Tag Archive: plantax


Convolvulus tricolor
Convolvulus tricolor

A genus of about 200-250  shrubby annual, perennial herbaceous and rock plants, the name Convolvulus comes from  the latin convolvo, referring to the twining habit of some species. It is widely distributed around the world and is commonly known as Bindweed and Morning Glory, both names shared with other closely related genera.

Growing to 0.3–3 m tall, their leaves are spirally arranged, and the flowers trumpet-shaped, mostly white or pink, but blue, violet, purple or yellow in some species.

Many of the species are problematic weeds, which can swamp other more valuable plants by climbing over them, but some are also cultivated for their attractive flowers. Some species are globally threatened. Convolvulus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera.

Other species names include:

C. althaeoides – like an Althaea (hollyhock)- referring to the flowers

C. cantabrica Cantabria, Spain

C. cneorum – meaning is obscure, from the greek Kneoron, a plant

C. lineatus – with lines

C. mauritanicus – of Mauretania (Morocco)

C. nitidus – somewhat glossy

C. soldanella – leaves like a Soldanella

C. tenuissimus – most slender

C. tricolor – three- coloured

C. althaeoides- from Flora Graeca
C. althaeoides- from Flora Graeca

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

RHS- growing C. sabatius

RHS- growing C. cneorum

Old School Gardener

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The Yellow Tree Peony (Paeonia lutea)

The Yellow Tree Peony (Paeonia lutea)

Paeonia or Peony to give this genus it’s common name,  is native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America. Boundaries between species are not clear and estimates of the number of species range from 25 to 40. Peonies are the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae.

peony

Paeonia 'Itoh'

Paeonia ‘Itoh’

Peonies can be classified by both plant growth habit and flower type. Plant growth types are Herbaceous (nonwoody), Tree (shrub), and Itoh (or “Intersectional”), which is intermediate between herbaceous and tree forms. In winter herbaceous peonies die back to their underground parts, whereas tree peonies lose their leaves but retain viable woody stems above ground. The Itoh hybrids are intermediate between herbaceous and tree forms. They are named after Toichi Itoh, who first produced a successful intersectional hybrid in 1948. The herb Peony (particularly the root of P. lactiflora) has been used frequently in traditional medicines of Korea, China and Japan.

Paeonia 'Rozella'

Paeonia ‘Rozella’

Paeonia 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

The name Paeonia derives form the ancient greek physician, Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of  medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of his pupil so Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the Peony flower. Another explanation is that Paeon was the first to use the plant medicinally.

Other garden Paeony names are:

P. albiflora = white – flowered

P. corallina = the colour of coral

P. lutea = yellow

P. moutan = a japanese name derived from Meu-tang, the King of Flowers in chinese myhthology- the ‘Tree Peony’

P. officinalis = of the shop (i.e. was orignally sold in an apothecary/herbal), still found growing wild in Europe. The European or Common Peony. The variety Rubra is the double red peony of cottage gardens

peonies

Paeonia officinalis

Paeonia officinalis

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

RHS- cultivating Peonies

Telegraph – how to grow Peonies

Passion for Peonies blogspot

Quizzicals:

answers to the two clues given in Plantax 8…

  • Irish singer is growing worse – vanilla
  • Tease Mr Disney – ragwort

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Substandard animal limb
  • West Indies batsman + Food superstore

(thanks to Les Palmer, answers in the next Plantax!)

Old School Gardener

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Daffodil flower close up

Narcissus is a genus of bulbous perennials in the Amaryllis family. They are in the  main hardy and most flower in the spring. There are various common names used to describe all or some of the genus – daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil. Narcissus are native to meadows and woods in Europe, North Africa and West Asia, centred in the Western Mediterranean.

There is disagreement about the number of distinct species (these range from 26 to more than 60 depending on who you ask) – as some are very similar and others have hybridised. All Narcissus cultivars are split into 13 divisions (using a combination of flower form and genetic background). New cultivars are registered by name and color with the Royal Horticultural Society, which is the international registration authority for the genus.

More than 27,000 names were registered as of 2008!

Narcissus flowers

Narcissus flowers

The name “daffodil” is derived from an earlier word  “affodell”, a variant of Asphodel (another group of Mediterranean plants). The reason for the addition of the  initial “d” is not known, although it could be a ‘slip of the dutch tongue’ – the merging of the main word with the Dutch article “de”, as in “De affodil”. Playful synonyms  “Daffadown Dilly”, “daffadown dilly”, and “daffydowndilly” appeared as early as the 16th century. Everyday use of the term Daffodil tends to refer to the wild daffodil (N. pseudonarcissus).

The name Narcissus comes from the same latin word, which in turn is based on an ancient greek word – but its meaning is unknown. It could be a word loaned from another language. The most common explanation is based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, a Thespian hunter renowned for his beauty. He became so obsessed with his own reflection in a pool of water that as he knelt and gazed into it, he fell into the water and drowned. Some variations of the myth say that he died of starvation and thirst. In both versions the Narcissus plant sprang from his remains. However, this is by no means a certain derivation and it could be the that the hunter’s name was derived from the flower rather than the other way round!

Another explanation for the name comes from Pliny who stated that the plant was named because of its narcotic properties (the greek word means ‘to grow numb’). There’s no evidence to support this idea and it seems to have fallen out of favour. However,  all Narcissus species do contain the poison lycorine (mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves). The bulbs can often be confused with onions, thereby leading to incidents of accidental poisoning.

On 1 May 2009 a number of schoolchildren fell ill at Gorseland Primary School in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, England, after a daffodil bulb was added to soup during a cookery class.

Another problem is what florists call, “daffodil itch” – a skin problem often found on the hands after contact with the plant’s sap. Some cultivars seem more likely to cause this kind of dermatitis; eg  ‘Actaea’, ‘Camparelle’, ‘Gloriosa’, ‘Grande Monarque’, ‘Ornatus’, ‘Princeps’ and ‘Scilly White’.

Narcissus geranium

Narcissus geranium

The Narcissus is used quite widely as a symbol:

  • of unrequited love (after the Narcissus myth)
  • of vanity (the West)
  • of wealth and good fortune (the East).
  • of the new year (Kurdish and Chinese cultures).
  • of beautiful eyes (Persian culture)
  • of the nation (Wales – where the daffodil is known as ‘Peter’s Leek’)
  • of Easter (the German for daffodil is Osterglocke or ‘Easter Bell’)
Cornwall daffodils- traditionally the place (along with the Scilly Isles and Channel Islands) where early supplies of cut flowers are sent out to the rest of Britain.

Cornwall Daffodils- traditionally the place (along with the Scilly Isles and Channel Islands) where early supplies of cut flowers are sent out to the rest of Britain.

Some of the species names are:

N. bulbocodium = probably greek for ‘bulb’ (bolbos) and ‘a little fleece’ (kodion) – referring to the covering of the bulb – the ‘Hoop Petticoat Daffodil’

N. cyclamineus = like a Cyclamen flower

N. incomparabilis = incomparable

N. jonquilla = probably from ‘juncus’ (a rush) – the leaves being rush-like. The ‘Jonquil’

N. juncifolia = like Jonquil, rush – leaved!

N. major = larger

N. maximus = largest

N. minor = smaller

N. odorus = sweet-scented

N. poeticus = poet’s – the ‘Poets’ Narcissus’

N. pseudonarcissus = the false Narcissus. The ‘English Daffodil’

N. tazetta = an old name for the ‘Polyanthus Narcissus’

N. triandrus = having three stamens

Daffodil growing tips

Daffodil growing tips

Both species and hybrids are used extensively in gardens and grounds, looking good planted in borders or in naturalized drifts at the base of deciduous trees. Propagation is mainly from bulbs which are very easy to grow. They require little maintenance, but with some minimum care they can be more vigorous and floriferous, and they’ll multiply much more quickly, improving the show they provide each year. (see ‘Ten tips for looking after Daffodils’ above). Narcissus grows almost anywhere, although it does prefer well-drained soils with a sunny or light shade environment. The Narcissus species types are more specific in their requirements.

Naturalised Daffodils

Naturalised Daffodils

Source and further information:

Wikipedia

Growing Narcissus

Kew Gardens- Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Daffodil classification

Old School Gardener

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Crocus 'Jeanne d'Arc'

Crocus ‘Jeanne d’Arc’

In the wild, Crocus vernus begins to flower as the snow melts in the mountains of Europe. It is native to the Mediterranean from the Pyrenees in the west to the Ukraine in the east, and south as far as Sicily and the Balkans. This spicy herald of spring has a history dating back thousands of years.

Crocus (plural: crocuses, croci) is part of the Iris family and consists of around 90 species. They are perennials, growing from corms. Cultivated mainly for their flowers which appear in autumn, winter, or spring, Crocuses are also cultivated and harvested for Saffron– the spice obtained from the flower’s anthers. This practice was first documented in the Mediterranean, notably on the island of Crete.  Saffron’s bitter taste and hay-like fragrance is complimented by its rich golden-yellow hue, used to colour food and textiles.It has been  traded and used for over four thousand years. Iran now accounts for approximately 90 percent of the world production of Saffron. Because each flower’s anthers need to be collected by hand and there are only a few per flower, Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

The name Crocus is derived from the Greek (krokos), which in turn is probably derived from a Semitic or Sanskrit word, which mean saffron or saffron yellow. Over the years the classification of Crocus species has been revised several times, the division of the many species challenging botanists because of the range of characteristics that are available for scrutiny. Some of the species are:

C. aureus = goldencrocus

C. biflorus = two – flowered – the ‘Scotch Crocus’

C. chrysanthus = golden – flowered

C. minimus = smallest

C. nudiflorus = naked flowered

C. ochroleucus = yellowish – white

C. sativus = The Saffron Crocus

C. sieberi = after Sieber, a botanist

C. susianus = from Susa, Persia

C. vernus = spring flowering- the Dutch or Spring Crocuses are derived from this species

C. versicolour = changing or varied colour

The first crocus seen in the Netherlands, where crocus species are not native, were from corms brought back in the 1560s from Constantinople by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador who sent a few corms to the botanical garden in Leiden. By 1620, new garden varieties had been developed. Some species, known as “autumn crocus”, flower in late summer and autumn, often before their leaves appear. They should not be confused with Colchicum, a different genus of autumn – flowering plants.

crocus carpetAt the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, in 1987, Reader’s Digest sponsored the planting of 1.6 million corms of cultivated Dutch crocus for their 50th anniversary. A further 750,000 corms of C. vernus ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ and C. vernus ‘Purpureus grandiflorus’ have been planted since – a visit to Kew to see this ‘Crocus Carpet’ is a must.

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

The Alpine House – information

National Crocus collection – Wisley

A crocus planter

Crocus carpet at Kew

Saffron

Pacific Bulb Society

Old School Gardener

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cyclamenCyclamen is a genus of plants containing around 20 species, part of the Primrose family.

They originate from areas surrounding the mediterranean, have tuberous roots and aren’t an obvious relation of the primrose. Growing in Beech woodland, scrub and rocky areas, and even alpine meadows, they’ll flower in snow meltwater. Although there are relatively few species in the genus there is at least one that will be in flower at all times of the year. In the UK, there are some species which can withstand frost, others which are more tender and some which are not at all frost hardy. Some cultivars of C. persicum are indoor or florists’ plants, flower in the winter or spring and come in a wide range of colours.

The medieval gardens of Constantinople featured Cyclamen as they looked so different from wild flowers in the surrounding fields.

The name Cyclamen is Latin in origin (cyclamīnos) which in turn comes from the Ancient Greek (kyklos) meaning “circle” . This seems to refer either to the round tubers that sit just below ground level or to the way, after flowering, the slender flower-stalk twists into a spiral curl, and, bending over, ripens the seed vessel on the surface of the ground.

Rather like truffles, these tubers are said to be a favourite of pigs. Hence, in many languages the different species have common names reflecting this – Sowbread in English, Pain de pourceau in French, Pan porcino in Italian and Varkensbrood in Dutch.

Cyclamen cilicicum leaves

Cyclamen cilicicum leaves

Some of the species names are:

C. cilicicum = cicilian

C. coum = of cous or cos, an island off Turkey

C. europaeum = European

C. hederifolium = Ivy – leaved

C. ibericum = of Iberia

C. latifiolium = broad-leaved

C. neapolitanum = of Naples

C. persicum = of Persia

C. repandum = scalloped- refering to the leaf margins

C. hederifolium, which is hardy in the UK, retains it’s attractive marbled leaves for at least nine months of the year, and has a graceful display of pale – to deep-pink, delicate blooms on slender stalks through autumn. This is one of the most popular woodland shade plants and is swift to colonise areas beneath trees. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Cyclamen in a woodland setting

Cyclamen in a woodland setting

Further information:

Growing Cyclamen from seed

The Cyclamen Society

Wikipedia

Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen coum

‘Pretty in Pink’ – article by Sarah Raven

Medicinal uses of Cyclamen

Old School Gardener

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Image‘Hope of spring’, the first  Snowdrop seems to say, as it pops it’s small white flowers above what is pretty much a garden of bare earth and dead stems.

The botanical name for the genus is Galanthus from the greek for ‘milk’ (gala) and ‘flower’ (anthos). It’s a small genus of about 20 species of bulbous herbaceous plants native across much of Europe. Most flower in winter, before the vernal equinox, but certain species flower in early spring and late autumn. This year the mild start to 2013 has encouraged early flowering in some areas.

The Snowdrop is perennial bulb which contains an active substance called Galantamine– this is also found in Narcissi- and is helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The Common Snowdrop also contains another active substance called Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA) which has been used to genetically modify potatoes, but this has caused some controversy. In 1998 a scientist called Pusztai claimed that the modified potatoes caused damage to the intestines and immune systems of rats.

There are numerous single- and double-flowered cultivars of Galanthus nivalis, and also of several other Galanthus species. Some of the better known species are:

  • G. byzantinus- ‘Byzantine’
  • G. plicatus- ‘folded’ referring to the leaves
  • G. elwesii– after ‘Elwes’, a botanist and author
  • G. nivalis– ‘snowy’- the Common Snowdrop

220px-Bank_Hall_Snowdrops_Feb_2009

An important feature which helps to distinguish between different species (and to help to determine the parentage of hybrids) is their ‘vernation’ (the arrangement of the emerging leaves relative to each other). This can be “applanate”, “supervolute” or “explicative”. In applanate vernation the two leaf blades are pressed flat to each other within the bud and as they emerge; explicative leaves are also pressed flat against each other, but the edges of the leaves are folded back or sometimes rolled (as in G. plicatus) ; in supervolute plants one leaf is tightly clasped around the other within the bud and generally remains at the point where the leaves emerge from the soil.

fig_2005_3.jpg.w300h225

‘Snowdrops’ – US miltary style

“Snowdrops” was the nickname that, during the 2nd World War, the British gave to the U.S. Army’s Military Police based in the U.K. – because they wore a white helmet, gloves, gaiters, and belt against their olive drab uniform.

A ‘Galantophile’  is a snowdrop enthusiast, including authors of snowdrop books, cultivators, collectors or those displaying Snowdrops. Well known ‘Galanthophiles’ are the horticulturalist E.A. Bowles and nurseryman James Allen . Modern day Galanthophiles are of all ages and visit the many gardens open to the public which feature large naturalised plantings of Snowdrops.

Sources and other information:

Wikipedia

Royal Horticultural Society

Royal Horticultural Society- book

Galanthus mania

The world’s most expensive Galanthus bulb

IMG_5164

Quizzicals:

Two more crytpic clues to plants, fruit or veg:

  • Morissey’s mother’s mother
  • Someone who is out to get you

Old School Gardener

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