IT IS important to go through drawers this time of year to uncover odd envelopes of seed that have been "safely" stashed away for some months.
If this is not done, the seeds will be discovered, eventually, about July 19.
For two years now, I have been chasing a birthwort, Aristolochia elegans, a greenhouse climber that may or may not be hardy outdoors in Washington. The little envelope of seeds has moved (according to the Master Plan of the moment) to four drawers in three different rooms, and of course I can never find it when I am ready to plant the seed. But I always find it, neatly labeled, whenever the time of year is wrong for planting.
For two or three years now I have been after some poppies, a handsome double pink sort, grown well by my friend Al. Last June he gave me a great batch of seed, which I valued so highly I stuck the plastic wrapper of seeds in my cuff link box. Let me say a cuff link box is the worst place for seeds, because they always manage to seep out and accumulate in the cracks of the box, so there is no telling, really, what all those seeds are.
It also happens, always that after a few months you will say now this is not a good place for the seeds. So they are put in a wonderful place. The only trouble is that six months later, when you are looking for them, there is no telling which wonderful place they were put.
We have an old cabinet quite ready to fall apart, with nine compartments that you pull out with little gilded dolphins, and the cabinet door, if you are not extremely careful, falls off. This cabinet now contains several iron brackets, about 60 brass, two glass stars (from a chandelier), three amethyst pear-shaped doodads (from a chandelier), some 40-year-old visiting cards, various packets of screws, three quite fine hinges (God only knows where the fourth one went) that will be useful someday, two lengths of especially fine copper wire, the heavy kind, and other valuable objects such as two crystal ash trays with curved bottoms that roll over spilling ashes everywhere.
Imagine finding a packet of mignonette seeds there. Ah. It was the mignonette, not the poppies, that went in the cabinet.
There is a leather pencil box in a bedroom. It is always good for a surprise. Once the birthwort seeds turned up in it.
William Boozer's address is on a card there. When I think how I have torn up the house looking for that, and all the time it was in the pencil box.
The telephone table, which tries hard to look as if Mr. Sheraton made it, and which has a wobbly leg that comes off if you pull the drawer out in a passion, has many things (seeds, sometimes) among the kid gloves that have not been worn by any woman since a great-aunt's funeral in Wilmington some years ago. There is nothing like short kid gloves to jam a drawer. Women do not wear gloves, any more than men wear collar buttons, but nobody around here is about to throw such things away. Anyway, going through drawers looking for poppy seeds is a work of some days.
Every gardener should get married. Otherwise, it takes twice as long to find things. My wife recovered the poppy seeds from a shoe box in which only URGENT notes are filed. The box has not been examined since August, and there the seeds were.
I am believer in good filing systems. The bean and tomato seeds stay in a box full of candles in the food safe. I always know where they are. Occasionally, during the winter, a little rain of bean seeds falls when my wife pulls out a few candles without looking what she is doing, but the box is quite large and the seeds fall right back in, so in spring you can take the candles out and examine the box corners.
Young gardeners should learn early to be orderly. Once habits are fixed, there is no unfixing them. In my father's house kitchen matches were always kept in salt box near the roller towel. For years people would reach in for salt, merely because the box said salt.
People have strange places for storing tuberose bulbs, and the things that can be found, eventually, in shoe bags attached to the inside doors of closets, are fairly remarkable, Gladiolus corms, if lost, may commonly be found in the box containing Christmas tree lights.
A place for everything and everything in its place. Endless time is wasted through not having sensible storage procedures. In the old house, everybody knew where everything was because after the first half-century or so, things fall into place, and everybody knows the matches are in the salt box and the chocolate is in the cigar humidor.
But if you have only been in a new place a few years, things can be anywhere. Which is why I say now is the time to go through drawers. Something is almost certain to be found that should be planted in March.