|'African Daisy' is easy to say, but Osteospermum ecklonis is so much more personal.|
And that brings me to another point. I don't just want to know how to spell the botanical name, I want to know how to say it. There isn't complete agreement in the horticultural world about the pronunciation of all plant genera and species, but as long as my pronunciation is one of the generally accepted ones, I'm happy. I find Tom Fischer's 'Overplanted' useful for this. Another good pronunciation site is FORVO, where you can hear words in latin and other languages.
|I used to call this Salvia sclarEA, but now I know it's pronounced Salvia SCLARea. I feel smarter.|
One of my pet hates is plant labels that don't have botanical names on them. Some of the worst offenders are the most recently copyrighted plants. They have huge labels but hardly any useful information. I saw one that was just called "Red Hedge". I find this sort of thing almost painful. My local nursery had taken pity on me, though, and written "Moyer's Red" on the label in black felt-tip. It's actually Nandina domestica 'Moyer's Red'. What a relief. Having been properly introduced, I bought two and planted them in the Sunset Border.
|The plant label may call it 'Pineapple Guava' or even Feijoa sellowiana, but it's really Acca sellowiana.|
Even worse, in some ways, is a plant label that has the wrong botanical name on it. This is like being introduced to someone and then later finding out the name they gave you was just an alias, not their real name at all. I bought a punnet of Cheiranthus 'Scentenary' last week. Or rather, I thought I did. In fact, the back of the label said they were Erysimum cherii. An internet search was very confusing, although the consensus seemed to be that Erysimum was now correct. Just to make it more difficult, some sites replaced cherii with cheiri. I was almost tempted to just call them 'Wallflowers' and be done with it. But then where would it end? The thought that if I continued down this slippery slope I might one day find myself talking about "the little strappy plant, you know, the one with the fluffy pink pompoms, smells a bit like onions" brought me back to my senses.
|Now doesn't Santolina chamaecyparis ‘Lambrook Silver’ do this plant more justice than 'Cotton Lavender'?|
Once you start to think about plants in terms of their botanical names, there are lots of little pleasures to enjoy. A friend rang me up the other day to ask the scientific name of a plant she likes so she could look it up online. I was able to tell her. I can quickly find out information this way too. Another pleasure is learning what the botanical names actually mean. Some are descriptive and some are named after plant hunters and botanists. Nan Ondra's blog, Hayefield, has eight fascinating and very readable articles explaining plant names, illustrated with her gorgeous photographs. Just look under the category "What's in a Name?"
|Alstroemerias are named after Swedish botanist Baron Klas von Alstroemer, who collected their seed in 1753. This one is Alstroemeria x ligtu 'Yellow King'.|
So what do you call your plants? I must admit that I haven't always accorded my plants the dignity and respect of using their full names. I once owned a Parsley plant called Elvis and three Philadendrons named Phil, Den and Ron, but that was "in my salad days, when I was green in judgement." (Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra)
|Penstemon 'Alice Hindley'. Don't call her "Penny". Just don't.|