bee balm and black-eyed susans
Curing the Gardening Phobia

If a Common Man Screams in the Woods…

So…we live in the age of the common man…and each one of us has a story. Witness the millions of bloggers in cyberspace…including me. Why should anyone be interested in their neighbor’s story?

I got a brusque reminder of this startling reality, when I perkily marched up to my neighbor to tell him with great glee about the oak tree we have growing between our two houses. Continue reading “If a Common Man Screams in the Woods…”

Curing the Gardening Phobia

Problems with Apps’ Plant ID

A couple of days ago, I was pretty disgusted trying to get plant identifications from the 2 apps I downloaded. I was eager to try them both and then select one. As of today, I was planning to recommend 1 of them, but am now hesitating.

burry sticky
Burry sticky thing

In my last post—A Weed by Any Other Name—I resorted to calling one of the weeds a “burry sticky thing.” I had no choice because iplant identified it differently 3 times: “birch,” “greenhouses,” and “animal husbandry”! I have no words to match my frustration….and no name either….

I was curious and gave the app a secret test. I said nothing to it…but took a picture of what I am positive is a native Illinois woodland violet, and iplant came back with ‘peppermint.’ Ha! Gotcha! Now…I realize that the toothed leaf edges could be similar to peppermint, but iplant’s track record with the burry sticky things had me suspicious…

My experience with SmartPlant was a little better…until today. I’ll back up….

My precious little “winterberry” that seemed miraculously saved after our heavy construction and tree removal equipment came through, I now wanted to test. Was that its real name?

I wondered because Kenny the Landscaper hesitated when he saw it. “What did you call it?” he asked.

“Winterberry,” I said with neophyte confidence.

“Hmmm,” he mused and cocked his head.

I recalled instantly that a horticulturalist friend once said to me that there were so many cultivars—cross-bred plants—that it is nearly impossible to know every plant available. She admitted that even nurseries can make mistakes.

Now armed with new technology, I hoped to find the real name. I submitted the picture below to SmartPlant, which came back later that night with a response: Creeping Dogwood. That made sense! The leaves look like dogwood, and the description almost matches my experience: white flowers in the spring—yes, I’ve seen those. Red berries in the winter—huh? I’ve never seen any. But then I never went out to look. (By the way, iplant identified it as wood sorrel. It’s at 0 and 4.)

At that point, I googled “winterberry” and can see why Kenny was confused. It looks nothing like Creeping Dogwood. But if my little hero plant does get red berries in the winter, perhaps that’s how the nursery made the error.

I wanted SmartPlant to take some credit for this Eureka moment. I signed up for the Premium…too naïve….too soon.

When I tap on “Profile” to set mine up, it kicks me out of the app. And for the past 60 minutes, while I worked on this post, it has been whirring around unable to confirm my password.

So…I have no app recommendations to offer….

But I have confidence in two names: Creeping Dogwood, and Burry Sticky Thing.

Learn more about wood sorrel here:



Curing the Gardening Phobia

A Weed by Any Other Name…

6:30 A.M.

Between the berm garden and the footpath, I procrastinated while the cool wet grass soaked my canvas slip-ons. A cool breeze whispered through the peonies—giving me an easy reason to procrastinate. There’s more work to do in the berm, but the footpath is calling…

I studied the path to plan what I would take out. If I used the product the lawn care ad promoted, it would leave us with nothing but pine needles and flagstones. It boasted a solid kill for woodland violets and crab grass. I like both of those…

Flagstone footpath buried in weeds

I decided to leave most of the native woodland violets—native being another word for “uncontrollable”, or don’t-have-to-do-anything-to-make-it-grow if you want to think positive. And the crab grass, the grass everybody loves to hate. It’s the only grass that grows here. Life isn’t perfect, and crab grass is good.

Otherwise, I planned to pull out the thistle, and the burry sticky things, and the weird tall grass, and other random weeds that I don’t know the names of.

I looked along the flagstones at the stiff thistles planning to scratch my ankles. I set my sight on those and the other sticky, ugly things. I think those are weeds because they hurt. Makes sense…right?

Last year, we experimented with creeping nettle here—pretty sure that’s what it’s called… We’d be happy for some invasive species along this path, with a pink flower…but it looks pretty weak.

Another small experiment of pachysandra and lily turf seems to be doing better. (If I’m remembering correctly…that’s what they’re called…) We might have finally hit on the happy combination.

Pachysandra and lily turf, I think

It’s amazing what is revealed when the choking mess is cleared out. I found winterberry growing! At least that’s what I thought the nursery tag called it…but 2 plant ID apps came back with 2 different names for it…I had planted it here before the construction and thought none of it survived, but I found a nice big patch of it. So I cleared everything out around it—and found another gift—an oak sapling. It’s right on the property line.

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I’ll show it to Christine and Adam and hope they want to keep it. I think it’s in a perfect spot—exactly between our two houses. I’ll tell them it’s a swamp white oak. If they don’t believe me, they can look it up…

Learn about swamp white oak here:

Laugh about crab grass here: