30 Sep 2012

Capel Manor: Naming of names

Ricinis communis
My favourite image from last Friday's course:  The Castor Oil plant (Ricinis communis).
(Not to be confused with Fatsia Japonica, the false Castor Oil plant!)
So, back to Capel last Friday and this week we got going with the good stuff.  Plant identification builds week on week so that, with practise and a well-exercised memory, my fellow students and I should be able to confidently - and correctly - identify at least 150 plants with their Latin names by the end of the year.  Sounds quite a task to me but I imagine that most of us gardening folk know quite a few plant names already without realising it.  Or maybe that's just me being a bit of a plant geek and having a penchant for being able to spout the Latin names of my favourites;  I find it helps to monitor how many of my brain cells have apparently died; I frequently find a complete void in my memory where peoples' (and plant) names and significant events used to reside.

This week another 8 plants have to be instilled in my memory bank before next Friday.  It's said that the best way to learn is to use several senses at once: students get walked (in all weathers) through the maze of gardens to the relevant plant, told all about it (type, aspect, soil, habit, role in the garden, features, etc), have a quick line sketch and/or photo, touch the plant (well, I do) and - whoosh! - onto the next one.  I was so absorbed in sketching the Sedums that I momentarily got left behind and lost the group, thereby missing out on fascinating titbits about Japanese windflowers.

The rest of the morning was spent having our eyes opened as to the meaning of plant names, how and why they're constructed (grouped) and a short potted history of the Binomial naming system.  The tutor is excellent - and, believe me, I've sat through some real duffers.  She's friendly, passionate, interesting and interested; pretty much what's needed to get the message across.

So, if you'll just bear with me while I get my visual reminders in place, these are the plants that I have to remember for next week:

Sedum 'Herbstfreude' aka Ice Plant. (You either love them or hate them. I'm with the first lot.)
Sedum 'Herbstfreude'  Sedum

Abelia x grandiflora (a bit of a misnomer as the flowers are tiny!). Domed shrub.
Abelia  Abelia x grandiflora

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
Dahlia

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'
Anemone x hybrida  Anemone x hybrida flower

Macleaya microcarpa 'Kelway's Coral Plume'. Large perennial.
Macleaya microcarpus  Macleaya plume

Ricinis communis (Castor Oil plant; fab leaves, highly poisonous, large)
Ricinis leaf  Ricinis communis

Stipa gigantea ... as the name suggests, a large grass with golden oaty plumes.
Stipa gigantea  Stipa oat plume

Stipa tenuissima ... a short grass with fluffy plumes
Stipa tenuissima  Stipa T plume

I'm a visual learner so looking at the information on paper then matching it with my photos seems to be working ... so far. (I'm putting more information about the plants with the photos on my Flickr page for those that may be interested.)

The afternoon was equally absorbing; we spent much of it drawing upside down! (Not the students, the image. I had a sudden mental image of 15 students hanging, bat-like, from the rafters with pencils in hand!) It's a creative technique to get the right side of the brain to dominate during sketching activities - or, as I would call it, walking before you can run. It's taken from the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" which has spawned a decade of workshops in New York.  I had a quick look at their website and, especially, the 'before and after' gallery, from line sketch to tonal sketch with most of the self-portraits seemingly of desperados from a John Wayne Western!   Luckily, for homework, we can have a go at doing our line drawings the right way up!

It's another dry day here in London so I'm going to spend a couple of hours in the veg patch - my spaghetti squash has formed another 2 fruits, only 4 inches long at the moment, and growing among the branches of the plum tree. If these grow to maturity that will make FIVE spaghetti squashes!  I've had another Sicilian courgette from my balcony plant but the peppers are struggling - I'm likely to bring those indoors to ripen up. I keep having to remind myself that the green pepper on my balcony is really an Orange Bell pepper!

If I have time, I also need to remember that NOW is the time to be planting bulbs for spring, as well as broad beans, onions and spring onions, and a host of flowers for an early display next spring (marigold, cornflower, nigella, nasturtium).  I've had the first of my seed catalogues (Thompson and Morgan) so I should be thinking about what to grow next year;  how about everyone else?  Keen to put this year behind you and plan for next year?

20 comments:

  1. It sounds like a really interesting course, though there's no way I would be able to remember all those plant names, my memory is getting worse as I get older. You Spaghetti Squash plant seems to have come in to it's own now, I hope they mature before the frosts come.

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    1. Jo, my memory is appalling! I'm trying to really get to grips with these plant names so that I'm not too overwhelmed later in the course. I get the feeling that the tutors are familiar with this scenario and are really working to give us the confidence to learn all this! I'm really keeping an eye on the weather so that my squashes are given the best chance. So far so good!

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  2. Your course sounds fascinating and yes when I went on a teaching course I had to learn that there were so many different ways of learning, didn't know that not everyone was the same as me! When I first started gardening I set myself the task of learning 6 new names a week, so could be found wandering around muttering latin to myself. Still have to check everything when writing my blog though, to get the spelling correct!!

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    1. That was partly the reason that I found last week's plant idents so easy to remember - I grow, or know, them all already! I agree about the course, it sounded so good in the prospectus and I'm enjoying it immensely. There's a really nice bunch of people on this course, everyone brings something different to it. I'm very impressed with the plant knowledge that I read on your blog, sounds like yours is a good trick to remember!

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  3. I know lots of plant names but if anyone asks me what it is my mind goes totally blank. Sounds like an interesting course glad that you're enjoying it. I've had a few catalogues through the door so many evenings will be spent in front of the fire dreaming and planning.

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    1. You and me both, Elaine. There are certain plant names that just won't stick in the mind, usually the plants that I pass every day in the gardens here! I've only had the Thompson and Morgan catalogue so far, definitely need to send off for a few more!

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  4. I really enjoyed this interesting, informative post and photos.
    I shall sow my annuals in the spring as I'm having a bit of a change around with the plot flowers.
    Yes I'm pondering on what to grow next year, even before the new seed catalogues are out. Flighty xx

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    1. Thank you Flighty. I shall look forward to seeing what changes are afoot on your plot. The flowers and vegetables that you grow have inspired my own choices in the past - I'm planning to give Golden Burpees beetroot a go next year, one that you grow and write about. I have the RHS plant finder at home on my bookshelves so between that and the Capel course, I shall certainly have a lot to consider for next year's garden!

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  5. Love your photo of the Castor Oil plant, I seem to remember It as a child but can`t recall what for.

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    1. Are you perhaps thinking of Cod Liver Oil, David? I think Castor Oil is used for motor engines!! I vaguely remember being given Cod Liver Oil - and very disgusting it was too! It was supposed to be very good for general health - I now take Omega 3/6/9 capsules, a far better tasting solution to getting health giving oils into the system!

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  6. Lucky you - it's lovely to spend time with other gardening people! If it's any help, when I was studying for my exams, I labelled everything - carrots, courgettes, parsley etc in latin. I don't know if it got me any extra marks, but it certainly got me thinking in Latin, which helped.

    There is a book - Plant Names Simplified (it has a black cover) and it is great for pronunciation and understanding what names mean.

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    1. Yes, it IS lovely to spend time with other gardening enthusiasts - we can witter on without fear of boring listeners to death! I like your idea of naming even your veg in Latin, sounds brilliant! I'll certainly be looking up the book you mention (thank you for that, I love a good recommendation!) and, in the meantime, have ordered RHS Latin for Gardeners from the Book People, on offer for £5!

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  7. A great close up of the castor oil plant Caro although I hope that you resisted the urge to touch in this instance :) I do like the eye coming out of the stipa. 8 plants a week sounds a gentle number to try to commit to memory. Hope that you have fun tomorrow. I am most keen to put this year behind me and will be studying the seed catalogues with renewed hope soon. By the way I got most excited as I thought that I had found some 9 Star broccoli plants only to be advised that the company was out of stock a month later :( I am now waiting with bated breath for seeds from another source :)

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    1. Thanks, Anna, and yes I resisted touching the Castor Oil plant - I think we were told that it was very poisonous! I don't think 8 plants is too many to remember; as you say, a gentle start but some of the students, not having encountered the sheer variety of plants growing in the Capel gardens nor the Latin names of them, are struggling slightly. I, too, am clearing the veg patch gardens with relish. I really hope that next year is more productive and am adjusting what I plan to grow accordingly. I wish you luck with your broccoli seeds. There won't be many around as, in order to produce seed, the plant has to die and won't come back for future years. I let one of mine go to seed but the others have rotted in the rain that we've had so I'll have to start over as well. (Back to Romanesco caulis for me, so it won't be too much of a hardship!)

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  8. Already planning next year and of course it's going to be the best ... well I can hope, can't I? The seed catalogues are dropping on the doormat thick and fast. That's fascinating about drawing upside down, never heard that before. I think you'll be surprised at just how many plant names you'll know this time next year. It's surprising just how many we know by their Latin name anyway.

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    1. I like your style, Welly - thinking positive is always the best way forward in my book! Drawing upside down was interesting, but I'm pleased we've moved on to negative space - it's a far better way of drawing for me!
      My son studied Latin at GCSE and I often helped him when he needed to revise so some of the names are already making sense. It's not so much knowing the Latin that I'm looking forward to, as being able to identify so many more plants!

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  9. I've never been up to Capel although I've browsed their course brochure. What is the course you're doing? Sorry if that's clearly stated elsewhere on the blog, it's late on Sunday and I have the same cold!

    Feeling the pressure to get the bulbs ordered. I got all mine from the garden centres last year. They all seem to sell only JP Parker bulbs. They were ok but this year I'm going to get them from Blom's bulbs who had the most spectacular display at Chelsea. Someone else looking at the exhibit said they bought from Blom's last year and they came up wonderfully, so fingers crossed.

    My sedums are the most curious luminous pink this year, almost artificial looking. Must be the weather!

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    1. Hello Claire, no worries, I hope your beginning to feel a bit better now; I had to keep working through my week of unwellness and just wanted to sleep in my spare time!
      I'm studying Garden Design up at Capel Manor's Bullsmoor Lane site in Enfield. There are wonderful gardens there so I'm really pleased that I'm there rather than the Regent's Park site. The course is great and is one that I wanted to do for several years; I hear good things about their horticulture course as well but the tutors on my course are so good.
      Funnily enough, my first assignment is about bulbs so I'm looking into bulb suppliers. Sarah Raven also does a good selection, worth looking at for some spectacularly unusual summer flowering alliums.
      I hope that you'll write about your bulb choices in good time! I'll look forward to reading about it!

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  10. What great images - your "void" comment made me laugh, it happens to me too. Usually when someone has just asked me what a plant is - or who someone is. Thank you for the spring onion/broad bean reminder, I must dig out my remaining seeds. I am aggressively not looking at the new T&M catalogue, too much to do, will have to wait until spring to put an order in. And for my veg beds to be completed and filled with growing medium...

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    1. Thanks, Janet - the worst scenario is when someone starts chatting as if they know you really well, you know you know them and you absolutely can't remember their names! Happened to me recently and I had to ask my teenage son who I'd just been speaking to! Oooooops!
      I'm hoping to set up a few more raised beds and have a new apple tree arriving in December (Brrrrr!) so still plenty to do. I'm going to rethink how and what I'm growing next year as this year has been a total wash out! Looking forward to seeing how you get on!

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Caro x

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