What's in a Name?

Shakespeare wrote, “… a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet,” meaning that a name does not change the essential quality of the flower (or anything else for that matter).
I concur!

But I was introduced to flowers through their names – no color photos, sweet smelling blossoms or informative text – just typed names on a page and I fell instantly in love with descriptive floral monikers.

Up until the age of nine, I lived in a small apartment with my parents in the borough of Queens in New York City. It was in a neighborhood of primarily squat, three story buildings, each with a paved playground behind it and some areas of grass that never grew because us kids always played on it….

Every winter, my school, PS 26, Rufus King Elementary school, in an attempt to raise money, would hand out long, narrow order forms for flower and vegetable seeds to us and tell us to take them home. We were to choose, with our parents, the seeds we wanted to order for spring planting.

Now where did they think apartment dwellers were going to plant these seeds? I don’t know if that entered their minds…there indeed were kids in school who lived in small houses (think Archie Bunker’s place) and they, no doubt, would be able to plant them but most of us had no hope of growing a garden.

I, not to be thwarted, decided that I would simply plant everything on the windowsill of our small, galley kitchen. This is testament to the fact that, to an enthusiastic seven year old, anything is possible.

My mother tried to dissuade me but I was insistent. I perused the long list of names and seed prices and made my choices. My only guide was their names – and since I did not know what a chrysanthemum, marigold or petunia was – I chose the names that were associated with times of day, the planets or other alluring descriptions of something odd. Here was my list as I remember it:

Four O’Clocks

Morning Glory

Moon flower ( this photo taken from a great birding blog 10000birds)

Love in a Mist

Dutchman’s Pipe

Bachelor’s Buttons

Chinese Lantern

And best of all,

The Money Plant

They didn’t do too well in the little pots all lined up on a dark windowsill and I think the contact paper that covered the sill got wet and curled up ( uh oh) but it was a grand introduction to the wild and wooly ride of horticulture and I never got off….

I would love any other curious flower names that you can share.

Comments

  1. isn't that amazing what the imagination can spark from just a nice name or description? although i'm more visual i really like to discover amazing words and descriptions on blotanical....although it is overwhelming at times.

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  2. names are so wonderful...like Noel, for instance....

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  3. Weren't those housing complexes called "Garden Apartments," if they had a bit of lawn, a cement court for the kids to play in, and some dirt where nothing was planted?

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  4. Perhaps we can go back to garden seed and plant vs bake sales? Would that be a delight.....

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  6. What a charming story!

    Some curious flower names that captured my imagination as a child taking trips to my godfather's nursery in Ann Arbor, Michigan:

    johnny-jump-ups
    jack-in-the-pulpits
    bee balm
    candytuft
    lungwort
    hollyhock

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  7. to Lynn - I agree! Bake sales make kids fatter...seed and plant sales make them dream...

    to Mindy - haha! yes those garden apartments of Queens indicated that you had 'made it' in life..of course, then came Levittown...

    to Sarah - love that 'candytuft'! I think i wanted that too.....how lucky to have a godfather in the business! My son's godfather is a filmaker and guess what my son is studying in college? is there some correlation between godfathers' passions and our own?

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  8. yes! my godfather hired me to work in his nursery when i was 14. he is the reason i do what i do!

    it was such luck to grow up running around a big suburban nursery!

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  9. having a nursery to work in at a young age must have beautifully colored your view of the world...I worked in a dry cleaners on Broadway in NYC...that is when I decided, without a doubt, that I would seek a profession that took me out of the city...

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