I love big fat reference books that flip open with an echoy-boom–but you just can’t beat the web for identifying plants. Any plant–you can’t fool it. The web is like this super seed catalog with nothing left out. It even corrects your spelling.

I always type the name in the Google box followed by “picture” and it is like magic. Tons of places to go for more. The site I usually choose is Dave’s Garden. The pictures and comments come from real gardeners not copy writers so you’ll get an honest opinion without the marketing fluff.

Real pictures–real advice and it’s extensive. It’s hard to come up with plant that Dave’s Garden doesn’t list. But beware–gardening is intensely regional. And I mean intensely. What blooms at my house in Apex may lag two to three weeks behind in Wake Forest. And I swear that I am in a different hardiness zone than my friends in Durham, just 35 minutes away.

What’s that mean? Life or death for some plants in our cold winters or hot summers.

Even in my own yard, there are regions, micro climates, that are warmer or colder than the rest of the yard. I once had an Abutilon Little Imp that bloomed by the front of the house through an entire year. Remarkable.

But that might never happen at your house. And I can just about guarantee that many plant tags and catalog descriptions claiming a whole summer of bloom, will come and go in a week a week or two here in the South.  It’s the heat. And sometimes the humidity…and sometimes the drought.

So how do you know what you can grow? Ask a local gardener. Visit all the local gardens you can and talk to the people who made them. You won’t even have to ask them what their favorite plants are–they’ll volunteer the info. And if you’re lucky. They may even give you a little clump to take home.

As for my favorite plants-

-Helleborous Orientalis or Lenten Rose. It blooms in early spring but looks good everyday, every season. And it will grow in dry shade.

-Autumn Fern –another evergreen for the woods. I use it again and again. Looks great everywhere, even in pots.

-And daffodils. My earliest variety blooms in early February–my latest in April.  So much beauty  in exchange for so little.    You should definitely grow them. 

Now–you’re favorite plants?  CMR

Photo:  Not yet blooming, but still lovely, Lenten Rose shines in my garden on a cold January day.