A City Kid's Introduction to Flowers

Shakespeare wrote, “… a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet,” which means that a name does not change the experience.   I concur!

But I was introduced as a New York City child 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 the descriptive floral monikers.

Love in a Mist - great name

Up until the age of nine, I lived in a small apartment in the borough of Queens in New York City. It was in Fresh Meadows, a complex called by Lewis Mumford “perhaps the most positive and exhilarating example of community planning in the country.” 

But it was a neighborhood of squat, three story brick buildings and small duplexes, each with a paved playground behind it and some areas of grass that never grew because us kids always played on it….

Fresh Meadows, Queens - home sweet home

Every winter, my school, PS 26, in an attempt to raise money, would hand out long, narrow order forms for flower and vegetable seeds and tell us kids 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 we, apartment dwellers, were going to plant these seeds? I don’t know if that entered their minds.

There were kids in school who lived in duplexes and they would be able to plant them but most of us had no hope of growing a garden.

I lived on the 2nd floor

I, not to be thwarted, decided that I would simply plant everything on the windowsill of our small, kitchen - 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 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. (I added photos but I had no picture - just the name.) :

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 the one I was most excited about,

 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 windowsill got wet and curled up ( uh oh).

But it was a grand introduction to the wild and woolly ride of horticulture and I never got off….

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


  1. Granny's bonnets is an old name for columbine flowers.

  2. Your determination to grow windowsill flowers as a kid is such an inspiration to anyone wanting to garden.

    My Mom, who passed away two years ago this summer, called fall asters "summer farewells" for obvious reasons.

  3. Granny's Bonnets and Summer Farewells - there is poetry in our common flower names! Thanks so much for these!

  4. How about Johnny Jump Ups? Or Gladiolas - sounds like a song. My fav - Hollyhock, the namesake for our farm.

  5. Great names, all, and Hollyhock Farm sounds delightful! also what about Million Bells or Spiderflower?


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