Garden with a child to share a plant and open up the
I have two nieces dear to me. One's name is Stephanie
and the other Katie Lynn. I told Stephanie that the Stephanotis
flower was part of her name and Katie immediately wanted to know
what flower's name would apply in her case. I checked the
dictionary but could find nothing I could pass on to her. Can you
help? Surely there is some flower's name which could
You and Katie should meet professor Orin Gelderloos, director of
natural areas at University of Michigan-Dearborn's Environmental
Interpretive Center. He sees that gardeners have become more
conscious of their impact on the environment at large and are
having important, positive effects on the ecosystem -- the air,
soil, water and living things that surround them.
This ethic is at work, says Gelderloos, when people choose
plants specifically to support butterflies and beneficial insects,
or to supply homes and foods for birds. It's causing us to modify
our techniques to keep harmful chemicals out of the air and the
You are doing one of the most important things Gelderloos sees
gardeners doing to support and advance this trend -- educating
someone about the natural world.
Children are high on Gelderloos' list of people to enroll in an
environmental gardening ethic. He's planted a tree for each of his
grandchildren. Each child knows that tree's name, where it fits
into a woods, and how many inches it grows per year because he or
she is involved in its planting and care. You're doing the same by
giving your nieces totems -- links to a specific part of nature.
From that portal they can discover how all things are connected and
how they, personally, fit into the world. Bravo!
Another naturalist, Mark Catesby, was much admired as a botanist
and as an ornithologist of the Carolinas and Florida in the early
1700's. His work may be as important to the science of birds as
that of John James Audubon.
Although Catesby isn't spelled like Katie it sounds like it --
say "Kate's Bee" -- and it's attached to plants that might become
your Katie's bridge to the wider world.
Trillium catesbaei, Catesby's trillium, is a woodland
beauty with large white nodding flowers. Its petals curl at the
tips like delicate scrolls and blush with pink as they age. It's
not only uncommon in gardens but endangered in nature, so if you
seek to buy it, deal only with growers who do not collect from the
wild. Ethical growers sell only what they grow from seed or
division at their own nurseries. They feature this information in
their catalogs because they are proud to be increasing the numbers
of a species and its chances of survival.
Although Catesby oak (Quercus laevis) isn't hardy here,
would Katie like to know she's linked to something alternately
known as turkey oak? Catesby's lilythorn (Catesbaea
spinosa) is another possibility, if there's a prickly side to
your niece's personality that could be humored.
Given 20,00 named varieties of daylily, it's possible to find
almost any name, including 'Katie,' if you read enough catalogs.
The trouble is finding it, or any one daylily among so many.
I know you'll have fun with this. Why not look for a plant
called "lucky ladies," too? Because that's what your nieces
Planning a name garden?
You can build an entire garden, on paper if not in your yard,
full of plants that reflect a person's appearance or character.
Work from a common name index to plants. You can find one in the
weightier plant encyclopedias such as "Hortus Third" or on the
Internet by searching for "plant common name index."
There are so many plant names that even if you don't find the
given name you seek, you're bound to find a pet name or description
among choices like angel's eye, angelica, baby blue eyes, bidgee
widgee, blooming fool, blazing star, buttercup, freckle face,
goldilocks, little pickles, nap-at-noon, nicker tree,
none-so-pretty, queen of the meadow, spring beauty, sweet pea,
wahoo, or youth-and-old-age!
Green thumbs up
to insiders' jokes in a garden. Even if no one else sees the
humor, I smile each time I walk by my "misfits" ward, where I've
grown plants like Chamaecyparis obtusa, Digitalis obscura,
Consolida ambigua and Primula erratica.
Green thumbs down
to gardeners who defy that law of gravity, "what goes up, must
come down," says D.D. "I'm the one who does all the wheelbarrowing
in our marriage and it simply amazes me that my assignments always
involve moving dirt uphill, never down!"
Originally published 2/8/03