Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sentimental Plant Names

Rosa 'Prairie Star'
As a plant-collecting gardener, I often run across and purchase plants whose name has some connection with people or places in my life.  For instance, years ago we participated, with our neighbors, in naming the newly-created road we now live on.  Since we live in the Kansas prairie where yearly burning of pasture is a way of life, there was some sentiment for naming the road "Prairie Fire," but ultimately none of us wanted to be on the phone to the fire department shouting "there's a prairie fire out of control on Prairie Fire!" and so we chose to name it Prairie Star Drive.  Come to find out, Dr. Griffith Buck of Iowa State had bred and introduced in 1975 a rose named 'Prairie Star', so I, of course, purchased and planted the rose at home and it's become one of my favorites.  'Prairie Star', a fully-double light pink rose, is perfectly cane-hardy without winter protection and disease-resistant without spraying here in Kansas and it blooms continually through the warm seasons. 

Phlox paniculata 'David'
Another happy accident has been the 'David' phlox (Phlox paniculata ‘David’) that I purchased only for the reason that I have a son of that name.  'David' is a pure white phlox with light green foliage that grows well and blooms spectacularly for about 6 weeks in my climate.  It has the added benefit of being a little rampant in my garden, self-seeding true to form in a number of places it has found to its liking, and it is quite pleasantly fragrant. Most of the white blobs that appear in my landscape in July and August are, on close examination, either a cloned 'David' or self-seeded version. It has only a single drawback, a tendency to mildew in moist years as this year has been, but I use it as a mildew indicator plant and spray when the lower leaves turn a bit grey and the mildew is thus easily controlled.    

Of course, not all sentimental experiments turn out nearly so well.  I've had a couple of attempts to grow a namesake for my wife, the white hybrid musk rose 'Kathleen', but alas, either the rose is not hardy enough in my Zone 5 climate or perhaps it detects that its namesake won't tolerate any competition for affection in my garden and it commits horticultural self-suicide.

Given human nature, I suspect that other gardeners also have a weakness for familarly-named plants.  So what's in your garden?

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