What’s in a Name? White, Black, and Shades of Gray

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About Nancy J. Ondra

Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.

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12 Responses to What’s in a Name? White, Black, and Shades of Gray

  1. Lisa at Greenbow November 7, 2009 at 5:13 am #

    A new way for me to look at those confusing plant tags. I will be able to understand some of that plant latin.

    Glad you found it useful, Lisa. There’s a lot more to come!

  2. Dave November 7, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    Very informative post! It clarifies many of the taxonomic terms!

    Welcome to the Garden Geek Club, Dave. I think this series is going to be a fun winter project.

  3. Marie November 7, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    Great post! It’s fun to know something about a plant from it’s name. You can bet I’ll be reading through it several more times. Thank you!

    My pleasure, Marie. Dissecting the names is quite addictive.

  4. Kay November 7, 2009 at 10:18 am #

    Great post. A keeper for future reference.

    Thanks for the comment, Kay. Look for the next post later this month.

  5. donna November 7, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    thanks! I’ve been admiring salvia argentea lately, wondering if I should get it — so pretty….

    It’s definitely worth a try, Donna – go for it!

  6. Nicole November 7, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

    Wow-that’s very eye opening and informative.
    I had figured out the “nigra/nigrum”, “pallida” and “alba” ones as well as “glauca” by observing the common traits of plants with those words in the names meant black, pale, white and glaucaus, respectively.

    Ah, another name geek! You’ll like the next post too, I think.

  7. healingmagichands November 8, 2009 at 8:30 am #

    What an interesting post. I’m afraid I am just geeky enough to love this stuff, and with the flypaper brain I have probably a lot will stick. It is a mystery to me which things will stick in my head and which won’t, though.

    The cool thing about these names is how you can relate many of them to regular (though not always common) words, such as pallida/pallid and fusca/obfuscate. Hooray for fun with nomenclature!

  8. Mr. McGregor's Daughter November 9, 2009 at 12:44 pm #

    I think it’s time for Latin to be taught in schools again. It’s just so useful, especially for gardening. Knowing what these terms mean, makes it easy to visual a plant just from reading its name. I love the word “glaucous.”

    I’m with you, MMD!

  9. Frances November 11, 2009 at 7:05 am #

    Thanks for the latin lesson, Nan. A friend gave me a book of botanical latin, but seeing your photos and the names of examples helps me remember so much better than just words on a page. Thanks for all the effort that obviously went into this. We look forward to more! :-)

    Good to know that you found it useful too, Frances. Thanks!

  10. Linda/CTG November 12, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    Thank you so much! I’m saving this one.

    I appreciate your comment, Linda. The next post should be ready soon!

  11. Tyra in Vaxholm November 17, 2009 at 6:41 am #

    I’m so grateful that Linné and friends used latin when they named the plants. Thank you for the lesson Nan, much appreciated.

    I agree, Tyra. It’s wonderful that we can enjoy garden blogs all over the world thanks to the universal language of botanical nomenclature!

  12. Country Mouse November 18, 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    I’m glad I had 4 years of Latin – If I had a lot of time on my hands, I’d relearn it and read those great classical authors. I can’t count to ten in Latin any more, but the bones of it do stick with you through life, and give language a kind of depth and interconnectedness. I have a rotten cold right now, and am enjoying working my way back through this series of posts as I lie languishing!

    I am *so* envious, CM; I had only one year, then had to choose between Latin and Physics. The latter won, and I don’t regret it, because that was a great class too, but I really wish I could have had more Latin.

    I hope you feel better soon!