It’s 34 degrees outside with freezing rain, the shrubs are bending with ice, and you’re staring at your garden, imagining spring. You find a blank space in the landscape, an area calling to be filled in, a problem to be solved. Visions of plants float through your mind, but you wonder, will they work?
If you’re not sure which plants have a chance of thriving in your space, a great place to start your research is the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder. Using the descriptions in the Plant Finder database, you can identify blue-flowering perennials that tolerate dry soils (Baptisia australis, numerous Salvia), conifers adapted to shade (Cephalotaxus harringtonia, Tsuga canadensis), and smaller native trees loaded with bird-attracting fruit (Amelanchier arborea, Crataegus viridis).
Searching by common or scientific plant name, select features such as bloom time and uses (ground cover, rain garden), and view the plant descriptions in an easy-to-scan list or accompanied by thumbnail images. Most of the descriptions include photos that help visualize and situate the plant in your garden.
Plant Finder descriptions often address the suitability of specimens for Missouri gardens, but this emphasis does not limit the usefulness of the source for other regions, such as the Mid-Atlantic. Pay attention to the zone information for each description, or better yet, limit your search by zone, and the Plant Finder becomes a tool for your region.
Many other websites assist with identifying plants or plant combinations. Here are a few Edgings favorites:
Chesapeake Bay Native Plant Center – http://www.nativeplantcenter.net/
Native Plants Database – https://www.wildflower.org/plants/
University of Connecticut Plant Database – http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/
Virginia Tech Dendrology Factsheets – http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/factsheets.cfm