What, you may ask, does a new file cabinet have to do with gardening? Well, I am storing all my gardening catalogs and gardening-related papers in it. For some of you that will be sufficient explanation; the others will be thinking, “Huh? Papers? What do papers have to do with gardening?” The Bookish Gardener and I were ribbing each other a bit in the comments of this post about our excessive attention to detail. Well, excessive to you “others,” but for those of us who understand these things, it’s precisely the right amount of attention to detail.
I keep records, you see, of what I bought and when I bought it, where I planted it, when it bloomed, and, when, alas, it died–if it did. I take notes or make photocopies of important ideas or other information from gardening books I read. I clip articles out of certain dispensable magazines. The good magazines I keep, and keep notations of which articles I want to refer to. (Oh, that someone would follow in the footsteps of Joy McCann of Compudex Press and start compiling a multi-magazine index again!)
And then there are the catalogs. . . For the most part, I only keep a catalog on file until there is a new one to replace it. If I order from a catalog, I tear out the pages displaying the items I’ve ordered and file them with the rest of the information for that year. There are certain catalogs that I save more than just the current one. Usually it is because they have so much information that they are worth saving as a reference work.
Once upon a time I used to justify saving the White Flower Farm catalogs for this reason. But I’ve gotten beyond the point where I need basic information on perennials, and I now have books to supplement any gaps in my knowledge. They do have gorgeous photos, just the thing to browse through on a cold winter’s night. But I have wonderful books with gorgeous photographs. The best I can come up with is they are like old friends–that, and I’m a pack rat by nature. I should probably ditch them, but every time I pick one up I start fondly remembering each photo. Some still have such a power to move me. I don’t know why WFF doesn’t start printing calendars as a sideline; they have quite a store of great images by now.
At any rate, as I’ve been filing catalogs I’ve been pondering my filing system. I am currently filing catalogs alphabetically, which makes filing a no-brainer, but poses some problems for retrieval. Sure, if I want to look at the latest WFF catalog, I know to look under ‘W’. But what if I want all the catalogs selling daylilies? I might not remember all the names (of the catalogs). I used to have catalogs filed by category, but that provoked an agony of indecision when it came time to file. What do I file the WFF catalog under? It could go under ‘Perennials’, ‘Shrubs’, ‘Daylilies’ . . . it could go under most categories. Under the old system, catalogs sometimes didn’t get filed because I couldn’t make up my mind. (This is the downside to being concerned with getting the details right.) What I really need is a cross-indexing system, but in my heart of hearts I know I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. What I really need is a secretary, except I think they call them personal assistants these days.
As it is, I am several years behind in my record keeping. I am reconciled to the idea that I might never catch up. I’m not caught up in any aspect of my life at the moment. I am starting to suspect that being caught up is a myth. Life still goes on, even though some of those precious details slip through our fingers. But I don’t know how to be any other way: bean-counter, record-keeper, detail-lover, can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees-type person. For me, it’s part of what makes gardening fun.