I’m a sucker for plants with unusual or interesting names. As I glanced over the Digging Dog Nursery catalog this morning, I had to order Uvularia grandiflora, not just because it’s a pretty native plant for shade, but for its common name: great merry bells.
I was persuaded to buy Silene armeria seeds because it was listed as none-so-pretty. This enthusiastic self-seeder traveled around my Osterville garden for years, and although I didn’t purposefully bring it to Poison Ivy Acres, it seeds must have come along with the transplanted daylilies and peonies. Last fall I noticed young Silene seedlings in various locations, and I’ve transplanted and grouped them in the side perennial garden. I’m pleased that none-so-pretty will be blooming in my new gardens this summer, and, knowing this plant, forevermore.
Names can bestow less-than-appealing feelings in gardeners as well. I remember when my friend Irwin Ehrenreich, The Rose Man, was working with me at the garden center. He was watering the daylilies, and as he came to one called ‘Streaker’. “Do you ever not want to buy a plant because if its name?” Irwin asked.
‘Streaker’ was hybridized in 1974, leading us to think that the name came more from the practice of “streaking”, running naked through a public place, than it did from the streak of color that runs around the petals.
I feel the same way about names that are overly long or hard to pronounce. Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’, a fantastic perennial, is burdened with a name that has so many syllables that I fear it will prevent this lovely plant from ever becoming popular. Even Early Bloomer would trip over the tongue with a bit more ease.
How we name things in our lives has an effect on us as well. Labels can change how we feel about people, events, and objects. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but the right name can bring it to our attention, or cause us to frown and turn away.