Zannah Crowe Interview
Zannah Crowe is a horticulturist at Monches Farms in Monches, Wisconsin and I had the delightful opportunity to interview her in May of 2011 about her work there.
The gardens are in their 31st year of existence this year, and the place is a gardener’s dream. The farm is on a large track of land out in the country. It consists of six production greenhouses.
The greenhouse aren't all open to the public. It also has a small barn which houses mostly chickens, a very eclectic gift shop, and acres and acres of nursery stock. The plants for sale are all in pots in the ground so you know they have wintered there and will probably do well in your garden.
The following is my interview with Zannah Crowe:
Just Julie : How long have you worked at Monches Farm, Zannah?
Zannah Crowe : Fifteen years. Before that I worked elsewhere for twelve years so I’ve been working as a horticulturist for 27 years.
J.J: How many people are employed by Monches Farm?
Z.C: There are always 2-3 gardeners working in the gardens, answering questions and working sales. There are 2 people in the production green houses and six on the landscaping staff and more in the gift shop.
J.J: Do you work full time?
Z.C: The spring is of course our busiest season. For six to eight weeks it is long hours seven days a week, but then it is part time after that.
J.J: Do you feel like gardening in your own yard after spending all day gardening at the nursery?
Z.C: Gardening is relaxing for me and I enjoy being in the garden all of the time.
J.J: Could you explain to my readers a little bit about the naming of flowers? I am not originally from the Midwest, and I have realized overtime that the common names I’ve always been familiar with are not always the same things plants are called here?
Z.C: We would prefer that gardeners would use botanical names for plants, but there are so many and there are new varieties and cultivars every year so that becomes a little difficult for most people.
Botanical names are in Latin. The first name is the genus. Genus is similar to a family’s last name. It is the widest, most general category of a plant. The genus is followed by the species. Species would be like a person’s first name (a little more specific in other words).
Following species is the variety/cultivar of a plant. (These words are not completely synonymous, but for the purposes of my beginning gardeners I’ll leave it be for now). The variety of a plant is a natural occurring variation of a plant- its color for example. Following that is the common name and some plants have more than one common name because they can differ by region (which is where my original confusion stemmed from).
J.J: Could you give us an example of a flower with all its names?
Z.C: Sure. Let’s take Phlox for example.Phlox is a large family of plants that range from very tall to short, creeping ground covers. If you examine the flowers carefully, though, you will see a family resemblance in the shape of all the Phlox flower petals.
The genus part of a plant name should always be capitalized when writing a name (e.g. Phlox, Callitunia, Petchoa)
Phlox paniculata describes tall garden phlox that blooms in the mid- summer, whereas phlox stolonifera describes creeping phlox that blooms in the spring.
Now if you say phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’ you are describing a tall cultivar of Phlox which is pink in color. The common name for this plant is pink summer garden Phlox.
Some names are even more complicated because the common names are completely different than the botanical names. An example of this is blanket flower. The botanical name is actually Gaillardia which some people may or may not know.
J.J : Do the names ever change?
Z.C : Yes! Just recently we’ve seen an annual that was called a Callitunia changed to Petchoa. The plant is a cross between two other plant and they’ve changed the way the two names are combined. (The original name is cuter I think, but no one asked me!)
J.J: Do you any favorite plants?
Z.H: Yes. My favorite perennials are all reliable, good performers, preferably with a long bloom period and good growing habits all season so that even when they are not in bloom they are attractive fillers or back drops in the garden.
J.J: What about for yourself, though. Do you have any personal favorites?
Z.C: I love daylilies. I know their appearance isn’t perfect after they bloom, but I love the variety of colors and shapes they come in. In fact, I am a hobbyist hybridist (say that 5 times fast), and I have developed my own cultivars of daylilies that no one else has. It’s fun.
J.J: I know that new cultivars of plants are introduced every year. Would you recommend that beginning gardeners buy these?
Z.C: New cultivars (a cultivated variety) can be very expensive partially because a lot of money is usually spent to promote them in advertising campaigns. If we’re talking about hostas for instance and you are a hosta hobbyist you may want this plant to add to your collection, but we try to encourage beginner gardeners to stick to the tried and true. They are less expensive and we know their habits better and can advise our customers of their likes and dislikes.
J.J: Do plants disappear from the market?
Z.H: Yes. In fact they do and it can be disappointing. Here at the nursery we used to keep stock plants of some of our favorite annuals which we would take cuttings from and raise in the green houses over the winter, but the high cost of heat prevents us from doing that anymore so that means that some plants that we really liked, we can’t find any more.
J.J: Thank you, Zannah for talking to me and sharing your knowledge and thoughts with me. I’ve enjoyed our conversation immensely. I know my readers will be interested, too.
Z.C: My pleasure, Julie.
So there you have it. That was my conversation yesterday with Zannah Crowe, a horticulturist from Monches Farms. I hope you enjoyed her as much as I did.
Interviews with Julie
Return from Zannah Crowe to the Gardening with Julie home page.