Elvis Lives, Tony Avent & L.D. BraithwaiteMonday, July 17, 2006
To market plants growers have always been very careful about naming plants. Some plants are named after people who may have discovered them in the wild or found them in a forgotten corner of a garden. Hosta 'sieboldiana 'Elegans'is named after German doctor Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold who in trips to Japan with Dutch traders in the 19th century may have discovered hostas while sifting through cow feed on Dashima Island in Japan. Some of my hostas have romantic names like Hosta 'August Moon' or poetic as in Hosta 'Robert Frost'. Others plants are named by their place of origin. For example I love our blue Verbena bonariensis because it reminds me of my native city or of the equally blue, grass, Elymus magillanicus which evokes my Argentine Patagonia. My skin-specialist doctor friend Jim Wilkins named a yellow hosta 'Ultraviolet Light'. But North Carolina grower Tony Avent (above, right) may have started a trend in going against the poetic or the pleasant naming of plants. He may have hit the mark with the difficult to find Hosta 'Elvis Lives' but what of Hosta 'Whitewall Tire' and Hosta 'Bubba'? Growers who decide to name plants after their relatives can get into trouble. My favourite living rose grower/hybridizer is Shropshire's David Austin. Many of his beautiful and beautifully named English Roses grace my garden. There is Fair Bianca ( Kate's, the shrew, kinder and gentler sister), William Shakespeare and Brother Cadfael. But why would he name one of the most glorious red/purple roses in my garden, L.D. Braithwaite, (above, left) after his brother in law?