Beautiful flowers with unappealing names!

It’s almost the end of April and I have been sewing seeds weekly (in the main) since the daylight hours started to increase at the beginning of February.  We have a heated propagator to help germinate our seeds, but once there is a sign of green growth, seedlings are removed quickly to finish germinating in natural light.  There is no point sewing seeds until you can guarantee at least 10 hours of natural daylight, ideally without cloud cover which is why I don’t start sewing earlier.  I learnt last year that no matter how keen I am or how effective the propagator is, if I start too early, I just get stretched and skinny seedlings which don’t do well.  They become leggy because they are searching for light and in the end they are binned and the time & effort is wasted.

Anyway, this isn’t a blog on sewing seeds, this is a blog about the common names of some of the annuals that I have sewn.

Plants generally have a latin name and a common name.  I know most things by their common name, but some flowers are best called by the latin to prevent them being confused with something else.  I think it’s worth noting that sometimes gardeners and growers use the latin name because this is what they learnt in their training.  Sometimes they use it to prevent plants being mixed up.  Sometimes they use the latin names to be clever and show off!

Latin names are potentially useful and I think that I will try to learn more of them to help me to understand the plant groups and, ultimately, what grows best for us.  My theory, yet to be tested, is that if I can identify families of flowers based on their latin names, I will be able to choose and grow flowers that do well in our conditions based on their name.  This is, of course, my theory.  Do ask about the results of this test in a year or two!

The latin names of flowers are also not the purpose of this blog!  It struck me today that if I only used the common names of some flowers, and advertised them in this way, no one would buy our flowers.  ‘Today I sewed more Milk Weed’ sounds less appealing for example than ‘Today in the greenhouse I filled the seed trays with Tweedia!’. 

I think that this is because anything including the word ‘weed’ alters our perception of flower quality and beauty.  After all, weeds are not what I am trying to grow, right?!

So here are a few more examples of unappealing common names that you might find in a flower growers field or greenhouse:

  • Toad Flax - Sounds like something that you might whip an amphibian with!
  • Lady’s Mantle - Something that a lady might use to capture her prey!
  • Masterwort - The ultimate unsightly and hairy spot.
  • Bishop’s Weed - Something Christians in large pointy hats smoke in the bike shelter?!
  • Throatwort - A disease transmitted in ways that I really could not describe here!

I did enjoy making up these alternative definitions.  However, after such irreverent thoughts, the latin names are: Linaria, Alchemilla mollis, Astrantia, Ammi Majus and Trachelium Caeruleum.

What is my point? I guess I was thinking about the accessibility of flower growing and which was more off putting, latin names or weird names.  I was also thinking about which name is more appealing to you.  The one that is difficult to pronounce, or the one that conjures up terrible imagery.  I was also wondering whether I am actually just filling my greenhouse with weeds?!  If I am, they will be beautiful weeds to fill your vases with fresh and dried flowers this summer and autumn.

But there is more. In the past few weeks a number of people aged 25-45 have commented on how growing and gardening are less than inclusive. This is interesting to me because my interest in flowers and perennials started when I was in my late 20s and has continued.  I am now 40, incase you were wondering! So I guess I am talking in this blog and others about things that might discourage you from braving a garden centre or a florists so that you’ll feel more confident that names of things are just that, names.  I hope that this helps.

Do comment below to let me know what you think.


Image by Joanne Crawford

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