African Garden + time

Turn and Face the Strange

Changes, in nomenclature, have been on my mind lately. I've always preferred using the Latin names of plants because it is more precise. One name refers to one specific plant. (Thank you Carl Linnaeus, you genius.) Moreover, I don't know the "common name" of many plants. I'll read a gardening article in the newspaper and wonder: about which plant is the author writing? There is no way to look it up easily. Give me the Latin name, and I can quickly determine much about a plant. "Virginica" or "canadensis" means it is a native, "japonica" tells me I probably can't grow it, whereas "siberica" indicates that it's rock-hardy. "Alba" suggests white flowers, "albo-striata" that it has variegated foliage. Knowing the Latin name also shows which plants are related or not.

Like most gardeners, I've become used to the names of plants. Botanists have revised the names of a great number of plants recently for scientific reasons. As mentioned in my last post, the American asters have all been removed from the genus Aster.

I have had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the new names, such as Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, or Hylotelephium. But should the new names be resisted simply because they are unfamiliar? Historically, plant names have changed, and gardeners have adapted. If I walked into a garden center today and asked for Funkia or Megasea, I'd get some funny looks. One hundred years ago these were the names Gertrude Jekyll used in her book Colour Schemes For the Flower Garden, for Hosta and Bergenia, respectively. (See Colour Schemes For the Flower Garden, p. 208 (1986 ed.) (1st published 1908).)

Gardeners of the world, unite and take over! (No, wait, I got a bit carried away there.) Gardeners, embrace the new names in the knowledge that in a hundred years, no one will remember the name Cimicifuga. In the meantime, I intend to use both. This is Cimicifuga/Actaea 'Black Negligee.'

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Turn and Face the Strange + time