(Our guest writer today is Judy Shull-Hiebenthal, a Seward County Master Gardener. We are delighted that she has agreed to share with us her research about the names of some common plants. . We are not able to do all of them in one issue so parts IV and V will come later. Parts I & II were published in May and June.)


          Gardeners tend to be readers.  We peruse the catalogs that arrive
early each year.   We enjoy stories and pictures in magazines telling
of the success of other gardeners.   And we seek other sources when
there are problems to solve.   One of the small books in my gardening
library is "100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names" by Diana Wells,
Algonquin Books: 1997. (This source along with miscellaneous others was
used to prepare the text that follows.) Diana Wells writes, "If we fail to remember the history of our flowers we know them less and to trace their link with us is to make them part of our lives.   If we forget they are part of our lives, we may be too casual about them."  

Fuchsia:  (Onagraceae)

          The fuchsia plant originated in Brazil and resembles a lady's earring.   It has eight stamens which is a little unusual.   It also breaks the 'rule' of putting red and purple together in the same flower!  It came to America in the 1830s.   A Quaker gardener named James Lee heard the plant described and hurried to the lady who owned it.  He offered to buy it, but she said it was a gift from her husband and she wouldn't sell.   She did loan it to Lee for eight guineas.   He divided it, redivided it, and within a year had 300 plants.   Lee gave two plants to the lady and sold the rest for a guinea a piece.

Rose:  (Rosaceae)

          Although roses are known to represent ideas and emotions, the name is simply Latin for red.   There are 35,000 cultivated varieties ranging from six inches in height to 20 feet tall.  The Chinese grew them from pre-history.   A few were found in the West in the 1400s.   The first yellow rose came to Europe from Persia in the 16th century.   Chinese roses came to Europe 200 years later. Among these were the "teas" which were boxed with imports of tea....thus the name.  They were tender and had to be crossed with hybrid perpetuals in order to survive.   This combination serves as the basis for all modern roses.  Napoleon's Empress Josephine had the most famous rose garden of her era.  It is said she desired one of every rose that existed in her lifetime.

Nicotiana: (Solanaceae)

          Varieties of this plant are close relatives of smoking tobacco.  It was named for Jean Nicot, a French diplomat on the Iberian Peninsula who was given the plant by the king of Portugal.  It had come to the king from Florida.   Nicotiana alata (the alata portion) comes from the Latin for "winged".  Nicotiana was grown to adorn garden landscapes.   It's especially fragrant in the evening.  Later its medicinal features were discovered.  Infused leaves were used as an insecticide until the insecticide- was removed from the market. As we know, pure nicotine is one of the most powerful poisons in existence.

Salvia:  (Labiatae)

          Salvia, or scarlet sage, is a member of the mint family.    The word 'sage' is an English corruption for the Latin word salvus, "saved or healed". Baron Alexander von Humboldt, a German aristocrat, sent salvia back to Europe from his South American explorations.  His discoveries and writings influenced Charles Darwin.  Salvia arrived in British gardens in the early 1800s.   It is especially revered by hummingbirds and the people who enjoy watching hummingbirds flitting about their gardens.  

Tulip:  (Liliaceae)

          The cultivation of tulips started more than 1000 years ago. They were brought to Europe from Turkey.  The name is a corruption of the Turkish name for turban.   Bulbs were carried under the men's turbans.   It is said that the Spanish ambassador mixed up the names of the hat and the flower bulb carried beneath it.   Tulip bulbs grew especially well in the soils of the Netherlands. During the interesting economic times in Holland called "Tulipomania", tulip bulbs became very expensive and there is the tale of one breeder who put his last blanket on the tulip bed to protect them from the cold, and he died as a result.   The most prized of the early tulips were the "broken, striped" ones. However, in time the economic bubble broke and the market crashed and fortunes were lost. Tulip bulbs then became so cheap they were eaten.