I just want to know what it is…

Camellia ‘Adorable’

I have a garden of my own, I volunteer one day a week in a local park and I have one gardening “job” where I help out with a garden the owners of which are finding it hard to cope with.

Occasionally in my own garden I get annoyed that I can’t remember the name of something. Between planting it and getting the first crop, I lost the name of an apple tree. The broken off label turned up a year later under some leaves. ‘Elstar’, totally useless but if I hadn’t found the name I could have replaced it with another of the same. Of if I’d wanted to plant something to pollinate it or be pollinated by it, without a name I wouldn’t have known its pollination group.

At the park I help look after a National Collection of Camellias. The whole point is that people should see them growing and have a label that tells them what they are so that if they want one they know what they’re looking for. Or perhaps they’re trying to identify one in their own garden and use the collection to get a comparison. Clear, accurate labelling is essential, backed up by good records so that when a label, or plant, goes missing it can be replaced. Note I say when, not if.

The private garden was owned by a well known plants woman and inherited by her niece.  Amongst much else, it contains 65 Camellias, at least 10 of which are unidentified. They include one that is also in the National Collection, also unidentified! The aunt left notebooks, scraps of paper, invoices, gardening books by the dozen, nursery catalogues and much else. Not much help.

Unidentified Camellia


There are very many possible reasons why it might be important in the future to be able to identify a particular plant. It may be important to a future owner or to a third party for whom the identity of one of your plants is significant.

I remember getting an enquiry about a Camellia in a Sussex garden, the only one in the garden with a name on it. We were the only nursery listing it and the new owners of the property wondered if we could tell them anything about it. With our information and theirs, we were able to establish that they’d bought the property of the lady who had raised the camellia and named it after herself, so they had the original plant of that variety. What might have been just another plant acquired a significance.

I have 22 camellias in my own garden, not to mention the ones in pots or on my allotment. One or two have labels. If I die or forget, their identity is lost. Such information as I do have is on this computer, who knows what will happen to that.
I suppose what I’m saying is that if you have good or rare plants, create and maintain records that are intelligible to others and that will survive your departure. And I’m saying it to myself first.

6 thoughts on “I just want to know what it is…

  1. I accept I’ve become an obsessive record keeper. Labels on everything. A folder for each planting area listing what’s in it, along with cultivation notes, photos, pruning and maintenance records. If a plant appears in more than one planting area, the information is duplicated in another folder. And everything duplicated again on the computer. And most of it once more in my “what to do when” folder. Gardening is so relaxing, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

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