What’s in a Name? Call My Horticultural Bluff.

I’ve been looking through some other websites this week trying hard to work out exactly what I need to do in the garden. I know what I want to do in the garden, and that is lie in it, party in it and very little else, but it’s hard to party when you are being strangled by sparrow grass, throttled by thistles and nettles are nipping at your pretty ankles (I have very pretty ankles).

My friend and sometime gardener Brody is helping, and it’s by and large a very positive experience, although when I help with the weeding and such he will shout things at me like “No not that you burk that’s a begonia”and “Stop gazing at the roses and do some bloody work”.

However, I digress. Amongst the many instructions for what to do in August from the RHS and other sources,  (pay attention now ‘cos this is the small but perfectly formed hints and tips section) how to prune your Wisteria (for apparently August is the time to do that) deadheading flowering plants, watering (very important even though it feels like half the Atlantic fell on us in May and June) I found are some lovely names which fuelled my imagination and made me giggle. So here are my Top Five Favourite Horticutural Names and Alternative Meanings (for this year anyway).

I asked for a picture of a bearded lady not a weird baby.
I asked for a picture of a bearded lady not a weird baby.

1/Bearded Iris. An example of the Victorian obsession with freaks and so on. A famous bearded lady, Iris was in fact a very feminine looking young man called Herbert Rollins, who, having been laughed out of his intended career as a circus strongman, became a notorious attraction to be shown off in the tent of ‘Mr Bigelow’s Travelling Fair and Barbershop’, advertised by a hustling cockney in a crumpled top hat with cries of ‘Roll up, roll up, don’t be shy ladies and gents, see the horror of the Western World, a lady in possession of a full set of whiskers, be afraid, be horrified ladies and gentleman, only a penny a look‘. Herbert eventually retired, shaved off his beard, married a rather stern young lady called Beatrice and moved to Bournemouth to run a boarding house for musical hall turns.

(Wrong of course. As it happens, Bearded Iris is merely a beautiful, flowering plant, in a profusion of colours including purples and whites, totally gorgeous and whose clumps need dividing now so they can root and grow buds ready for next season.

2/ Clematis Wilt. Ah. Good old Clematis Wilt, the shambling, timorous hunchbacked junior clerk of Mr Craggle, the crooked attorney at law in Mr Charles Dicken’s little known masterpiece, Old Bleak Times. “Ooh Mr Craggle Sir” came the quivering voice of Clematis Wilt across the darkness of the tiny, shadow filled office, “I have a letter here Sir. A letter Sir such as I have never lain eyes on before Sir. It worries me Sir. It worries me muchly. I don’t mind saying Sir, that It afears me Sir and I know not what to do with it“.

(Poppycock of course. Clematis Wilt is a fungal condition that affects the plant’s stems and blackened leaves. Sounds nasty. Watch out for it, remove any stems that are affected and don’t put them in the compost!

3/ Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate.  A music hall favourite at the turn of the century, ‘Kiss me Over The Garden Gate’ is a risque number extolling the joys of young love and was made famous by Manchester born songstress extraordinaire Lily Lopside, the Lancashire Linnet. It contains 32 verses and was very popular with courting couples who joined in the chorus with gusto.

‘I said to my young man now I’m in a fix

I open at seven, you’ve come here at six.

I’m really not ready for you to come in

So here’s what to do if you want to begin.

Slip into to my garden and pluck me some flowers

Then we can be courting for many long hours

He came to my gate but he said with a grin

“Your gateway’s too tight  and I cannot fit in.

I told him “Don’t worry, we’ll soon get you through

And love in the meantime here’s what you must do…

Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate

Never come early but don’t make me wait

Just Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate.’

(Definitely made-up salacious ripe. Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate is, in fact, a nickname for a pink, pretty and easy to look after flowering plant whose latin name is actually Persicaria orientalis. it sways in the breeze and will brighten up any garden… rather like me.

"I am Hortax, warrior, soldier, leader of men, ruler of the lands of Ava...ere, where's me 'orse?"
“I am Hortax, warrior, soldier, leader of men, ruler of the seven lands of…ere, where’s me ‘orse?”

4/ Hortax.  Hortax is of course a hero of the Trojan wars, close friend and mentor to Achilles, brother to the seer Horacleas, and a brave, if foolhardy, warrior, who, in the great battle of the Greco-Persian wars on the plains of Mirachias, attacks the hordes of Arimandes single-handed, with the battle cry of ‘A man alone with courage and a strong right arm can defeat a whole army”. He is of course instantly killed before he can finish his sentence, but goes into Greek myth for his part in the battle and the campaign.

(What a pile of unmatured compost. Hortax is, in reality, an organisation of botanists and other interested people, whose mission is to advance the study of the classification of cultivated plants. )

5/ Sneezewort. A lesser known fairy from William Shakesepare’s ‘A Midsumer Night’s Dream’. Sneezewort is sent by Titania to fetch food for Bottom

           “Go Sneezewort and from every blushing flower,

           Remove the heart, the nectar lain within.

           Return as fast as wind on troubled seas

           So that I might my lover’s hunger ease.”

( Remember it? No? Of course not. It’s totally made up nonsense. Sneezewort is, as any one can tell you, a perennial plant with many varieties that has a daisy like look about it with white heads and dark leaves and whose structure displays the the Fibonacci sequence. Apparently it used to be dried and used to make people sneeze, so clearing their sinuses out and giving it the name. Though I don’t know where the ‘wort’ but comes from and I don’t think I want to ask.)

Anyway. That’s your weekly helping of malarkey from me. I’m away next week so I’ll see you again after. Back to the garden I guess. See ya!  Holly.



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