How TheGardenLady Identifies Plants

ForageSF by Jaymi Heimbuch

What does one do if one does not know the name of a plant that has no label or tag on it?

Two friends came to me this week with just such a request. I am pretty good at identifying plants that grow in my temperature zone 6 and try to recall the Latin name as well as the various common names of these plants. I also pride myself on being able to identify many of the native wild flowers or plants in my area. But there are so many flowering plants in the world, that it is impossible for any person to be able to name them all.

For a scientific account on the number of plants in the world, you can read this article. One of the sources I use says it lists 15,000 ornamental plants in the book. So though I know a number of tropical plants or plants that grow in different temperature growing zones, there are too many for me to really know. But when friends come to me and ask me to identify a plant, I am challenged. Then I am like a bulldog with a meat bone tenaciously trying to find the name of the plant in question.

tibouchina urvilleana by nestmaker

This week one plant that was fairly easy for me to identify was the Tibouchina urvillieana- Princess flower or glory bush because I had seen it before.  See here.  This gorgeous flower is a native of Brazil but is a noxious weed in Hawaii. In our temperature zone 6 it has to be taken in for the cold weather because frost will kill it. It will grow in zones 9-11 and perhaps zone 8. If grown indoors, grow Tibouchina in a soil-based potting mix in full light with shade from the hot sun. During the growing season water it freely and feed it a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly but water sparingly in the winter. If you grow it outdoors, grow it in moist fertile soil in the full sun.

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Dealing with Animals in the Garden

Fox searching – 6 by iglooo101

Living in nature is beautiful, but it can seem so defeating. TheGardenLady has written columns about how she lives and has to practice good wildlife management to enable her garden to grow successfully. All the animals want to enjoy her garden to the extent that if allowed, there would be no garden.

Every gardener has this problem. If it is not deer, then it is rabbits or squirrels or…. you name it. One friend was happy when foxes moved into the culvert near the front of her driveway. She never saw a deer or rabbit on her property after that. But one can’t allow foxes to live on your property for a variety of reasons, so she had to have them removed. So far I haven’t seen foxes living on my property, but I have seen opposums, raccoons, woodchucks and at night, coming home sometimes I have smelled skunks. Those animals are all living harmoniously together, I hope, with Bambi and all his relatives as well as the numerous squirrels that live in my black walnut trees or hickory nut trees all inherited with the house when I bought it.

chipmunk by Dawn Huczek

But at least, I told myself, I didn’t have chipmunks on my property. As cute as chipmunks are they can cause a lot of serious problems including coming indoors where they can do damage. I knew that there were chipmunks in my county because I had seen one at the big hardware store about 5 miles away. There a little chipmunk was being fed by one of the cashiers who thought it was “sooo cute.” But I hadn’t seen chipmunks in my town or on my property until I looked out this morning. I saw my first chipmunk scurrying across my deck. And where there is one, I know there are many.

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Brugmansia – My Little Shop of Horrors Plant

Brugmansia by mythlady

As I wrote in a previous post, I get a daily bit of pleasure going out to my garden to see what is in bloom. Today it is my Brugmansia that is in bloom. And when I say, in bloom, I mean it is exploding with flowers.

Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ #1 by J.G. in S.F.

I consider my Brugmansia my “Little Shop of Horrors” plant. (check out the movie if you haven’t seen it) My Brugmansia tries to dictate my life. Instead of saying “feed me” it constantly screams, “Water me.” This is not a plant for a drought region. It must have kept my property from flooding during the hurricane, sucking up all the water that poured down. I am just kidding, but knowing how much water this plant likes, maybe there is a kernal of truth in it. If I let a day go by without watering the brugmansia, the huge leaves tell me by drooping or turning yellow.

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Hummingbird Moths

Hummingbird Moth by photofarmer

Every day when I go out to check on my garden I find something pleasant to note for my satisfaction. I might be happy to see a lot of bees. I am especially thrilled when I see a few honey bees in their midst. I am always looking for butterflies. And of course, I look to see which flower is now open.

One insect flying in my yard, I had first seen when I was a child. I was so excited thinking it was a hummingbird that I called my parents and neighbors to come see. Then an elderly neighbor, Matilda, told me it was not a hummingbird, it was a Hummingbird moth, also called hawk moths or sphinx moths. Though most moths come out at night, this moth is diurnal or flies in the daylight. According to Wikipedia there are around 1200 species of hawk moths.  Here are some other diurnal moths.

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Fall Planting

Bulbs. by don.wing45

Everyone knows that fall is the time to plant many of the bulbs that will bloom in the spring. All the stores are now carrying daffodils, tulips and other bulbs and catalogs are sending out the bulbs you ordered this spring. But fall is also the time to plant other plants for next year’s garden.

TheGardenLady just received a mailing from one of her favorite online rose companies The Antique Rose Emporium   reminding me that fall is probably the best time to plant roses if you live in zone 6 or warmer. Roses planted in the fall acclimate quicker and perform better the following spring. Also, this is a great time to get plant bargains especially in your local nurseries.  Friends of mine have found wonderful roses at discount prices at some of the big box stores that sell plants. Continue reading “Fall Planting”

Decorating your garden with found objects

wringer washing machine in my garden by lolaleeloo2

After a while some people feel that they have enough plants in their garden with plenty of flowers, but the garden does not seem to be quite complete. Well, from time immemorial gardens have placed sculpture in a garden to add another interesting dimension. Sadly, some of us do not have the finances to purchase real statuary or real art  What can we do to remedy this? Put on your creative thinking caps and start looking around you. Did this hurricane bring down some trees in your yard? Don’t just cart it to the dump, but see if when it is chopped up, you could use it to build garden furniture.  TheGardenLady loves to visit gardens when garden club groups open their private houses to allow others to see what they have done. This is a great way to get ideas for my garden because gardeners are cleverly original.

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Don’t Always Blame the Deer

I Blamed it on the Deer by mtsofan

TheGardenLady wrote a column about deer and specifically said: Any person who is knowledgeable about deer will never tell you there is a plant that deer will not eat.

Deer will taste everything and will eat anything depending on how hungry they are. Deer have favorite plants. The plants that deer love they will eat entirely to the ground UNLESS you have a fence or you spray your plants with a deer deterrent.

Some people will tell you that deer don’t eat their sweet pea flowers Lathyrus odoratus yet other people will tell you they love to eat their sweet pea flowers. Deer will eat sweet pea flowers. Because a plant is poisonous to humans does not mean it is poisonous to deer. Perhaps your deer have enough other plants that they prefer eating in your garden. Deer have their preferences.

But remember, there are other garden pests who enjoy your garden. Rabbits love many of the same plants deer like and they often like many plants that are not deer favorites. So do not blame the deer for all the eaten plants in a garden. For example, rabbits love sweet pea flowers. For a list of the plants rabbits prefer check out this site:


Marzipan – An Almond Delicacy

Photo taken by TheGardenLady’s daughter at the Marzipan Museum. Everything in the photo is made out of marzipan.

My favorite candy is marzipan. I am in love with this candy made out of almonds. I think marzipan is more popular in Europe than it is in the United States. Each country you visit in Europe makes its own marzipan. Even though marzipan is made basically the same way, there is a difference in marzipan from country to country.

Photo taken by TheGardenLady’s daughter at the Marzipan Museum. Everything in the photo is made out of marzipan.

What is the difference between marzipan and almond paste? I thought that what Europeans referred to as marzipan, Americans or English speaking people also called Almond paste. I always thought they were the same. But apparently there is some debate which depends upon how it is made. For a discussion of the difference you can read what this website has to say; plus read their recipe to make marzipan at home.

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Helping Plants when Stressed by Weather Challenges

Bee Balm, Stressed | 199/365 by mfhiatt

Someone said that this summer has been the wettest on record-at least on the East Coast. Meanwhile parts of the US have had one of the longest, hottest droughts.  I believe the heat level is a record. The challenges for farmers and gardeners are huge. I often wonder if my parents could have become farmers if they had to overcome such weather hurdles. And the challenges for plants with this strange weather is enormous.

Plants of any kind, including trees, are under a great deal of stress with these weather extremes. Even when plants survive, stress makes the plants more vulnerable to disease and insect attacks. For those readers of TheGardenLady who want to learn more about plant stress and what is happening in the research on plant stress at a very academic level check out this.

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Photos of Greece

This photo of canned fruits was taken in the town of Levidi in the Peloponnese.

My daughter and my son with his family visited Greece this August. They spent a week with friends on the island of Santorini,  a volcanic island where there are 600 species of plant life. The main edible crops growing on Santorini are grapes and a unique type of tomato called the Santorini tomato.  See here.  My son and his family then traveled through mainland Greece after my daughter left for Eastern Europe.

The photo of the goat was taken in the village of Elaiochori in the Peleponnese. Elaiochori is where my son’s friend’s father is from. This farm was just down the road from where a US trained architect, is building his retirement home.

This bucolic scene was taken outside a small organic winery we visited in the village of Kapsia in the wine region of Mantinia, Peloponnese.

From Santorini Sempervivum

Before they left for Greece, I asked my children to please take photos of any flora and perhaps fauna in Greece for TheGardenLady blog. Here are some of the photos. A few of the plants TheGardenLady can not identify. Perhaps my readers could help.

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