My bulb order from Old House Gardens arrived at the end of last week just as OHG promised via their e-mail notification. And Brent and Becky’s shipment should arrive today. I’ve been ready for them for weeks. Oh, not the beds where I’m going to tuck in the bulbs; those are still full of fall-blooming plants in their glory. No, what’s ready are the id cards I make for each plant.
Stop laughing — it’s not as crazy as it sounds! I’ve given up on plant tags in the garden. They disappear, fade, break and disturb the natural look of things. Of course, if your garden is on lots of tours, then having plants marked with their name is a benefit to folks passing through. But for most of us, visitors are usually other gardening friends who will recognize most things. When a question comes up about one of the plants in my garden, if I can’t remember the name or requested information on the spot, I turn to my personal catalog. My card catalog, that is.
When my husband and I began out first garden almost twenty years ago, I began to make a 3x5-inch index card for each plant. I copied information from tags, catalogs or books onto the card, along with where and when I bought the plant, the cost and where I planted it (or planned to plant it) in the garden. I added photos cut from the catalogs if I was concerned about distinguishing between similar plants. While it took a few minutes to write everything out, it reminded me of the things I needed to consider as I did my planting — namely the ultimate size and cultural requirements of each item.
Now it’s become a habit. When I order online in the winter, I sit by the fire and make out my cards. In summer, I sit on the deck with a pile of blank index cards and a box of just-purchased plants on the table in front of me enjoying this stage of gardening as much as any other. My rule is nothing goes in the ground until there’s a card in the catalog.
The cards are literally stored in an old oak library cabinet that once held the cards for books — before libraries put their catalogs online. My cards are categorized and alphabetized making information easy to retrieve. At the moment, they fill one drawer while the remaining drawers have other treasures from the garden: feathers, birds’ nests and eggs, pods and seeds.
It’s a system ideally suited to anyone — like me — who makes lists and uses fountain pens. If that’s not your style but the computer isn’t either, I’ll have some suggestions that might suit you tomorrow.