I spent the better part of the last two days finishing an inventory of the northeasternmost sections of China Valley. Inventory is an interesting experience. You start with a printout of what the last person found plus whatever has been entered since, minus whatever has been removed, or recorded as dead. Then you go out into the collection and try to find all those plants. Some are easy, like the ancient Cedars. Some difficult like obscure tiny perennials buried under drifts of their more vigorous relations. Anyway at some point you take your list with its notations and go inside to a computer and log on to BGBase. BGBase is a relational database and the repository for all our records at the Arboretum. Each plant is identified unambiguously by a unique combination of a 5 digit number and a qualifier.
Anyway, you log them in as Alive, Dead, Removed, or Unable to locate, or whatever obscure other alternatives are available. Essentially you add a line giving the date, the condition, and your name. There's also a field for comments, observations, notations, whatever. I'm personally grateful to whoever D. Sisas is; in 1996 she noted rough locations for almost all the plants she located. Very helpful. I have to admit that Stefan usually noted locations for plants that he planted or relocated.
I was chugging along on autopilot Monday when I came to an entry that meant more to me that it did to BGBase. 65074*J, Ophiopogon japonicus nana. The dwarf Ophiopogon that grows between and beside the stone steps leading down from the Red Pagoda to China Valley. L. Lee, Larry Lee, the curator of the Asian Collections for my first stint, entered the first fieldcheck in December of 1991. D. Sisas followed, but not until 1996, dutifully noting the location. Then Carole Bordelon (my curator), then Pat Lynch, and then Stefan. Sequential and interesting.
But I remember building the steps with L. Lee standing over me directing the placement of every stone. And I remember red-headed Alistair, newly emigrated from England and who would later design a Pagoda to replace the, then rotting one, helping Roger, soon to become another tragic victim of AIDS digging the plants from near the big Davidia, carrying them to the Pagoda and spacing them out. They cover the ground nicely now; it's one of the most attractive spots in an attractive garden. The recollections make me both happy and sad.