I was browsing through Twitter this morning and saw the tweet below from Sarah Wilson. It has been a long time since I have given much thought to the mechanics of how we “organize",” or keep track of, the garden here at Juniper Hill so I thought I would do a quick walk through for folks like Sarah who might want to adopt a system similar to ours.
We have a large garden, now encompassing about two acres and, as it began to grow, we realized pretty quickly that we would need some method of remembering where we planted certain plants, let alone the actual names of some of them. So, here’s how we do it:
We save every plant tag as soon as the plant goes in the garden. Then, at the end of the gardening day, all of the plant tags in our pockets get stuffed in a small clay pot that sits right inside the terrace door to the garden. On the weekends, Paula (who is much faster and way more skilled with databases than I am) enters all of the data from each one of the plant tags that we accumulated during the week into a spreadsheet (Excel). Here’s what she includes as cells in that spreadsheet:
Place of Purchase of The Plant—Latin Name of Plant—Common Name of Plant—Date of Purchase—Price—Quantity—Total Price—Discount Price—Location in the garden where plant was planted—Specific Location Details—Comments—Bloom Time—Approximate Height
The nice thing about having all this info in a spreadsheet is that we can then put it in Dropbox so both of us can have it at the ready on any of our devices. So, even in the garden, when a visitor tests our memories by, for example, asking the EXACT name of the cultivar of a certain Salvia (which I’m sure we have long forgotten), we can pull out our phone or tablet and find it fairly quickly, right there on the spot.
The database is also a nice way to tally up how much is spent on plants each season. However, as a card-carrying plantaholic, I never, EVER bother to look at this.
The Excel database is hugely helpful but it is only half of our organizational system. The other half involves photos….lots of photos. I take tons of photos of our own garden and I not only use Lightroom as a way of editing those photos but also as a library catalog system; something Lightroom is very good at.
By appending the date to the camera filename in Lightroom, I can organize everything in chronological order which makes individual photos easy to find. However, Lightroom also has a very powerful keyword system so that you can add individual keywords to each photo or series of photos. In my case, keywords often include area of the garden where the photo was taken, name of the plants in the photo, or any other particular features of the photo that I might think are important to identify and that I might want to search on later. For example, if there is a table and chair in the photo, or a piece of statuary, I might also add those as keywords to the photo.
Lightroom also has all of the metadata searching tools that you can imagine. These come in handy if you’re searching for a photo taken by a particular camera, or lens, or at a particular f-stop. Believe it or not, there have been times when I couldn’t remember the name of a plant in order to find a photo of it but I could remember the specific camera and lens that I used to capture the image (only photographers will appreciate this, Im sure) and was able to find it that way.
You can also use the Lightroom map module to display the exact location of the shot if your camera is equipped with GPS. Particularly apropos if you take most of your photos with your mobile phone. I can also add any comments I might have about the photo right into the metadata of the photo itself and these will travel with the photo no matter where it ends up or in which application it is viewed. For example, in a photo containing a shot of a hedge, I may want to make a comment in the metadata such as…,” with great strain to my muscles and possible permanent damage to my back, this entire hedge was moved from its original location only several months after it was first planted.” Something I have actually done TWICE!
So, I hope that gives you a feel for how we organize our garden here. However, I would love to hear about your own system. Let me know in the comments below. And, if your garden has no organization at all, that’s ok, too…just enjoy it!