How to prepare your preliminary plant list

Happy New Year, Flower Show Miniature Settings exhibitors. Your first task of the new year is to prepare your preliminary plant list by January 15th and send it in to Joyce Stemple (she is in charge of nomenclature, or correct plant names, for our group). A copy is also sent to Ron Hoess. Their emails are:



The names of your plants (their proper Latin names) are posted next to your exhibit and used by the judges to evaluate your exhibit.

I had 25 plants listed on my final list but actually had more different kinds in the display than that. You need at least 8 different ones.

Remember that you need 8 different plants  which means your list will have at least 8 names on it. You can put up to 150 different names on this list if you have a lot of plants you are considering but keep in mind that someone has to check all these names. Also, the document is set up to only receive 35 names so go figure! I didn’t say this was going to be logical! We’ll work out that problem, too.

The names you submit will be corrected with the proper current nomenclature. Even if you have used a plant in the past and think you know its name, it may have had a name revision in the past year so everything is checked. When you have the corrected names, you will use them to submit your final list on February 26th, right before the show.

Now, as those who have done this before know, this can be a daunting and intimidating task. So here are some helpful hints and step-by-step instruction on how to fill out the form and send it in. I highly recommend that you do this list on a computer and not print it out and write it by hand (the instructions say “print or type clearly” but that is misleading because you are entering this data on a computer). You will eventually have to submit a digital version so why waste time writing it out.

First, let’s look at the form that you have already received via email (if you have not received a copy, ask Ron Hoess to send it to you). This is a Microsoft Word document but should open in other programs. If it doesn’t, check below for my advice on making your own version of this list in a different program (in fact, if you have a long list of names, this Word  document can be difficult to work with and I would simply make your own document as described below).

The form that was emailed to you is a Microsoft Word document.

Unfortunately, this document has the wrong date on it (don’t shoot the messenger: I didn’t do it) so change the year from 2013 to 2014 so the reviewers don’t get confused.


Correct the date to 2014

Put your name or names in where it says “Exhibitor.” If two or more people are involved in the exhibit, designate one person to send and receive the plant list and the corrected copy via email. That person’s name goes in where it says “Contact.” Put your phone and email in (although no one is likely to call you: all the communication will be by email). Put your address.

There are three columns on the form. The first column is the number of the entry. If you add more than 35 entries to this form, you have to add another row and then you have to fill in this number manually. It will not fill in automatically (but the alternate version below will).

The next column is where you write what you think is the proper Latin name for your plants. The format is GENUS SPECIES VARIETY/CULTIVAR and the entire name is written in CAPS with the variety or cultivar in single quotes. When you come across a plant name online or in a book, this is not the format that is used so you have to change it. For example, if I go online and find the plant commonly called Asparagus fern, it will show up in so many different formats: Asparagus densiflorus, Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’ Sprengeri, Asparagus densiflorus (Sprengeri group), and so on. Very confusing.

Where do you find the correct names for your plants? You can look at the labels that came with them, but these are often inaccurate. The PHS has a plant database ( that lets you check the names of the plants you have but you have to know at least part of the plant’s name to check it. And the images it links you to (google search) can be misleading. The solution I recommend for miniature plants is to first use the visual database I prepared of the nearly 300 common miniature plants that have been used in the past in the Flower Show. It is a great place for you to start your identifications (and chances are your plant is there).

The database has at least one picture of each miniature plant and a proper Latin name. Find your plant and copy the name so you can check it in the PHS database.

If you get stumped on an identification, send me a picture which I can post here and we can all help you. When you find your plant, you can enter that name in the PHS database just to check it is accurate and spelled correctly. Copy the name that the PHS database gives you (it will be in the correct ALL CAPS format to paste into the form). Paste the name into the correct column.

The PHS database lets you type in part of a name and it will give you the possible full names.
The name checks out. Select the name and copy it.
Add the name to column 2 of the form. You can also add a common name if you have one.

Your corrected copy will look like this, with the changes highlighted in green. You need to use the corrected names in your final list. Notice that the numbers are gone and a column showing the source of the name confirmation is added.


You are supposed to put your plants in alphabetical order but if you add something later, or make a mistake, the Word document does not let you sort the list easily. So  for this reason you may want to make a simpler list that can be sorted and renumbered easily. Here is how you do it (if you know how to work a word processing program).

ALTERNATIVE DOCUMENT: Create a table in your word processing program that has two columns. Put the Latin name in the first column and the corresponding common name in the second column. Don’t worry about what order you put them in and don’t label the columns at the top. When you are done creating the content, select the entire table and sort the contents by the first column and your list will be alphabetized. Select the entire table again and format everything to be all CAPS, Arial font, at 14 points. Add a column to the left and insert a list function and the contents will be numbered. If you don’t know how to do the things in this paragraph, just stick with the official form and be careful to put your entries in alphabetically.

Let Ron or I know if you need help doing the plant list: we are happy to help.

Some of the online databases I consult to identify plants include:

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