Thursday, January 19, 2012

Three things

1) Article today in the WPost about the new loosening of Latinate standards in the botanical world (plant names will still be Latin (or as much as they ever have been) but officially published descriptions may now be in English.  Did you even know they were still in Latin?  I didn't).  It's interesting and a slightly more complicated issue than one would think, but what really struck me was this sentence:

"The same [using Latin names] goes for the pretentious gardener who, trug in one hand, pruners in the other, can wax on about the Syringa (lilac), Salix (willow) or Solidago (goldenrod), et cetera."

Yes, well, I talk with my hands half the time, so I'd have to put something down first.  Ha.  And then I looked at the byline and it's Adrian Higgins writing that.  Adrian, how could you?  It's like a librarian describing hair buns and glasses on a chain and vicious sshhing.  I actually don't use Latin names most of the time in the gardening context, but sometimes it's just good sense, if the common names are common to more than one species and you really want to be, hm where does this word come from, specific.  And it's a good memory exercise.  When I reach the point of forgetting the common name but having the Latin come to mind immediately without hiding behind another name beginning with the same letter, then I will be worried.  Rosmarinus officinalis, that's for remembrance.

2) We're doing a seed catalog review series over on Grow It Eat It.  The link will show what we've got so far; there will be more.  And I did call Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds "food gardening porn" over there, too, so never say I'm not brave.

Speaking of (1) above, I have a sneaking preference for seed catalogs that give you the Latin even for vegetables - and I don't know why I should say "even for," as though pretentious Latin-naming was the exclusive property of ornamental gardeners.  I know we don't generally talk about chopping up some cabbage to make Brassica oleracea var. capitata slaw, but it is interesting to know that the "cole" we do use is from the Old English (and Latin and Greek) for the brassicas then extant, such as kale and rape, and it's actually quite important to know what others plants fall under Brassica oleracea, such as broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kohlrabi (there's that cole again), and Brussels sprouts.  They are all the same plant, variations bred out of an original wild species.  Similarly, chard and beets are both Beta vulgaris (this usually surprises people immensely when I tell them, even assuming they've heard of both vegetables).  Anyway, I could go on about it for days, but check those seed descriptions for bits of Latin.

3) My son's high school is doing the musical of The Secret Garden this spring.  Am itching with anticipation to see what kind of set they'll come up with for the exterior scenes (and should I volunteer to help?).  I dreamed I went to Misselthwaite again...


  1. Oh, do get them to let you design the garden! And get some rich person to fund the sets. And go all out.

  2. " though pretentious Latin-naming..."

    Shame! You should never mock people. There is nothing pretentious in people using the correct Latin plants' names as they are the only universal name. The British usually use it, and have no inferiority complex about rarely using the English common names. Why? Because many of the common names are over used and applied to very different plants.