Thursday, November 15, 2012

Plant Labels

I think most gardeners like to know the names of the plants in their gardens’, if not the proper botanical name then at least the common name. I suspect I am not alone when I voice my frustration with plant labels. The tags that come with the plant when you buy from a nursery are fairly useless, firstly they are unattractive and secondly they don’t last, they either fade or get detached and blow away. I also don’t really want my home to look like a nursery or botanical garden with labels all over.

Remembering all my plants is never simple. Obviously the unusual or those that I have only one of it’s kind are easy, but I have many plants from the same families and then it starts to get problematic. Take the Genus Pelargonium for example, I currently have over 20 plants of 8 different species and on a recent trip to Harold Porter Botanical Gardens I couldn’t resist adding some more. I came home with another 5 different species. In the past I have tried to convince myself that I will remember the names, but I know now from experience that I just can’t do it. Trying to remember names that you can’t even pronounce is impossible.

Keeping a photographic record is a great solution, posting it on this blog, even better! If I ever lose my computer I will still have an accurate record of all my plants.

Harold Porter had a great selection this time, so I couldn’t resist adding:

Pelargonium radens

 This is a closely branched shrub usually less than 1.5m. Older branches become woody and are covered with hairs. Leaves are fragrant. Prefers moist conditions. Flowering time August to January.

Pelargoium pseudo glutinosum.

Couldn’t find much information on this one. Is it different to P.glutinosum and how? Does anyone know?

Pelargonium citronellum

Reaches almost 2 metres in height. Strong lemon scented leaves like P,crispum but these leaves are much larger.. Flowers from August to January. Can be used to flavour foods and as an insect repellant.

Pelargonium cordifolium

Pretty heart shaped scented leaves, reaches a height of 1.5m and spreading. Flowers from June to January. Found in moist places in fynbos or forest margins.
You can see from the tag that I paid R14.00 for this one, which was about the average price. This translates to roughly £1.00 or $1.60. Buying indigenous plants from our botanical gardens or specialist nurseries is really affordable. These plants if I could find them at a normal nursery would easily have cost three times as much.

Pelargonium exstipulatum

Attractive grey foilage, with a strong scent and sticky to the touch. Grows to about 1m high. Flowers from June to December.

Besides the Pelargoniums, I also bought the following:

Chironia linoides
Low growing shrub to 30cm often falls over. Flowers mid summer. Flowers are similar to Orpheum but the leaves are darker and finer.

Salvia chamelaeagnea

Shrub to about 2 metres. The light green leaves when rubbed between the fingers give off a strong fragrance but also leave a sticky residue behind. Blue flowers in mid to late summer.I already have a number of these in my back garden, but they are one of the few plants to flower in our mid-summer heat, so I just had to add some to the front pavement.

Nerine sarienensis
This one should be familiar to UK gardeners if called by it's common name - Guernsey Lilly. A winter growing bulb originating in the western Cape. Flowers in early Autumn.

Now that I've made a record of the new additions I am tempted to create a few more posts of my existing plants. Watch this space!



  1. I now use my blog for year-on-year comparisons of similar plants, and for remembering planting / harvesting dates.
    You obviously know a fair bit about Pelargoniums, so let me ask you this: what scented types do you know? I remember having two different scented ones, many years ago, but I can't for the life of me remember one of the varieties. One was rose-scented, but what was the other??? I think it had deeply-serrated leaves, a bit like your P.citronellum.

    1. Hi Mark, Dangerous getting me started on Pelargoniums - I could go on for hours!
      Scented ones I have Rose scented - P graveolens,(P.capitaum & P,radens also included here but not as strongly scented in my garden) Lemon scented - P.crispum & P.citronellum, Peppermint scent - P.tormentosum. Then there are lots that just have that typical Pelargonium scent. Wiki lists many more with nutmeg, old spice etc. - Don't have any of those YET!

  2. I think your exstipulatum, is what I call nutmeg.

    Melianthus grows wild along streams, so I presume nature knows best. Perhaps remove the dead leaves?

    In "Poisonous Plant of South Africa" (Briza Publications, 2005) authors Ben-Erick van Wyk, Fanie van Heerden and Bosch van Oudtshoorn write: "Melianthus species are very poisonous and have caused death in people and animals. M. comosus, M. major and other species are popular in traditional medicine, mainly to treat sores, wounds, burns and rheumatism (external use relieves pain and promotes healing). Weak infusions are sometimes taken but internal use is dangerous. Honey produced from the characteristic black nectar may be toxic. Livestock rarely ingest the plant because of the unpleasant smell, but may be forced to during drought and scarcity of grazing. The roots are said to be particularly toxic."

    1. P.exstipulatum is very sticky - wasn't able to identify the scent, will go and sniff again to see if it reminds me of nutmeg.
      Thanks for the info on Melianthus, maybe in nature with running streams, fish are not affected, but in my still pond it may be be detrimental. Will have to keep it trimmed back or relocate?

  3. Pelargoniums are great plants. Thanks for visiting my blog. I've enjoyed reading your post and will be back again.

    1. Look forward to seeing you here again, maybe you can enjoy my garden while yours is under wraps.

  4. I made an earlier comment but it seems to have disappeared into the ether.

    We list all the things we buy into a yearly spreadsheet that is them published on our website which is really useful. We often include photos.

    The plastic labels we use in plant pots also shatter as they age which isn't very useful

    1. I do keep a spreadsheet - adding photo's is a great idea, especially for plants that are similar.

  5. Those names are quite hard to pronounce. But those plant labels are clearly described. Thank you for sharing your plant collection. Looking forward to more awesome posts.

  6. GG - Do you know of any books which are for sale which deal with the plants of the Overberg region. RMan wants to learn more about our local plants, but I'm battling to find anything in book form.

  7. You're absolutely right, making a note of all the different plant names on one's blog means it is saved for posterity! Love your latest additions of Pelargonium!