What is the name of that plant?

One of the most challenging things that we do as humans is communicate. It is difficult enough to get an idea across to a partner, mate, spouse or family member but it can be impossible to communicate with someone of a different language.

Surprisingly, when it comes to plants, we have a very clear way of communicating with anyone in the world! If someone of a different tongue points to a plant and appears to be asking what its name is, it is easy to tell them—if you know the botanical name. The reason it is easy is that the botanical name is the same in every language of the world.

For example, Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ might be called by many different common names in English; golden daisy or plain’s daisy are two such names. Who knows what the common name for that plant is in Spanish, French or Russian?  However, if we use the Botanical name it is the same in Spanish, French or Russian. Botanical names are always binomial, meaning they have two parts. The first is the Genus—in this case, Coreopsisand is always capitalized. The second name is the Species—verticillataand is never capitalized. The variety that people like to plant here in the Willamette Valley is called ‘Moonbeam’ because it is pale yellow and is not too vigorous. A variety is always capitalized and is enclosed with apostrophes. Most people just call it Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’. Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ is an herbaceous perennial. That means that it disappears in the winter and comes back every spring.

Helleborus orientalis is an evergreen perennial. That means that it is ever-green, having green leaves all year long. However, it is not woody like a tree or shrub and does not die out or go dormant every year.

If a plant is a hybrid cross—that means two different species have been used to pollinate the plant—it is shown by an X. Rhododendron X ‘Jean Marie de Montague’ is a beautiful slower-growing Rhododendron which came to us as a cross—shown by the cross—of several Rhododendrons. It is always cloned and not propagated by seed. The clone is named ‘Jean Marie de Montague’. It is an evergreen broadleaf shrub. That means it is green all year round and it is shrub-like in growth.

Pseudotsuga menziesii is known commonly as a Douglas fir tree. It is an evergreen coniferous tree, meaning that it is a tree which produces cones and is green all year.

Quercus garrayana is known as Oregon White Oak and is a deciduous broadleaf tree. That means that it loses its leaves in the wintertime.

A plant may have many common names, but each essentially has only one botanical name. Everyone in the world has the capacity to learn it and then use it to communicate with anyone else in the world.

Phil’s Garden Tips & Tricks for July

Summer came more softly this year, it seemed. The days in the 70s and 80s with low humidity and the warmer nights have seemed just perfect for enjoying one’s yard and garden. 

Here are some things to do around your garden this month…

  • Prune shrubs only after they have bloomed unless you are on a rejuvenation project.
  • If the weed is not seeding, you may just leave the up rooted plant right there, most days, and it will dry up and turn into mulch!
  • This is the month that we fertilize lawns with an organic/natural fertilizer.
  • Check for root weevil adult damage on the leaves of rhododendrons and azaleas and decide whether you should use nematodes for their larvae or sticky traps for the adults.
  • Mulch, if you have not already, to conserve soil moisture. This is best done with one of the bark products, or compost.
  • Watch for signs of spider mites on arborvitae hedges (dusty looking foliage, loss of color, presence of tiny mites). These pests can kill a whole hedge. Here is a simple non-chemical method – pick a block of time when you can spray water on the foliage of the plants once a day for three days in a row. Repeat this same practice each month during the dry season. In other words, act like a heavy summer rain and wash them off the foliage!
  • You may cut off the foliage of the Spring bulbs when the tops have browned. If overcrowded, dig, divide and store to replant this fall.
  • Lawns probably need one inch of water per week this month. Beds need ½ inch per week.
  • Stake tall growing annuals or perennials if needed. Dahlias need it!
  • Check for scale insects on camellias, holly, and maple trees.
  • Encourage beneficial insects by planting members of the sunflower family – including zinnias, marigolds, Jerusalem artichokes and others.
  • Stake tomatoes, watch for blight, prune for air circulation, pick off affected leaves.
  • Cover blueberry bushes with netting to keep the robins off.
  • Check leafy vegetables for caterpillar attack.
  • This is the time to begin mid-summer plantings of beets, bush beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, kale.
  • End of month: prune the spent fruiting stems of raspberries, boysenberries and other cane berries after harvest.