Tuesday, May 24, 2005
All those gardening experts give themselves catchy nicknames. Ketzel Levine, the NPR reporter turned gardener who occasionally returns to her old career to report on the plant scene, she calls herself "The Doyenne of Dirt." I like this nickname. It sounds classy and trashy all at the same time.

While at the library the other day, I picked up one of her books, and it is the kind of gardening book I crave--great writing with lot of interesting advice. Plant This! recommends 100 plants, what Ketzel claims are the "best bets for year-round gorgeous gardens."

Frankly, these plants seem way to advanced for me. I'm a beginner. I need to hobble by with Stella d'Oro daylillies for a while. But this is still a lively read, even if I won't be planting Schizostylis any time soon. My favorite part of the book is Ketzel's explanation of Latin plant names. Here 'tis:

A smear campaign against botanic Latin--denigrating it as highbrow--has blanketed much of the United States. Don't fall for it! It's about as highbrow as pig Latin, and a whole lot more fun. Here's how you play: Put your last name first and give it a botanic-speak ending, like "ia" or "us." Then replace your first name with a Latin world that describes something that sets you apart. For example, since I'm easily identified by my curly hair, my botanic name might be Levineus spiralis. Hollywood mermaid Ester Williams could be classified as Williamsia aquaticus, and the blue-eyed Paul Newman, Newmanus azureus. Get it? Now, you try.

With each plant recommendation, Ketzel lists the botanical name, plus what it sounds like. I found this to be great fun...and enlightening. I'm forever bumbling the names of plants, and here's a common-sense reference to help me out. She says Buddleia sounds like "Dudley yuh." Verbascum is pronounced like"Don't ask 'em." I'd always wondered about those two.

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