I don’t like labels in my garden. Before I became a flower farmer, I kept a logbook, but I never labeled anything outside. I sometimes kept the original nursery tags of plants and shrubs I planted – those were in a flower pot on a shelf in the garage – but mostly I relied on my own memory to identify anything in my yard, because I thought that labels spoiled the effect of my beautiful garden.
But now that I’m a flower farmer, I’m slowly giving up that opinion. Why? Because I simply can’t keep track of everything!
For many years I knew all my plants. I kept a garden logbook, faithfully recording what I planted and where, but out in the yard, I relied on my experience and accumulated knowledge. Not only could I tell a larkspur from a cosmo, even when they were tiny seedlings, but I also remembered that this larkspur was ‘Galilee White’ and I remembered planting it here, and that other seedling was a cosmo called ‘Sensation White’ because it came up right where I seeded them last year.
But now that we have Tiny Footprint Flowers, it’s a whole new ballgame! We grow so many varieties of flowers – some of them new to me - that I can’t keep them straight. Sometimes we grow five or six varieties of the same flower. When they start blooming, I’m left wondering, which variety of snapdragon is this pinkish-peach one right here? Is it Chantilly Rose? Or Chantilly Pink? To make matters worse, some of our seedlings die after they’re planted outside, and if we don’t have more seedlings of that variety, we plug in something else, making the problem worse. Is this one a Celosia, stuck in the snapdragon row? And which one – Celway White or Flamingo Feather? You get the idea.
By the end of our first year growing cut flowers to sell, I had to admit that labeling plants outside, right where they grow, was every bit as important as keeping notes. I had a logbook, and Excel documents for all of Tiny Footprint’s flowers – I recorded seeding and planting dates. But when I was out among the rows of flowers, those notes weren’t enough. I needed to be sure of which variety I was looking at so I could evaluate and plan for next year.
Now our methods are changing. I still keep a logbook and Excel records, but now Don and I are finding the best ways to label things outside. We found that although small markers are great for the seed trays, they don’t work well outside. We used to stick them in the ground next to the first plant in a set of one variety, but as the plants grew, the labels became impossible to see. We’re now trying metal markers that are pushed into the ground and stick up about 18 inches. I wish we had some even taller, but for now this is a big improvement. If you grow flowers and have better ideas, please share in the comments section below!