In this issue:
Avoid the Temptation to Kiss Me Over the
Sexing a holly, berry easy at bloom time
Orchids worth the care, fertilizr right
Salt-wise to save plants
Look now to prune better
This issue was Sponsored by:
I have admired a plant
called Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate. How can I find it to grow it?
- A.T. -
That's one of the common names for "Polygonum
orientale", a 5-7 foot annual with dangling clusters of beady
Use a common name index, sometimes called a popular name index,
to trace a common name to its botanical or scientific equivalent.
These cross references are in plant encyclopedias and also at your
fingertips via Internet Search. The technical terms may be tougher
to pronounce but a scientific name is far more useful for locating
plant information than a common name.
Many plant encyclopedias have common name indices. There are so
many cultivated plants, each with multiple common names, that no
single index can include them all. So don't give up if at first you
can't find a name. In this case, your plant is in Hortus Third and
the RHS Dictionary of Horticulture, but not in the AHS Gardener's
Using the botanical name, read about that plant in the
encyclopedia or see a photo to confirm it's what you want.
The botanical name is valuable on the Internet, too. Use a
search engine such as google.com to seek the botanical name and
view photos, catalogs and references you might not have
That's one problem for gardeners who consult the Internet. "Just
a minute more" can turn into an all night exploration. A search for
"Polygonum orientale," for instance, yielded not only the
source listed above but an entry in the USDA plant database (http://plants.usda.gov/) and a medicinal herb
website under another common name, Shui Hong.
Interested in its appearance on the USDA site, I found it's a
noxious weed in Tennessee, occupying both wetlands and drier soils.
That's one of the tests of weediness, whether a species can
naturalize in all moisture gradients.
Wondering if it's also a problem in Michigan I checked the USDA
plant maps for its occurrence in the wild here -- something also
possible in Michigan Flora Part II (Edward Voss,
Cranbrook Institute of Science Press). It's naturalized in at least
11 Michigan counties including Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw.
Considering this finding along with the notation "birds like the
seeds" from a catalog entry, I realized that this plant's seeds are
likely to travel beyond the property line despite a gardener's
efforts. Since I don't want to contribute to the weed problem in
our diminishing natural areas, my choice would be to pass on this
Sexing a holly berry easy at
Dear Janet and Steven,
I'm sending you a leaf from my holly. Can you tell me
how to know if it's a male or female? I'd like to have berries and
read in your column that I need two plants, but I don't know which
this is. - L.D. -
Checking the flowers is the only sure way to tell the sex of a
plant whose species produces male and female flowers on separate
Look at several of the blooms on your shrub this spring. Holly
flowers are very small, so you'll probably need a hand lens. Look
when you first notice the flowers and over the next two days, to be
sure you catch them when they are ripe.
If you see yellow dusty pollen, the flowers are male. If you
don't see any pollen but a green orb is prominent at the blossom's
center, it's a female.
There are sometimes other differences between male and female
plants, but recognizing them requires a comparison. For instance,
'Blue Prince' holly tends to be more upright in its branching and
taller than 'Blue Princess' whose branches take a more horizontal
turn. The female also grows more slowly than her male consort.
Water your plants when you clean that
Eliminating an accumulation of nutrients in that water and
preventing algae growth is your aim. Yet those same nutrients are
an excellent source of non-burning fertilizer for houseplants.
Thanks for reminding us of this, B.C.
Fertilize plants that are actively
...blooming orchids included. The general rule is to withhold
fertilizer in the winter. However, if a plant is receiving enough
light to grow vigorously, keep on fertilizing. A water-soluble
fertilizer mixed at half- or quarter strength every other watering
is a safe bet for any plant.
Of course, every species has its natural preferences. As an
example, bird and bat droppings are nutrient sources a wild orchid
would utilize. You can buy guano and mix it into an orchid's
potting mix at repotting time. It will gradually break down and
nourish your plant until the next time you divide or up-pot.
to knowing whether your street is salted. Plan to rinse plants
well and soak beds along salted roadsides with several inches of
water in early spring to remove salts before growth begins.
to downcast eyes in winter! Look up now when you can clearly see
a tree or shrub's branching structure. It's easy to recognize and a
good time to prune out crossing and rubbing branches.
Originally published 1/25/03
Sponsored by an orchid loving reader:
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us! It's quick and inexpensive.