Linnaeus was right – What’s not in a Name?

You should know something about why I love gardening. You get to speak a language, an old, historic language which holds the roots of our own English. Greek, Latin, reminding me of the colorful way in which our ancestors saw life. They attributed many stories and legends to their gods and goddesses, lesser dieties and symbolic creatures who never existed. Or did they?

 “This plant is as dependable and adaptable as they come. Its flowers bloom from August into November; they open pink and mature to a copper befitting of autumn. It is 2 feet tall and wide, with succulent stems and leaves. ‘Autumn Joy’ looks great with ornamental grasses.”

And my sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ gets along well with the fall garden. Mixing the rusty flowerheads with some still-green foliage makes a good combination. Yes, these plants are over-grown in my area of New Jersey. But who can resist the truth of their hardiness, and who can resist the hard-to-pronounce following:

Noun1.sedum - any of various plants of the genus Sedumsedum – any of various plants of the genus Sedum

herbherbaceous plant – a plant lacking a permanent woody stem; many are flowering garden plants or potherbs; some having medicinal properties; some are pests
genus Sedum – large genus of rock plants having thick fleshy leaves
stonecrop – any of various northern temperate plants of the genus Sedum having fleshy leaves and red or yellow or white flowers
midsummer-menrose-rootSedum rosea – Eurasian mountain plant with fleshy pink-tipped leaves and a cluster of yellow flowers
live-foreverlivelongorpinorpineSedum telephium – perennial northern temperate plant with toothed leaves and heads of small purplish-white flowers

Great goddess! I am growing a herbaceous live-forever! I love using those hundred-dollar words.


A nice grouping emerges with a transplanted Artemisia called ‘Powis Castle.’ The blue frosty leaves create a focal point offset by the yellowed astilbe or false cypress and a smattering of leftover weeds and marigolds and fallen leaves. What a nice scene to contemplate a goddess who was really important to the Romans, Diana, our great ancient diety. From Wikipedia:

“The name Artemisia (Anāhitā) derives from Artemis (nf.; Roman equivalentDiana). According to Jablonski, the name is also Phrygian and could be “compared with the royal appellation Artemas ofXenophon. However according to Charles Anthon the primitive root of the name is probably of Persian origin from arta*art*arte*,… all meaning great, excellent, holy,… thus Artemis (i.e. Diana) “becomes identical with the great mother of Nature, even as she was worshipped at Ephesus”.[1]According to Herodotus (Histories, Books 7 and 8), Artemisia was Halicarnassian on her father Lygdamis’ side and Cretian on her mother’s.[2]

So I thank Mr. Linnaeus, the god of botanical lingo, for inventing a way for gardeners throughout the world, but also throughout time, to communicate and perpetuate something that means so much to us, and not only us, but our gardens.

Ita somnium somnia quasi in aeternum vivas;

Vitam vive tamquam si moriaris.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s