Plant Names and Classifications

Are you like me and didn’t know that common plant names are not the best way of identifying plants because a lot of the common names get confused or could overlap with others? I mean there are trees that are called oak trees that are not in the same group. It’s just a bunch of craziness and I just want to make it clear: up until this point I was entirely ignorant. I’m cool with it.

Now there is a science to plant classification and in that science there are two categories that we should be aware of and that is the plant taxonomy and plant systematic systems. We used to go by common names but it often became confusing  for a lot of people. Today we classify all plants based on their genetic and evolutionary characteristics, this means that the plants are grouped based on who their common ancestors are.

In horticulture they are primarily concerned with the last three levels of classification: Species, Genus and Family.

The species is the most basic level of classification and below this there can be many subspecies. These plants are usually the most closely related to one another and they can interbreed freely.

The Genus is a group of related species.

The Family is the general group of Genus who are all related by a common ancestor.

There are two important flowering plant families that my professor made sure that we covered. Frankly, I’ve already learned more than what I knew before and I am pleased, but we’re only part of the way through so I’ll continue to let you know what I know or I am learning.

First is the dicot family, which is a flowering family with two cotelydons (embrodic leaves). Just to let you know those cotelydons are inside and this is the largest of the two families. There are over 200,000 types and they are everywhere. They are roses, myrtle trees and so many more.

The second flowering family is the Monocot. They are grass like flowering plants that only have one cotelydon per seed. In agriculture the majority of biomass is created through monocots. You might find a monocot as wheat, rice, bamboo, sugar cane, forage grasses and many others. This family includes many bulb flowers like daffodils, lilies, and iris. They are not simply flowers and grasses but also tumeric, garlic, and asparagus.

Both are angiosperms and very popular. I really enjoy these classes and can’t wait to learn more. How many more things am I going to learn? Who knows but I can’t wait.

Although this information may not be useful right away I am certain being able to identify plant families will be useful in the future. These pictures are by a wonderful lady named Vivian Morris.

Plant names are identified not my their family but by the genus and species. Common names change by region and can be confusing because a rose is a rose and can be any different species of rose if you are looking for a specific type. Although common names can be misleading botanical names are not. The Botanic name is a Latin name accepted world wide.

For example: Magnolia alba or Ligustrum album.

Until next time…

Year Zero: Serious Moment

I have a five year plan. It is not a good plan and it changes from day to day but it is a plan. Right now, I have just left year zero. January 2021 is starting a new year for me.

You may ask:

What is Year Zero? Year Zero has been my year of planning. I also went around the area and looked at local nurseries. I wanted to see what everyone had to offer. It opened my eyes. I also planned to go back to college and learn about plant things.

Why is Year Zero so important? Year Zero is my planning year. We moved in October 2019 and that only started our adventure. During this year I have walked the property over five hundred times. I have learned the land-ish. There is a lot more to starting a permaculture food forest then I anticipated.

This is where I outlined my goals. I learned my property and I planted starter plants- which I will get into later. We have a lot to cover so I will continue.

Some of the trees ready for new homes

What does having a poorly planned year zero do for someone who is just starting out? This is a tough one because I had to reset my Year Zero last year. It was insanity. I killed every plant I got my hands on because I just jumped in. I thought I could just wish my garden into growth. It was poor planning and I wasted a lot of money on plants that died. So, don’t waste money use your year zero wisely. Learn to work with your property and not against it.

Year Zero is the most important year of planning and development. This is my year of research and getting to know my property. Here I started and failed then restarted after some research. Even still I am not 100% sure that everything will work out. My year one began with medicinal plants and evolved into the dreams of a food forest. Somewhere it evolved and I wanted to have real food security.

I learned a lot about the native plants that already live here and it inspired me to start a Monarch Butterfly Santuary. I started by going online and joining many types of groups. They kind of inspired me and so I continued with my year zero goals. I did way better than I anticipated.

The reason Year Zero is important is because it lays the foundation for success but remember: you can always switch it up later if your plans don’t work out. I know it sounds crazy but a lot of people (myself including) thought they could just jump in (like I did) and fail. I’ve learned it’s only a true failure if I stop trying and so I will continue.

It took me the better half of the first year to figure out I was doing things wrong and I might need to talk to experts. That’s why I enrolled in classes but I’ll share all of that information as I get it with you.

Squash flower (I think?)

Sure, I was in the best Facebook groups. Unfortunately I hadn’t been utilizing them. So I went online and I just dove into research on permaculture, companion planting, ph levels, soil samples and I was blown away by how much was out there. I will never know everything but I had started down a rabbit hole that brought me here to this blog.

Spoiler alert: my plants stopped dying. I got better at planting the more I learned and there is this feeling of happiness when you are using your own vegetables and fruits.

All throughout year zero I sat outside my plants hoping they might grow. It does not make plants grow faster.

Now I know I need a plan and in year zero it’s the perfect time to decide what you want and where you see that going in five years. Make it fun and exciting but remember: your plan must flow with the tide. So make sure you are ready for those changes and adaptations as you go. For example: I thought I could just put seeds in the dirt and it would just grow. It doesn’t work that way and now I know thanks to countless people.

Goals for my property and my life for the next five years. This is important because it gives me a general outline to work with. Remember, I am making plans but they are like the wind- every changing and straightforward.

In five years, I want to have every individual breed of plant I want on my property. Even if I do not have every part of my land covered (Which I most likely will seeing my progress already- it is a possibility). I am not talking about a neat little orchard- I want trees and shrubs. I want to be overwhelmed with sight, smell and feel like nature surrounds me.

Keep that in mind- it is the foundation for our success. My goals are not primarily food security, even though it is a reoccurring theme, but instead a food based garden of eden, a place for me to retire my body and my spirit. So, not all of my plants will be solely food based. I am going to continue on that note, but keep your goals in your mind.

Another goal I realized: I want the species here to be closer to disease resistant and ready to produce in five years. This means that in the first few years I have to plant my trees that need to be producing as well as create a water source.

In Year Zero, I am going through plant lists to find edible plants, flowering plants, herbs, and pollinators. I am collecting seeds and planting what I like to call guaranteed success plants such as blackberries. During Year Zero I did a lot of planning but then I began planting samples.

For example: I don’t know of I even like certain fruits- this is a great time to plant one or two and try them. If I don’t like them I won’t plant more of that particular tree. It’s good to know before I make a mass planting decision.

The ones that do well and we like: we plant more of them. The ones that don’t we just move on from and don’t plant more. At least we are keeping those three blueberries (if any of them survive), but I am hesitant of planting more until we know they will survive. That is one of many examples. We keep what we like but we don’t want continue any difficult plants. If something happens we want to make sure we can take care of it. (Eventually I hope it will take care of itself, in my old age I don’t want to be chasing around a 7 acre mess)

I want to cover my entire property in plants that are useful primarily with a little playroom for beautiful things. I want to retire in my own hand made forest and I want to leave it for my kids to enjoy. I cannot wait until I make my dream come true, but Year Zero opened my eyes to the many possibilities.

Frankly, Year Zero did not go as planned and there is a good chance your Year Zero will not be magnificentbut don’t give up. I killed a lot of plants that I want to blame on bizarre seeds from China that I never received. Really it all came down to poor planning.

Year one starts now in January and during that year I have a lot of things I would like to accomplish. But first let’s talk about what i have already got started:

  • 75 thornless blackberries, three different kinds.
  • 33 grape plants, twenty four muscadine, six concord, two seedless randoms from Wal-Mart, and one Spanish grape.
  • 8 apple trees, 4 persimmons, 4 pomegranates, 5 peaches, 3 plums, 4 cherries, 2 pears, 2 limes, 2 lemons, and 2 avadaco trees.
  • Planted many perennials and failed two gardens.

Year One I have new goals.

  • I would like to plant 100 additional thornless blackberry plants. This year so far we have planted 75. We know that blackberries will do great here and we want at least 200. We want to primarily plant thornless varieties which is also why we are not dying into raspberries.
  • Set up the irrigation system that will support the amount of plants that I want to bring in. We already bought two irrigation systems. One is set up for bushes and one is set up for the trees.
  • I want to plant a minimum of 25 different kinds of apple trees, but that may not be possible.
  • I want to focus on the 41 disease resistant breeds that grow in my zone. Zone 8a.
  • Focus on filling in the spaces between my trees with shrubs and berry bushes.
  • Expanding my seed collection
  • Creating a creek system that runs through our property
  • Planting as much as I can as fast as I can and keeping it all alive with magic

So, don’t give up. Year Zero seems hard on everyone. We’ve got this now onward to YEAR ONE.

A much more detailed goal list for Year One is coming but you’ll have to be patient. I am busy looking through seed catalogs while listening to permaculture information.

Project Grow Your Roots 2021: Fun and Short Additions

Contributed by L. McKnight

All the way from Oregon, Groot wants you to know he is proud of you.

Contributed by Adrienne Westbrook

This is a weeks worth of growth on a Sunflower she planted with her daughter. I love the way she made the pictures come together in this photo. I love the family bonding in Indiana. Enjoy raising those Sunflowers.

These bad boys are the state flower of Kansas. They can grow in medium light and in clay soil. I’ll keep that in mind when I am planting. Birds love Sunflower for their seeds and who can blame them really?

But the most amazing thing is the amount of uses:

  • Poultice from the flowers for burns
  • Crushed root to draw out a blister
  • Leaf tea for high fevers

Also, one last bit a little bit of folklore: some places believe that planting sunflowers can ward off malaria.

Contributed by Colleen Esc

Started from leaf cuttings these Violets have grown to be lovely. So lovely she plans on spreading the love this season. I am sure that everyone will be thrilled, I know that I would.

Many are perennial but some are annual and very few are shrubs. The viola category has around 600 species which is amazing and a little overwhelming, but the flower is edible and can be used to add color to salads. If you needed a reason to plant this beautiful flower.

There are so many absolutely amazing people out there. As the pictures flow in I just keep becoming more excited about the outcome. Keep your eyes out for more plants that people are excited about.

Project Grow Your Roots 2021: Tonasket, Washington

Another lover of plants like myself is out there living the dream. She has sent us pictures of three different plants that are amazing and I can’t wait to look into and mention some cool facts about these amazing plants.

Contributed by Lisa Swinson

First, we have our Thanksgiving Cactus which is native to Brazil. These are primarily house plants. They are known by many names and there are only around 6 to 9 species of this genus. I found that to be very cool.

Contributed by Lisa Swinson

First thing that drew me into this picture was the amounts of snow. I could not imagine or survive such a large amount.

Amazingly, the Douglas Fir can. This tree has a hardiness of zones 4 to 6 and is number one in the lumber industry. If you couldn’t see this tree is an evergreen and absolutely amazing looking in all types of weather, but it really seems as though this tree enjoys the freezing temperatures.

Contributed by Lisa Swinson

This lovely cactus is unknown for now, if you have the answer comment below and I’ll update it. This was an anniversary cactus so we will call it a love cactus or a cactus of love. This commemorates 5 years of marriage and 2 beautiful children.

Greetings from Tonasket, Washington.

Project Grow Your Roots 2021: Pencil Cactus

So I was sitting here thinking about all of the cool things I could do for the New Year that didn’t require money or leaving the house. So I sent out an SOS in a lot of my cooler groups and requested plant pictures. Here is the beginning to my new adventure

This is a pencil cactus. She contributed this because she informed me her love for the Pencil Cactus but let me know that the sap is considered a neurotoxin. This plant can be dangerous if ingested so we have to be careful.

Contributed by Crystal Yeakley

This intrigued me and so I dug a little deeper. This plant produces a poisonous latex that can cause blindness. That does not sound fun but the pictures are absolutely beautiful. The sap is milky, toxic and corrosive.

The blindness is said to be temporary and if exposed to the skin it can cause redness and irritation and burn the skin.

It is native to India and Africa and can be grown in sub tropical areas and greenhouses. I found some Online Tips to help you if you are interested in this lovely and very hard core plant. Definitely deer resistant and just cool to have around.

I think it’s pretty metal that people keep these as house plants. This is a gold star first submission on my mission to keep my kids awake until midnight with cool information and facts that I collected from all over the world.

Beneficial Grants: Texas Monarch Butterfly Grant

I live in Texas. Howdy.

I was looking into things that could boost my permaculture food forest without costing me any money. As I was looking through the many grants. It all started with the Monarch Butterfly Grant.

This is a very small personal grant that cannot exceed past 400 per person/group. This grant can only be used to purchase plants (which is all I want- free plant money). So there are some rules to this particular grant that go further than that: they have to be native to Texas. I want Butterflies

As I wait for winter to be over I plan. My close friend LD always has a beautiful yard and I want to shine too. This has inspired me to look for money to supply my hobbies.

Challenge accepted.

I want all four hundred of those dollars so that I can expand my already amazing dream permaculture food forest. So I looked into it.

Agarita is one of the native plants. I hadn’t thought about this plant before -primarily because I was so narrow minded on the idea of a permaculture food forest- but I love that we have so many milkweed plants in my pasture because it attracts the butterflies.

That’s also how I happened upon this grant because I decided I wanted to start a butterfly garden to attract even more. The agarita has the nectar that the butterflies crave. If I have this lovely blossoming flower it will give the mom butterflies plenty of food – these plants also are great for other pollinators like bees. Keep that in mind.

It is a shrub that is pointy. I like pointy shrubs because they make good barriers to keep animals away from my property. Sold. They are an evergreen, drought tolerant and they also produce tasty berries (and makes delicious jelly). Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

These are my end game goals guys. I want to be on this list.

Flame acanthus also known as the hummingbird bush. This is absolutely beautiful and another shrub. This is considered a ‘profuse’ bloomer. It allegedly is a huge bloomer and that is exciting because it attracts not just monarch butterflies but also hummingbirds and bees. (It’s also a deer resistant and drought tolerant)

Kidneywood is so beautiful. I had no idea, they are allegedly really fragrant and attract bees and butterflies. They have many branches and they can get up to be 12 feet tall. That is amazing because it is also drought tolerant and can survive cold and heat. (Clay soil is acceptable here). I am digging it. Sounds like it will be a great place for butterflies to settle in and eat some nectar.

Cone Flower is something we already have but would love to have it planted everywhere. Who knew that it was a native Texas plant? Now I know and you do too. This is a perennial and has beneficial properties which I will probably go over at a later time. They bloom from April until September so this will give my early pollinators a snack before the rest bloom in May or June.

The application is online and the application and process seems very easy.

They say purple cone flower can be aggressive- I sure hope so. So keep that in mind.

Cenizo is just a cool name to have. If I get another pet (fingers crossed I don’t but if I do) I am going to name it Cenizo. Regardless, it is made for our zone. It flowers and can take the heat but it does need to be watered. They can get to be up to 8 feet tall. Sounds live privacy fence material to me.

Cenizo goes by another name Texas Sage. Amazingly enough I already have a couple growing. I had no idea. Also this plant does not appreciate heavy pruning- I’ll have to keep that in mind.

The fragrant or pink mimosa is another thorny shrub great for deer resistance and a nice barrier around my property (I hear it smells good too). Another early bloomer but it ends earlier too (March to July). The flowers are lovely and I would love to add them to my butterfly garden (or barrier I haven’t decided). Here is even more Information.

They will check up on us and I can’t wait. This adventure will be really exciting. I can’t wait to start.

Texas Lantana is something I already have growing and they are amazing. I kind of want more of them because they make a beautiful groundcover. All parts of this plant are poisonous and it is considered deer resistant.

Lantanas are perennial shrubs that can grow 2 to 4 foot tall. Wow, they just don’t seem to be scrubbing out for me. They’re just creeping across the ground. That is strange maybe next year they will perk up, regardless I would love to have more. One more link: Texas Lantana. Just in case you’re considering it. It is really beautiful.

Last but not least is Salvia texana and I want this one. If I got that grant I would definitely get this plant. This is a perennial herb and it grows to be up to 2 feet tall. It is drought tolerant and does well in clay or rocky soil (bonus i won’t need to modify the soil I have). Salvias are a perennial flower and have more than 75 species including autumn sage. That is something we already have in honor of my eldest child: Autumn Sage. This is a rabbit hole I’ll have to go down another time, but every new flower or sage that I have gets me more excited.

I have murdered lavender every single year I’ve tried it but look at her growing it like it’s nothing. I am so jealous of her naturally green thumb.

I will, of course, get more milkweed but that will place where where I want them primarily and have a large area in the middle of the garden. That sounds absolutely beautiful.

Can’t wait and I hope I get it, but I already have some of these plants. The milkweed does grow naturally and I want to entice Monarch butterflies. I want them to pollinate all of my fruit trees and attract all of the bees. I understand the importance of planting native plants and I can’t wait to get started.

I will share more grants as I come across more information.

August 1: Peas and Pumpkins

Stop and just imagine for a second that plants just magically grew with little to now work…. that is just a great dream. Now pop it. I have been hoeing. These are my adventures… 🀣

The beginning of my flat hole

Well, random citizens, I have started a very small fall garden. I worked on it for an hour a day. First, I took my mighty hoe and I scraped all of the grass off of the top surface. I had to wet the soil multiple times. I did not enjoy this, but since my son hurt my tractor by hand it is.

My dog helping out in the shady parts

I had to really start moving dirt and my kids really only wanted to help with the fun stuff. I used the dirt that had all of the grass in it as an outside barrier.

I do not know why I did this, maybe I thought that it might protect the plants. We plan on putting ant poison around our beds. Something in me said, “keep it away from our precious.” My husband just rolled with it.

I really beat the fire out of the soil

The ground was so dry I found myself beating the dirt just to get what was on top. I complained a lot about how it was similar to rock- because it was. My shoulders were sore and I hate not having a working tractor. It is for the birds

Some people told me that I just needed to do raised beds in the beginning, but I’d kind of like to know how fast I would have starved in the 1820s. Right now, my family would have been doomed. I have already murdered plenty of plants from lavender to an entire vegetable garden. I really hope my luck changes this time, but just in case I am not using nearly as many seeds as I did the first go around.

Day 2 of our adventure

I gave up half way through the day because my delicate hands befell a blister. Missing my tractor. Regardless, I came back the next day with a blister and new determination. My husband felt bad for me and came out to help the second time. Although I did not work the dirt again that first day I did water it more than five times.

It did not work. The dirt was so dirt and compacted that it only glared at me. So, the ground was still tough but my husband watered it 10x more than I had because he said it made it easier for him. He could have peed on it for all I cared, he helped out a lot. I was not going to complain about his methods.

My sweet girl came out and helped me pull out some of the remaining grass that was in our rows (this was only to stay up later and plant the seeds)

I was going to do this cool thing in the circle that I had seen on the internet but my husband disagreed. Since I had messed up so horrible with our spring garden, he suggested i do fancy patterns with my plants at another time after I have become a little bit more skilled. He may be right, but if these ones die: we’re doing it the fancy way. πŸ˜’

Day three after the planting and after the first watering.

It does not look like it but I just watered those stupid seeds not even 15 minutes ago. Frankly, I am disappointed. I walked out there only to realize that I might need to put my sprinkler on them at least for today, while they’re getting started. I don’t want them to just become one with the dirt. I will update in a few days. I will also show the progress on spot two.

Spot Two will be preparing for our August 10th planters. I am excited. I saw on big names on this list. When I am done with these spots this fall I have some big plans. First- I am going to plant more grape plants. Then I am going to build a giant wooden structure to go over my bushes near the house. (I do not like the sun as much as I do the shade.) This will eventually have grapes growing all around it and I can’t wait.

So stick around and maybe I won’t kill everything this time.

She is just working too hard πŸ˜’

Where I went wrong and right with my property

My pasture

Well, first let me say I had a general idea of what I wanted in the beginning. It was a rough guess but more like a daydream. I wanted to build this awesome thing but didn’t have a bit of information on how to do it. I decided I would just figure it out as I went.

I did zero research on my property I just knew it had this big huge tree and it had a wide open pasture so I wouldn’t have to clear anything. I do love that big tree, it was a major selling point.

For not buy property for a big tree.

So we put in our house and we starting messing with the dirt. I didn’t even check out the soil until I broke a shovel. That was when I realized that pasture land might have some cons. It does not hold water to save a life. The only things that survive are resilient and durable plants that are native- which did not follow my plan one hundred percent.

So, now I have this property that has been used to run cattle for over twenty years and I need to figure stuff out. Nitrogen levels are low. There is no water source. I did not look into these things before hand because I guessed natural rain would just magically make my plants live.

Still I was happy because look at that sunset πŸ’š

I was still super excited and continued to fight the clay dirt. It was so tightly packed that we had to wet the ground before we tilled it. If we were using a shovel we had to use lots of water.

The garden was tilled and I added NOTHING. I just figured it’s broken up, the dirt will just fix itself. Again, I was hoping for some magic. I planted and watered and waited. We watered faithfully and very few plants sprouted. We planted over five hundred seeds, most didn’t germinate in my soil and the ones that did could not survive a few weeks.

The tree that sold me πŸ’š

When nothing came up I was really upset, but i moved to perennials and raised beds. Now, I am planning for 2021. I will not be choosing another property, I’ll fix it, but now I know that plants don’t grow on hope. I really wish I had done more research.

The memorial marker under our tree that we found when we cleaned up the branches.
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