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learning names and what happens

ashley13ashley13 Posts: 162
Hi my brother in law who i live with has some plants which he's growing, Fuchsia, Sophina etc.    I asked him do you know anything about these plants?  He said the only things i need to know are their names and what they do.   This got me thinking, i want to learn about plants but i've always felt bogged down with it all as there are so many and so much information.    A friend suggested that i do a spreadsheet with lots of information, no no i don't want too much information.  How do you suggest i research the plants he has?  I only want to know names and what they do to start with.  Thanks



  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 4,244

    @ashley13 There is so much advice on line these days regarding gardening, I rarely read books on the subject now. You obviously have an interest in the subject so here goes. You could try and learn the Latin names of plants ,for me it is an on going process that I have taken through my life.  A note book has always proved useful for jotting down some of the longer words. Also you don't finish up buying the same plant twice, other gardeners around the World know what you are referring to as well. Gardening should not be a spread sheet but an opportunity to be outside meet like minded people and sharing knowledge.

    A good gardener's eye sees more to be improved. Robin Lane Fox
  • philippasmith2philippasmith2 Posts: 2,937
    An encyclopaedia such as Plants and Flowers published by RHS will be a good start. As is their Encyclopaedia of Gardening.   
    A basic knowledge of the Latin ( proper ) names will also help - particularly when asking for advice on forums.  Common names vary throughout the country so can lead to confusion.
    However, gardening is about more than Horticultural qualifications/expertise.  It is an enjoyable pastime and you will learn as you go on.  Little point getting too stressed about it - that's not really the name of the game.  Start with your BIL's plants and gradually move on from there :)  
  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,275
    How about going on a little detour, Ash? Rather than simply learning the botanic name of plants you might find it interesting to concentrate on just a couple of plants at a time and find out how they got their names.

    Take the fuchsia (and well done for spelling it correctly, I reckon about 80% of people get it wrong). Maybe you already know it was named after the German doctor and botanist Leonhard Fuchs. And once you know that you know how to spell its name. But who was this botanist? It might be fascinating to find out more.

    Surfinia is a type of petunia. Here is a bit of history about petunias

    In the 1980s the Dutch company MNP started working with the Japanese company Suntory to breed a new type of petunia. In 1991 they released the Surfinia petunia on to the market. But I do not know how they chose the name Surfinia. If you could find that out I would be very interested. Meanwhile you could try to learn a little bit more about MNP and also Suntory who are a very famous company in Japan.

    Taking this approach, learning why plants have the names they have, might make remembering things both interesting and easier. But it is only a suggestion, a suggestion which reflects my interest in the origin of words.
    Rutland, England
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 4,244
    @philippasmith2 lOne winter I read the whole index of Plants and Flowers. I was hoping to work as a gardener at the time and thought it would be a good way of filling in the gaps. If I didn't know something I looked it up in more detail. Yes it sounds sad to most people but I do know that others will understand. As said I have a gardening note book, there are quotes from Monty to Longfellow. Notes on new plants, and the best nurseries to buy from. It goes with me when I am out and about and helps me remember pruning times.
    I wouldn't be without it. 

    A good gardener's eye sees more to be improved. Robin Lane Fox
  • ashley13ashley13 Posts: 162
    No, i just want help with names of plants such as fuchias, Sofinias and knowing what they do?    I don't want to go into history and all that, even though it's interesting.
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 2,277
    An enjoyable way to build up your plant knowledge is to visit a good garden centre on a regular basis with a notebook and pen, walk up and down the aisles in all the display areas and make a note of the names of the plants that you like and take photographs. 

    When you get home, have a look at the RHS online plant finder for full details of the plant's ideal growing conditions, soil type, aspect, height and spread, disease problems and general maintenance.  These details will mean a lot more to you having seen the plant.  Expand your notes, add your photo and you'll soon build up your own plant database.  RHS Plant Finder / RHS Gardening

    Also visit botanic gardens and open/historic houses with gardens to see how plants are used in beds and borders, along with your notebook, pen and camera!
    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.
  • philippasmith2philippasmith2 Posts: 2,937
    ashley13 said:
    No, i just want help with names of plants such as fuchias, Sofinias and knowing what they do?    I don't want to go into history and all that, even though it's interesting.
    In that case, just look up the plants you are interested in - whether you use hard copy or internet is up to you .  Make a note somewhere to remind you of what you have found out.  Simple really :)
  • ashley13ashley13 Posts: 162
    which online sources are credible?
  • I like the rhs website

    There are other more specialist websites that are better for roses and clematis

    I jot things down in a diary and also draw the flowers, as I like to. Ialso draw and colour plans of my garden, which I never remember to follow :)

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,407
    Are you still working at the garden centre @ashley13? Hope I've remembered right! 
    If you are, or even if you are not, have a look at some plant labels. They will show you some of the things that people want to know about their plants, that they can't learn from the pictures. It's hard to make complicated things simple but I hope something here might help
    Things like: When does it flower? 
                      How big does it get?
                      Does it like sun or shade, moist or dry soil? 
                      Is it hardy? - will it die if it gets too cold?
    Those are quite easy things to learn, if you have a notebook. Other things are a bit harder, but important if you want to understand your plants.
    Other things people  might want to know include:
                      Is it annual or perennial or maybe biennual?
                      What difference does it make? (Look it up!)
                      Is it poisonous?
                      Lots of plants are, but not many are able to kill you.          
                      Find some that could!
                      Is it good for wildlife?
                      Which wildlife and how?
    Soil - some plants will grow in any sort of soil, but others need acid soil or alkaline soil. Gardeners can buy a test kit to help them find out what they've got. Acidity/alkalinity is measured as a Ph number (look it up!) but you can cheat and look clever, if you can see a hydrangea in flower :) Blue means acid, Pink or red means alkaline, purple is in between.
    You could look at some plants of each sort and think about them growing together.
    Acid soil is often found in Scotland or on the hills or moors in Devon, places that get a lot of rain. Acid lovers planted in the wrong soil get yellowy leaves and don't grow well unless they are given the right nutrients.
     Plants that need alkaline soil grow best in places with chalk or limestone soils that are often quite dry and will be unhappy in acid ones. In my garden I have rhododendron, dogwood, magnolia, blueberries and pieris and I can't grow aubretia, dianthus or gypsophila. Can you tell which soil I've got?
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