Plant Names

This section on plant names is not intended to bore the reader. Truth of the matter is the proper name of a plant can be extremely important. Using common names is a pattern most people develop. I know very few proper names off by heart much less their correct spelling however I insist on consulting my garden calendar when asked for the name of a specific plant. You ask why? Let me explain. We'll use the fictitious proper name 'S. oscar feline Toronto'. This plant will be a perennial attaining a height of approximately 10", flowering from summer right through to the first frost. The blooms on 'S. oscar feline Toronto' are white and almond shaped and the foliage is variegated with tones of hunter and mint green. This plant thrives in full sun and blooms profusely. There are several common names for this plant including Nocturnal, Oscars, Cats, Tabby and Kitten.

Okay now we have all the particulars on a specific plant and we'll pretend this plant was purchased many years ago and the nametag was discarded. As the years have passed we enjoyed this plant so much and decided to balance off an area by the porch with more of the same species. That is to say we planted these wonderful perennials on one side of the porch and feel the other side is screaming for the same beautiful floral display.

Now we are off to the nursery. Unfortunately we cannot recall the proper name but naturally the common names have a tendency to remain fresh in our minds. Of course we don't know all the common names just one or two, so we ask the nursery to provide us with six plants called Cats or perhaps the name is Kittens. The nursery obliges and happens to know the common name of Kittens. We purchase our new plants and get so excited at the prospect of a balanced area at the front our home.

After weeks of meticulously tending the new arrivals we begin to notice a few slight variations. The blooms appearing are not white. They are blue. In a couple of months we begin to notice another disturbing factor, the plant is growing like a weed and has far surpassed the 10" height of the plant on the other side of the porch. Next the variegated foliage has splotches of white coursing through the vein. Our first impression is to blame the person who sold us the plant. Why? Because that individual gave us the wrong plant. Now the porch is looking somewhat lopsided with pretty little white blooms on one side and tall spindly blue plants on the other. The next course of action is complain to the person who sold the plants and demand an explanation. I mean they should have known you wanted the 'S. oscar feline Toronto'. Instead you have another plant that is very pretty but totally different in height and colour. I hate to say it but the problem lies squarely on your shoulders. You asked for the common name and you were provided with a variation of the plant you desired.

Upon researching this plant it becomes apparent that each common name denotes a slightly different characteristic. All is not lost. You can go back to the nursery, state the proper name of the plant you wish to purchase and simply transplant those pretty blue flowers commonly known as Kittens. They will be pretty in a different location and you can now balance your porch properly with the 'S. oscar feline Toronto' on both sides. See every cloud has a silver lining. The benefit in this case is you have learned about another variety of plant, recognized the proper name of a plant, experienced the benefits of transplanting, and last but not least increased your knowledge of gardening.

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