Everything According to Plan

Someone here has accused my side of the family as being carriers of the gene for hoarding.  I disagree.  We do like to hold onto things, but we’re not big spenders and the things which come our way are either still eventually used, or have some other end in mind.  A further defense point is that if something sits for more than seven years we’re more than willing to get rid of it… although it still hurts putting it to the curb and I far prefer giving it away.

My parents must be at the giving away stage.  For the last few years they’ve been making a serious effort at putting their affairs in order and working their way through the mountain of things which a lifetime will accumulate.  I’m in complete denial as to why they’d want to do this, so it’s been fun seeing all these memories come back to life and having a chance to look back on the tender beginnings of this world famous garden blogger.

garden records

The early gardening records.  I’m guessing I had to stick to a budget of about $20, an easier task when shipping was under $1 and seed packets sat in the same price range.

I always thought they wanted to hold onto this stuff for when they open the museum, but apparently even they didn’t realize what real treasures they were holding on to.  I’ll stick to the ordering side for now but maybe some day I’ll bore you with some of the detailed flowering and growth records I kept for years and the tedious development plans I had for most every corner of the yard.  Obviously my obsession started early and rather than throw around terms such as ‘just like Thomas Jefferson’ and ‘coulda been president’, today we’ll just stick with that winter treat of all gardeners, the catalogs.

vintage garden catalog

I’d call it vintage, but I’m afraid that would date me more than it does the catalog.  A 30 year old White Flower Farm catalog is still a pleasure to read but was way outside the budget of a certain 17 year old.

So maybe I do horde favorite gardening catalogs and magazines.  I could have worse faults I think and as I look out at blowing snow and bitter windchills it’s got me thinking about this year’s plant budget.  Steve over at Glebe House Garden has a weekly running tab of hours spent working in the garden and it gives an eyeopening look at how much work a perfectly maintained garden can take.  My garden is neither perfectly maintained nor do my hours in the garden accurately reflect any amount of real work being done.  I think if I attempted the same I’d just be embarrassed by any attempt to explain why it took me two hours to plant six tomato seedlings… even if I only spent half that time staring at the clouds or pondering an iris flower.  I won’t try that.

What I will try is to keep a tab of how much I spend on the garden, and before you get all fine print on me I’d like to say up front I’ll be excluding several gray area costs from the tally.  Gas prices don’t count even if I drive two hours one way for a plant.  Gardening magazine subscriptions don’t count.  Garden construction projects probably won’t count.  Postage on a plant trade doesn’t count even if it’s an eight pound box of lilies from Utah.  Of course snowdrops don’t count, that’s still just my midlife crisis.

Here’s where 2018 is at.  Plant society memberships do count since they give me access to bunches of excellent seeds, and those are our first yearly expenses.

$40  membership renewal for the NA Rock Gardening Society
$15  for 25 packets of seed exchange seeds
$25  membership renewal for the American Primrose Society
$18  for 18 packets of seed exchange seeds
$35  membership renewal for the Mid Atlantic Hardy Plant Society
$20  for 35 packets of seed exchange seeds -10 extra for being a donor 🙂

$ 153 so far.  Off to a rocky start and I haven’t even made a definite decision on the Historic Iris and American Daffodil Societies…

37 comments on “Everything According to Plan

  1. Just think of the $$$ over 30 years! Every hour was worth the time spent in Garden, toiling or not, but the other expenditures – don’t want to think about it….

  2. I think garden construction should count because if you weren’t a gardener you wouldn’t do a thing out in your garden. I might try to keep track of what I spend this year too. What I really want to know is the time spent in the garden. Everyone that comes here, especially those that don’t garden, think I spend a lot of time out there. My neighbor that likes gardens but doesn’t do any gardening other than in pots thinks I am always in my garden. ha… We all know that isn’t true. Even if I am in the garden it doesn’t mean I am ‘working’. I might need to go see if a certain plant is blooming, or if a transplant looks like it has taken to it’s new spot and if I am out there anyway I might pull a weed or two that is in direct sight. I wouldn’t exactly call that working in the garden. Most times that is an unconscious act. So then, how do you keep track of time? A neighbor might come by when you are out and a one hour conversation would ensue. Then to you count that time as work in the garden? You definitely talk about gardens, yet the conversation might turn to grandchildren, children, critters visiting the garden. Yes, this could get all convoluted.

    • bittster says:

      That would be excellent if you were able to keep track of the budget this year. We could have a competition, but I’m not sure if more or less would be the winner! It’s so personal, I have trouble buying anything I can raise myself but then go do something silly like buy a $25 annual vine… which I noticed appears to have died completely in the garage… while others won’t bat an eye dishing out hundreds of dollars for a couple of arborvitae. Gardening though is still my one big hobby so I’m completely fine with any judgement. I have no plans to change based on where this goes, in fact I’m worried that I might find I don’t spend enough!
      When the weather is nice (and even when it’s not) I spend nearly all my spare time outside, either in the garden or on the porch looking at the garden. I wouldn’t know where to start as far as keeping track of that time for exactly the same reasons you have. Maybe we should keep track of how many times we go out to just look at something and then come back two hours later, dirty, missing a coffee cup, and with all new dirt jammed under the fingernails. Is that work or just the daily walkabout? I don’t think I’d even know where to start with timekeeping!
      -I hope you don’t mind but I edited your comment to add a link to your blog by where your name is 🙂

      • Lisa at Greenbow says:

        Yes, I too wonder how to keep a time table. I am terrible at keeping any records really. I guess I did enough that I took note in my garden journal that would be where to add up the time. Yet, sometimes I work so hard out there I don’t note down what I did until most is forgotten. Ha… Yes, keeping track of $$ spent would be easier. Maybe I will concentrate on that. Yet again…do I really want to know that?? Thanks for the link love. I have tried to leave my website but when I have put it in a balloon pops up and says leave your url. I guess I don’t know what I am doing or not doing.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Good luck with keeping that tab at your desired level. I suggest you shift any overages from gardening into your entertainment and preventative medicine categories.

    • bittster says:

      Excellent idea! I should look into gym memberships just so I can add that as a negative budget item. In fact being out of the garden for these last weeks of cold has probably added about five pounds to the scale and left me a little bored.

  4. Chloris says:

    Oh my goodness, this is brave. I wouldn’t even admit to myself how much I spend on the garden. As for having it in black and white for anyone to see; I shudder at the thought.
    I have seen Steve’s posts showing the hours of work each week. And of course his garden is immaculate. He makes me feel guilty. Like you I spend hours pottering and just looking and planning.
    I have gardening magazines going back to 1939, the later ones hoarded by me and the earlier ones hoarded by my friend’s granny. I am so glad her granny was a hoarder, the war time RHS magazines are fascinating. Full of men with pipes and adverts for DDT.

    • bittster says:

      It would only be brave if I included snowdrop related expenses. Brave or foolhardy, I think if the snowdrop expenses got out, my budget would be slashed faster than environmental protections in a Trump Whitehouse.
      There would be so many loopholes in keeping a work in the garden log. Unless I’m actively digging or hauling it wouldn’t get counted and that would probably add up to only an hour or two of actual work each week. Of course I wouldn’t include mowing and strimming. That’s a job better pushed off onto a non-gardener.
      You don’t always think it but it’s amazing how much change goes on while we’re caught up in our day to to day bustle. 1939 doesn’t seem that long ago, I’m pretty sure we didn’t even get that far in my high school history classes.

  5. Lisa from the Bloomers says:

    So great that your folks kept your “historical documents” intact. Next step, the Smithsonian! I’ve never been that great at record keeping but I’ve always kept the plant tags- in a jar, in the garage, where they belong. lol I admire the amount of work you put forth in your garden. It shows. Can’t wait until Spring to see some more. If you go over budget, maybe this year, have a donation jar out at the entrance to the garden when people want to stop by for a garden tour. That will help with next year’s seed purchases!

    • bittster says:

      Hey, I also have a jar (or two!) filled with plant labels. Every now and then I like to go through it and throw out the labels of everything which has died, it really helps keep the guilt levels down 😉
      I have to admit my actual record keeping has really slacked in the last 20 years. For a while my memory was keeping up but now…. not so much!
      A donation jar, I like that! I will be able to guarantee that 100% of the donations will go back into the local gardening economy, and a free plant with every donation! -or I could do it as a fundraiser where I’ll match every donation with maybe $2 for every dollar raised. That would sure help the budget!

  6. Be grateful your parents are doing that now. My mother did not, and I am left with the task of sorting through all her stuff and trying to decide what to do with it all! It’s a lesson I need to remember! Cool memorabilia, though! I remember ordering seeds, probably from Parks or Burpee, in 1982, but I didn’t keep any records! I do remember having to wait weeks (!!!) for them to arrive! Try to keep warm, Frank! Did you see they’re forecasting near 50 by the end of the week? What kind of garden havoc will that wreak?

    • bittster says:

      Remember that!? You used to have to fill out an order form, write a check, send it out, wait for a few weeks or months to hear anything back…. oh how things have changed. People get upset when something’s not at their door after three days!
      Yeah I don’t like what my parents are doing but I can see the point behind it. Most of the things I have I don’t care all that much about, but here and there are some things I’d like to have appreciated. I have been trying to get rid of the “extras”. Papers that I never look at, things we never use, stuff thats just sitting around. So far nothing’s been missed and if it’s been sitting in a box for years and I don’t care about it… out it goes!
      50F actually sounds nice. I think everything is still fast asleep, so as long as it doesn’t stay warm we should be just fine.

  7. Cathy says:

    Very brave Frank. Good to hear the snowdrops are calculated separately! The cost of my garden is an interesting but frightening thought…. last spring I went through old labels I’d kept and, considering each plant cost around 3 euros on average, I was horrified at how many never made it or lasted only a season! This past year I was very very restrained, so that means I can spend a fortune this year doesn’t it?!! 😉
    Those notes and catalogues you kept are a great way of seeing how tastes and costs have developed. I wonder if your children will become gardeners and treasure them one day… 🙂

    • bittster says:

      I was thinking the same! There are soooo many labels which don’t have a matching plant anymore, and I don’t think they were free 😉
      It is interesting to look back and see the changes. Chloris mentioned pipe smoking, DDT using gardeners, mine don’t go back as far but I do notice that articles were longer and more in depth, and many of the newest and latest seeds and plants just didn’t stand the test of time!
      So far there’s little hope that I’m raising gardeners. I do have a mildly interested nephew but we’ll see what happens when college and life happen!

  8. The way I justify garden spending is that even in a big year, I spend less than the cost of a snowmobile and a trailer to haul it and a pickup truck to pull it all. Eveybody in Wisconsin does that without batting an eye. So it gives me a nice budget to blow in the garden! I still have Smith & Hawken catalogs with black and white drawings and no photos. Those were the days.

    • bittster says:

      Your snowmobile rationale makes perfect sense to me. I look at the cost of taking the family out to diner and that easily takes care of a few treats from the nursery or an online spree! We also don’t go out and run up a huge bar tab, so that clears up even more funds for plants 😉
      I feel like the text for most of the older catalogs was so much more descriptive and entertaining than what you get. There are still a few good ones, but so many are just straight business…

  9. I think it would be very dangerous for me to keep a written account of how much I spend in the garden. If my husband should find out I would have a lot of explaining to do. And if my kids knew they would realize I’ve spent their inheritance. I should be thinking like your parents, Frank. (Actually, I’m probably older than they are.) I’m not a hoarder but my husband is and I know we need to start getting rid of his stuff. (But not my gardening stuff as that always will be useful.) My daughter actually suggested we clear the attic because she doesn’t want to be left the awful task. When would I find the time, I ask, as I’m either gardening, writing about gardening, reading about gardening, planning my garden, just gazing at my garden, etc.? P. x

    • bittster says:

      I like how you think Pam 😉
      Maybe other people buy and collect a bunch of disposable trash, but you know us gardeners never do! Even those bits of broken pottery serve a purpose, as well as all the collected stakes, leftover pots, useful tubs, tools, baskets…
      I think gardeners have it a little harder though, so much of what we collect has a little bit of dirt on it, is being reused, or might have started out with a different purpose. It’s hard to convince the naysayers of the brilliantly useful plan you have in mind for it.
      As far as the accounting goes I can always just quietly start losing receipts and don’t think anyone would be rude enough to call me out. I think we’re all kind of in this together as far as brushing gardening expenses under the carpet. We all have that new plant which a spouse might comment on and your response is “oh that? that’s been there, nice of you to finally notice!”

  10. Are you familiar with Henry Mitchell’s essay about his gardening budget? Your list of all the things not included as gardening reminded me of his essay.

    • bittster says:

      I’m sure I’ve read it, I’ve read and re-read his books so many times I wouldn’t doubt I got this whole idea from him somewhere along the line. I bet I sometimes steal his jokes as well, he’s probably my favorite garden writer.

  11. Oh, and I should also admit that I saved my White Flower Farm catalogs for years. (Mine don’t back as far as yours do.) They were food for a poverty-stricken gardener’s soul, especially if you figured out how to get one without paying the five dollars. I pored over them in the days before internet and Amazon. It seemed like my little public library didn’t have any gardening books of recent vintage, so WFF was it. I learned a lot of botanical Latin without even trying, just by thumbing through them over and over. And it was a WFF catalog that helped me identify the weird-looking plant in my first yard that turned out to be a colchicum. The rest, as they say, is history.

    • bittster says:

      I don’t think I was wise enough to figure out how to get any more of those WFF catalogs into my mailbox without paying the $5. Actually I thought they had me on some kind of don’t-bother-sending-a-catalog-to list since I’m sure they must have figured out I wasn’t quite WFF customer material. I treasured the few I had though.
      I don’t think it ever occurred to me to check out the gardening section of the library. I was a little insecure about my gardening obsession to begin with, and for a while I was too distracted by animals and nature and all the amazing stories of ecology and exploration. Wow do I sound like a nerdy kid.
      Haha, your first colchicum. Who could have imagined where that would take you!

  12. If you’re going to be foolhardy enough to keep track of how much you spend on the garden (accumulating the evidence upon which you may be convicted), may I suggest that you employ what is referred to on Capitol Hill as dynamic budgeting. So, for each expenditure you should make up – I mean estimate how much additional wealth you will accrue through enhancing the value of the house. If Congress can do it, why can’t you?

    • bittster says:

      Very wise advice Jason. I may even amaze myself at how much I’m going to enhance the value of our estate this year. Between that and our tax windfall I can’t image how this can possibly go wrong.
      If I can make it through this accounting experience without any major stumbles, maybe I should consider a future in politics 😉
      Well no. No chance of that.

  13. Christina says:

    Just one word – BRAVE

    • bittster says:

      🙂 I’ll be that sword wielding fighter who bravely charges the dragon only to be stomped within seconds by a single well placed dragon foot. Brave is one word, foolish might be another!

  14. Deborah says:

    Excellent!! Your gardening notes from your past will come in handy when you write your gardening autobiography.
    Since about 2007, I’ve been keeping an Excel spreadsheet of all the plants I acquire and mostly remembering to update with the location where they get planted or (harder) where I move them. If a plant dies, I move it to a second sheet of all the dead and disappeared plants. Very depressing to look at the money spent on dead plants. And definitely not evidence that should fall into my husband’s hands!

    Maybe your budget should give credits for plants given to you or traded, to balance against your purchases. Much like Congress again – here’s how much I didn’t spend that I could have.

    • bittster says:

      hehe, “my gardening autobiography”. That should be a best seller!
      Your spreadsheet sound like an excellent project. I love those kinds of things but have never been able to keep at it for any real length of time, and like you said once you start dividing and moving things it gets tough. I would love to see the deceased list, a friend had one and we got a good laugh going through and seeing just how many of the same plants both of us had killed!
      Don’t ever get depressed by how many dollars you spend on plants which die. I was going through my garage last weekend and had the same thought when I saw how many black plastic pots I’d collected. Since I’ve never bought any without plants I can safely assume each one represents at least 3 or 4 dollars when I bought it full of something growing…. and there are hundreds and hundreds 🙂
      You know I think you’re right, I will mention the traded plants. They’re like charitable donations and should be deductable! -or at least they were deductable….we’ll see how that changes.

      • bittster says:

        -come to think of it I forgot to drag out my index cards. Back in the day I tried to inventory every plant growing in my parent’s garden and it’s funny to see all the “important” notes and comments I felt the need to add.

  15. sweetbay103 says:

    I’ve spent more on plants for my garden than I have in years, and no way am I adding that up. lol I keep some of my catalogs too. I have Niche Gardens catalog going back over 10 years.

    • bittster says:

      There is a lot to be said for not keeping track of this things, and actually adding things up might not be the brightest idea… but I started, and if anything maybe it will be somewhat entertaining (for others)
      I’m suddenly wondering how I never got my hands on a Niche Gardens catalog. That’s another goodie!

  16. willisjw says:

    Well this posting brings to mind watching my kids go through my garden journals from 40 years ago. As you say, the details are amazing — tiny writing and somehow imagining that what was planted would stay where it was planted. I particularly like looking at the trees that transformed the yard and gave me a new appreciation for shade gardens…

    • bittster says:

      It’s a little disturbing how quickly trees can grow isn’t it? Surely it can’t really be that long since they were planted….
      Most of my records are now computer spreadsheets. I’m not so sure they’ll be as much fun to look at 40 years from now!

  17. Interesting… I have not belonged to any gardening societies or organizations since 1981.

    • bittster says:

      The garden society things is an interesting one. I take advantage of seed exchanges but other than that it seems that today you can find free online groups for most every other kind of interaction. I don’t know what kind of niche societies can carve out for themselves nowadays.

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