Databasing was Labeling seeds

Jim McKenney
Sun, 27 Nov 2011 08:42:41 PST
My labeling and
database practices are sitting on the fence between old paper practices and
contemporary edata practices.
Acquisition data is written by hand, ink on
paper, in the garden journals I've been keeping for over forty years. Each year
I begin a new acquisition series identified by a two digit code for the year.
Each newly acquired plant is given another number according to the order in
which it was received that year. Thus 11-194 means the 194th plant acquired in
2011. Since they occur in numerical order in the journals, It's easy to look
them up and find them. 
About those
journals: when I began blogging four years ago I wondered what effect my
blogging would have on my manuscript journals. As it turns out, there has been
very little. I’m very selective about what goes onto the blog, and the hand
written journals are still an important part of my gardening life.  
don't use plant names as a primary identifier in acquisition records in the journals,
but I do record the "as received" name. Plant names change too
frequently to be of use, and even when they don't change they often turn out to
be only approximations. In cases where several examples of clonal material have
been acquired, a letter suffix is added to distinguish each item received, as
in 11-191a, 11-191b and so on (these are real numbers and refer to a group of
unlabeled ferns picked up at a local plant exchange). The nomenclature of some
plants in commerce is so goofy that it pays to be able to identify each element
right from the beginning without resorting to names
I do use plant names is in the computer file for sorting images. As of this morning
there are 788 files for genera, and each species has a folder within the file
for its genus. Each cultivar gets a separate folder too. There must be
thousands of such folders now, but I have not counted them. Name changes are easily
handled by simply changing the name of the folder and re-sorting it: the acquisition numbers are
built into the file name for each image. 
image names looks like this: Fritillaria 05-164 bucharica, Fritillaria 07-213
bucharica. These two names represent two different acquisitions of Fritillaria
sent as bucharica, one in 2005 and one in 2007. If, when the plants bloomed,
one or both of them had turned out to be something else, it would have been
easy to change the name but the acquisition number would remain the same. 
For seeds I use the Index Seminum I started
in 1972. I was 29 years old when I started this and now I'm almost seventy:
lots of memories there! This Index Seminum consists of numerically consecutive
line entries giving only the most basic data: the as received name, the source,
sometimes the seed count., and for seeds received from the major exchanges, a
cross reference to the number attached to those seeds in the source exchange
list. The IS number is written on the packaging for seeds as their acquisition
is recorded in the IS, and then the seeds go into appropriate storage (usually
the refrigerator). 
labels I use cut down plastic Venetian blinds - I'll buy them when I see them
on sale. Avoid soft metal blinds: they can have sharp edges and corners when
cut. Soft lead pencils make a very durable mark and are my preference. For
plants in pots, there are often two labels, one buried deep in the pot to
escape mischief, and another at the surface to allow quick identification.
These labels will generally have only two data items: for plants the
acquisition number and the as received or corrected name, for seed the Index
Seminum number (these have an IS prefix) and the as received or corrected name.
For seeds I'll often add a date sown. 
In recent years I’ve
gotten into the habit of writing the labels used at the surface of pots
backwards: that way, if you can identify a plant at the generic level, you don’t
have to pull the entire label to read the buried species name or cultivar name.
Here’s an example: 10-387 ‘Kin Tsukumo’ nudum Psilotum. 
I also use Dymo plastic
and metal embossed labels. These endure indefinitely, but over the years the
plants themselves sometime move away from the label. In the case of woody
plants, the branch to which the label is attached sometimes dies and falls off.
Then animals moving through the garden inadvertently drag them around.
I’ve mentioned
this before to this group, but it’s worth repeating: I have some garden peonies
received back in the 1960s which have Dymo plastic labels buried among the
roots: the labels look as good as new a half century later!  
 Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.0º North, 77.1º West, USDA zone
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin <> 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society
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