Sunday, February 1, 2015

Name Dropping

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” 

gomphocarpus physocarpus 'Hairy Balls'...

"As its name implies, eating the leaves or buds causes a “buzzing” sensation in your mouth… or in the mouth of the person your children gave it to. Numbness occurs and next comes the drooling. This plant is known as a sialagogue meaning it causes one to start salivating. Big time."

What's in a name? Given all the time, effort, creativity....and money...spent not only in creating new and improved products, but also christening them, lots of people believe that having a catchy or unique or clever name is the verbal equivalent of being the Roadrunner vs. Wiley Coyote. Clearly, the folks that gave "Hairy Balls" its name had a good grip on "attention getting". No one would choose Gomphocarpus physocarpus off a plant list for fear of contracting whatever-that-is simply by reading about it. But attach the variety name "Hairy Balls"to it? Downright irresistible. Even before one of our customers ordered the darn thing, I thought I might have to plant some just to see what it did..Besides make people salivate uncontrollably, that is.

Speaking of spontaneous salivation.... without luscious names, just how many varieties of garden tomatoes do you think there would be? After all, the "just the facts, ma'am" of their attributes are about as enticing as the signs on a test plot.

 Big this, Early that....sigh...Where IS the sense of imagination? Compare, if you will, the listing in my seed catalog for tomatoes with the enticement of names gleaned from an heirloom listing. 

Here be tomatoes differentiated by color: Green Zebra, Persimmon, Pineapple, Plum Lemon, Purple Calabash, Blush Pear.

Green Zebra
And tomatoes differentiated by origin...or someone's romantic notion thereof: Caribe, Cherokee Purple, Chesapeake, Italian Heirloom, Jersey Devil, Nebraska Wedding, Missouri Pink Love Apple.
Jersey Devil
Finally, there are even tomatoes that pretend to be members of the family: Aunt Gertie's Gold, Aunt Ginney's Purple, Aunt Ruby's German Green.
Aunt Gertie's Gold

One gardener claimed she had grown the tomato variety with the longest...and most of all: Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge tomato. Descriptive, but not poetic, I say.
Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge
Modern seed breeders have their work cut out. Their cohorts on the vegetative side of the aisle have a leg up on them. Take, for example, varieties of coleus. Coleus, of course, is an annual originally discovered in Java which became wildly popular in Victorian gardens inciting a coleus craze something like the tulip madness of centuries before. Back in favor with both gardeners and breeders, coleus varieties are like overly eager first graders waving their hands frantically, vying for attention and popularity with bold colors, textures...and, naturally, over-the-top names. Looking over this list, it appears that some of the original coleus madness is still alive and well in nomenclature! If you're brave enough to take a walk on the wild side, choose your coleus wisely from options like: Apocalypse, Pink Chaos, Alligator Tears, Coco Loco, Hot Lava, Inky Fingers, Pistachio Nightmare and Stormy Weather. Think you can handle it?
Pink Chaos

Coco Loco

Pistachio Nightmare

Probably. After all, we consumers are used to dealing with the persuasive powers of advertising whether the product is Made For TV (BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!) or a particularly seductive sports car streaking out of a computer generated backdrop. You could plant an entire estate to posies for what that Lexus with a bow will set you back. Do some name dropping of your own....forks will wonder what you've been up to!

Just keep your Gomphrocarpus physocarpus in your own garden.....

1 comment:

  1. Yes! :) Can't wait for my hairy balls to arrive!! -Mikaela