What’s in a Name? Through the Rainbow I

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

This post is now available at Hayefield:


Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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13 comments… add one

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Lisa at Greenbow November 17, 2009, 6:08 am

You are giving that color wheel quite the turn. I am enjoying the spin.

Thanks, Lisa. I had no idea it would take three posts just to cover color names!

Frances November 17, 2009, 6:08 am

Hi Nan, you are the most wonderful of instructors! I guess I must be a plant geek, for I hung on every word, nodding when recognizing plants growing here with those names and having a sudden crystal clear understanding of what those names mean now. I was wondering about the seed grown Cuphea miniata that has been fabulous with shades of red and purple and now know. Thanks for the lesson. 🙂

It’s been a great learning experience for me too, Frances. Many of the meanings are obvious, and some can be figured out, but oddballs are a real thrill to decipher. There’s even more to the story of “miniata”: the name came from the Minius River in Spain, where the red lead was first mined (according to http://en.wikilib.com/wiki/Red_lead). Pretty cool!

salix November 17, 2009, 8:11 am

Nan, you can add me to your count of ten. I love this. Maybe because English is not my first language (and I have been gardening for many years “in my native language”), I often find it much easier to know what plant is in question when the botanical name is used as I frequently don’t know the common English names. Quite a few of Danish common plant names are actually the same or close to the botanical names.
And your lessons on nomeclature are great.

Thanks, Lene! I too enjoy looking at garden blogs from other countries, and when they include the botanical names, I can learn something about plants that are new to me even if I can’t read the rest.

Dave November 17, 2009, 8:17 am

That’s a lot of good info! It will take several reads for it all to sink in!

Glad you liked it, Dave!

our friend Ben November 17, 2009, 9:19 am

Fantastic post, Nan! As a fan of both nomenclature and etymology, I’m definitely one of your ten. Keep ’em coming!!!!

Hey, I think we’re up to at least a dozen now. The club is growing!

Sylvia (England) November 17, 2009, 10:08 am

Nan, I really enjoyed this – I just wish I could remember it all! Like Frances I recognised some of the words and plants, now if I could just work out how to pronounce them…

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

Oooh, no – I’m not even going to attempt the pronunciation issue. It’s hard enough getting the spelling right on some of these!

Christine November 17, 2009, 10:31 am

Count me in as one of the ten!

Welcome to the club, Christine, and to GGW!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter November 17, 2009, 10:55 am

Sanguinea always reminds me of consanguinity. (Yes, I remember stuff from Decedents’ Estates, even if I did tend to fall asleep in class). I love Latin.

Oh my, yes, that’s a lovely word, as fun to say as “exsanguinate” (and equally as difficult to work into a normal conversation).

Town Mouse November 17, 2009, 11:09 am

Amazing! I’d never thought there were so many variations on that theme.

Posts like this are one of the reasons I love this blog!

I really appeciate your comment, TM; it means a lot!

Gayle Madwin November 17, 2009, 4:18 pm

And then there’s puniceus, which is supposed to mean reddish purple, but which I keep seeing used for plants with distinctly scarlet red flowers, such as Mimulus puniceus and Sesbania punicea. What’s up with that?

I hear you, Gayle! Trying to unravel all the reds was a major challenge. Some sources claimed that a particular name related to scarlet and another would describe it as crimson or pure red. Maybe some of those male botanists were color-blind?

Country Mouse November 18, 2009, 2:04 pm

I just love words! reading this was like eating a whole box of different chocolates. Thanks so much.

Wow, high praise indeed! What a lovely thing to say, CM. Thank you!

Marie November 19, 2009, 7:54 am

Wa-hoo! What fun.
I’m working on ways to keep the latin in my brain. Such as – mycitronella candles are yellow.
Thanks for the exsanguinate.
I’ll be re-reading these posts through the winter. Something should stick by spring.

Good one, Marie: I like the citronella connection!

flower name November 19, 2009, 8:36 am

Thank you for this valuable post.

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