Identifying plants

Hi,
I work as a Gardener doing mainly manual jobs such as lawncare, hedge trimming etc but I am becoming more interested in expanding my horticultural knowledge.
I allready have a descent knowledge of most of the common garden plants, however some clients will have gardens full of obscure flowers which I have no idea what they are and prefer not to reveal my lack of knowledge by asking. I would like to be able to look them up from photos but I have found this is very difficult to do with books or online archives because you only have vague visual characteristics to go on which can't readily be looked up in an index. Paging through a book of plants I haven't found to be much help because ussually there is only one image of each plant which is often either a close up the foliage or a picture of the whole plant, when I think you really need both to identify a plant, also they frequently show the plant in full bloom which it ussually isn't when you are trying to identify it. Also going through 1000 pages of plants every time you want to identify one is a bit of a 'needle in a haystack' method.
So my question is, is there any kind of systematic approach to getting to know plants which enthusiasts/proffesionals use or is it just a case of 'picking it up' from asking other people, labels in garden centers, botanical gardens etc. Any useful weblinks or reccomended books would be most appreciated. Thanks.
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adamjohn


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I have had some luck using this database to narrow down the choices. If not familiar with terms used, I have found WIKI to have good definitions of terms used. I take the result set from this source and search google images for the pics to identify.
http://www.colby.edu/info.tech/BI211/PlantFamilyID.html
Mike
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Perhaps a visit to a local formal garden would be useful. Might just pic your interest for more study.
Longwood gardens may have some offerings to consider and wherever you are the potential may exist for similar.
<http://www.longwoodgardens.org/Learning_1_3_4.html
Large field !
Bill
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Garden in shade zone 5 S Jersey USA


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On 8/12/2009 2:27 AM, adamjohn wrote:
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David E. Ross
<http://www.rossde.com/ .
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I notice that you are in the UK so it might help if you ask this question in the uk.rec.gardening newsgroup too as that group will give you more specific info relating to the UK than this ng can. If you can, don't post through Garden banter but through a more accepted newsreader as it's not popular in that group (although I have no idea why). I've learned lots from that ng and loves identifying plants so if you can take pics of plants you want identified and post them to something like photobucket and give the URL so posters can see the plant you will get lots of help there.
I'd also support the advice given by someone else about studying Horticulture. Other than that it just takes lots of time and effort on your part to learn. One thing I would recommend is buying an illustrated horticultural dictionary as once you know the terms to describe something then it also helps you to ask the right terms when using a search engine.
I've found the UK magazine "The English Garden" is very good as a general resource on plants in general garden use as it does plant profiles and is very good at identifying plants in pics by their botanical names and I can then trawl the internet to read mroe about them.
The books by Roger Phillips or by him in association with Martyn Rix are also a wonderful resource for plant identification.
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