Monthly Archive for January, 2013

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Are Plant Names Important?

Spruce tree

Lately there has been a lot of debate within the team about the importance of proper plant names.  This is also something we have been hearing from our contacts in the garden industry. There is a great deal of fear about letting gardeners identify their plants.  As the theory goes, gardeners don’t know correct plant names, therefore plant identification is something that should be left to the experts.  I have a different perspective.

Most gardeners know plants by their common or vernacular names like Japanese Quince or Purple Cone Flower.  That is not to say gardeners always know the correct name, frequently they do not.   However, even if they are wrong, usually the name is still somewhat descriptive.  For example, some people refer to any type of confer as a pine tree. A spruce tree is definitely not a pine tree, but they are both conifers.  Add to this the fact that a single species of plant can have multiple common names, and it is easy to see how confusing plant names can be for the average gardener. That being said, the mislabeling of plants is far from a “gardener” only problem.  The scientific community also struggles with maintaining the accuracy of plant names.  In fact, the problem is so wide spread someone has even developed a “Species spellchecker” to help address the issue.

So what can be done to improve plant identification? I think the answer lies in increasing transparency. After all, the only reason someone would question the name of a plant in their own garden, is if they saw the identical plant somewhere else with a different name. The more often you interact with gardeners, retailers and growers that share your interests and geographic location, the more likely your are to see plants similar to your own. By making it easy for people to catalog and share their gardens with friends and businesses, we hope Plantola will help people become better at identifying plants.  Something that has real benefits for the entire garden industry.  Knowing the correct name of a plant makes it much easier to find, plant and maintain.

 

Find plants with 36 point checklist … Say what?

Plants can be categorized in countless numbers of ways.  To illustrate this point, the following are the 36 different criteria used on a website search tool I recently found designed specifically to help gardeners find plants. In there defense, the company that developed the NetPS Plant Finder search tool – Northscaping offers several variations. The following are the search parameters available in the full implementation.

Plant Characteristics

  1. Plant Type (tree, dwarf tree, shrub, rose, vine, perennial, grass, fern, aquatic)
  2. Foliage Type (deciduous, coniferous)
  3. Spread (any, inches, feet)
  4. Canopy (low, high, leggy, closed)
  5. Hardiness (USDA zones)
  6. Height (any, inches, feet)
  7. Growth Rate (slow, medium, fast)
  8. Native Plant (yes, no)

Landscape Attributes

  1. Application (accent/feature, shade, massing, hedge/screen, garden, windbreak, groundcover, skyline, naturalizing, orchard/fruit, topiary, rock garden, blog garden, edging, container, water garden)
  2. Texture (fine, medium, coarse)
  3. Wildlife Attraction (all, birds, butterflies, bees, squirrels, hummingbirds)
  4. Low Maintenance (yes, no)
  5. Under Power Lines (yes, no)
  6. Plant Form (round,pyramid, columnar, arching, layered, weeping, spreading)
  7. Density (all, open, dense)
  8. Deer Resistant (yes, no)
  9. Winter Interest (yes, no)

Ornamental Features

  1. Flower Color (any, white, yellow, pink, red, orange, green, purple, blue, brown, black)
  2. Foliage Color (any, white, yellow, pink, red, orange, green, purple, blue, brown, black)
  3. Fall Color (any, white, yellow, pink, red, orange, green, purple, blue, brown, black)
  4. Fruit Period (any, late winter, early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, mid summer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall)
  5. Bark Color (any, white, yellow, pink, red, orange, green, purple, blue, brown, black)
  6. Fragrant (yes, no)
  7. Flower Period (any, late winter, early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, mid summer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall)
  8. Variegation (any, white, yellow, pink, red, orange, green, purple, blue, brown, black)
  9. Fruit Color (any, white, yellow, pink, red, orange, green, purple, blue, brown, black)
  10. Edible Fruit (all, fresh eating, cooking, preserves, wine-making)
  11. Bark Texture (all, smooth, rough, warty, peeling, shaggy, furrowed, twisted, mottled, spiny)
  12. Cutflower (yes, no)

Site Conditions

  1. Sun/Shade (all, full sun, part shade, shade)
  2. Soil Moisture (normal, wet, dry)
  3. Pollution (all, medium, high)
  4. Salt Tolerant (yes, no)
  5. Soil Type (normal, clay, rich, sandy)
  6. Soil pH (normal, acidic, alkaline)
  7. Xeriscape (yes, no)

The Purchase Decision

Just because information is available does not mean that it is useful, or even necessary. When I buy plants for my garden the first things I consider are form, color and price. If a plant meets these criteria I will find a place where it will be happy, or might be 🙂

How do you decide what plants to add to your garden?