The reference desk

Like any gardener, I am desperate to know the names. As much as labeling the plants in the gardens is a thorn in my side (they’re photo-wrecking shiny eyesores and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to keep up) I fully sympathize with interested visitors who inevitably gravitate to the unmarked plants. The name – Latin and common – reveals all sorts of mystery behind curtain number one.

I used to sit here with the enormous American Horticultural Society A-Z encyclopedia of Garden Plants on my lap and now its spine is held on with painter’s tape and the pages are loose. But it hasn’t been updated since 2004 and in an attempt to replace it, I ordered the more recently updated Royal Horticultural Society A-Z (2008). That encyclopedia is very nicely divided into two less-cumbersome volumes tucked in a pretty sleeve but I wish I had realized that because it was compiled for European gardeners, it wouldn’t have zone information. And zone hardiness (along with basic cultural requirements, size, flowering time, maintenance needs, country of origin, etc) is one of the things I’m dying to know.

Nowadays I pull more books off our library shelf – such as Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens by Wayne Winterrowd, and Weeds of the Northeast by Uva Neal and DiTomaso. I also study nursery catalogs like Rare Find, Broken Arrow, Forest Farm, and North Creek just to name a few; and I check websites like Avant Gardens (since their catalog is on line now), Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder and the UConn Plant Database. By cross referencing, I probably end up with a much closer look behind the curtain.

As a new year begins in the gardens, I’ve renewed my annual resolve to keep up with the labeling and to that end they’ve been freshly organized (thank you, Anne!) and will no longer rest in unruly piles down cellar and poking out of my in-basket (thanks to Gail for opening a cubby!)

I already know you have to know the names too, so what is on your reference desk? Do you label your plants? (in the garden or more discretely somehow?)