29 May 2008

Animal Named Plants Make a Fun Garden

Expressions such as “red as a beet” and “cool as a cucumber” are common ways to use plant names in everyday conversation.

And on the other hand, for some reason, many plants have been given animal names. Several zoos and botanical gardens used this idea and planted children’s gardens with animal named plants.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colo., provides a list of their animal named plants at http://www.cmzoo.org/plantswithanimalnames.html.

Glasshouse Works, an online plant seller, offers plants in two categories: Tropical Zoo Animal Plants and Hardy Zoo Animal Plants at http://www.glasshouseworks.com/zooanimals.html. One California landscape company lists plants by animal names at http://www.elnativogrowers.com.
Grandparents, parks and schools are using animal named plantings to help children learn science and math as well as giving them another reason to be physically active.

In one season, a garden could be completely transformed. To make it into a play area, you would just add a few ornaments, a path, a bench or a chair. The back yard could become a great place for children to spend the coming summer days.

Plants with animal names include: Elephant ears, ox-eye daisy, tiger lily, cowslips, hogweed, snapdragon, zebra grass, lamb’s ear, foxglove, spiderwort, wormwood, cranes bill, shrimp plant, bee balm, snakeroot, ostrich plume, leopard’s bane, fleabane, goats beard, toad lily, teddy bear sunflowers, pussy toes, pig squeak, porcupine grass, shoo fly, elephant head amaranth, oyster plant, cat’s whiskers, spider flower, catchfly, monkey flower, cardinal flower, whirling butterflies, bear’s breeches, butterfly bushes, hens and chicks, horsemint, canary melon, green zebra tomato, baby bear pumpkin, tiger melon and dogwood tree.

There are many more but here are descriptions of a few you could choose for an animal themed garden.
• Bee balm (Monarda didyma) — A tall growing herb, also called horsemint, in the mint family with tubular flowers. Attracts hummingbirds and the leaves can be dried and steeped as tea.
• Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) — A semi-evergreen to deciduous shrub with dark green leaves and felted white beneath. It produces small, fragrant flowers in dense, arching, clusters. Blossoms attract butterflies. Can be a perennial if protected over the winter.
• Cardinal Climber Vine (Ipomoea x multifida) — An annual vine with bright red flowers that attract hummingbirds. Grows fast from seed and will drop seed for next year.
• Catmint (Nepeta) — A perennial mint family member that is easy to grow, drought tolerant and has billowing spikes of flowers. Grows to 18 inches tall.
• Cranesbill (Geranium) — A perennial, pest free flowering plant that can be used as a ground cover. Low growing in sun or part sun with hardy geranium flowers all summer.
• Elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) — A fast-growing tropical plant, with leathery green to gray-green, heart-shaped leaves. They can grow to 2 1/2 to 5 feet.
• Foxglove (Digitalis) — This plant forms low clumps of hairy gray-green leaves, topped by spikes of tubular flowers shaped like fingertips of a glove.
• Hen and chickens (Sempervivum tectorum) — A succulent that produces gray-green rosettes about 2 to 5 inches wide. It spreads to form clumps.
• Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) — A perennial that grows soft, thick, woolly, white leaves that are about 4 to 6 inches long. The leaves resemble a soft lamb’s ears.
• Ox-eyes (Rudbeckia hirta) — An annual that is easy to grow from seed in sun or part shade. The daisy-like flowers are bright yellow with dark centers on stout stems that grow to 4 feet tall. Also called Black Eyed Susan. Native to the American west and now favored by European gardeners.
• Shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana) — Native to Mexico, this plant grows tubular white flowers with purple spots, enclosed in overlapping coppery-bronze bracts. The bracts form compact, drooping, jointed-looking spikes about 3 inches long that resemble large shrimp tails. Plant in partial shade or grow in pots.
• Spiderwort (Cleome hasslerana) — Clusters of flowers open to 6-inch balls on a plant that grows 4 feet tall. Thrives in sun, regular soil and average water. Long seed pods form beneath flower clusters. Thorns form late in the summer.
• Tiger Lily (Lilium tigrinum, Lilium lancifolium or Lilium columbianum) — A reliable perennial plant from China and Japan that grows 3 feet tall in moist soil. Flowers are tiger colors — orange petals spotted with rust, purple or brown.

Whether you plant a small garden with six-animal-named plants or re-do your entire backyard into a plant zoo, planting flowers, vegetables and herbs with children in mind, will teach the next generation that gardening can be fun.

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