Friday, February 12, 2010

Sometimes I Forget What I'm Talking About

In a recent comment, I told Edith Hope that I have Korean boxwood. As soon as the comment posted, I had doubts. Depending on whose reference you check, I might or might not have been wrong. I consulted my new book that came in the mail, a gift from Janie. If I'd said Buxus microphylla, I would have had to say var. koreana or var. japonica, designating whether it was Korean box or Japanese box. Sometimes I even forget whether it is microphylla or macrophylla.

Red Spotted Purple Butterfly near Boxwood, August 22, 2009
I should have said Japanese boxwood. Korean boxwood is smaller. If we really want to get hort snobby here, we can say, Buxus harlandii of gardens  syn. B. microphylla japonica (Japanese boxwood) while people's eyes glaze over as we explain that 'of gardens' means it really isn't B. harlandii from China. According to NCSU, many boxwoods sold as B. Harlandii are really just Japanese boxwood.
I am fond of Box Topiary. Sept. 12, 2009

Would it be simpler to say that my boxwood is not English box?

Lycoris and Box, September 12, 2009
Up close is native Hydrangea quercifolia.

Boxwoods at house corner, September 25, 2009

Looking in the opposite direction, October 24, 2009

More topiary with Camellia sasanqua, December 07, 2009

Narcissus foliage, Rose Campion, Sedum acre and Box, Dec. 21.2009
Notice the lighter green new growth. Sometimes freezes kill tender shoots.

Soon the boxwoods will bloom. Unless you notice the fragrance, the blossoms are hardly noticeable and easily missed. They smell of grape koolaid and bees are happy to visit. I don't know how old a boxwood must be to bloom, but the big, old boxwoods are a delight to pass when the blooms are open, all that grapey aroma.

I'm really glad to have this reference book, American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Plants. So far I've read the Lilies section, besides the Boxwood. Lilies can really be confusing because of all the hybrids.  I plant Asiatics, Orientals, Trumpets, and certain other hybrids including Longiflorum/Asiatic hybrids, but not Longiflorum species, the Easter Lily.

The species lily I planted last year was incorrectly labeled, to my great consternation when it bloomed orange in a bed of pink roses. I am finally finished with planting Oriental lily bulbs. Buffy was so much help I put her in the house with Dad while I dug the last 12 holes.

You don't have to know much if you know whom to ask. Sometimes I would be better placed to verify my information before I blithely type my little posts and comments, however well meant. Sorry, Edith, mine is Japanese boxwood, but there is Korean box.


  1. Oh Gosh, I am sure we all make those little mistakes Nell Jean... and what a lovely correction post you have given us! The texture of your box is lovely with your plantings. I have several varieties I cannot name! You are right about the sweetness of their tiny blooms... sometimes I pick from my largest and use the flowering greens in wedding bouquets and boutonnieres. Just now in my snowy garden the boxwoods are offering the most green. Have you ever multiplied your supply by layering? ;>)

  2. You have made my head busy. I didn't know there was that much to know about boxwoods!

    I didn't know they smelled of grape koolaid when they bloom! We have the native Mountain Laurel here, that does kind of remind me of boxwood, especially when it is closely cropped into a 'boxwood' hedge, as the one at the Service Building in Edna, Texas was for years. The maintenance people didn't know what it was until it was pointed out this past year, and they were properly threatened. It immediately started growing into the pretty ornamental trees they are supposed to be, and bloomed profusely.

    Anyway, the point of all this about the Mountain Laurel is that they also have a wonderful fragrance when they bloom, and they smell EXACTLY like grape koolaid! Are the Mountain Laurel and the boxwood kin?

  3. You made me smile. I'm glad you're not hort snobby, and seeing pictures of your garden is always lovely. Next time I see a boxwood blooming, I have to check out that fragrance, for sure. :)

  4. Carol, in the last picture, there is a layered plant next to the rose campion, still attached to the bigger boxwood behind it. They self layer here frequently. When I prune I sometimes just stick pieces in the ground to see them grow, more than a need to have more plants.

    Janie, you knew I would spend a rainy morning researching the answer to your question. It took me into deep waters. A new post formed itself, even as I was helping DH remember how to scan a photo and resize it for uploading. Watch for it, the Mountain Laurel and Box post.

  5. Hahahaha - you said hort snobby. That totally cracked me up!

  6. Hort snobby cracked me up too. I have a hard enough time remembering in plain English what a plant is, much less the horticultural name.


  7. Horticulture nomenclature can be way too complicated....I would probably have just said that it is a member of Buxus :^)

  8. Dear NellJean, I was delighted to have your comment and did not, in any way, find it at all misleading. On the contrary, I was so pleased to have been given the information. This posting I have found most interesting - the range and variety of Buxus is so great and, at times, so confusing.

    I, like you, have a great love of topiary and am very covetous of the examples you have pictured from your garden.

    Your plant knowledge is remarkable - I begin sentences and forget what I am saying half way through!

  9. I am with FlowerLady, I have enough trouble with English let alone horticulture names.
    I see a tall yellow spiked flower in one of your pictures. What is it? It is sure a standout. Pretty.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Lona, the yellow flowers are The candlestick tree known botanically as Senna alata (formerly Cassia alata). They go by other common names besides candlestick plant, like Empress Candlestick or Emperor's Candlesick.

    Not to be confused with The Christmas Candlestick (Leonotis Nepetifolia) or
    Candlestick Plant 'Zulu Wonder' (Plectranthus ciliatus). Then someone comes along and calls Yucca, Candlestick plants instead of Candles of Heaven.

    Common names make my head hurt sometimes.

  11. Shame on me, I've never paid attention to my blooming boxwood :( I'm in love with your Senna alata,*sigh*, and must see if hardy here but I doubt it. You have a lovely site ... a joy to visit!

  12. Wow. I've learned a lot here. I always do though, of course.

    How old is that camellia?

  13. Joey, I grow Cassia alata as an annual. (I know, it had a name change but I like the old name, Senna sounds medicinal) It doesn't bloom until the fall, no matter how early I start it.

    Camellias grow slowly. That one is more than 30 years old, Martha.

  14. I have to remember "hort snobby". I also have a hard enough time with english names. I much prfer using names like the red one, the yellow one, or the white was a great post as always. jim

  15. Nell Jean, you are clearly a fellow addict of garden books. And while I sympathize with people's desires to stick to common names and avoid the Latin ones, it does lead to a lot of confusion. (Recently had that on one of my posts: "valerian" can mean Valeriana officinalis or Centranthus ruber/alba. Why? Who knows.) That's the kind of confusion that could lead to killing a plant.

    Does it help to know that Latin names are generally descriptive (like "yellow flower") too? Or am I wobbling on the edge of hort snobbery?

  16. I do that all the time... press "publish" then start second-guessing!

    Some plants look so much like other plants; then, there are the mislabeled plants from nurseries. Agastache varieties have crossed so much, it's difficult to classify what I have growing!

    Hope you didn't get snow! We're expecting 2-4" anytime now.


  17. Aha! This reminds me of a post I made as a a new blogger. I posted a plant as Jasmine. James, my one and only commenter was asking me like how come my jasmine looked different and I was cracking my head over this when a 'mysterious' commenter, nicknamed emokidxd told me to look for wrightia antidysentrica. I had to correct myself and I had to changed the title of that post, otherwise it gave the wrong info. That was emokidxd's first and last comment. I couldn't thank him 'cos there were no link provided but I am eternally grateful. I wish I had been as professional as you, Nell Jean in handling such matters. Have a great weekend!

  18. I'm just starting to teach myself a bit about botanical names. I'm not sure I'll even be able to discuss them at your level Nell-Jean.

  19. I can't even imagine trying to get all of the different Box start. Your Senna alata and Camellia sasanqua are magnificent.

  20. NellJean: Thank you for stopping by my garden and the nice comments too! I always envy so many bloggers out there can say the plant names (English, botanical...) so perfectly. When it is my turn to start my new blog, I am so afraid I got something wrong. So, I have been googling like crazy :) I guess I should not fee too bad about myself now... Your garden is so lovely. I like Cassia alata in your picture too. Maybe that is something I can introduce to my garden.

  21. Pomona, Janie has already attempted to help educate me to botanical names with a gift of a little book called A Gardener's Latinwhich is most helpful.

    It's easier when the common name and the botanical name are the same. Clematis is the same, but even my mother and I disagreed on how to pronounce it, Kalanchoe can be pronounced 4 different ways, all correct.

    Some plants with common names, I just like the way the botanic name rolls off the tongue, like Echinacea. It's all fun.

  22. The lady who built our house nearly sixty years ago planted japanese boxwoods . They are magnificent and smell fabulous when they bloom. We keep them trimmed to about five and a half feet. If not, there's no telling how big they would be. Some of our boxwoods were destroyed by our tornado in 1990. We got an estimate from a landscaper to see how much it would cost to replace them with similar ones. $3000 each! Yipes! It gave us a new respect for our boxwoods. (No, we didn't replace them.)

  23. At least you can recognize them and have the knowledge even if you can't always recall it. you knew it once or know so many that you can mix them up. I on th eother hand can't remember botanical names to save my life. I am lucky to know my kid's names sometimes. If I need botanical names I just google it, clip and paste. Reminds me of dinosaur names. I just can't keep them all straight. I so admire gardeners like you that now them. I can grow 'em,just can't remember their names. I guess that's something.

  24. Very interesting post.

    I have 4 buxus microphylla var. koreana. (hope I got that right). I don't think I have ever seen blooms. Maybe mine are too young and small. I will be watching for them.

    I get just a little freezer tip burn on mine each winter that I have to clip off but I do love the shrubs.

    I really like knowing the horticultural there is no confusion about the plant in question.I find the common names vary greatly according to the part of the country you live in. Rabbit tobacco comes to mind; here we call it Life Everlasting.

    Nell, you are educating us all and making us think. I had to get up and check my plant tags to be sure what I had. That is a very good thing.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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