Friday, January 22, 2016

On the Seedy Side of Town

I’m browsing through the seed catalogues that have been appearing in my mailbox since December. Apparently, the people at William Dam, McFayden, McKenzie, Stokes, Dominion, OSC, and Veseys all believe I have a greenhouse the size of an arena, or at least a chain of grow ops. 

I usually order a few packets of stuff that look interesting, but I doubt my order would cover the postage on the catalogue; nevertheless, they keep coming. 

I’m always overwhelmed by the range of seeds offered: twenty seven varieties of lettuce or green stuff that looks like lettuce and seventeen types of carrots in all shapes and colours. I don’t have a sophisticated palate, so to me I’m afraid it all tastes like, well, lettuce or carrots; however, I’m happy to try different ones, and besides, some of the more colourful lettuce makes attractive filler in the flowerbed.

As for the flowers, I’m a sucker for anything labelled as new. Is it new, or is it just a new name? The trend of labelling things with something catchy to attract the consumer has spread to plants. Names like Berry Smoothie, Tiki Torch, and Black Negligee make it sound more like an interesting evening than a trip to the garden center. It could be so embarrassing — PA announcing that a gentleman at the cash would like a flat of Black Negligees. That plant is actually a new variety of Actaea simplex. The common name is bugbane, which I admit isn’t likely to get the same attention as lingerie.

The Berry Smoothie is not a refreshing drink; it’s another new Heuchera, while the Tiki Torch is yet another new echinacea. This type of labelling isn’t likely to change as marketers have taken over the industry and if catchy names are what sell, then that’s what we’ll get. In fact, I read in a trade magazine that a garden center in Ireland has abolished the use of botanical terms.

No doubt the idea will spread. Granted, botanical names are challenging, but at least they keep order in the plant world. Poor Carl Linnaeus, father of binomial nomenclature, must be turning in his grave. 

On the other hand, if goofy names get more people out of the mall and into the garden, it may not be a bad thing, except a shopping mall, preferably one that resembles a greenhouse, is more attractive than most gardens at this time of year.

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