about you? Do you have a system? A journal? What works for you?