Administration of a Hosta collection
Once you get to know hostas and become fascinated by their immense diversity, you'll probably start buying some (a lot ?) every year. Soon, you have acquired a small collection.
It's important tot keep record of all your plants from the very beginning. If you don't, you'll end up with the same problem I have: no data on the earlier plants you bought. Keeping track of your plants also means you have to be able to establish the correct name for every plant in the garden at any time. There are a number of ways to help you achieve this. Most people use plants tags. Another option is to mark the exact position of every single plant on a garden plan.
Managing and using plant data
Which data to keep ?
Of course it's up to you to decide which data to keep on the plants in your collection, but I think this is the basic information you should have on every plant:
- Date or year of purchase;
- Where it came from.
For the Hosta Mill collection I also keep the following information:'
- Date a plant was removed;
- The reason why it was removed;
How to keep records
Although it's possible and OK to keep written records, in this digital era there are some excellent tools around to make your life a lot easier: spreadsheets '(like Excel) or a database (like Access, MySQL, ...).
Probably the best choice is a database, because this is a tool specially designed for managing tables that contain records. I have chosen to use Excel, for a very simple but practical reason: my P-Touch label printer can be connected to my hosta spreadsheet, and allows me to print the data I want for the plants I want. With a handwriting like mine that's a blessing. 'That also the reason why I keep the ONIR data in the spreadsheet: I want them on the label.
Like I said in the foreword, it's possible to set up a system to identify each plant in the garden by recording its exact location on the garden. A lot of people apparently have great aesthetical objections to visible labels in the garden, so this could be a solution for them. Still, it seems a bit risky to me. My advice would be to at least mark every plant with an 'invisible' label.
I prefer my double labeling system
Label 1 - 'Invisible'
When you purchase a plant, it almost always comes with a label; if it comes without, make one yourself'. Usually these labels don't last very long; they either get brittle or the printing fades, or both. They also tend to roam, ending up somewhere else in the garden. You can bury this label next to the plant, under the soil in the garden or the container. This way it stays intact and readable for many years. I always bury them to the left in front of the root ball. Should you ever loose the name of the plant, this label can be your last resort.
Label 2 - 'Visible'
When using a visible label, make sure it doesn't have any of the drawbacks mentioned before: it should be able to last for many years without any noticeable fading and it must sit tight.
I don't want to discuss colors and tastes, so the type of label is your choice. Still I wonder if it is sensible to use artistic creations like painted rocks or other types you can never be sure of they will remain where you put them.
After years of DIY metal labels, I've purchased a large quantity of metal rose labels from Paw Paw. These are suitable for garden and container use. To make them less conspicuous, I plant them fairly deep, with the label itself just above ground level. The printing is on Brother TZ-tape. It will not come of and there is no ink involved: the text is burned into the ribbon: absolutely fading proof.