Term 1 – Week 2 – Plant Naming & ID


Dry garden in Cromwell

I’ve really enjoyed this week! I feel like I’ve learnt a lot. We started the week by learning about plant botanical names. How to correctly format them and what they mean. They need to be formatted in a very specific way. An extra quote mark or missing full stop and it’s wrong.

Knowing the botanical name makes it easier to communicate the exact plant you are talking about. Also, if you are not familar with a certain plant, the botanical name can give you clues about it, such as:

Colour: rosea = rose coloured
Geographical: nipponica = Japan
Type of flower: grandiflora = large flowered
Scent: fragrantissima = most fragant

Plant names are binomial; made up of a genus name and a species name. Example: the genus of lavender (common name) is Lavandula and should be italicized or underlined. A particular species of lavender is Lavandula angustifolia. 

Plant names can also include extra information, like if it is a hybrid:

Lavandula x intermedia – the ‘x’ denotes that this is an interspecific hybrid (species)

Or a cultivar:

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Imperial Gem’

There are lots of other variations to the nomenclature as well.

On Tuesday, with our new grasp on botanical names, we headed out into Cromwell to identify plants. We will be tested on 40 plants and need to know the botanical name, common name, identifying features and uses. We also need to make a specimen book of 10 plants. This was actually a really fun day. I don’t think many of the botanical names have sunk in yet but I’m working on it!

There was also a lecture on plant uses in landscape. It was really interesting and great gardens as examples; it’s amazing what some clever people can do with plants! Some of the points discussed were:

Design – creating unity in a space, linking certain features giving a visual connection, drawing your eye to a certain spot (enframement), camouflage

Environmental – air quality and dust interception, shelter and shade, reduction of noise and habitat creation for wildlife

Engineering – soil moisture and erosion, roots binding soil

Aesthetic – feature trees, accent planting, topiary

There is a lot to consider!


Otago Polytech roadside stall

On Wednesday we got our first look at the new orchard the Polytech has leased. It’s just before the Kawarau Gorge heading out of Cromwell. The orchard has a bit of everything. Peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, boysenberries, raspberries, cherries, plums, greengages, apricots.


Huge boysenberry!

We had a good look around and sampled a lot of the produce. Yum! One thing I really liked that I hadn’t tried before was a peach variety called Coconut Ice.


Peach picking

Then we got to work picking greengages and peaches.


Ute full of greengages

We packed them up straight away and got them out onto the stall for sale. We also got to take as much home as we wanted which was great! I’ll start looking like a peach if I’m not careful.


Freshly picked and ready to sell

Thursday was the first propagation class of the year. New students did a bit of an orientation while us oldies got stuck into some cuttings. I did semi-hardwood cuttings of Heliohebe hulkeana  (New Zealand lilac). It’s an evergreen shrub that flowers from mid-spring until summer. It has small light pink flowers; quite pretty.

The cuttings were dipped in rooting hormone and then sowed into a hygiene tray with 30% potting mix and 70% pumice. This mix makes sure there is good drainage and aeration. Then I popped it on the heat bed in greenhouse 1 and gave it a good misting with water. Hopefully I will get a good strike rate!


Heliohebe hulkeana cuttings on the heat bed. Lusi in the background.

The weather has redeemed itself this week; summer has decided to make an appearance! It has been hot and sunny everyday. Everything is staring to get really dry again.

Last week’s weather:



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