Learning Plants-Need input

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Scaper28, Jan 22, 2008.

  1. Scaper28

    Scaper28 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14

    I need to brush up on my landscape plants. I know the basics, but does anyone have any recommendations for what books worked best for them. I don't need to know the scientific name, just the plane old English name. Lots of places I have looked online only have the scientific name. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  2. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    I find that having pictures on one side of a 3 X 5 card and the name on the back works very well for trying to memorize plant names. This way you can look at them all the time at traffic lights, while waiting for lunch at the drive through, during commercials. If you immerse yourself in it doing a little bit all the time you will pick it up much faster. I would just go to the nursery and take some pic,s make notes of the name and if you want to take it one step further go and find examples of them in the L/S and have a potted plant pic and a mature plant pic.

    Plant names are definitely one of those "if your not using it you will loose it" kinda things. If you are not using the names on a regular basis it is very hard to keep them on the tip of your tongue.
  3. oakhillslandscaping

    oakhillslandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 643

    try looking online for Dirr thats like the holy bible of ornamental trees and shrubs its a huge maroon book, also try Uconnplantdatabase.com that is a great one too, and try going and grabbing a catalogue from the local nursery of what they have in stock
  4. Michael J. Donovan

    Michael J. Donovan Head Moderator, Online Communities Staff Member
    Messages: 3,843

  5. daveyo

    daveyo LawnSite Senior Member
    from N.J.
    Messages: 907

    Its a real bad idea to learn "just the plane old English name". Reason being is one species can be named many different names
  6. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    The way they teach plant ID in the classroom is by making it complicated. I know that you want it simple, but it is well documented that the more complicated the input into your brain, the deeper it is retained.

    My first college class on plant ID was in the State of Maine in winter. That meant no leaves, just twigs. We would go out on campus with the teacher and he would tell us about the tree or shrub, but not tell us what it was. We'd cut off twigs and then have to use a key to find out what they were. In order to do that we would have to look at little details to answer the choices in the key. Then we would have to draw the twig on the back of an index card showing all of the details. The details would include not only the size and shape of the scar left from where the leaf fell off, but the number of veins you caould see within that scar. You don't easily forget them after you go through all of that.

    Botanical names are important. If you don't think so, what is a red maple? To one person it is a red leafed japanese maple, to another it is a Crimson King Norway Maple, and yet another will tell you it is a swamp maple (Acer rubrum). They are all correct, but only one is an Acer rubrum which is latin for Maple Red. If we spelled anything wrong, it was all wrong. So, everyone got together and quized each other between beers or bong hits or bible studies. Once you get it in there, it stays. .... maybe not as long for those bong hit guys.

    It is work, but it works.
  7. EagleLandscape

    EagleLandscape LawnSite Platinum Member
    Male, from Garland, Texas
    Messages: 4,350

  8. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    What AGLA says is very true. Attend a plant ID course or plant basics class and you will have a long term education in understanding plants. If you can determine genus and species, you will gain the client's respect and be better able to diagnose or install the correct plant material.

    Dirr's books are part of almost every college level plant program and you will still have weeks of classroom and outdoor training to go along with reading the reference material. The botanical names are imperative! Those names are common throughout the world, not renationalized or localized. Common names are for common people, not professionals in the green industry. Doctors, lawyers and many other professions have their own languages, so do professionals in the nursery and landscape business.

    Check around for a college or technical school program that runs a short course at this time of year. We have an 11 week program at Rutgers that runs a 1/2 day, every Friday and students that pass the written and outdoor ID exams receive a certificate and the knowledge of what was covered in that time. The class only covers the basic woody plants for this region and it is an accomplishment to receive a certificate.

  9. oakhillslandscaping

    oakhillslandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 643

    yeah you guys are right, thats how i learned my plants was the class room 4 hour lab 20 plants a week all accumalitive tests, its well worth it and its only gonna help
  10. zgrrl

    zgrrl LawnSite Member
    Messages: 27

    Those guys are right- botanical ('latin') names matter, so you know the difference between a tulip and a l.tulipfera.

    Buy these books, keep them at your desk or in truck:
    Taylors Guide to Shrubs
    Taylors Guide to Perennials.

    Take a class if you can or visit a botanical garden to see the plants and study their shape/color/growth habit.
    good luck

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