While thinking about today’s column, I walked through my garden to see what’s new, and found my favorite tall bearded iris in full bloom. This cultivar’s name, ‘That’s All Folks’, indicates the last introduction of highly accomplished hybridizer, William Maryott, who built upon the work of another highly accomplished hybridizer, Joseph Ghio, of Santa Cruz, California.
This iris was introduced in 2005. The American Iris Society describes its flower form as “bubble ruffled,” and it color as “brilliant gold standards; white falls with gold blending to wide muted gold band.” In 2013, the AIS honored it was its highest award, the Dykes. Memorial Medal.
We continue our exploration of three categories of gardening activities that are suitable under social distance constraints and rewarding to the gardener.
1. Care for Your Garden
A previous recommendation from this column is particularly appropriate now: walking around the neighborhood. Walking has always been a good form of light exercise and is now categorized as an essential activity during the current sheltering at home program.
For gardeners, a neighborhood stroll provides very good opportunities to identify plants that the stroller might want to add to his or her own landscape. When the observer spots an appealing plant, the occasion has at least these two strong points:
First, assuming the walk is not far afield, the plant’s environment is similar to that of the observer’s own garden. The climatic and soil conditions are likely to be a close match, although sun exposure might differ from the site the walking gardener has in mind.
Second, the plant probably grows under normal garden conditions, resembling that of the walker’s own garden. Garden centers and mail-order nurseries offer plants that might be so artfully dosed with fertilizers or hormones to maximize their appeal that they falter when moved into a typical garden.
Take advantage of your neighborhood walks by setting a goal to identify two or three plants that look good for a specific spot in your own garden.
If you know the plant, you’re ready to acquire your own specimen from a garden center, printed catalog, or on-line nursery. If the plant is unfamiliar, consider asking the garden owner (from the correct social distance). Most gardeners are pleased to share knowledge about their plants, and many are also willing to share cuttings upon request.
If you can’t identify the plant in these ways, check the following section.
2. Advance Your Gardening Knowledge
Knowing a plant’s name leads to important information for its cultivation and care. Traditional plant identification resources began with an experienced gardening friend. More recently, we have access to various online resources, some of which have been mentioned in this column. One favorite has been the National Gardening Association’s Plant ID Forum, where an informal panel of experienced gardeners identifies plants from photographs emailed by the puzzled gardeners.
There have been online, computer-based plant identification services, but in my experience they have been unsatisfactory. It’s frustrating to have a mystery plant identified as “flower.”
We now have access to an online, powerful, and free plant identifier that uses artificial intelligence to link the user’s plant snapshot to an enormous database of plant information. This application is PlantSnap, which has been developed in partnership with American Public Gardens Association and Botanic Garden Conservation International. The application has a database of 600,000 plants and is easy to use on a cell phone. The curious gardener snaps a photo of plant and emails it to PlantSnap. After a very brief processing period, PlantSnap will identify the plan correctly 94% of the time and offer basic information about the plant.
The free, advertising-supported version of PlantSnap is available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play. Give it a try!
The premium, ad-free version is available for a small monthly charge. At this time, the premium version is available in exchange for a $20 donation to the public garden of your choice. To consider this option, browse to the PlantSnap web page.
3. Enrich Your Gardening Days
There are numerous YouTube channels on gardening. Here are two that I’m finding well-done and illuminating:
John Lord’s Secret Garden. Search YouTube.com for “John Lord’s Secret Garden.” The host is the head gardener for Ratoath Garden Centre, a small public garden in Ireland.
He provides brief, informal video talks about the plants in his garden, and generously shares his extensive experience and opinions about plants that could be found in many home gardens.
Monty Don’s BBC Programs. Search YouTube.com for “Monty Don.” “Britain’s favourite gardener” is the host BBC television programs about gardens throughout England, Europe, and elsewhere in the world. His commentary provides a cordial, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable introductions to a wide range of gardens.
Enjoy your gardens and gardening and stay healthy.