Wednesday, October 28, 2015

English Language and Gardening: For the Real Connoisseurs of Both -- Part II

(a paper presented at a teachers' conference in 2014; pictures were taken from the Web)

And now to the  plant names, finally. Do you happen to know glague? Glague rhymes with plague, and it really is a garden plague, let me tell you! The name speaks for itself. 

Well, in ancient times, when plants were already in abundance but not yet thoroughly classified by Carl von Linnea, numerous romantic vernacular plant names emerged. Of course, we all know these two:

Why such quaint names? Well, coincidentally, the newspaper The St. Petersburg Times of February 6, 1938 (Tampa, FL) published a little research article of a Mary Gilchrist scrutinizing the common vernacular or English names of plants. She says: Who were the namers? They were those close to nature – farmers, shepherds, medicinal herb gatherers, fishermen, etc. Thus the plant names refer to: 1) habitat, 2) season, 3) color (e.g. blue-bell), 4) saints, villains, heroes (e.g. St. John’s wort), 5) domestic animals (e.g. rabbit-foot, cow-lily). Personally, I would add a sixth one – referring to a certain relative/family member because in every culture there’s a special love for a mother-in-law, therefore the common plant names:
# mother-in-law’s cushion

# mother-in-law’s tongue

And maybe even the seventh reference – some unknown (or forgotten) people’s names. People often have a flower name: Lily, Rose, Pansy (анютины глазки), Daisy, Iris, Holly (падуб), Heather (вереск), etc. But many plants also have people’s names and even nationality:

Wandering Jew
Adam’s needle (юкка)
Black-eyed Susan (vine, rudbeckia)
Busy Lizzie (бальзамин Impatience)
Creeping Jenny (лизимахия)
Herb Robert (wild герань)
Jack-in-the-pulpit (аризема)
Jenny Green Teeth (ряска)
Stinking Christopher (норичник шишковатый)
Sweet William (турецкая гвоздика)

These old, long-phrased, hyphenated plant names are still in use. Some plants happen to have identical folk names. It’s not surprising because some species have dozens names to themselves. For example, Wild Pansy is also called: Life-in-Idleness. Love Idol. Cull Me. Cuddle Me. Call-me-to-you. Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me. Meet-me-in-the-Entry. Kiss-her-in-the-Buttery. Three-Faces-under-a-Hood. Kit-run-in-the-Fields. Pink-of-the-Eye. Kit-run-about. Godfathers and Godmothers. Stepmother. Bird's Eye. Bull-weed. Herb Constancy. Pink-eyed-John. Bouncing Bet.
But then it gets even funnier:

butter-and-eggs (toadflax)

hens-and-chicks крассула

love-in-a-mist/devil-in-a-bush - нигелла

love-in-a-puff (valentine gift seeds)
love-lies-bleeding (amaranth)
match-me-if-you-can (tropical acalipha)
mind-your-own-business/lime-baby’s-tears (soleirolia)

morning glory


wait-a-while (rattan)
wake-robin - триллиум

…and even …. kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (persicaria)
And when we think that the plant name cannot possibly get any longer, we find this beauty:

welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk (goldmoss sedum)

And now let’s test your knowledge of the vernacular plant names, but don’t worry – although I have found a great many of those, I’ll give you only the easy ones. Please match the first half of the plant name with the second:





weed (3)
Answers: angel’s hair, angel’s trumpet, bleeding heart, bluebell, blue-flag, toadflax, buckeye, buttercup, Chinese lantern, cornflower, dogwood, duckweed, elderberry, heart’s ease (viola), chestnut, gay-feather, foxgloves, hazelnut, honeysuckle, horseradish, larkspur, oxlip, peppermint, saw-grass, sneezewor, snowdrop, sunflower, turkey cor, wandering Jew, willow-weed, elderberry, mayweed, cowslip, devilwood, dragonhead, ox-eye (ромашка), cow-lily (калла), pussy-willow, rabbit-foot, lion’s heart, dandelion, monkey-flower, tassel-plant (амарант), sea-lavender, lady’s smock (cuckoo flower, cardamine)

long purples (arum, buddleia), hare-bell (campanula), cattail (камыш), monk’s hood (аконит),

crow-flower (ragged robin, часики, лихнис), bachelor’s buttons (cornflower), lion’s beard (прострел), granny’s bonnet (aquilegia), cow-wheat (Иван-да-Марья), goose-foot (лебеда).

English Language and Gardening: For the Real Connoisseurs of Both -- Part I

(a paper presented at a teachers' conference in 2014; pictures were taken from the Web)

Good afternoon, dear English and gardening connoisseurs! What a beautiful day it is to practice both! Now, first of all, let me ask you this: are you green-fingered, anyone? Does anybody have green-fingers in here? Oh, well, me too! So we have much in common then! Let’s begin our workshop then.

Any garden, be that a window box or a back yard, is a VERY personal creation of the one who works in it. It’s full of fears and frets, pleasures and promises, it’s about the smell, the feel, the sight, hearing and taste – it’s a feast for the five senses, and you need to have the sixth one to predict the unpredictable – the weather!
Garden is the best clock of the seasons – with a special time period for everything. Year in, year out – our garden takes us by surprise with the abundance or lack of something. It’s like an uncontrollable beast, a piece of the wilderness, the nature itself that we need to tame time after time. Today gardens mostly come in 2 types: 1) the useful plot of vegetables, fruit and herbs, and 2) the pleasure garden with flowers, trees, and landscape.

A little history of British gardening
The word “garden” comes from the Indo-European word “ghordos”, which meant “enclosure”, and has the same ROOT with “yard” and “orchard”. Interestingly, the ancient Persian word for enclosure was “pairidaeza”, basically “paradise”. First civilizations kept forest gardens for food, but then around 10000 BC wealthy individuals started enclosing the outdoor space and planting gardens for purely aesthetic purposes. First, Egyptians and Persians favored garden designs, then ancient Rome, Spain, China, Japan, France... French gardens dominated the style of gardens till 18th century. But then came the English landscape gardens the development of which was postponed due to the mini Ice Age lasting from mid-16th to mid-19th century. So the British gardens flourished as of the mid-19th century which, luckily, coincided with the Golden Victorian Age.

The Victorian times were famous, first of all, for innovations. Those times also brought the novelties that today we perceive as commonplace – public parks, little garden ponds, gazebos, even fertilizers (BTW, till 1830s they used night soil – human waste, collected at night).

Do you know what this is? It’s a Victorian house! But just look at this: do you know what this is? It’s a bay window. Why is it called a bay window? Because it overlooks a bay? Or is it three-sided so that we could have a better view of the bay? Well, no. A bay window forms a bay in a room. What for? To put a daybed there? No, for the sake of potted plants. If the light is one-sided – plants flatten against the glass. To stay bushy and well-rounded, they need light – literally – left, right and center. Thus – the bay window. Thanks to the Victorian times plant craze and window gardening, we’ve got this curious architectural element today – although it has been long forgotten what it had been originally intended for. 

Another indispensable object that found its way from the garden and straight into our homes (long before the Victorian times though) is the fork. Originally, it was an agricultural tool – a pitchfork, or a garden fork, but later (around mid-15th century) people appreciated its pitching capacity and made a similar kitchen utensil – a large thing for carving poultry or meat. It was only in the 17th century that this useful tool became what we know today as a dinner fork, although through some minor transformation as to how many tines it should have (2-6). 

The greatest Victorian Times’ feature – explorations – brought a great variety of exotic plants from all corners of the world. Picture this: if at the end of the 18th century a gardener had about 1000 plant species to choose from, then by mid-19th century there were 20 times more – thanks to, again, explorers and plant hunters – doing it both for science and commerce. As a result, in 1841 the first book on gardening for ladies was published. Soon gardening was a huge business in England, a craze, and it still is – remember the May RHS Chelsea Flower Show? It has been the most famous flower show in the UK and, perhaps, in the world since 1862.

So, this newly-acquired British gardening culture has led to a profusion of beautiful private gardens and a romanticized ideology of the private garden. Since times immemorial gardens have played a big part in prose, poetry and visual arts. For example, Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets are full of plants references. And then, there is this wonderful British tradition of naming the stately homes, manors, castles, etc. with a reference to the natural features, rather than to the street name and building number. Actually, it was practiced in pre-revolutionary Russia as well, and in the US it was adopted by property developers: residential areas, schools and country clubs have such names there, too. Don’t you think that it’s more romantic to refer to your estate (your plot of land with a little cabin) as Cherry Orchard, Strawberry Delight, Clover Meadows, Poplar Alley, Maple Grove, Pine Crest, Willow Pond, and, of course, anything to do with roses – instead of Lenin Street, building # 125? I wanted to call mine Onion Ring, but the idea never got off the ground.

Romantic inhabitants of the British gardens
Quite soon, at the turn of the 20th century, fairies and other folklore creatures such as elves, dwarfs, etc. somehow became a popular theme in art and literature. The climax of this was the Cottingley Fairies case – a series of photographs taken in 1917 by two young cousins (aged 16 and 9) from Cottingley, England. The pictures came to the attention of a distinguished writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was SO enthusiastic about the photographs that he used them as a weighty argument and clear and visible evidence in his research article on fairies he had been commissioned to write for the Christmas 1920. Now, these photos were a major HOAX! Even way before the era of Photoshop, these two young girls managed to fool the public, and only 70 years later, on their deathbed, the girls confessed that they cut the fairies out of a children’s picture book and pinned them to leaves in such a way that there were no visible strings.

These photographs were soon (1918) followed by a truly amazing series of fantasy postcards depicting fairies and flowers made by an English illustrator Cicely Mary Barker. Coincidentally, her father was in a seed supply business (that’s why she loved plants). She used orphans as models and sewed costumes for them. Her pictures were so popular that even the Royal family exchanged them with greetings.

Garden statuary has been common in Europe at least since the Renaissance. But recently garden gnomes have become controversial in serious gardening circles in the UK, and have been banned from the Chelsea Flower Show. The organizers claim that they detract the visitors’ attention from the garden designs. The ban was temporarily lifted just for 2013 the 100 year anniversary of Gnomes. Gnome enthusiasts, however, accuse the organizers of snobbery because they are still very popular in suburban working class gardens. Gnomes are almost all male and usually wear red hoods. But where are their wives? Well, OK, there are occasional FEMALE gnomes, too, wearing blue hoods (this color code is strange).

The next interesting thing that I wanted to share with you today – is the Proverbs, idioms, set expressions related to gardening and plants, of course. Firstly, we often see similar qualities in things and compare them to something found in the nature. For example, we say:

Busy as a … bee
Cool as a … cucumber
Fresh as a … daisy
Grow like a … weed
Juicy as a … watermelon
Red as a … beet
Shake like a … leaf
Wrinkled as a … prune

OK, now it’s your turn! Please MATCH the first half of a well-known expression with its ending:

An apple a day…
Bark up the…
Beat about/around the…
Bee in the…
Charm the birds…
For everything there is a…
Good fences make…
Grow/bloom where…
Guild the…
Haven't got a…
Just fell off the…
Lead up/down the…
Let the grass…
Life is just a…
Like two…
Little strokes…
Make a mountain…
Money doesn't…
Nip in the…
No spring…
One bad/rotten apple…
One flower…
Promise a…
Push up the…
Put to bed with a…
Reap what you…
Spill the…
Stop and…
The grass is always greener…
There is always…
Upset the… 

…apple cart
…apples to oranges
…bowl of cherries
…doesn’t bring spring
…fell great oaks
…garden path
…garden variety
…good neighbors
…grow on trees
…grow under your feet
…keeps the doctor away
…next year
…on the other side of the fence
…out of a molehill
…out of the trees
…peas in a pod
…rose garden
…row to hoe
…smell the roses
…spoils the barrel
…turnip truck
…wrong tree
…you are planted

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Abutilon grandifolium double flowering (

 A New Addition to My Collection

In the summer, I happened to exchange some of my hybrids for this still rather rare plant -- Abutilon grandifolium with double flowers. A plant collector from Moscow somehow purchased it from France, from Kartuz nursery. Pure miracle because of the strict customs sanitary regulations. Actually, she purchased a couple of curious plants, but I got hold only of this one.

Abutilon grandifolium double flowering (
Abutilon grandifolium double flowering (
The plant is a weed and behaves like one, except for the double flowers which are ruffled and small. If grown outdoors, the flower petals acquire a somewhat rusty shade. But indoors they are strictly yellow.

Abutilon grandifolium double flowering (
Abutilon grandifolium double flowering (
I can see its anthers and pistils (there are 5 small flowers growing like conjoined Siamese twins), but I cannot decide if they are of any use to me yet. As an amateur abutilon breeder, I usually plan cross-pollination carefully because the space I have is limited. What to do with this plant (that is if anything can be done with it at all...), I have no idea. Again, yet.
Abutilon grandifolium double flowering (

Abutilon grandifolium double flowering (

Abutilon grandifolium double flowering (

Friday, October 16, 2015

Abutilon 'Alicia', A.Chitova 2015

 Keeping my promises...

In the previous post I showed a photo of this abutilon which was not the best photo ever, mostly due to lack of sunlight. It's October now, but the skies are clear, and the sun is out most of the time of the day.

Abutilon 'Alicia', A.Chitova 2015
'Alicia' (pronounced a-leee-sha) is blooming steadily, although dropping some buds intermittently. I love its short stature and multiple promised flowers.

Abutilon 'Alicia', A.Chitova 2015   
Abutilon 'Alicia', A.Chitova 2015
As you can see, the plant is still very small. I wonder how it's going to mature. Right now the side shoots are almost as tall as the main stem.
Abutilon 'Alicia', A.Chitova 2015
I'm planning on taking a graft now, but I'm afraid it won't root at this time of the year. On the other hand, I shouldn't be risking the plant without "extra copies" of it as it is obviously too good to be lost (if...).

Abutilon 'Alicia', A.Chitova 2015
I'm still uncertain about the paternal plant: it's either my 2013 hybrid 'Ella' or some compact red Bella-like plant. 'Alicia' does have 'Ella's shape of petals, but the color... It still puzzles me.

Abutilon 'Alicia', A.Chitova 2015