Q: I am planting an alphabet garden with my son. We are choosing plants with common or scientific names that begin with each letter of the alphabet. However, we are stuck with the letters ‘U’ and ‘X’. Do you have any suggestions?
A: You are right – plants with names that begin with ‘U’ or ‘X’ are rare. Two that begin with ‘U’ come to mind: the family of elm trees has the scientific name Ulmus (ital). You could find a winged elm (Ulmus alata) growing wild along a roadside and keep it pruned to a small shrub shape. An unpleasant alternative is the Urtica (ital) family. Stinging nettle is the common name for this plant – I don’t think you would enjoy growing it with your son. Maybe the best choice would be an ‘Ultra Boy’ tomato, available from Totally Tomatoes (803-663-0016).
‘X’ named plants are even harder to find. Xylobium orchids are available to greenhouse growers but would not grow outdoors. Why not try to grow yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima)? It is a small, deciduous shrub that has purple flowers in spring. Yellowroot prefers a shady garden spot. Woodlanders Nursery (803-648-7522) in Aiken, S.C. carries the plant.