Aug 17th, 2010

Leaves from the Library: Hot time for the Garden

by Jane Hockaday, library volunteer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Mother Nature seems to have opened a spa in Richmond this summer, and a glance at a weather map suggests she has extended it to most of the country. Every few days she throws another dipper or two of water on the stones to add extra humidity. Dedicated staff and volunteers have been working diligently to keep the Garden as beautiful as ever; the unusual weather providing a learning opportunity, a chance to learn how plants work to survive. I wonder, does evaporating sweat add to the humidity level?  Sorry  ’bout that… I think the heat is getting to me.

How is your garden growing? Have the plants and seeds you ordered and put in your garden performed as promised? I recently read a fun article by Roy Blount, Jr. who has found that you can’t always rely on the descriptions provided for those items you planted with such hope and anticipation.

Have you ever wondered why plants have such complicated Latin botanical names?  Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener has a fun answer for you. The Garden Helper has a great answer too! and for the more serious gardener, the library has several books with more in depth information including: Gardener’s Latin by Bill Neal, A Gardener’s Guide to Plant Names by B. J. Healey, and Botanical Latin by William T. Stearn.

Another favorite resource, kept at the library desk and available for reference is  Flora’s Plant Names is a dictionary of common plant names (i.e. Hydrangea macrophylla is commonly called the florist’s hydrangea).

Knowing the Latin name for a plant helps insure that you get the exact plant you’re looking for.

On a side note, our librarian, Maggie Southwick, has decided to grow something of her own… a retirement. If you’ve ever called the library Hort Helpline with a question (ie. What in the world is this thing that’s growing in my garden?!), you probably have benefited from her knowledge and expertise.  If you visit the Garden before August 20th, you can take a moment or two to cool off in the library and wish Maggie well.  And be sure to visit and welcome the new librarian, Janet Woody, who has also been a horticulture volunteer at the Garden since February. Janet has a deep interest in plants and an extensive library background (over 30 years of library management experience)  if your in the neighborhood, stop by and welcome her.

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