I'm looking for a good way to keep plant and perennial information on hand. Any great ideas?
Get a rolodex. Instead of a persons name put in the name of the plant and you have the rest of the card for info on the plant. You could have an index in front with all the names of the plants you have and some sign to let you know where it is listed in the rolodex
I am an avid, obsessive gardener. Honestly, I have no real need for record keeping; however, I do it anyway. I do it for the love of the game.
This is going to be long...I already know it.
I'm now using a DBase system on my computer so I can stay completely paperless (unless I decide to print), but I kept a binder system for years at my last house. Here's what I've learned over the years whether you do paper or computer:
First, DON'T even entertain the idea of saving your plant tags if you have more than 10 plants. It's fun to collect them & they have pretty pictures, but after a year or 2 they get bulky and not as magical. Tags are of odd shapes & sizes, tags don't provide accurate care info/detail for YOUR site & soil conditions, tags don't tell you year-round care detail, and if you want to add more info for future use, the tags don't come with a Note-taking section. Any info you want to save should be transferred/copied to a useful format elsewhere. Let the tags go.
1. Decide what particular details/info you want to retain: Name, common names, size, light, etc. Most of the useful info you want to retain & document will not be on the plant tag anyway (location in your yard, peak season, price you paid, when to prune or fertilize, how much water it REALLY needs despite what tag said, winter protection, etc.)...you'll want to search the web & gather info there.
2. Start your organizing hierarchy by "Location In Yard". IE: "Front Sidewalk Bed", "South Birdbath" "West Path", etc.
If you have any question about a plant, you can go refer to that section of the yard. If you feel you might need a general drawing to help locate plants within the planting bed, by all means make a sketch for that section of yard. You can make the sketch as rough or professionally drawn as you prefer...as long as you can understand your drawing.
3. Within your "Location" section, list out the plant names and include whatever detail you want to retain.
I have found as long as you have the plant name documented...AND you can locate the plant in your yard...you can search it on the internet and learn more about that particular plant than you probably care to ever know. How much of that detail you want to keep with your computer or binder notes is up to you. After growing a plant for a year or 2, you won't need instructions for general care...you'll have it figured out.
FURTHER ORGANIZATION & DATA COLLECTION:
Now that you've got them sorted out by Location and can find them in the planting bed, you have a lot of options on how much further you may want to organize plant info:
--Alphabetically (if that feels right to you).
--Sequentially as they peak/look best throughout the growing season. Example:
Year Round: Boxwoods & Holly
and so forth.
Doing it this way will also give you some clues on whether you may want to add, subtract, or pick new plants because all the peak excitement might happen during 1 month and not much going on during the rest of the growing season.
--Organize by years in the ground. Example:
2006: 2 boxwoods
2006: Hosta Super Nova
2007: Hosta June
2009: Hosta Sum & Substance
If you're a frugal gardener, or looking to grow for divisions, you will then be able to see the 2006 & 2007 plants may be ready for divisions in 2010, predict the future of divisions within the next year or 2 ahead, and be able to think about/plan where divisions are going early on & not be stuck with 4 divisions and no home for them other than compost pile.
I'm sure there are more ways to break down the info, but I'm personally big on Peaking Sequence. Just helps me tweak so I can fully enjoy & be surprised by my gardens the whole season.
I could go on and on about plant data because it's my passion, but I'll stop here. Good luck!
I keep a plain journal. I list (for example) what's in bloom each week, new purchases, seeds started,when I fertilized, and where I finally transplant things. You can also take photos.
I used to keep a journal too, of what I bought/where/for how much, and where I put it, and just what I did in the garden every day. I would draw a diagram of whatever bed I worked on if I made changes in it. I did refer back to it a lot, to find plants, to remind myself of plant names, to plan better layouts, and to figure out how much money I had lost when the plants died :-) But I dropped it after a few years, as my information needs changed.
The trick is really to figure out what you need to know, and when you need to know it... and what other sources of info you are going to use. I always had my plant encyclopedias near at hand, plus I'd learned most of what plants wanted as I got to know them in person (I mean, after a while, you don't need to know height/width info on delphiniums). So I used a bunch of systems when I started gardening but then their use petered out as I didn't need them any more. The internet has also changed things considerably. It's often faster to search stuff on line than it is to even get out my encyclopedia, never mind wading through whatever system I've set up.
For me, one of the most important pieces of information is the names of the plants I have, so I don't buy the same plant twice. That means the most useful thing for me is a list by species: Japanese maples, conifers, ferns, etc. But then, I have a lot of plants. Plus, I need that information when I'm at the nursery, not just when I'm in the house or yard.
I don't need to know much else about them because I know my plants. It's like, for your kids you don't need to keep a list in your purse of their sizes and the colours they like, but for your nieces and nephews maybe you do. I'm plant-obsessed enough that I know my plants as well as I know my own kids. But if you aren't like that, you may need more info. For example, what colour is Tulip Holy Terror? How tall is Lily Sunny Day? Actually, as my collection grows, I sometimes do subcategorize, for example, my list of Rhododendrons becomes my list of red rhododendrons, yellow rhododendrons, blue rhododendrons, etc.
I have a container (a big pottery jug) for plant tags, because I have never found a better way to keep track of what I have. I group them either by bed or by type, it varies from time to time. I'm inconsistent though, since I also need tags in the ground which keep information right where it's needed. But I've had plant theft, so I often don't leave tags in the ground in the front yard. In the jug, I write on the tags where the items are planted. Sometimes I make a duplicate to use in the yard, sometimes the plant comes with two tags. Or no tags! So no system around the tags will be perfect.
My journal is a little simpler than Gayle's.
I have a binder with a different page for each section of the yard. On the page for that section, I list the plants and where they are, and the date. The other info is easily available if I need it, but for my purposes I just need to know what I planted where. For example, we have a lot of different kinds of clematis so I need to know which ones are where
We had an especially cold winter with heavy snow, so I expect we will have to replace some of our bushes. We have Dirr's Woody Landscape Plants, which is really a reference book. That is very helpful.
You all are amazing. All I do is write the name of the plant on one of those white thingies that go in the ground and then stick it in the ground next to the plant. I confess, that I do keep the tags. I look through them and it reminds me of what I have and I can find info online. I guess I should come up with a better system, but truly this is enough for me.
I take a digital picture of the plant and save it to a file called :yard/here/05 (or 06 or 07, or whatever is applicable) with the name of the plant. So it reads "garden/yard/here/icebergbush07.jpg" ("yard/here" is to distinguish it from "yard/want" which is a folder for plants I've seen and intend to try later.) I can tell from whatever else is in the photo what part of then yard it's in, so I don't need to be more specific in the actual file name.
Anyway, every year, I go around taking pictures of the yard, so that if I managed to miss the fact that XYZ rose isn't thriving in the north east corner of the west bed, I can assess it's growth (or lack of) and can move it. Although I'm generally on top of things in that regard, and know long before it's annual "portrait" whether a plant is doing well in a particular spot, it's good to have a visual for back up.
Greenqueen, I have used a tiny little computer program for years. The version out now (buy it once you get updates for life) lets you include photos too. And a lot more features than I ever will use.
It is called AZZ CARDFILE. You ought to at least take a look at it. The original version was based on the old Windows applet, CARDFILE. This was totally unstructured so you did not have to keep "fields" for address, phone numbers, names, company, etc, but could just store what information you liked and even search as you liked. It also would even dial phone numbers for you.
Well, I indexed all my 2000+ movie collection, all my recipes, and most recently all my plants. I would copy/paste the info from the nursery when I bought online, or include a photo of the plant in the ground or in the pot. It is the neatest way to keep track of when you bought stuff and how much you paid for it.
Is the OP still around?
I don't know if it's great, but I keep my plant information in an Excel worksheet. It's simple and flexible.
I can sort information in different ways. I determined what information I would need when working in the garden. Size, bloom time and color if applicable, fertilizing requirements, Latin and common name and where the plant is located. I can print out the list in spring if I'm planning on moving things around.
If you don't have Excel, Open Office, free to download, is an excellent program and can be saved as an Excel file to use on a different computer if you needed. I just recently downloaded it for my Mac. I can save document, email it to myself, and open them on the PC without any trouble. I couldn't do that without problems using the costly Microsoft Office for Mac.
Open Office is the best.
I use the Garden Scribe Plant Organizer. The binder is divided into sections for plant types(i.e. perennial) and each section has plant pages where you can keep information about each plant including a photo or a plant tag.
A smallish paper journal (sold at Borders, Walden books, any book or stationaery store) is my favorite. I still like keeping things in book form, paper and ink, something I can place my hamnds on. You can buy stick-on tabs for frequently used info. I'm not real computer-savvy. Those spreadsheets,etc, scare me a little (a lot).
I used to try to keep them cataloged, but I decided to just ENJOY them instead. Trying to keep track of names detracted from my enjoyment of my garden. I have over 50 varieties of Hosta and can only tell you the names of maybe 10. I have some beautiful bushes that I can't remember the names.
That's OK. I enjoy them for how beautiful they are. When I'm hiking in the woods, I enjoy the trees even though I don't know the names. I use the same thinking for my garden.