Confessed Vice No. 467: Why I stay away from plant nurseries when I am poor.

I went into the nursery for a few herbs and came out, struggling, with arms full and a guy named 'Sluggo' hauling a hand truck to my car.

I couldn't resist. Cerinthe major, two perennial poppies (purple breadseed & p. rhoeas 'Falling in Love'), and a 4" pot of valeriana officinalis, presumably because I love the smell of mushy peas mixed with old socks. The roots, when grubbed up, send cats into ecstasy and me into dry heaves. Yuck! But it has a lovely architectural form, it attracts beneficial insects, (so vital in an organic garden); and besides-medicinally, nothing beats it for sleeping draughts. Not that I would ever consider lacing any 3 year old's night-time milk with it anytime soon. That would be bad. And someone would have to call a hotline on me. No, definitely a bad idea. I would never do that. (Do I sound like I'm trying to convince myself?)

Cerinthe Major
Cerinthe major is an unusual and under-appreciated perennial. It's glaucus leaves play beautifully off the richly purple bell-shaped flowers; but what I really love about this plant is it's uncommon flower form. It's a scorpioid cyme, so named for the scorpion-like way the flowers curve as they grow.
Literally: scorpi from scorpion, and oid (Greek) 'resembling'; whenever you see this in a plant name it is a reference to how it resembles something else. As in Negundo aceroides, the box elder, whose leaves resemble that of the acer (maple).
The other name for cerinthe is shrimp plant, but I ignore this, because I do not allow squishy pink oceanic bottom feeders into my garden. Besides, it already has a sweetly colloquial common name: 'honeywort'. Forget-me-nots also have a scorpioid cyme.....

I think I love plant ID and botany because it's like finding friends everywhere I go. "Oh! It's you! Good ole Taraxacum officinale!" And then I try to remember everything I can about the plant. "You're in the asteraceae family! Your common name comes from your jagged tooth-like leaf edges! Dent-de-leon! One of your cultivated varieties is edible, but just barely-you're very bitter! G loves to blow your seeds hither and yon!" etc. It's like having little books to read that God stashes everywhere.
It's all very engaging and companionable, although that doesn't quite describe it. More like the world feels interesting and small, and close.

(Thanks to the following photographers: Ard photos for the dandelion, scottdmontreal for the valerian, and xerantheum for the cerinthe. A fine job, all around.)


sarah said...

Dandelions were my favorite thing as a child. I'm so happy to see them in a post! :)

mum said...

Whats not to like about "dent-de-leon". (except when they crop up in your lawn) I remember as a kid searching to find one in full fluff. Then I would huff & puff and blow it to smitherines. Who needs an X Box? Just pass out Taraxacum officinale to everyone under 7 and I am sure the world would be a better place. Should we start some type of movement?

Esther Montgomery said...

This afternoon, I was trimming my box hedges - and cut around a dandelion so it could carry on flowering.

It has been there for three years - and the shape of the hedge is having to accomodate itself to the dandelion's presence.


P.S. - And, as dandelions go - it's not even a very interesting one! But it's there - so it stays!

rosa said...

Mum-When I saw that you commented I was SURE it was in reference to the fact that I was hinting around at drugging your only grandchild. That you let it go makes me wonder....did you ever do that to me? Just a thought.

**Ms. Franklin** said...

Loving your blog! Your adorable little daughter, the cute little squirt of a niece that I have, and I went on a dandelion scavenger hunt while we were in Salinas last week. She was so cute and she stated that we were to look for dandelions. Too bad that the lawn was freshly mowed. :( There's always next time!!

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.