Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – November 2014

On this chilly Bloom Day, temperatures in our Zone 6a reached a whopping 30 degrees Fahrenheit. This seems to have been the weather theme for 2014. Everything has been cooler this year. This type of chill in November reminds me more of the Zone 5a where I grew up in the countryside, not in our current urban microclimate. Our trick-or-treaters had red noses and snowflakes in the air this year.

We’ve had our first hard frost already and the majority of the colorful Fall leaves are on the ground. Most of the perennials in the garden are looking quite fatigued if not completely wilted from the cold temperatures. I only have a handful of pictures to share, but thought it’d be a good idea to log them anyway.

This first mess of color is of an old-fashioned spirea we have in the backyard bed. I pruned this one back hard after it bloomed in the Spring. The growth was old, overgrown, and collapsing from the center. The shrub sprung back throughout the season with healthy new growth.


Here is a bit of Lamium that is sheltered by the fence and house at the southeast corner of the backyard. Behind it is foliage from a Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’ and a little Labrador Violet to the left.


And here is our single pumpkin the raised veggie bed decided to grow this year. We were going to carve it for Halloween but never had time to do so. It’s currently under the bird feeder as a snack for the squirrels. You can see they have already started to nibble on the back corner a bit.


So, only one plant is blooming right now on the Lot. Everything else seems to be settling in for the Winter. Head on over to May Dreams Gardens and maybe you’ll find a few more blooms from the more toasty areas of the world.

A Lesson in Latin

Last night a local gardening association hosted a social evening with speaker guest Merry Kim Meyers. Her presentation was titled “Conquering Scientific (Latin) Names.” I’ve been lazy about learning the Latin names of the plants on the Lot. I always feel a bit embarrassed when a gardening friend points at a plant and some bizarre combination of syllables I do not recognize falls from his or her lips with ease. So I thought this may be a fun presentation to attend.

Why Latin?

There are several reasons why Latin was chosen as the language to classify organisms. One can communicate internationally about the organism utilizing the same name without having to deal with language barriers. Also, common names of the same organism can differ from country to country, throughout a region, and at times from person to person. Using the Latin name of a plant eliminates this possible confusion. This comes in handy while shopping for plants so you can be sure you are purchasing the correct plant. And finally, and I feel quite practically, a dead language like Latin does not change.

The Daddy of Modern Taxonomy

In 1753, a Swedish botanist named Carl Linnaeus proposed every organism should be classified with a unique binomial name. This offered a solution to the problem at that time of a very chaotic approach to taxonomy (the system of classifying and naming organisms). The first term of the name would be the organism’s Genus and would be capitalized. The second term of the name would be its Species and would appear lowercase. Both parts of the name are italicized.

Carl’s Sock Drawer

Carl did not stop at suggesting a binomial name approach to taxonomy. He also created a hierarchical system of classification of nature. The system organizes organisms from very broad groupings to very specific types. Plants are classified by similarities in their fruit and flower structure.

The Linnaeus Classification System

  • Domain
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

The system has since been tweaked, “Domain” and “Phylum” being added afterward, but the guy got a pretty good start in 1735!

Latin & the Lot

Here’s a example of a plant tag for the Sweet Woodruff planted on the Lot.

Sweet Woodruff Plant Tag

Sweet Woodruff is the common name printed on the tag for this plant. However, it is also known as Sweetscented Bedstraw and Wild Baby’s Breath. See how this can be confusing? Latin to the rescue! The scientific name of this plant is Galium odoratum. Galium is the plant’s Genus and odoratum is the plant’s species. The Latin name of a plant may identify such characteristics as its history, taxonomy, or use.

Here’s the actual plant in our backyard.

111414_sweetwoodruffThough I am unsure about the word Galium, I did find odoratum in Latin means “fragrant/perfumed/sweet smelling.” This groundcover is definitely that as it has a strong, sweet scent while in bloom.

Difference Between Varieties & Cultivars

Plants can also be sorted one step further. If there is a marked difference in a species of plants in nature, this is referred to as a variety. If the plant is developed by man to have differences within a species, this is referred to as a cultivar. Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is an example of a cultivar. Note that cultivars are identified within the name of the plant by using single quotes.

Irish Wild Flowers

The Other Half and I did a lot of hiking (which is what we call walking when we do it outside in rural areas) during our trip to Ireland. I soon began to notice the recurrence of certain wildflowers. On one of our formal garden stops, the Other Half proudly presented me with a little pocket guide, Irish Wild Flowers by Ruth Isabel Ross,  he’d found in the gift shop. Seven euro later and we were equipped with a key to puzzle out a lot of the flowering plants for the rest of our trip.

Cross-leaved Heath


Erica tetralix is a native, evergreen shrub flowering May through September. At first I thought this plant was bell heather, but the clusters of flowers were one-sided. Plus, we found this little one on the peat bogs of Connemara National Park. The plant prefers this wet, water-logged ground with acidic soil.

Bell Heather


Erica cinerea is an abundant, native evergreen that blooms from June through September. This shot was taken further up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park. Bell heather is often found on hills, moorland and dry acid soils.

Common Heather (Ling)

DSC_0210sm DSC_0213sm

Calluna vulgaris is a native, evergreen shrub that blooms from July through September. When we planned our trip to Ireland, I immediately imagined the countryside filled with fields of heather. I was not disappointed when we traveled to Co. Wicklow and the Wicklow Mountains. The heather and gorse made for a beautiful combination that covered the hillsides. The shrub prefers acid soil and the drier areas of mountains, moors and bogs throughout Ireland.

European Gorse

DSC_0202sm DSC_0217sm DSC_0218smUlex europaeu is a native, evergreen shrub that blooms  year around with peak bloom time in April. The first day we noticed this flowering shrub was a daytrip to the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. Swaths of yellow flowers were in the company of some fading heather. When I drew closer, the plant didn’t look quite as soft and lovely. The shrub has bluish-green spines covering the lengths of the stems. At this time of year, a lot of its flowers were going to seed. We also spotted gorse in the hedges of Co. Galway.



Potentilla erecta is a widespread, native perennial that blooms from May through September. We came across this pretty, yellow flower with heart-shaped petals when we were exploring Connemara National Park in Co. Galway. The plant prefers acidic or slightly acidic soils, often making its home on moors, heaths, and acidic grasslands.


DSC_0598sm DSC_0599smArmeria maritima is a native, evergreen perennial that flowers from May through September. I’ve tried to grow this little flower on the Lot before, but it didn’t live more than a few seasons. A common name for  it is “Sea Pink,” and yes, we found the plant along the edge of the ocean in Roundstone, Co. Galway. The Irish name Noinin an chladaigh, when translated, is “Daisy of the Sea Shore.” The thrift reminded me of a little sea creature clinging to the rocks at low tide.

Additional Resources

In addition to the little pocket guide, I used a few online resources to cross-reference and read up on the above plants. Here they are if you’re curious!

Irish Wild Flowers

Wild Flowers of Ireland