Spring Continues And A Rant*(Added)

april-4-2009-020-2It seems like it has been some time since we had a sunny morning.
(Dicentra spectabilis with Anthyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ behind)april-2-2009-014-2The ephemerals are enticed out of the ground with the abundant rain. (Mertensia virginica)april-4-2009-057-2Tightly clasped buds unwind the spirals of petals.(Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Hatsugarasu’)april-4-2009-061-3Long dormant flowers appear suddenly open.(Fothergilla gardenii)april-2-2009-046-2Even unwelcome guests show their faces.(Taraxacum officionale)april-3-2009-014-2Later tulips, such as Tulipa ‘Queen of The Night’ begin showing hints of the dark velvet to come.april-4-2009-060-3Tulipa ‘Silverstream’ continues to close and open as the sun is hidden then returns. Spiraea x bumalda ‘Magic Carpet’ never ceases to delight in the background.april-4-2009-040-2In the midst of this tulip talk, a public announcement needs to be inserted.april-3-2009-022-2We interrupt the regular programming of pretty pictures and mindless riveting text for a warning. The above photo shows a tulip whose petals have dried up and fallen to the wayside. What is left is the seed pod. DO NOT LEAVE THIS ON THE STALK! DO leave the stem to recharge the bulbs for next year’s flowers, but do not allow this seed head to mature. All tulips should have these seed heads removed. The bulbs will multiply for future divisions if the seed head is not allowed to develop. Fingers, scissors, felcos, it doesn’t matter what tool is used, just do it. Cut just below the seed, leaving as much stem as possible.april-4-2009-075-2Last fall when the daylily hill had some redesign, click here to read that enthralling tale, three Alchemilla mollis were planted along the edge.april-4-2009-076-2We could not decide which of the photos to use, so went with both of them. Each has qualities we admire. The above shot has the droplets encircling the leaf on the right that adds to the magic. The previous picture looks like green pools for fairy skinny dipping.april-3-2009-033-2Sleeping bumbles are easier to capture on pixels than buzzing flying nectar seeking ones. The faintest hum could be heard as we carefully and quietly snapped his portrait. Pleasant dreams, my friend, until the warm sun awakens you.
There has been a bee in my bonnet lately, figuratively not literally, although there was that time with the long billowing skirt, about the use of botanical latin names after my favorite US gardening magazine, Fine Gardening started using common names only in the captions of their photographs. The botanical name is in the text, but many people, me included sometimes only look at the photos and the captions for several days before reading the stories, sometimes years later, if ever. Is this a dumbing down to appeal to more readers in a last ditch attempt to keep the magazine subscription numbers up? Why not educate the masses, rather than do this? How difficult is it to include the latin name also? I am this close, (imagine thumb and forefinger quite close together, just a hair’s breadth apart) to writing a letter to the editor, but feel it would fall on deaf ears. Learning the proper names of plants, the ones used around the world, is a noble undertaking. To discourage that education leaves me saddened. Over the course of this blog’s history, we have tried to include the botanical latin, with proper italics and capitalization. Blogging has taught me the importance of these names for identification. A quick google search of the plant name will reveal the correct spelling. Writing it out, rather than copy and paste has taught us many names that no longer have to be researched when referred to here. It is not being said that everyone use the latin only everytime, but a respected magazine with a large following of dedicated gardeners should include them in the captions in my humble opinion.
*Added: April 8, 2009. We have gone back to April 2009 number 126, the Fine Gardening issue where the lack of latin names in the captions was noticed in two articles; “Spectacular Spring Blooms” by Dave Demers and “Sweetly Scented Annuals” by Danielle Ferguson to get the facts straight for the letter to the editor. The subsequent issue, June 2009 number 127 shows the latin names in all captions. We will wait to see what the next issue brings. This may have been an error on the part of the editor that has been rectified.

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58 Responses to Spring Continues And A Rant*(Added)

  1. Les says:

    A ranter after my own heart. I make an effort to include the botanical name whenever I write about something. To gardeners this should be very important and should keep all of us easily distracted folk on the same page. When I was in design classes and when I took the Va. Horticulturist exam – it was Latin only. At work I write the signage and the tags and include both names, common first in bolder lettering, with Latin immediately following.

    Hi Les, thanks for the support. I almost deleted the rant, it is not my normal voice for this blog. This really bugs me though. How much does it cost them in money or readers to include the latin names?

  2. Jan says:

    First of all, it is so nice to see photos of plants that I cannot grow. I’d love to have the Alchimilla mollis and tulips that come back year after year in my garden.
    As to your “rant”, I totally agree with you, Frances. Botanical names are so important esp. if you want to purchase a particular plant that may be featured in the magazine. How many people may cut out the picture and not keep the article? I am still looking for “chocolate plant” which would be so much easier if someone had used the botanical name.

    Always Growing

    Hi Jan, thanks. I have killed Alchemilla twice before so this was taking a chance. This time it was well watered regularly, even with our drought last summer, and is planted in afternoon shade. I so want it to self sow. The point of the latin names is that there is only one name for each plant, unless they change it! Now that is a whole other rant. πŸ™‚

  3. Frances, write that letter! I also use botanical names whenever I can. And it drives me nuts when people use them and don’t italicize them properly.

    Coincidentally, last night I posted another species tulip picture with some information about the proper ways to write out botanical names. And remember my post “Embrace botanical names for a happier life”?
    Great minds think alike.

  4. Monica says:

    Aren’t fothergilla and lady’s mantle the cutest plants?! I agree with you about Latin names in FG–though I have a pile of magazines on hand that I haven’t even thumbed through yet, so I didn’t notice. Yes, I think the whole gardening industry is trying to dumb down to a more general audience. I attended a conference for the ag industry two years ago and experts said people who are really into gardening/know botanical names are only 5% of the market, and we’re not being catered to. Apparently everyone else sees gardening not as a process but a PRODUCT. Man, was I depressed after that session.

    Hi Monica, thanks. I love both of those plants. But I don’t grow any plants that I don’t love. HA Fine Gardening used to be so far above the rest it was no contest. Horticulture has fallen so low I can’t even read it anymore, let alone renew my subscription. It was the first real magazine about gardening I subscribed to many years ago. It’s when I learned these plants even had latin names! What were they talking about? I had to learn the names to know what I wanted to grow in the garden. Why is that not the case anymore? Are people so dumb they can’t learn anything? Sigh. This is a real sore spot for me. Thank goodness for the Brits.

  5. Meems says:

    Good morning Frances,
    And a happy morning to your bright and cheery blooms of many colors, sizes, and forms… all so wonderful to view. Love the bumble posing on the yellow flower.

    Only since blogging have I even been interested in botanical names. Our garden nurseries don’t readily include them on tags – I’ve never been to school for anything gardening and generally as I learned to garden it has been simply through trial and error and figuring out what works for me.

    I am trying just now with all the other stuff I’m learning (veggie gardening, native planting)to get a grasp on botanical names. It is not coming easily I admit. Someday I’ll get it all figured out but until then I use them when I can but don’t stress over it if I can’t.

    I DO HOWEVER think gardening magazines should not dumb down. They are one of the resources for gardeners to help us progress and learn!
    Write the letter- every voice matters- if not for anything else but so you know you got that bee out of your bonnet. Happy gardening today.
    Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

    Hi Meems,thanks and good morning to you too. Every bit of my garden knowledge has been trial and error too, not a single class ever. I began using the names more when the blogging began. Since there are readers from all over the world, you want them to know what plant you are speaking about and the latin is the only way to do that. I do consider Fine Gardening to be like a textbook for newbie gardeners, or it used to be. They should do better by their readers.

  6. Absolutely love the dandelion.

    Write the letter. Definitely. (But don’t mention that you don’t read the article, they might not like that!)


    Hi Lucy, thanks. They are pretty, if only they didn’t seed so prolifically in the middle of other plants they would be more tolerated here. We still have plenty though. πŸ™‚ You are right about not mentioning that. I do read them, if it is something that interests me and when time permits. Blogs do take time that used to be devoted to magazine and book reading it seems.

  7. lynn says:

    Please post a photo of “Queen of the Night” when she fully opens, Frances! Cool how each edge of the Lady’s Mantle has a perfect droplet of rain..I tried growing them just for this purpose but two years in a row, they did not return..what happened? Okay, that dandelion does not look like the yellow flower I thought was a dandelion in my yard! Is it a goner now?

    Hi Lynn, thanks. I have had trouble growing the Alchemillas also. This time they were planted in more shade and watered regularly until winter when the drought seemed to let up. So many plants are drought tolerant once established, but most need extra water that first year. There will probably be photos of the Queen when she opens if we can get a good one. The weather forecast is for storms that sometimes spoil the flowers. There was a post last year with a pic. https://fairegarden.wordpress.com/2008/02/01/color-in-the-garden-gbdw-part-one/
    As for the dandelion, I think there are several types that are all called by that common name. πŸ™‚

  8. Daphne Gould says:

    I so agree with your rant. Now first I’ll confess a love for the common names. I love some of their whimsy and don’t use Latin names on my blog very often. But for magazines I think it should be required. My similar rant is seed catalogs. As you know I’m a vegetable gardener. Some catalogs are nice and put the botanical name down even with them, but so many don’t. My beloved Pinetree doesn’t which is quite upsetting. I ordered a pineapple tomatillo from them. Was it really a tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa), or as I thought more likely one of the other species of ground cherries. It is important if you save seeds to know if your plants will cross. At least they eventually put the answer up on their website. What species the vegetable is from can be really important.

    Hi Daphne, thanks for your support. I am not saying to forget using the common names, but resources like magazines, catalogs, books and yes, even blogs, are doing their readers a favor by letting them know the REAL names of plants. Nurseries definitely should always include them, but many do not. We need to ask for them to get a change in policy.

  9. ourfriendben says:

    Thanks for the tulip tip, Frances! I tend to hope things will self-sow around here and have left them on in the past, but I’ll get those seed heads off this year! As for botanical Latin, I love the header in Mr. Subjunctive’s sidebar that says something like “Why all the Latin? Because those are the plants’ NAMES.” The problem is that people are unable to figure out how to pronounce the names, since there are seemingly endless variations and fights about this even among horticulturists and taxonomists, but worse, that people don’t understand that the names actually MEAN something and tell us something about the plant: “aconitifolium”—foliage that looks like an aconite’s; “officinalis”—used in traditional herbal medicine; “japonica”—from Japan, and so on. Who discovered it, what it’s realted to, how it’s used, when it blooms, what the blooms (or foliage or fruits)look like, what it smells like, if it’s prolific—you can learn a lot from good old binomial nomenclature. Too bad people don’t give the “translation” as well as the pronunciation with the Latin names. Gardeners would be drawn in despite themselves!

    Hi OFB, thanks for the thanks. I wondered if there were some readers who were hoping to get self sown tulips and left the seed heads on to form. I did that myself in the early gardening years. It is not a good thing for tulips though. About pronouncing the latin, that is another ball of wax. When we read the name, or type it, at least we can learn the spelling. Saying it is another matter and less important to me actually. I agree about understanding what those words mean, it is quite interesting and would help people remember them more easily. Maybe fodder for a post someday. πŸ™‚

  10. Lovely photos Frances. I can tell you have made peace with your latest camera. That bumble bee is precious sleeping there on its colored sheets. As to the rant. I agree with you even tho I don’t use the botanicals often. I do like to know what they are in case I want to chase down something for my garden. Go ahead and write a letter to the editor. That is what they are there for, to listen to the people that read them.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I only wish my Canon had more zoom for the bird shots, but it does the flowers okay. I need to learn more about getting the long shots to look better and have learned it is all about the lighting. I may write to them, online of course.

  11. I am inconsistent about proper Latin names, italics, etc. on my blog — because it slows me down. I tend to blog an hour before I post instead of hours or days ahead of time. It’s laziness on my part and I don’t have an editor for my blog to make all stories consistent. So, if I have time, I write the names out properly. If I’m in a rush, I don’t.

    As for gardening magazines, they do have editors who can ensure that all articles are consistent per their chosen style guide.

    When I write professionally (for a living instead of fun), I adhere to the AP Style Guide and the style guide provided by my client. That said, no one has ever provided me with a style guide for garden/plant terminology. Therein may lie the problem?

    I’m not annoyed as much with the magazines for not being consistent with Latin names as I am with nurseries who mislabel plants! The mislabeled plants cost me money, time and effort when I buy them for a specific use and they aren’t true to label! There’s my rant!


    Hi Cameron, thanks for weighing in. I am interested in your opinion since you write professionally about whether you use the latin or not. No style guide, or generally accepted procedure for using the latin name is indeed part of the problem with the articles. I have noticed that some of the Fine Gardening captions do have the proper name, while some do not. That is something new, they used to always have the latin names whenever a plant name was used. Why the change? It does not cost more to use them. Looking them up, and I still have to do some of them, is something worth the effort in my opinion. Once you have done it a few times, you get to know them. I still check for the spelling on many, but am slowly but surely remembering that too. Good for the mind you know. Use it or lose it. πŸ™‚

  12. linda says:

    Amen Frances! I do try to use the botanical names on my blog, although I don’t use them all the time. I do love some of the common names, especially on some of the older perennials and annuals. Some of the common names are so romantic and lyrical!

    Pronouncing botanical names is another matter sometimes, especially when even the so-called experts don’t agree. And with so many plants being re-classified in recent years, it’s sometimes challenging to keep up! Referring to tags on plants purchased more than 3 years or so ago can be hazardous!

    Your photos are phabulous! I have some Mertensia virginica ordered, can’t wait to add them to the garden, and hope they’ll tolerate our dry soil

    Hi Linda, thanks. There are some common names that are very sweet, but as the overseas bloggers have said in their comments here, the only way to really know which plant one is speaking about, it needs to include the latin name. The reclassification really irks me, especially the asters. I don’t know the correct way to pronounce the latin either, but those are not reasons to not include the correct spelling with italics. On a happier note, the Mertensia has done okay in our dry soil, but would be so much better with more water. This drought is not being kind to plants like that. Hope yours give you many of those light blue bells.

  13. Write the letter and sign my name to it too. And maybe some of the other commenters here as well. Somebody ought to, and it may as well be someone who, you know, actually subscribes to the magazine.

    Hi Mr. Sub, thanks for the support. Since they do include the latin in the text, I feel that will be their excuse. I really think they are just being lazy. I may still write though.

  14. Pam/Digging says:

    I agree that both names are valuable, and you can figure out a lot about a plant’s habits from both common name and botanical name too. Use them both!

    I agree with Cameron’s rant too–proper labeling at the nurseries!

    Hi Pam, thanks. I agree, use both, especially if it is a name like Columbine. Some of the others, like bachelor buttons for instance, are used for so many different plants that I don’t use them at all, ever. Haven’t we all seen mislabeled plants at nurseries? If it is the local nursery where I know the owner, I will speak up and tell her about it. Big box stores, buyer beware! πŸ™‚

  15. tina says:

    Hi Frances, The flowers look so good! Looks to be another great today too. That is too bad about Fine Gardening. I did not notice in my issue, but will take your word for it. I’ve always been a latin type person but can understand the editors changing it-many don’t use the latin names. I thought the latin pronunciation guide was in the back of the magazine so folks can still look it up though. Anyhow, have a great day!

    Hi Tina, thanks. The guide is still in the back and remains a wonderful resource. I first noticed the common names only on the captions of a couple of articles with last months issue. Then this month there were more. The latin is in the text, but should also be in the captions. That is the way it used to be, why the change?

  16. teza says:


    I was somewhat lethargic getting out of bed this morning, house still trying to shake off a nasty bug, and being the first Sunday I have to work this season….

    Wow! Blood pressure is up, pulse is racing, I have a reason to believe.(again!) There is nothing worse than opening a gardening magazine and finding it filled with only common names. I too have noticed F.G’s recent ‘dumbing down,’ and have had very similar reactions as yours…. I have to wait for the BBC Gardens Illustrated subscription to actually kick in before cancelling F.G… but that is exactly where I am headed.

    I know that recently a lot of magazines which all publish under the same ‘banner’ have been undergoing a ‘tightening of the belt’ as far as editor-ships (new word for the day!) and sometimes have one person looking after four or five magazines….. this is precisely why the Canadian Gardening subscription was cancelled earlier this year. I’m not certain the person has ever had dirt under their finger-nails, let alone know what a Taracacum officionale is! It’s just really frustrating!

    I have always advocated using Botanical latin, and have to guiltily admit that I often don’t bother to include the common names. Granted, it’s gotten me into hot water with the local Hort Society….. being labelled as their resident ‘Hoiti Hort,’ but for me, give people one less option and they will eventually pick up on the message and make the effort. I say write the letter, but you may want to start a petition that will help to carry home the message if you think it’s going to fall on deaf ears….. pity them if it does…. lots of cancelled subscriptions! Thanks for the morning jolt Frances!

    Hi Teza, so sorry you don’t feel well and have to work on a Sunday too. I know plenty of people, gardeners too, that think the latin names are for *plant snobs*, not regular folks. I strongly disagree, like Mr. Subjunctive says in his sidebar, that is the plants NAME, period. But including those most commonly used, I like to use Columbine as a good example, is fine but not required. Educating people is not snobbery, in my opinion. Let’s hope Fine Gardening does not go the way of Horticulture. I cannot believe the decrease in quality in that one and will not renew at any price.

  17. Daphne Gould says:

    Well now I have to laugh at myself. When I put the italics in for the Latin name. I put it in the wrong place. Maybe I should be drinking coffee in the morning.

    Hi Daphne, at least you got the latin right. The italics is just gravy. πŸ™‚

  18. Monica says:

    Frances, do write your letter. You’ll feel better being on record. I’m off to look at fairy doors now! (Really.)

    All, I too try to use botanical names in my blog but I don’t always do it as I don’t have them all memorized and sometimes I’m lazy. However, Fine Gardening is a MAGAZINE where people are PAID to do the writing, and i think one can expect them to throw in the Latin names. I love common names, especially in how they vary by region, but that’s why the Latin names are nice, too–you and someone in Germany know you’re talking about the same plant in Latin, for example! Also, the Latin names help you see relationships among the plants–imagine my smug glee when I found out bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) and Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), which I always thought looked similar, are both in the genus Dicentra! LOL.

    Hi Monica, HA, enjoy those fairy doors. You are right about the difference between the blogs and magazines. These blogs are for free and we are paying for the info in Fine Gardening and expect it to be of high standards, as it was in the past. I see no problem in helping people learn their latin. After you look it up and type it a couple of times, it will be yours. When I first started blogging, for the first bloom day, I spend quite a bit of time looking up the names in my books, writing them in a notebook, then copying them to the blog. Now if you are even close with a google search, it will give you a list of the articles that often have the whole name in the bit shown. Often google will show the correct spelling of the whole name as you are typing the search. It takes hardly any time at all. Try it! πŸ™‚

  19. Janet says:

    Love the photos Frances, and appreciate the rant. I will admit I am guilty of not always writing the botanical name…though when we are working in our Learning Garden I am adamant that we use the correct latin names. I guess when I am writing I don’t take the time (sometimes) to check the spelling in latin. Point well taken. Need to follow my own (and your) advise.

    Hi Janet, thanks. It doesn’t take long to check them. I keep a window open on google when doing the final draft and check each one that I am not certain about. Just typing in the name will give you the proper spelling oftentimes without even having to hit the search button. It doesn’t take that much time, really.

  20. VP says:

    Good rant Frances and doooooo write that letter! I’m glad you use the latin – your common names are quite often something completely different over here, so without the Latin, your readers across the pond would be in quite a pickle!

    Hi VP, thanks so much. If for no other reason than the one you just stated, we should all use the latin. It does us good to learn the right name and spelling too. Knowledge is power. πŸ™‚

  21. Sunita says:

    You have such interesting plants, Frances. And you caught a slacker sleeping on the job!
    We dont have tulips in Mumbai or most of peninsular India so its wonderful seeing them on your blog.

    Hi Sunita, thanks so much. Our little sleeper was taking a much needed break on a cool morning. The buzzers have been working overtime here and deserve some rest. We are having snow and frost in the coming days, I do hope they will be okay during those cold times. Tulips are so unique, glad you like seeing them. You do have many plants I cannot grow here too. πŸ™‚

  22. Cindy, MCOK says:

    The problem I have with using only common names is that they cam vary from one geographical area to another. Of course I’m drawing a blank right now when I try to think of examples!

    I agree with the others: write FG and let your voice be heard!

    Hi Cindy, thanks for joining the conversation. I agree about the confusion of common names. When we moved to The Woodlands, my neighbor kept talking about her bachelor’s buttons, I thought she meant Centaurea, she was talking about gomphrena! That is the reason for the latin. I haven’t yet decided to write to the mag, but still want to.

  23. marmee says:

    i think you are so right we all need to keep up with the proper names. i don’t post mine in the blog my posts are more whimsy than educational but i love learning the proper names and don’t want it lost form my children and grands. books and magazines have a responsiblity to help people familerize themselves with both,proper and common names.
    your photos are so beautiful. it’s great to see the ones you have blooming at this time of year.

    Hi Marm, thanks so much. You are right to remind us that the younger generations need to learn these names too. I am working on my own kids about it. But when their friends or coworkers talk about gardening, they nearly always use the common names. That is the way my neighbors are too, who are lifelong gardeners. It is worth the effort for magazines and books to get it right.

  24. Tatyana says:


    Thanks, Tatyana. πŸ™‚

  25. Catherine says:

    Beautiful flowers. I can’t believe how far ahead of mine they are!
    I’ve found myself using both proper names and familiar names of plants. I try to use both on my blog as well. I like when the proper names are listed. I’m always surprised with how many I know, and if I’m not familiar I always look them up.

    Hi Catherine, thanks. I do think there is a place for both, but never the common at the expense of the proper latin. After looking up the same ones a few times, I have gotten to know them now and feel pleased about that too. I will never know them all, but learning is a good thing, right? πŸ™‚

  26. Another advantage to using the scientific name, is that it’s more international. Readers from around the world, who speak other languages, can understand better what plants you are describing or showing on a site. Common names do not work well when run through a translator, but the Latin names do not even need translating.

    Hi Northern shade, you are so right. VP has spoken about that too. Why not use the name we can all understand? Blogging is certainly international, one of the most fun things about it! πŸ™‚

  27. nancybond says:

    Your flowers are all delightful, Frances — and thanks for the tip on the tulip seed heads! I didn’t know it would affect the bulb division, though I most often do tidy them up by removing the spent heads. Your garden is light years ahead of us here in NS, but we’re getting there. πŸ˜‰

    Hi Nancy, thanks. I have made the mistake of leaving the seed heads on, and the bulbs were set back so far they never recovered to bloom again. I won’t make that mistake twice. We are having another little winter, Dogwood winter I would guess since those trees are blooming now. We will see what losses are suffered with things leafed out and in bloom. Better to be like yours, they stay hidden until it has truly warmed up.

  28. Brenda Kula says:

    I agree with you. You’d think a magazine specializing in gardening would think it proper to add this, and in abundance. Education is key to understanding. And understanding is part of the process. When did folks stop wanting to learn, I would ask this magazine’s editor? For I don’t know any of them personally.

    Hi Brenda, thanks for your support. What you suggest sounds reasonable to me, a good way to question the practice of leaving off the latin names. They used to always use them, so it is a distinct change.

  29. Gail says:

    Frances, Good late morning! I am visiting your fantastically beautiful post. It’s a lovely time in your garden! Your photos are phenomenal! The detail on the bee’s wings is spectacular…really! I thought for sure you were going to rant on the weather…which I have been doing all day! I have always loved Fine Gardening ….and have my own issues with them. (They continue to offer stories on exotics that are known invasives. They have a small blurb that lists invasives, but it is not in the body of most articles….kind of reminds me of a newspaper retraction that is hidden on the back pages!) I remember devouring the stories and learning about new plants in their early years. Not so much anymore…Btw, thanks for the id on Queen of The Night…I have her but couldn’t recall the name! Have a great Sunday! gail

    Hi Gail, I just deleted my reply to your comment. Let’s try it again and pay closer attention to the business at hand. Thanks for the kind words, before I said glowing accolades, much cooler sounding. I remember thinking what a wonderful resource FG was, just the best possible. Those older issues still are so much better, same with the old Martha Stewart Livings too. Don’t get me started about the old style of her TV show, either. Things change, and not always for the better, I guess. Hope your garden survives this Dogwood winter coming. I have covered the blooming camellia and bleeding heart next to it with a garbage can. Let’s hope the wind keeps on blowing, that will help save the foliage on the Japanese maples.

  30. Dave says:

    You’re right on about the botanical names. How else will you know for sure what plant you have? Botanical nomenclature is important when trying to get the exact type of plant, there could be many versions of the same common name. It still confuses me when people call daffodils buttercups! They’re narcissus!

    Hi Dave, thanks for your support. You are exactly right, of course. The point to is have everyone understand which plant we are talking about. Buttercups is the common name for a whole host of plants, who knows which one a person is referring to? Preaching to the choir here, HA.

  31. rose says:

    Ah, Frances, I can always count on you for a few chuckles in the morning–fairy skinny-dipping indeed:)

    I agree that a respected gardening magazine should use the Latin botanical names, but I do like magazines and catalogs that use both, in case I am more familiar with the common one. I am slowly learning more and more of the Latin names, which are so helpful in identifying specific plants. I sometimes buy plants from a cheaper mail order company that uses only common names, and I have no idea exactly what I’m buying sometimes until it arrives. Let’s face it, so many areas are “dumbing down” for the masses, including the media and education…well, I won’t even go there, or this will turn into a post.

    I’m going to add one more Latin name to remember–Taraxacum officionale. I thought this was a very pretty blossom and a new one to me, till I thought about it a little harder:)

    Hi Rose, thanks for reading along. Yes, the dumbing down seems to be infiltrating everything. We won’t mention that texting thing so that young people cannot spell or compose a thoughtful sentence. Oh save the language!!! The latin names exist to identify each plant from the other. I am not saying I know them all or even how to pronounce them, but think that magazine, one of the best in the US should set the bar higher.

  32. Frances, I am SO with you on the Common/Botanical name thing! 99% of the time, I always include the Latin name in my posts. I love learning them and the more I use them in my own writing (and read them on others’, like yours), the easier they become to remember.

    Love the bumblebee shot. I did a post on our first bumblebee earlier this week. They’re so precious, aren’t they?

    And the Lady’s Mantle always provides good photo ops when there’s water involved!

    Hi Kylee, thanks so much. I have learned so many after writing them on the blog and am proud to know them. After a few times, they come much faster to mind, don’t they? A sleeping bumble is so easy to photograph, it is almost cheating! HA

  33. Sweet Bay says:

    I love the pictures of the Lady’s Mantle and the sleeping bee. Beautiful!

    Hi Sweetbay, thanks, so glad you enjoyed them.

  34. dowhatyoulove says:

    What beautiful flowers! You are so lucky to be imersed in spring. Spring is still trying to take hold here. We are just barely starting to get a few flowers, but I look forward to more!

    Thanks. Spring is here but we are forecast for snow and frost the next couple of days. Part of the price we pay for those early springs.

  35. Marie says:


    at a beautiful post πŸ™‚


  36. annetanne says:

    To add another argument to your rant: Not using botanical names make reading texts about gardening or nature much more difficult to understand to non-native speakers. If I had a subscription to that gardening magazine you’re talking about, I would cancel my subscription just because they don’t use botanical names anymore, which makes it less useful to me.

    When you speak about ‘milkthistle’, many Dutch will think your text is about the ‘melkdistel’ (sowthistle, Sonchus sp.), and don’t realize you’re talking about our ‘Mariadistel’ (Silybum marianum). And there are many English (Dutch, German, French) names that are used for more than one plant, but although some plants have several botanical names (Ranunculus ficaria is the same as Ficaria verna…), every botanical name only points to one plant…

    Hi Anne, you have made some excellent points and said them much more eloquently than I, thanks. The magazine in question does use the latin names, but not in the captions like it used to. One has to search the words, sometimes on a different page from the photo, to find out what the real name of that gorgeous plant is and to me that is unacceptable. I am still composing that letter in my mind. πŸ™‚

  37. commonweeder says:

    It is always interesting to see what plants are difficult to grow in different parts of the country. I grow alchemilla easily, and do. Last fall I devided and transplanted several clumps for a new area by the new cellar door. I try harder and harder to use proper Latin names in my writing because it is vital to proper identification. My biggest challenge is keeping the original record and name where I can find it again. Memory is no guarantee.

    Hi Pat, thanks for weighing in. Our hot dry summers are not to the liking of the Alchemillas. Extra water and more shade have gotten them this far. Trying to remember the names of the plants without the tags is folly around here. Lately I have recorded the info from the tag into my journal when the plant is purchased. After a few times of writing the latin it comes more easily in the blog too.

  38. I agree with you completely about Fine Gardening needing to use the Latin names as well as the common names in photo captions. There are those of us (such as myself) who are actually more familiar with the Latin name of many plants. I also deplore the dumbing down of the magazine. That’s not the way to win readers.

    Hi MMD, thanks for backing me up on this. Dumbing down of anything is never something I am in favor of, but especially this once fine magazine. They should be trying to educate us, not lower themselves.

  39. TC says:

    The common dandelion an unwelcome guest? I’m sure it wouldn’t say that about you. Why not welcome it in as an appetizer, the leaves are edible you know. ;~)

    “What’s a dandelion digger for?” a dandelion asked.

    “It’s a human invention to help us reproduce,” another dandelion replied.

    HA TC, that is a good one. I am leaving more of the dandelions as the years go by. There are so many in our neighborhood that it is impossible to get them all. If only they would not seed and grow in the middle of a prized perennial. I wish the rabbits would eat all the flowers, that would solve many problems. πŸ™‚

  40. Victoria says:

    Love the pictures, especially the tulips and the bumblebee. I was very interested in what you said about botanical names. In my experience (she said cautiously), Americans seem to prefer using common names for plants, so perhaps Fine Gardening is reflecting this? It would be interesting to know if they get complaints from readers if they use “too many” botanical names.
    However, they also supply a wonderful pronunciation guide each month (I suspect not knowing how to pronounce things is what puts most people off using Latin names), with an audio version on their website, so I think they deserve credit for that. I get Fine Gardening on subscription here in the UK and I love it. It has a nice blend of drop-dead gorgeous gardens and a fairly relaxed, practical approach.

    Hi Victoria, thanks. Interesting to hear that you get Fine Gardening over there in the land of the best gardening magazines. The guide is very useful and makes it that much more curious as to why they have dropped the latin names from the captions, sort of inconsistant philosophically. In the past, the latin was always used in text and captions, the change is very noticeable. Maybe the best approach to the letter writing would be to question why they have changed the policy, instead of a head on attack. πŸ™‚ You are right about the Americans and the common names. Old time gardeners, like my neighbors down the street think the latin names are snobbish, or snooty as they say. The computer and internet should change that attitude, we all want to be referring to the same plant, no matter where we live and the latin is the only way to do that.

  41. Lythrum says:

    I like learning the Latin names myself, I think the meanings are pretty neat on some of them. It also eliminates confusion on plants with different common names. Love the pictures!

    Hi Lythrum, thanks. Learning is a good thing, isn’t it? The point is to eliminate confusion and the latin is the key.

  42. Amen! I noticed that too, and it’s confusing because you see the Latin name in the text, go to compare it to the photo & then there’s the common name. Dang it! Go ahead and write him. You’re so right. One question, did you pet the bumble?~~dee

    Hi Dee, thanks for agreeing. Dang it is exactly the expression I use too when confronted with such a situation. It makes me mad that they stopped putting the proper name in the caption. At first I was ready to write with indignant cause, not realizing that the text did contain the Latin. I did not pet the bumble, but did slightly shake the flower, because I did not want to show a picture of a dead bee on the blog. He just snored ever so slightly and shifted in his sleep. Too cute! πŸ™‚

  43. eliz says:

    I go further than that, Frances. I don’t find the hybrid tulips last well from season to season, so I pull the whole thing out! I love your Virginia bluebells.

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks. Hope springs eternal here. Sometimes the tulips manage to build up the little bulblets to bloom again, even years later. If they dont return, they are composted in situ. It is best to buy new ones, and fun too. The species are the best, and the viridifloras have been coming back now for nearly ten years. I do find that feeding them several times a year helps a lot. The bone meal is at the ready right now.

  44. kate says:

    Lovely photographs, Frances! The water droplets on the Alchemilla are beautiful. I love the Mertensia. A great rant ~ it would be wonderful if everyone used the botanical names. I discovered the joys of communicating with gardeners who spoke different languages from me via photographs and botanical names on Flickr.

    Hi Kate, thanks so much. Speaking of plants with those from far away lands is one of the best reasons to use the botanical names. It lets us communicate so much more easily about our beloved garden treasures.

  45. What magic did you spell on your lens, Frances? Please tell me the secret. I promise I wouldn’t reveal it to others. πŸ˜‰

    Hi Chandramouli, that magic would be the light at just the right time of day. Early morning or late afternoon is best. You can spread the secret far and wide. It is about the light. πŸ™‚

  46. gittan says:

    Hi Frances, I find myself sitting here, reading and looking at your pictures with a smile on my face. It’s sure a great season, spring! Lovely pictures as allways. My ‘Queen of Night’ doesn’t show that much yeat, but soon… We have had a few very warm and sunny days. I even walket barefeet in the gras. I had a picture like yours with waterpearls on Aquillea (?) on my other blog the other day – water on the plants, sparkling in the morning sun, looks amazing / gittan

    Hi Gittan, thanks so much. It makes me smile to imagine you smiling too. πŸ™‚ Walking barefoot in the grass sounds perfectly wonderful, congratulations on spring where you live. The Lady’s Mantle, Alchemilla is perfect for catching dew or raindrops. We have trouble growing it here with our hot dry summers. I have to give it extra water, but it is worth the effort.

  47. Siria says:

    Beautiful photos and post as always Frances! My vote would be to go ahead and write the letter…

    Hi Siria, thanks so much. I have gotten many good ideas on how to compost my letter and the points to stress. It might happen one of these days. πŸ™‚

  48. gintoino says:

    I so agree with you Frances. I think latin names are very important. They are universal and allows you to id any plant anwhere in the world.Gardening magazines and nurseries should be the first to use them and educate people as to why and how to use them properly.
    That said, I love your pictures! Its nice to see things I can’t grow in my garden.

    Hi Gintoino, thanks. I like the way you think. You are the first to mention that magazines and nurseries should be teaching the usage of the proper names, it is in their own best interest that the populace knows the correct names of plants.

  49. walk2write says:

    Dandelion wine, anyone? It’s funny, Frances, but I could swear I heard that sound like a record being scratched when the stylus is scraped across it. Soft music was playing while I scrolled through the beautiful flowers, and then–Screech! Seriously, though, you do have a good point about the Latin. Pretty soon only the lawyers will know it because everyone else will have forgotten its importance.

    Oh W2W, so sorry for the screeching change of pace! πŸ™‚ It was just an add on that I was thinking about while writing the post and researching the names to get the spelling right. I almost deleted it, daughter Semi said I should not put that side of my personality out there for all to see. I did soften it some before publishing. Lawyers and doctors will be able to talk over our heads. Oh wait, they already to that. πŸ™‚

  50. Barbara says:

    Frances – Instead of Fine Gardening, they might change their name to Gooder Gardening. When I first stared with my shade garden, learning that I might have a chance with anything with the second name of silvatica – or in our cold, a second name of sibericus gave me a little hope. With all the different varieties of plants out there – new gardeners aren’t being helped if they are offered the wrong plant based on a common name. By the way, Kevin says he really likes your pink Socks on the Line – he was only aware of the white variety – Dicentra spectabilis alba.

    Hi Barbara, thanks for that. Your point is a good one, the names have meaning that can help all of us select the right plant, like paniculata meaning tall. Here the pink bleeding heart is much more common than alba, and more vigorous in my garden. πŸ™‚ Thanks, Kevin.

  51. Jean says:

    I am with you, with you, with you. Common names really don’t help at all. For example, which plant am I thinking of when I say butterfly plant? Could be a number of them! And I too, take a while to getting around to the reading of a magazine. I’m also noticing a dumbing down of all garden magazines, in a variety of ways. Such a shame.

    Ah, thanks for your rant and letting me rant. Beautiful flowers you have. πŸ˜‰

    Hi Jean, thanks so much. That is a fine example too. It has been noted by others that there is a general dumbing down going on many fronts. My particular dislike for texting stems from the lack of spelling and vocabulary, not to mention many other annoyances about it. πŸ™‚

  52. easygardener says:

    I agree about using the Latin names if only to avoid confusion. There are so many different common names for the same plant (particularly across different countries).
    I didn’t know about the seed heads of tulips – does that apply to species ones too? (which is what I tend to grow)

    Hi EG, thanks for giving your two cents. The lack of uniformity with the common names, even within regions of the US, is another good reason to include the latin, clarity is always a good thing. I cut the heads off of all the tulips, including the species. The bulbs will mulitply much faster underground if they don’t have to waste the energy on seed production and can then be divided and spread in later years if desired.

  53. Racquel says:

    Rant on Frances! πŸ™‚ My Dicentra for some reason didn’t make it back this year. I ordered more because I love their interesting shaped blossoms & pretty foliage so much.

    Racquel, me too! The little Dicentra shown is not the large specimen that should be growing here, it is a small piece that was dug up and planted elsewhere. The mother plant has disappeared over the winter. I will be buying more too, but don’t know what happened. Maybe eaten by voles underground? That is a huge problem here. Good luck with yours.

  54. The Dicentra is so delicate.

    Dandelion leaves make a good salad if you catch them young. They popular over here. The French for dandelion is Pissenlit. Good word when you consider they’re a diurectic.

    Finally, I agree with your rant.


    Hi Rob, thanks. People in the US hate dandelions for their marring of the perfect green lawn. A few country folk do eat the greens. I will give them a try. But will not eat too many, for the french name is a little scary! HA

  55. Kathleen says:

    Hi Frances. I read this post two days ago and have been thinking about it ever since. I was trying to remember when I started learning some Latin names and I can’t remember what spurred the interest or how it started. Was it reading garden magazines (because I used to subscribe to Horticulture and Fine Gardening as well) or was it thru other garden resources (catalogs, books, etc.) I wish it would come back to me. I have many garden buddies (who love to nursery shop with me and tend to their own garden plots) but not a one knows a Latin name or cares to. They think I’m the “smart” one when we go on garden tours. I think I had a desire to learn and that’s the only difference. Having said that, I think a garden magazine should definitely keep using the Latin name (with the common name for the majority of gardeners) so that those who express that same desire have an opportunity to learn. I agree that “die hard” gardeners like yourself are probably in the minority. Many, many times when my friends ask the name of a plant, I know without a doubt, they won’t remember it the next time they visit. Write the letter. It’s not that hard for them to include and I’m sure they’d welcome the feedback. If they are catering to the general population, including the common name with the Latin name should please everyone. Since I work in the industry, I know that print media is taking a beating these days (economically speaking) so they are most likely trying to do what they can to encourage readership. Rant on Frances! You are an informed, intelligent ranter so its a good point you make. and I didn’t even get to the fabulous photos that preceded the rant!

    Hi Kathleen, thanks for this thoughtful comment. I remember when I first started reading Horticulture magazine, many years ago, was when I started learning the latin names. They often only used those, and I wanted to know what all those fabulous plants were in the photos. It opened a whole new world of learning about gardening and plants. Now I would never go back to common names only, but still use them. I have had friends who were amazed at the knowledge of names. Anyone can learn them if they are motivated to do so, just like anything else.

  56. Glenda says:

    I just discovered your Blog and am delighted! I have added you to
    my morning visits with the first cup of coffee.
    The pictures are spectacular.

    This is very interesting about the botanical names. I have eliminated all gardening magazines except Fine Gardening, but this omission of the names with the caption escaped me. I think I go directly to the articles.

    I believe I first began learning the botanical names because of an article in Horticulture magazine which suggested that it was easy to do and should be done so everyone knew exactly what plant was being discussed.
    This was many, many years ago.

    I agree that it should still be stressed. It is such an easy thing to do. Now……can I correctly pronounce them all (without looking them up) no, but I can get close enough that everyone knows what I am referring to.

    I say write the letter and rant on!

    Hi Glenda, thanks so much and welcome. I’m delighted that you are delighted. πŸ™‚ Horticulture was the magazine that prompted me to learn the names also, so I could find out more about those wonderful plants they were writing about. It was a very long time ago. I am still composing the letter in my brain. We shall see if next month’s issue prompts me to go ahead. The comments to this post have certainly supported that.

  57. lzyjo says:

    Beautiful flowers and photos.

    I couldn’t agree more about the botanical names. They are also much more universal. We are constantly being written down to. Even 60 Minutes correspondents dumb it down for the audience.

    Hi Izyjo, thanks. I do think the media is trying to connect with the lowest common denominator sometimes. The good news about Fine Gardening is the next issue had the latin in the captions. I am waiting to see what comes before writing about it. It might have been a one time error that has been corrected. I have added this to the post too.

  58. kerri says:

    I enthusiastically agree, Frances, especially knowing that common names can be so confusing at times, and may not be recognizable by our foreign friends. We are certainly capable of learning. I’m always annoyed when someone thinks a challenge is a bad thing. No learning is done when things are made too easy.
    Isn’t the Alchemilla Mollis marvelous, the way it holds those tiny gems of water? Fairy pools indeed πŸ™‚
    Your tulips are a sight to behold. I love finding the sleepy bees in the cool of early morning.

    Hi Kerri, thanks. You have the right attitude in my opinion, things being hard just means you try harder! We do hope the Alchemilla like it well enough here to seed around too, there is nice gravel right next to it. πŸ™‚ The sleeping bees are one of life’s pleasures.

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