They call me Daisy…..that’s not my name!


“A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet”…the problem is I don’t know any of the names of the roses in my garden. I bought most of them from a famous German supermarket in the sale for Eur 1.49 and I’ve thrown away the labels. I will be forgiven for this, I’m sure, they’re  not old roses or special roses after all. But I have a far worse problem, in that I’ve planted quite a lot of different plants, both bought, borrowed and occasionally even stolen, (albeit it only little pieces) and I don’t know the names of most of them. This is starting to cause me problems, as friends ask me the names of plants they particularly like and I haven’t a clue! Actually, that’s not strictly true. I know an Aloe from an Agave, or a Salvia from a Penstemon, I just don’t know what comes after that. It’s a shame really, as according to my mother, one of my first words was Aquilegia. Being a rather precocious two year old I corrected a visitor, who called the plant a Columbine. It’s all been downhill since unfortunately.


When I was a teacher, I once had a class with four Jason’s. I could never remember their surnames, so I invented them. One was called Jason The Red (he had ginger hair) Another, Jason Basin (pudding bowl haircut) Jason Mouse (he squeaked a lot) and last, but not least Jason Fireraiser (He once set fire to the class notice board) Now I am doing this with my plants, in the absence of my ability to identify them correctly. I walk round the garden checking on their progress, I note Agave Biggus Spikus is getting bigger every day, whilst Agave Variegata Pipsqueaka is not really doing much. Penstemon Freebius Seedpacketia is bursting into flower, whilst Aloe Aloe Aloe Whatasallthisthenus, (which is what I imagined I might hear any minute as I was furtively half inching the cutting this plant grew from) has put up several baby plants.

Harebells from Canada

To complicate matters further, I am learning the names for plants in Portuguese as well. I can never remember the English for Coriander nowadays, because I am too busy thinking of it as Coentro. A lot of wild flowers are called Boa Noite, according to neighbours, which means Good Night and I am still thinking of some flowers by the nicknames we had for them in Wales, Snapdragons for Antirinhiums, Roarydumdums for rhododendrons and Wet-the-bed for dandelions. No wonder I get confused! Then, instead of fields of purple clover, there are fields of something which has similar leaves called Bermudan Buttercup, or whatever its proper name is, and Giant Hogweed is replaced by Alexanders, or Black  Lovage. Then there are the orchids, The Naked Man orchid (don’t ask!) the Mirror orchid, the Bee orchid and a myriad others.


And I guess all this confusion is why I need to learn the proper names for things, although how I’ll remember them, I don’t know! I realise I have never really thought about how plants are classified, so after a bit of a Google session I discovered this:
Whoever thought it was so complicated? Plants have families, subfamilies and tribes!
And thirteen-barrelled names! And I have to remember to spell the name of the Genus with a capital letter! Gordonus Bennetius!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut for the sake of trying to at least sound like a real gardener, I am going to make a serious effort get to grips with calling things by their proper names, although it’s difficult identifying the plants I already have. I have found this tool from the RHS website ,which is quite useful and I’ve resolved to try to learn the proper names for one of the plants in my garden every day. I’ve posted some photos of plants I can’t identify throughout this post. If you know the proper names of any of them, it would be great of you could let me know. I’d love to be able to sail around the garden, with a glass of something cool in hand, reeling off the names of the plants we walk past, and although I don’t think I’ll ever manage it, I’m sure it will keep my ageing brain cells active for many years to come. To get us off to a good startI will tell you I bought a lovely Ballota pseudodictamnus at the Mediterranean Garden Fair this year. If only I could remember which of the twenty plants or so I bought was called that!


5 thoughts on “They call me Daisy…..that’s not my name!

  1. I think Latin names are so important, it is not worth bothering to learn common names because they vary from region to region, never mind country to country. I am often baffled by American plant names on blogs until I see their photos. I don’ t see why Latin should be more difficult to learn, it is more logical. The important thing, is that it is an international language, so we can communicate with gardeners round the world. Goodness, don’ t I sound pedantic? But it is a hobbyhorse of mine. I think the naming of names is important.
    Your plant names.
    1. I can’ t see the leaves of the daisy, although the flower looks like a Calendula.(marigold).
    2. Gladiolus Byzantinus.
    3.Triteleia laxa.
    4. Lavendula stoechas.
    5. Aloe. Is it Aloe arborescens? I think so.
    I have a great little book which you might find helpful called. Plant Names Simplified. Their Pronunciation Derivation & Meaning by A. T. Johnson and H. A. Smith.


  2. That’s funny!
    I have the same problem and feel quite embarrassed when I do a Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post and cannot put the correct names under my photos. Sometimes I read a blog and discover names because someone has the same plant in their garden. I was going to start making a list of my plants but I haven’t got round to it yet.


  3. Thanks for dropping by! I wish I had kept a list from the start. But you don’t always know as plants come from everywhere. And the names are so complicated! I have enough trouble even remembering my friends’ names nowadays. Still, I’ll try harder.


  4. Thanks so much! I do agree it is important, absolutely and you don’t sound pedantic at all. You just sound amazing and awe inspiring! A true plantswoman. If I come back as anything in the next
    life, I’d love to be a plantswoman. I am struggling with rudimentary Portuguese, got an E in Latin GCSE, so don’t think I have much chance in this life!


  5. I’m with Chloris with regards to the importance of the Latin names and I actually really enjoy working out the correct name, as it relies on getting to know a plant in detail by using sight, touch and smell and you often learn much about the plant in the process..
    Classification/taxonomy is a science in itself; it is interesting to know a bit about and it is linked to the nomenclature, but to use the classification of plants as a starting point for learning the names is a confusing task and for us ordinary gardeners there are easier ways.
    For example, another page ( on theseedsite. which you mention lists the meaning of latin plant names and this is a great starting point to understand and remember the latin names.
    The internet is a brilliant resource for searching for the plants in our garden we might not know the names of. An image search for ‘daisy like orange flower’ immediately includes Calendula officinalis, which I also think your ‘daisy’ is, and googling a plant’s common name/s will give Latin options that can then be checked out visually and by description.
    In addition, we also need to discover if our plant is an original form or if it is a named variety and for this I often google the plant name and ‘specialist nurseries’. A search for ‘lavender specialist nurseries’ took me in three clicks to, which lists your type of lavender and the Downderry site also has a page giving information on Lavender classification and naming.
    HEALTH WARNING: what starts as a simple name search might rapidly lead to serious obsession.


Please talk to me. I am struggling here!

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