4 min read

Figuring out What's Growing in the Garden (with help from Seek)

Learn how to use Seek, the app from iNaturalist that identifies plants and animals using your phone's camera.
Seek app opening screen.
Seek App Loading Screen
Note: I have no affiliation with Seek or iNaturalist and am only promoting them here because I think they are great.

When we moved into our place it was last November, beginning to get cold and was hard to tell what was actually already growing in the garden. The garden has a large lawn with well established perennials that go all around the edges and when we got to looking at what was planted, they were dried up and looking spent. Most things looked the same, so we spent the winter waiting and wondering what was actually there.

I was able to identify some easy ones - some roses, peonies, raspberries, a josta berry (still had some leaves and berries that were almost edible at the time) - before the snow came but beyond our best guesses, didn't have many specifics. Now that the growing season has come and gone, I've spent it discovering what's actually in the garden.

In terms of plant identification, I have a lot of knowledge gaps with perennials and flowering plants. I am slowly learning though, and that's where Seek comes in!

It's an app that uses your phone's camera to take observations of whatever is around you and then it automatically identifies what you are looking at using a database of millions of other wildlife observations. It works with plants and fungi, but also with insects and animals (if you can get them to be still long enough for a photo).

So far, I've found it really helpful in making identifications or for at least putting me on the right track in terms of plant family or genus and with every ID I learn a bit more.

Seek is produced by iNaturalist, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic that aims to connect people with nature and use community observations to produce data on biodiversity. They can then share that data with scientists working to understand and protect nature. Neat!

Mixed flower bed beside wood fence.
I inherited a nice mix of flowering perennials at the Corner Plot Garden.

So, what's growing in the garden? These are the perennials I was able to identify using Seek:

Some other plants I found, not pictured:

  • Delphinium/Sierra Larkspur - my favorite because their inflorescences (flower stems) grow taller than me and are such a nice shade of blue.
  • Purple Loosestrife - no longer in the garden...turns out it's an noxious weed and a City inspector told us to get rid of it. It's an attractive plant, but hard to get rid of once established.
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Shrubby Cinquefoil
  • Soapwort - quickly taking over it's section of yard. I definitely need to keep this in check.
  • Blue Columbine
  • Red Deadnettle

There were also a couple that Seek didn't quite identify fully:

  • Oxeye Daisy - Seek only identified to the genus and couldn't get the species, but I'm fairly certain this is what's growing. Maybe the app struggles here because plants in the Aster family look so similar?
Identifying Leucanthemum genus in the Seek App
With this Oxeye Daisy, Seek only got to genus and wasn't able to figure out the species.

Goji Berry - Though Seek did figure it out when I tried again after it had developed berries, when I initially photographed this with Seek it didn't identify this plant.

In this case, I had a hunch about what it was and posted a pic to my Instagram story to quickly have it confirmed. Thank you to Dustin Bajer, who responded and let me know about the interesting work he has been doing propagating and researching local Edmonton goji plants. Be sure to have a read of that and check out the work he is doing with Shrubscriber!

Question asked on Instagram to determine that plant was a goji berry.
Crowdsourcing answers to garden questions on Instagram.

Overall, Seek is a really useful tool to have when you're out and about in the garden or elsewhere. The app has been kept simple, making it easy to use and it's fun to track your observations and see what other people around you have seen as well.

I can only imagine that the app itself will continue to get better at giving correct identifications as more observations are added to it's database. Definitely give Seek a try!