Stephanie Cohen — A.K.A. The Perennial Diva, is my guest today. Stephanie is a powerhouse in the garden writer world. She has written numerous books, serves on the boards of many industry publications and businesses and is a horticultural expert (she even has a plant named for her!!). But it is her humor that is most enjoyable and memorable….Stephanie is talking with us today about a new crop of plant names. Stephanie….
Once upon a time plants were named for real people. In jolly old England it was always both names. So we have plants named for some of their illustrious plant hunters, breeders, and designers. We have names of Vinca ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, ‘Dianthus ’C.T.Musgrove’, Syringia ‘Ellen Wilmottin. Others are named for famous personages as Picea’ Otto Van Bismarck’ or Paeonia’Joseph Rock’. In recent times Calycanthus raulstonii ‘Hartlage WINE’ named for Richard Hartlage , Hosta “Paul’s Glory’ named for Hosta great Paul Aden,or Hemerocallis ‘Stephanie Returns’ named for yours truly.
America, being a tad more casual, first names sufficed. Later on the first name plus an adjective would do the trick as Dianthus ‘Spotty Dottie’ or Hemerocallis ‘Sassy Shannon’.
Other unique names were for places that the plant could be found as Correopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ or Sequoia “Filoli’ or ‘Los Altos’. Plant names with colors as Allium ‘Purple Sensation’or Boltonia ‘Pink Beauty’ which not only was common, but helped you visualize something tangible about the plant.
Some names like little, dainty, dwarf reassured us this was a small plant. Some are named for lively dances as ‘Rhumba’ ,‘Samba’, or ‘Bolero’ which means the colors are hot and vibrant.
For a while it seemed we had run out of good new names. Never said the new name gurus. We like food names. It’s no wonder we are gaining weight: Hemerocallis ‘Cotton Candy’ , Heuchera ‘Chocolate Ruffles’ ‘Cherries Jubilee’ ‘Brownies’, or Pulmonaria ’Spilled Milk’ or ‘Raspberry Ice’, or Hemerocallis ‘Cream Soufflé.
Once in a while a food name was used that was actually healthy as Hemerocallis ‘Carrots Forever’ This list is as endless as a grocery order for an NFL Team.
Later we started to get very playful as we went from Hosta ‘Great Expectations’ to ‘Hanky Panky’, Actea ‘Black Negligee’ to Hosta ‘Striptease’, ‘X-Rated’, ‘Breeders Choice’ and ‘Bridegroom’ Not to be outdone, check out Daffodils with names like ‘Peeping Tom’, ‘Salome’ and ‘Rapture’ .
Are the plants having relationships we dare not talk about?
Radio, tv, computers with e-mails, blogs, face book has influenced our sexual behavior and now its creeping into our plant names.
Last but not least, over 20 years ago we started with Begonias named ‘Gin’, ‘Whiskey’, and ‘Vodka’ . It always made me laugh.
Many years later Spring Meadow started with Weigela ‘Midnight Wine’, Summer Wine’ and ‘Wine and Roses’. The race was on to see how many delicious concoctions we could identify. We have Miscanthus ‘Cabaret’ , Lamium maculatum ‘Cosmopolitan’. Heuchera ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, ‘Lime Rickey’ ‘Southern Comfort’, or Coreopsis ’Tequilla Sunrise’. Hosta ‘Manhatan’, Gaillardia ‘Burgundy’ or Papaver ’Champagne Bubbles’ added to our increasing list of drink names.
I do think hardy hibiscus wins the prize for names like ‘Bordeaux’, ‘Chablis’, Greenache’ and ‘Cranberry Punch’ as well as the Cordial series.
I often think of Luther Burbank thinking about the white snow on on his beloved Mount Shasta and naming Leucanthemum ‘Mount Shasta’ for it. I know times are tough, but is this what our green industry is thinking about as they sit and ponder names as “Mint Julep’ ‘Raspberry Wine’, ‘Vintage Wine’ or ‘Sangria’?Are they testing their plant qualities or their libation exuberance? There is an Anemone cultivar named ‘Partytime’ and perhaps they have finished with this scenario.
Otherwise, we can go back to my friends the Begonias with ‘BadaBing’ or ‘Bada Boom’ and ask this version of the Sopranos to help us because all that we will have left after getting rid of sex and drink names is Hosta ‘Praying Hands’and Resurrection Lilies.
image Hemerocallis ‘Stephanie returns’ from wayside gardens