Northern Shade Gardening

Plant Bloom Record Keeping

Saturday, June 14, 2008 Category: Garden Record Keeping

Linum perenne \'Blue Sapphire\' (flax)I like to keep track of when my flowers bloom each year. I record the information on a simple horizontal bar graph, which I’ve attached as a sample bloom table. Of course flowering times for perennials in the garden vary from year to year, depending on the temperature, amount of sun and rain, etc. I find the spring plants especially can vary in their bloom time by quite a bit, depending on the weather. Still, it’s helpful to know about when to expect various flowers such as this Linum perenne (flax), for how long they bloom, and which other plants are flowering at the same time. Will the flowering time of those pink Dianthus caryophylus (carnations) on the left overlap the flowering L. perenne?

I make a simple table with a word processor, with the first column for the plant name and then columns labeled with the names of the months. I put the plant names in order according to when they start flowering, in rows starting at the top. I do this as I go, or by editing last year’s table. For each plant, I type a line across the cells, from left to right, corresponding to how long during the month it’s in bloom. If a plant starts blooming a quarter or halfway through the month, the line starts a quarter or halfway across the cell. It’s easy to mentally divide the cells into 4 sections for weeks. Then you can see in one glance, the cycle of flowering from the top left to bottom right.

The bloom table is useful to see the length of time different plants are in flower, by scanning across the rows sideways. It’s very easy then to visually sort the long bloomers from the short bursts of beauty.

You can also scan down the columns to see which flowers overlap their bloom time. Then you know if you have any hope of 2 plants blooming at the same time before transplanting them. As well, you see which months/weeks have lots of perennials and shrubs blooming, and which periods in the garden are more sparse, by scanning in a line down any month.

It’s a simple table, but very useful. It’s easy to see the bloom times in summer, when you’re standing in your garden, but the chart is helpful visualizing when you’re planning at different times. I’ve included a pdf attachment of my 2008 bloom table, as a sample of how it looks. The names are abbreviated to fit the cells.

The table only goes from May to September, because the rest of the months are usually white, both on the bloom table and on the ground. This could be why I have more time for record keeping. Do you like to keep track of the flowering times of your plants?

You can find another  garden record keeping spreadsheet I use to keep track of all the other plant details in this other post.

16 Responses to “Plant Bloom Record Keeping” »

  1. deb :
    June 14, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    How very organized. You could plan a party around a certain plants bloom. Wish I’d have thought of that.

  2. Northern Shade :
    June 14, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Deb, there are a number of months when I can’t putter around the garden, so I have to putter around my garden records.

  3. Britt-Arnhild :
    June 15, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Like you I keep track of when perennials (and also annuals) bloom in my garden.

    Thanks for your comment on my Blue Garden. It is the second year only I have these blue poppies, they were in bloom last year when I bought them, and came again this year.

  4. Northern Shade :
    June 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Britt-Arnhild, I love the blue poppies. Although they are perennial, some are supposed to be monocarpic, dying after they flower and others aren’t. Every time I’ve tried them in the past, they’ve only flowered once and then died. I should try them again, since they have such a beautiful bloom, and I love blue flowers. I guess you do too.

  5. Wurzerl :
    June 16, 2008 at 2:31 am

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog and for commenting on it. It’ s very interesting for me to see your posts and I think we love the same plants! Brunnera, Linum and much more.
    I also have a list of the blooming times of the plants. My garden is little, 180 qm, not too much to have a lot of plants, which are only blossom some days.
    I’m sorry for my bad English, hope so it will be better soon!!
    Have a great week
    Wurzerl from Bavaria

  6. Northern Shade :
    June 16, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Wurzerl, when I first moved to this house, there were only about 5 types of perennials already here, and each of them only bloomed for about 2 weeks each. There were many bare times that first year. In a small garden, you can’t only have plants with a short blooming time. You need some interesting foliage, and some plants with extended bloom times.
    I understood everything you wrote, no problem.

  7. Cinj :
    June 18, 2008 at 5:53 am

    Wow, that is very organized. I like my gardens, but I don’t keep such records. I’m lucky if I keep the tags actually. All of the plants that I put in last year made it through the winter, so I am extremely pleased about that! I like the idea you have of posting plants that survived the winter in your garden, I just may have to borrow that idea from you!

  8. Northern Shade :
    June 18, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Cinj, it’s reassuring when all of your plants survive the cold and start sprouting in the spring. I added http://northernshade.ca/plant-list/ as a reference to show what perennials and shrubs do well in a cold climate, especially the shade tolerant ones. It’s fun to read other gardeners’ plant lists and their opinions about them.

  9. Pomona :
    June 18, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks for the bloom-time chart. I keep rough records in my garden diary, but then that requires a) actually writing in my garden diary and b) looking up the last few years’ bloom time. I’ll see what luck I have with this method.

    I do think it’s an excellent idea to keep a personal record, because not only do bloom times vary from year to year, they bloom from garden to garden and place to place, so a great combo recommended in a magazine or catalogue may just not be possible for my own garden.

    Thanks for the shade-tolerance list, I might do one for my own warmer-climate garden (hot but semi-shady gardens have their own particularities, too).

  10. Northern Shade :
    June 18, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Pomona, I like the quick visual of the bloom sequence on the table. It’s easy to see at a glance the peak bloom times, and the garden work horses that bloom over a long period.
    I hope my plant list with pictures is helpful. I think it’s useful for people to post plant lists for their individual growing conditions and niche environments.

  11. bek :
    June 21, 2008 at 5:30 am

    Thank you for your visit. I really like the way you keep track of your spreadsheets. I am a quite disorganized person, but love wasting time on the computer. So that might actually be something I could do. That way I would even have a written record on what plants I actually have. I will give it a try next year.
    I love your flax! I saw one in a botanical garden last month. Since then it’s on my wishlist.

  12. Northern Shade :
    June 21, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Bek, the flax are very easy care and have a longer bloom time than many perennials. It’s fun to look over your garden records on the computer when you’re not actually mucking about in the soil.

  13. Kate :
    May 11, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Great organization! You should be a citizen scientist (or phenologist) considering how you keep records. You might actually be interested in the GLOG feature on YourGardenShow.com – it a timeline and journal that lets gardeners keep track of what’s happening in their garden, and provides a visual timeline of entries.

  14. Northern Shade :
    May 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Kate, I love to organize the plant data, to keep track of all of the information. One recent idea, was to add a column to the spreadsheet about where I got the plant from, since some visitors ask for sources, and I don’t always remember them all.

  15. Neils :
    April 1, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks, very much, for your excel-lent record of your garden plants. I am designing my garden (zone 5, southern interior of BC) and have been looking for a model to use to store promising possibilities and then to scrutinize for design decisions. Yours looks great!

    I modified your bloom dates record. The MSWord table fills the width of an 8.5×11 sheet, in landscape orientation(appropriate, eh), with all information for a given plant on one line. The basic columns are one text character wide with four columns per month. Hence, my visual record is to the nearest week. My growing season begins in April and runs through October, so I have seven months (28 columns + namne + dates) I select the number of weeks (columns) the plant is in bloom and shade the selected cells in the same colour as the plant.

    It was a bit fiddly setting up the template, but is easy to use. I would be happy to send you the template and to hear your thoughts about its use.

  16. Northern Shade :
    April 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Neils, I like your idea for the colour coded bloom chart, to help with visualizing the combinations. I am going to make one like it, but unfortunately mine won’t have as many columns. I keep trying to extend my garden season with more extra early and late flowering plants, but the Alberta winters curtail extending too far. If we get a warm spring, the earliest crocus and Galanthus can start towards the beginning of April, while the hardiest of bellflowers will last into October, if we don’t get an early snow. Lately I’ve been faking it a bit, with colourful evergreen leaves, like the Heuchera and Tiarella to extend the garden colour. Thanks for the great idea with the colour coded weeks.

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