I regularly use common plant names in conversation. It would be obnoxious to do otherwise. I call Daylily, Daylily, not Hemerocallis. And Boxwood is Boxwood, not Buxus sempevirens. But it’s important to know and understand a plant’s Latin name when we are shopping and seeking information. So, I might mention to a friend, “our Serviceberry is blooming”. But if she wanted one just like mine, I would direct her to Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’.
So, let’s get started with Agastache…
aga (the upscale stove company)
STACK (that’s a large stack of papers)
ee (the tail end of wee).The emphasis is on STACK.
You could also think of it as…
aga (the beginning of Agatha Christie)
STACKy (“that’s so tacky” if you run the words together).
Agastache is mostly native to North America. It is commonly known as Hyssop, Anise, Anise Hyssop, Licorice Mint or Hummingbird Mint and has gained popularity for its drought tolerance, late summer blooms and ability to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Most plants found at garden centers are varieties of Agastache cana, A. foeniculum or A. rupestris.
FYI, Hyssopus officinalis, (hi-SO-pus oh-fish-eh-NAH-lis), which is native to the Mediterranean and Middle East, is also commonly called Hyssop. It is distantly related to Agastache.
I planted two Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ last year. Then we suffered through the hottest summer on record, followed by a very early and cold winter, and the plants struggled. I thought they were both goners, but one of them rebounded and has actually spread. Hopefully by next year, I can divide it and place it strategically around the garden.
bap (like rap with a b)
TIZ (and Liz with a T)
ee-ah (the end of Bolivia or Ethiopia).The emphasis is on TIZ.
Baptisia is also native to North America. It is commonly known as Wild Indigo or False Indigo, because it was adopted by European settlers as a replacement dye when actual Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) was too expensive or difficult to find. Most varieties do have purple-blue flowers, but some have white or yellow. They can often reach 3’-4’ in the garden, and gardeners in hot, dry areas appreciate the perennial’s Lupine-like flowers and dark seedpods (some people even call them Redneck Lupines). Plants found at garden centers are usually cultivars of Baptisia australis, B. sphaerocarpa or B. alba.FYI, Baptisia australis is native to the U.S. not Australia. Australis = southern.
I’ve had mixed luck with a Baptisia lactea in my own garden, mainly because we keep stepping on it. So maybe it’s a problem with the placement and not the plant itself.
HUE (“what a lovely hue of green”)
cur (a mutt dog)
The emphasis is on HUE.The truth is you should say…
But in real life, most people run the syllables together and kind of slur the “r”.
Commonly known as Alum Root or Coral Bells, Heuchera is usually grown for its dramatic foliage and hardiness. In my garden, the leaves usually stay “green” throughout the winter. I own varieties that are grass green, lime green, mottled and slightly blue-green, burgundy, deeply veined and red-green, peachy blond, bronze-purple and green dusted with white. And it’s difficult for me to resist buying more.
You can tell Heuchera is related to other shade-loving perennials like Bergenia, Tiarella and Saxifraga that have beautiful leaves and delicate, almost insignificant, bell-shaped flowers. They all look great together, and in fact, since the early 20th century, Heuchera has been crossed with Tiarella to create Heucherella.
FYI, just in case you were wondering…Bergenia = ber-Gen (like Ken not Jen)-ee-ah.
Tiarella = tee-ar (the beginning of tiara)-EL-lah (and the end of Cinderella).
Saxifraga = saks (like the department store)-IF-rah-gah, but most everyone says saks-EH-frog-ah.
vak (the beginning of vacuum or vaccine)
SIN (a cardinal one)
ee-um (the end of helium or millennium).The emphasis is on SIN.
Renewed interest in producing food at home and the idea of the urban orchard means you can now often find a wide selection of Vaccinium among perennials and more decorative shrubs at your local nursery. Blueberry, cranberry and ligonberry are all Vaccinium, usually V. corymbosum or V. angustifolium, V. ovatum and V. vitis-ideaa, respectively.
There is a common misconception that these plants only grow in very cold climates, but varieties of Vaccinium are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, even in the Southern U.S. The trick is to find varieties and hybrids that work for you. They are all native to acidic heaths, bogs and woodlands where dead vegetation continually amends the soil, and they require regular feeding and moisture in the garden. Virginia Berry Farm is a wholesale grower of fruit plants and supplies many garden centers in the East. Their website provides helpful information about Vaccinium.
I planted five blueberries this spring, including the creeping Vaccinium crassifolium ‘Well’s Delight’. Its new growth is red that darkens to green. It remains only 6-8” tall, spreads 2-3’ and hopefully will remain evergreen throughout the winter. It produces white flowers in the spring followed by very small berries… too small for anyone but the birds.
And finally, one of the hardest of all, Sisyrinchium…
sis-eh (not your bro but your sis)
RIN (the beginning of rinse)
kee-um (key + the end of rum).The emphasis is on RIN.
In real life, most people run the syllables together and add the “k” to “rin”: sis-eh-RINK-ee-um.
Sisyrinchium is native to North and South American meadows and open woodlands. It is commonly known as Blue-Eyed, Yellow-Eyed or Golden-Eyed Grass, depending on flower color, and is often found in the ornamental grass sections of nurseries and plant catalogs. It is not a grass at all but a perennial rhizome with grass-like leaves.
You can tell Sisyrinchium is a delicate relation of Iris, especially our native Flag Iris. Its sword-like foliage grows 4-14” tall, and the flowers, in blue, purple, yellow or white with contrasting centers, appear to dance at the end of the blades, hence… Blue-Eyed Grass. Sisyrinchium has become popular for use in rock gardens and even green roofs, but it is not very drought-tolerant and needs regular moisture through dry spells. Most plants found at garden centers are varieties of Sisyrinchium bellum, S. angustifolium or S. montana.
Every once and awhile, a stray Sisyrinchium or two appears in my garden, usually among groundcover or bare patches of lawn. However, they never seem to perennialize in the same spot. So this year, I decided to plant two cultivars: Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’, which is about 8” tall with purple-blue flowers, and Sisyrinchium ‘Devon Skies’ which is less than 6” tall with much paler, almost lilac blooms. ‘Devon Skies’ is definitely the less hardy of the two. It struggled through our hot months, and now I worry whether it can handle a cold winter.
That’s enough nomenclature for one day! Check back often for more difficult plant names.