Monday, February 11, 2019

Refreshing our language

When people ask me how many languages I speak, I say "Well, besides English I speak a bit of French." What I'd like to add is "And Horticulture." For those of us that have learned a lot of horticultural plant names - that's literally hundreds and hundreds for many - this is a kind of language. And of course it's not just the scientific names of the plants, it's also Latin-based terms for describing the myriad aspects of their forms, functions and existence in our world. And like any language, knowledge of those many and varied terms must be constantly refreshed. 'Horticulture' as a language falls prey to that old adage "Use it or lose it." My recent cutting back of hours at the Grand Lake Ace nursery has meant that I'm not conversing with customers as much, I'm not suggesting plants as often, I'm not trying to ID plants as often. It's this daily interaction with the names and qualities of plants - their hort names - that helps to keep the language front and center in our minds. I find myself searching my database (ie. brain) for the botanical name of a certain plant, even though I know what it is, can picture it. Something as simple as looking through gardening books, researching online a plant I'm writing about all help to keep this memory-knowledge intact.
This isn't just a personal sharing but a suggestion to stay curious about plants, both ones in your own garden and ones that just pique your curiosity. I'm always telling customers "Save the tags of the plants you take home", even if that's just throwing them in a gallon jar. That's mainly so they can show us that ID tag but having those tags with the botanical name is a good way to help remember the authentic names of your plants. For those who want to be more ambitious, you can make a Word doc of the plants in your garden (as I have). It may seem laborious at first but over time it's really gratifying that you know the botanical names of so many plants and in the end to realize that you too speak "a little botanical."
Okay, here are this week's photos.

Here the bluish-green foliage of the Dianthus stands out from the population of Ipheion shoots (and a bit of weedy grass) in my walkway bed. Soon those Ipheion shoots will open blue star-shaped flowers.

This is a bit like a figure-ground quiz. ie do you see the lampshade or the faces? Here those tiny burgundy 'dots' are flowers on my Gomphrena decumbens bush. It flowers nearly year round now. 

That golden orange mass is my Oxalis spiralis aurea. If you look closely you can see the pale violet flowers of a Ceanothus Gloire de Versailles branch snaking through the oxalis.

My Callistemon viminalis is finally finding its flowering groove. This is a dwarf bottlebrush plant, one that matures as a shrub and not as a tall tree.

Leucospermum variety. This is my neighbor's specimen and it's filled out rather gloriously, in part because it's getting regular water, something that Protea family members don't need. It's just now starting to bloom. 

Melianthus pectinatus. Speaking of things dwarf, this is a smaller-sized species of African honey bush. Leaves look very different, as do the flowers. Same peanut butter smell to the leaves though.

Abelia sp. Chiapis. This guy is also just starting its bloom season. As I've shared, it differs from other Abelias in that it cascades and that its flowers are not just an unusual burgundy color but also that they are fragrant.

If you look closely you'll see my Fracunculus vulgaris shoot. It's popped up rather early in the season. You can see its tell-tale membership in the Arum  family by the mottled stem and the structure of its leaves (though not all arum members have mottled stems and foliage can vary).

Speaking of Protea family members, here's my Grevillea 'Superb.' It's just beginning to bloom. This shot was taken on a cloudy day so the colors look more muted than when viewed on a sunny day.

We had a sneak peek of my Phylica plumosa bush in the Callistemon photo but here's more of a closeup. This S. African native has perhaps the softest foliage and flowers of any plant.

Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift.' Almost didn't catch this yesterday but here's the advance guard on this sun-loving clematis. It's broad leathery leaves and fragrance also distinguish this evergreen species. And to my nose, Snowdrift is one of the most fragrant cultivars.

Begonia fuchsioides. Until you're familiar with this species, it hardly looks like a begonia at all. This one gets big - mine is already 5' tall - and produces clusters of tiny reddish-pink flowers. 

That's a Helleborus Amethyst Gem on the left (purple flowers) and H. x sternii 'Silver Dollar' on the right. Tis the season hellebores.

Canarina canariensis. This one of a kind plant produces the loveliest tubular orange flowers and in the late fall/winter season when not much else is in bloom.
And below is my Athyrium niponicum. This Japanese fern is up early this year, having only been deciduous for less than two months. It looks delicate but is in fact one of the hardier ferns.


No comments:

Post a Comment

01 09 10