Embrace the science, love latin – Part 2 – re-branding gardening

Embrace the science, love latin  – Part 2 – re-branding gardening


Jack WallingtonWe live in an age where geek-chic is a thing and being smarter is cooler than being a smoker. If we look back to the Victorian age, when plants were not only desirable, but high class fashion for men and women alike, there’s a depth in the way plants were talked about entirely lacking today.

I believe the proper taxonomic names for plants, i.e. the Latin and Greek names, are actually better than the common names. That the science is interesting. Latin names add depth and intrigue, harking back to the stories of plant hunters, offering far more mystery and appealing to scientific curiosity.

Let me demonstrate with three examples:

  1. Do you want a common old Swiss Cheese plant from Ikea? Or do you really want Monstera deliciosa! A climber with huge unique leaves from the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico, just beneath Panama?
  2. Do you want a little lilac Sweet Pea ‘Richard & Judy’ like your gran? Or would you prefer Lathyrus odoratus ‘Cupani’, a plant closely related to the Sicilian heavily scented wilder climber you may have seen on holiday? Named after the 17th Century monk who first sent the seed to the UK.
  3. Do you want to grow Broccoli, Cauliflower, Swede, Brussels Sprouts, Kohl rabi and Kale? Or do you want to be fascinated by the fact all of these vegetables are in fact THE SAME PLANT, Brassica oleracea?

The gardening industry seems to think ‘making more accessible’ equals ‘dumbing down’. It doesn’t. The public isn’t stupid. If you think people won’t remember Latin names, you’re wrong. Most common plant names already are the genus: Geranium, Aquilegia, Astrantia, Pelargonium, Nasturtium, Allium, Aloe vera, Helleborus, Tulipa.

Compare all of those to Lady’s Mantel (ick!), Sweetpea (twee!), Fox Glove (Beatrix Potter!) and Granny’s Bonnet (weird).

For the fashion conscious, experience hungry, savvy trend setters of today, the story and the botanical depth of plants brings them to life. Rather than being an accessory fading into the background, this makes them the showpiece. The living souvenir of a holiday, a rainforest in your garden, the desert on your windowsill.

Let’s stop tip toeing around Latin and embrace the science. If not for me, do it to for Darwin.

Read part 1 – Re-Branding Gardening: At most, only 50% of the UK does any gardening. Something is broken and I believe it’s the way the gardening industry is presenting plants. In this series I’ll be unravelling what’s going so wrong and suggesting how “gardening” itself needs a re-brand.


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    Caroline taylor

    I agree that common names can be confusing,look at viola tricolor,heartsease,wild pansy,jack jump up & kiss me! love- in -idleness to name but a few.Shakespeare even mentioned them! Using Latin names gives you clues to the colour & where you will find it growing. Sylvestris tells me it likes forest conditions,alba tells me its going to be white! Look how galathus nivalis (snowdrop) describes a milk (gala)white flower(anthus) of the snow(nivalis) Delightful & informative.

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