I’m sure I make things far too complicated! but I’m a “detail person” and I don’t know another way.
The basic problem is simple: I want to record the dates that things flowered; if I then decide to move some plants around, or want to move a plant to be next to a companion that will show it off to best advantage, I want to remember, during the dormant / plant-moving season, what flowers at the same time as something else – or what will NOT flower until the other plant has finished.
I also need to remember what I have, and where it is planted, and there is no way on this earth that I would keep a fancy garden design CAD drawing up-to-date.
So some years back I came up with the idea of having a list of my plants in “walking order”. I can tell the difference between a Lily and a Lupin, so all I really need to know is that the Lily is “White Heaven” and the Lupin is “The Page”. Each time I planted something I added it into the list, between two existing entries, and I use the number of “strides” from the end of the bed as a distance indicator. I name my beds North, South, East or West, or perhaps NE, NW, SE, SW and so on. If a plant is recorded as NW04 then it is 4 strides from the end of the “NW” bed. The starting end, from which to stride out, is the house end. Of course I have beds at right angles to the house, and round beds, and all sorts, so there is some unconformity in the process – but so long as I am consistent for a bed that seems to have been good enough. Then I have suffixes “m” for the middle of the bed and “b” for the back … and “bb” for something that is right at the very back!
Nowadays I have an APP on my phone that the Walking Order plant list is stored in – I use EverNote which synchronises between my phone, tablet and desktop so I can just edit anything in whichever is close to hand and all the others stay synchronised. In the olden days I stored the list on my computer in a Notepad file, printed it out, scribbled on it when in the garden (if I had remembered to take it with me …) often didn’t get around to updating the original, and then got frustrated when I didn’t know what was where … I suppose Capability Brown always had a Scribe Minion at his side
The Walking order lists work well for me. If I need to know the name of the plant I can look it up. If I take some cuttings I just write “Penstemon NW12” on the label when I cut them and I don’t have to try to remember the variety – I can look that up later if and when it becomes necessary – or just plant the results around their siblings at NW12 the following spring. If I am walking around with a house guest I can look up the name of the plant to answer their question, and make a note to propagate one for them as a pressie.
But … how to record flowering? Or the fact that it needs protecting from a late frost, and do I care that it came from the Church fete rather than Kelways? When I place an order online I get a nice email confirmation, which is great as I can cut & paste it to my plant list … but it tends to include other information as well, which I am loathed to delete. I really should be more ruthless – the price will no doubt be of interest to a historian in 100 years time, but I don’t really need it in my Walking Order list! nor which flowering group the Pears are in, either I’ve planted the right ones near each other … or I haven’t!
note that the Pears have got extra Wibble pasted into their entries … I need to get out of that habit … and clearly I didn’t look after the Cobnuts very well in their first season and several died of thirst.
For flowering I have been adding “18Apr16” next to the plant, and then year-by-year I get a list of cumulative flowering dates. If I manage to remember that I have not recorded the end of flowering then I edit it to 18Apr-10May16, but the trouble is the end of flowering doesn’t register with me as I walk around the garden, unless the plant needs deadheading.
So now I also copy the plant to a separate, chronological, list in Flowering Order. That is divided into fortnightly periods which seems to have been OK so far. The original Walking Order lists have separate pages for each area of the garden, and their NW, NE, etc. names make sense within that grouping. In the Flowering List I have had to invent Prefixes for the bed names so “Sh” is the Shrubbery, “Hot” is the Red Border, “Jun” is the Exotic Jungle and so on, but I have grouped the entries for each two-week period by bed, in walking order, so as I am walking round the garden I can easily see if anything should be in flower so that I note it. But so far I have not cracked remembering to record the end of flowering
But that was until I started the Daffodil Project – I planted 25 each of 28 varieties with a view to deciding on two or three varieties that would work well naturalised in the lawn, and would make a nice, complementing, selection from Early through Mid to Late flowering. For that I need to know the dates when the various varieties flower, but also the stem height and the greater detail of when the buds start to show colour, when the first flower opens and the last flower starts to fade, so I created a spreadsheet for them. They are listed in walking order (its a cutting bed – I planted them in Alphabetical Order so it was easier to guess a name …) and I used Conditional Formatting to highlight the cell that represents the next “event” for that variety – so as I walk along I just need to consider if that event has happened, rather than trying to record that the thing is in flower – which it has been the last three weeks when I walked down the bed!
This is the first year after planting, so the dates are probably meaningless – even as a relative measure of flowering times – and certainly they bear no relationship to the Early / Mid / Late indicators in the catalogue (although they may well turn out to be useless anyway). So another year, or two, data recording before I can decide which bulbs are going to be my shortlist-of-three for the main, naturalised, planting.
In other news:
I’ve updated the Long Walk article with details of the Folly we are building