wanted: plant knowledge

I have decided to make a list of the plants in my garden.

For too long I haven’t really respected them as individuals, vaguely seeing them as components of the garden pictures I like to create. This has meant that when someone asks me What plant is that? I have to rush over to my haphazard and incomplete collection of plant labels and hope it’s there.

I would love to help people create similar gardens of joy and beauty with no water or fertilizer needed. I can’t do that if I don’t know the names of the plants in it.

In my list I want to have common and scientific names. I want to include at least one photo. I want to know the position it’s growing in – front, back, side. And I want a description of the plant: shrub, tree, annual, perennial, Australian native or native of other country. (Lots of my non-indigenous garden plants seem to originate in California or the Canary Islands). I also want to have space for comments, including my experience – for example, that clivias never flower for me, only for other people, and are only tolerated in my garden because they fill dry shady places with green.

So the question is: how do I find the information and how do I organize it? The database I have had experience with is Endnote. I have tried to adapt it to this purpose but it is far from a perfect fit.

I am excited about this project. I intend to search the net including friendly Wikipedia and garden blogs and other sites. I will reread the gardening books I have collected over the years. I will also ask for help face to face, and from virtual friends who read this blog.

Any suggestions of plant identification sources will be appreciated. Also any suggestions how to organize the information will be welcome. I use a Mac.

The first two photos are of two different acacia or wattles in my garden. I have no idea which of the hundreds of different varieties of acacias they are. The other photo is of a shrub I bought about 20 years ago in a nursery because I liked the look of it and had a good spot for it. I don't think I've forgotten what it is. I don't think I ever knew its name.

If anyone out there knows anything about these plants, I would love to hear from you.


  1. I cannot advise how to set up a database in the way you wish, but I have seen a friend design Microsoft Excel to do just that. It can even include photos (thumbnails, not sure if they will blow up if one clicks on them.
    Re identifying plants, the first thing I would do is get a series of images you cna refer to . I mean find and store such databases on the Web as "favourites" or "bookmarks".
    For native plants, the best place to start is the Botanic Gdns in Canberra (ANBG).
    For Wattles (the hardest of all, probably) go to: http://anbg.gov.au/images/photo_cd/index.html.
    You need to know botanical families to search that entire list, but for Wattles, go to Mimosaceae.
    Now to your plants:
    First one, if is a weeping plant, try Acacia cognata
    Use the first link to search image database for more under that name - whole of plant, or close up.
    Plant 2 looks like Acacia floribunda to me.

    The last one - a question.
    Does it have a slight powdery texture to its leaves?
    If so, does it have nasty long spine hidden along larger branches? If so, does it produce small bell shaped flowers hidden deep within the foliage?
    If yes, try Eleagnus pungens.
    I would have to say that trying to identify plants by other than 3 or 4 close-up images of leaves, flowers, plus one of and the entire plant is very fraught with danger.
    But it is good fun trying.
    Best of luck.
    It is much easier if you can find a local person familiar with plants - local garden club?
    Best wishes.

  2. Don't know if this might help?


    There are lots of guides to Australian natives (lants that is!).

    For a database I use Microsoft Access.Easy to use.

  3. I've started a memorial garden. I get people who look at the pictures and provide identification of plants.


  4. Dear Catmint, I am afraid that I cannot offer any practical help on this project, but I think that it will be a wonderful and very worthwhile record once complete. I wish you luck.

  5. Dear catmint, this is a big task but very worthwhile.
    To identify wattles I have found this:
    commonly grown Acacia/ wattles;

    I am sure you find your wattles in there.

    Unfortunately I can not help with the other plant. I will come back to your website and try to identify plants if I know them.
    Good luck. T.

  6. Blogspot lets you add Pages. I have one for Plant Portraits. If I do a blog post about a plant I love, I leave a link on that page.

    (BTW perhaps your Clivia doesn't flower because it comes from South Africa). They say, they like to be crowded. My yellow ones are squashed in a pot, covered in flowers. Orange ones in beds, sulking and only one has now, grudgingly, flowered.

    And the joy of virtual reality, is that if you don't like your first version. Well you can just change it as soon as you find a better one.

  7. Wow, Denis is a smart man. I was going to say the third photo looks like an Elaeagnus. I've got the variegated variety called 'Gilt Edge.'

    Dave's Garden has a fairly good plant data base.

    Usually I just Google the plant genus, then click on images until I find the one I think is closest then click on it to get the information.

    Good luck with your endeavor.

  8. I've started my own plant list using google docs (FREE). Spread sheets work just like Excel. Like you, I also use a Mac. I also try to keep all my plant tags and have them organized by sections of my gardens in pretty boxes I found at Michael's (here in the USA - not sure if you have?) I also frequently visit Dave's Garden to look up plants and information. Not sure what your plant is but it is beautiful, that's for sure.

  9. Looks like a big project. It is good that you are taking time to plan.

    It's hard to remember plant names. So it's good to have a databse. For me,I find it hard to pronounce certain names and sometimes I am not sure if I said it correctly ;-)

  10. Thanks for the confirmation of Eleagnus, Grace, and for the kind words.
    For "Elephant's Eye", I found your plants "page" on your blog, and then found the voting form for the Acacia name issue.
    Hardly surprisingly I voted against undoing the name re-classification. I am an Aussie, after all.
    I had heard about the name change debate (a few years ago), but did no know that there was a move to overthrow the change.
    Thanks for that information - even if I voted against what the rest of the world wants.

  11. Dear cyber friends, saying thank you for your incredibly informative and helpful comments sounds inadequate. But thank you anyway.

    Dear Denis, You have set me a good track with your suggestions. The 3rd plant certainly sounds like Eleagnus pungens except it does not have a nasty long spine that I have noticed. I do need to make local garden contacts. I will probably be in the Open Garden scheme next spring so through that I am sure I will make good local contacts. At this stage i don't have time to join a garden club or do any courses.

    Dear Hermes, thank you for your suggestion. It all helps. I don't know why I didn't consider microsoft access. Such a good idea.

    Thank you so much Miriam for your comment. Your website is so moving, it is really special.

    Dear Edith, thank you for your warmth and encouragement, as usual.

    Hi Titania, thank you so much for your help.

    Dear Diana, I will spend time poring over your plant portraits and maybe I can add a similar page. I have much to learn too about using blogspot. You may be right about why the clivia have never flowered. On a non scientific basis, I actually wonder if they feel unloved. I don't care for them as I do other garden inhabitants.

    Thank you Grace for your helpful advice.

    Thank you, TVF, I will check out dave's garden and google docs.

    Hi Stephanie, I also don't know how to pronounce lots of plant names and I think that' s partly why it's hard to remember them.

    There's so much to do, to learn, to say, yet sleep calls ...

    cheers, catmint

  12. I'm pretty sure the green/silver leaved shrub is eleagnus. I have a bunch of them in my garden and love them! They bloom in the fall and have a nice scent though you really can't see the flowers.

    I tell you how I keep track of my plants. I use an excel spreadsheet. On it are not only the common and scientific name but: flower color, where purchased, how much, where planted, when plant introduced, height, width, and notes, probably more stuff too but this is what I use most. At first I had all plants on one sheet but it is way to long. Now I break it down by categories such as bulbs, irises, daylilies, shrubs, etc. Good luck. It was a fun project to do and well worth it.

  13. thanks Tina for sharing how you organize the information. cheers, catmint

  14. Like Tina I use an Excel spreadsheet but I am toying with the idea of a switch to a database of some kind so that I can link to photographs. With the advent of digital photography I feel I should be seeing lots of pictures as well as text. A daunting task which is why I haven't got very far!

  15. oh wow. I have no idea, but the plant in the second photo is just lovely.

  16. The expression of the plant is gentle-looking.
    Thank you for visiting my blog.


  17. Well Catmint, I must confess to being lame in this way. You might be inspiring me however. I cannot help with your project. I do use a mac too. I love your Acacias! They are so lovely and fragrant. I have used them in flower arranging over the years and seen them at flower shows. Best of luck with this impressive project!


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