Thursday, 27 February 2014

What's in a name?

When we buy a plant do we ever give consideration to it's name?  We may well do if we want a plant to remember a loved one or to commemorate a babies birth - in fact there are lots of reasons we would chose a plant with a specific name.  The breeder will have as many reasons for choosing the specific cultivar name, a family member, a friend, acquaintance, someone that had inspired him/her or indeed been paid to do so by A.N.Other, to name a few. 
     
I want to share a story with you and introduce a new comer to my garden.  You may well have heard this story before, I certainly hadn't come across it before now.

I'd like to begin by setting the scene.  I was carefully studying the selection of Snowdrops that were being showed by members of the SRGC - there was a varied selection and as I already stated in an earlier blog - it was a eureka moment in so far as Galanthus appreciation was concerned.  I had long admired G. Diggory.  This lovely snowdrop with it's seersucker petals was top of my shopping list.  I really wanted to see it in the flesh, so to speak.  Alas, Diggory was absent that day.  I began studying the exhibits for an alternative.  All the time I was doing so, exhibits were being laid on the table.  It was getting difficult to keep up.   There was a decent sized pot of a snowdrop, I now know as G. plicatus Sophie North - she was sturdy, lush green foliage and the flower shape really stood out.  That was me, smitten!    


Just before I stepped away from the table, an elderly lady asked to be excused.  She wanted to place her exhibit on the table.  Certainly, I said.  She then asked me if I was admiring the pot of G. Sophie North, I told her it was difficult not to.  She then went on to say, her exhibit was also G. plicatus Sophie North.  She was quite disheartened that the other pot looked so much bigger and better than hers.  I told her they were equally beautiful in my eyes.  She asked me if I knew the story of how she got her name.  Obviously my answer was no!       



The lady introduced herself as Evelyn, I now know her to be Dr. Evelyn Stevens.  She had found a new snowdrop growing in her garden near Dunblane many years ago.  When it came time for naming, it coincided with a tragic event, we here in the UK, know as the Dunblane Massacre.  For those who don't know the story - 16 young school children (most were 5 years old) and their teacher were gunned down in a 3 minute carnage that took place in their primary school gym in March 1996.  I've added a link here to the BBC 'On this Day' website if you want to read more.

Dr Stevens decided that she wanted to name the plant after one of the children that suffered that terrible day.  She had been talking to Dr. Mike North, father of Sophie, about the events that awful day.  He also told her that Sophie had lost her mother to cancer just 2 years previous.  It was then she decided to name her special snowdrop in honour of Sophie North.  She told me that all the proceeds  she made from subsequent plants sales were donated to the Sophie North Trust.  
   

To say I was moved is a bit of an understatement.  It was hard to contain the lump in my throat - memories came flooding back.  The events of the day are still vivid in my memory almost 20 years later.  My own son had been the same age.  Myself and many of the mothers at the school gates that day were in disbelief.  As we watched our youngsters coming through the gates without a care in the world, words were not needed.  The mothers and fathers, in fact the whole community, in Dunblane would never look at those school gates the same way again, ever.  That tragic day was one of Scotland's saddest moments. 

I knew then, I just have to have this beautiful snowdrop in my garden.  When I relayed this compelling story to my friend - she knew too.  Come hell or high water - Sophie was coming home with each of us.

Both of us purchased a single bulb (they were quite expensive) that morning.  My snowdrop budget had been blown completely for a single bulb.  Not that I mind, each spring, it will be nice to have this reminder.

  





As I look down my plant list, there are umpteen that have a cultivar name referencing someone or other - it does make you wonder just what their story is.

Do you know of a plant with a special story - I'm sure we'd all love to read about it.  Have you chose a plant because you heard the story behind its name?  Maybe you've bought a plant with a specific name and to grow on as a memory plant.

Since doing my research, it appears that Dr Stevens opens here garden under the Scotland's Gardens Scheme - it sounds like a wonderful place to visit.  I'm going to try free up one of her open days so I can visit.  Here's a link if you'd like to read about her garden

The Snowdrop Campaign (Wikipedia link) was founded by friends of the bereaved families and was so called as March is the time of year that snowdrops are in flower here in Scotland.  The campaign called for a total ban on privately owned hand guns here in the UK. 

I hope you've enjoyed reading this story as much as I've enjoyed sharing it with you all.

36 comments:

  1. It's a touching story Angie, and a beautiful snowdrop.

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    1. Isn't it Jessica - I shall always treasure here.

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  2. I wish something like this could galvanize the gun control campaign here in the US, angie - I thought that might happen after the 2012 killings at Sandy Hook primary school in Newtown, Connecticut but the gun lobbies here are ridiculously powerful (and clearly lack either sense or compassion). Plants do have a way of reminding us (or gardeners at least) of people in our lives - I've bought a particular Argyranthemum, 'Elsa White,' for the past 2 years principally because it bears my mother's 1st name and I found when her health took a deep, and final, decline.

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    1. Certainly the gun control in the US is an extremely hot topic at the best of times Kris - it truly baffles me why they defend their rights to bear arms so fiercely. Sandy Hook, for obvious reasons, it still very fresh in folks memories. I truly thought that opinion might have changed by now, maybe one day but what just has to happen to change? It doesn't bear thinking about does it?
      Its good to know you grow a specific plant in memory of your mother. Mother's are very special.

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  3. Even in our country we know the story of the school children gunned down in 1996. I can imagine you wanted to have this snowdrop after you heard it was named after one of them. And......the snowdrop is a little beauty!

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    1. I think that when events like this happen here in Europe Janneke it's extremely rare therefore headline news everywhere. Yes, me and my must haves...there are many!

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  4. Hi Angie, that is indeed quite a moving story! And the snowdrop is beautiful on top of it. I am so happy you got it.
    I haven't bought a plant just alone for its name, but a beautiful name certainly helps to make it more interesting and maybe influences me a little in my decision to buy it. French rose breeders for example sometimes named their best roses after their wives or mothers and often these names sound very pleasing to my ear. To the contrary, modern roses bred in America often get ridiculous names lately like 'Ketch-up and Mustard', 'Easy Going', 'Knock-Out' and silly stuff like this. I think a rose deserves better than that. Besides that very often I don't like the colors of these modern roses because they are so garish, I would have to overcome some hesitation to buy them, because their names are such turn offs. Wishing you a nice day!
    Christina

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    1. I've often wondered about the names they give roses over there. I agree they just don't suit. I do notice though that many of you over there grow DA Roses - which have much more traditional names.
      You know, oddly enough, I've often been put off a plant because of it's name. You are not alone :)

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  5. WOW! I shall definitely look closer into plant names in the future. This little treasure will be a very special addition to your garden & rightly so.

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    1. Jane, I've often found out some things about plants specific names but they are usually just named after the breeders wife or similar and I'm therefore not inspired to learn more. I will be doing so now.
      I do hope she will be happy here :)

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  6. I didn't know the story, Angie. It is very moving. The snowdrop is such a pure, delicate flower - something beautiful to plant in memory.

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    1. For many reasons a snowdrop is an apt plant in memory of this sad day Wendy - thankfully these events don't happen here too often!

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  7. Such sadness behind the name of a most beautiful snowdrop. Given where the show was held I can't think of a more apt snowdrop to come home with you Angie to plant in your garden as a tribute to Sophie and her friends. The events that day affected us all both north and south of the border. My father was headmaster of a primary school at the time and was unable to comprehend just what had happened. 'Diggory' too is another snowdrop named after a child who died way beyond their time.

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    1. I hadn't known the story behind the name of Diggory either Anna - I'll be looking that up just as soon as I've time more time to spare.
      Going to school was never the same after Dunblane was it?

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  8. Hi Angie, thanks for sharing the story and images of such a precious snowdrop – I had never heard of it. I might look out for it when my budget allows.

    I too was in the playground picking up my eldest daughter after school that horrific day - just a 45 min car journey away. My daughter was in P1 and had been in the school gym that morning too – together with the headmaster of the school we (parents) all stood stunned in the Playground as we waited for the end of day bell to ring, unbelieving at what had happened. I can imagine being quite emotional if I had been told the story behind the snowdrop ‘Sophie North’ as you were too. As for memory plants – I have many. Sorry, if you find yourself with a lump in your throat again - you asked :-)

    I lost my first baby (a son) 25 yrs ago this April and every year for his anniversary we have bought plants of some kind to add to the garden - sometimes they have been bulbs flowering then other times some summer colour but they all have one thing in common and that is the nursery where we bought them. Being a rhododendron specialist, the first plants we bought were the smaller yak hybrids which birds in my garden find shelter in now. We marked our son’s 18th anniversary with an Arbour which can be partly seen in my recent ‘gardenwatch assistants’ post next to my new wildlife pond. The act of adding plants is more gesture that marks the day – another I won’t forget. However, we don’t see our garden as a memorial garden at all and have had very happy family times watching our daughters grow up there.

    My blog avatar of an allium was picked for its name – Christophii . We bought a few of these plants one anniversary – we had given our son a name, Christopher.

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    1. No, don't be sorry Shirley. What a wonderful way to commemorate your sad loss. Loosing a child is something every parent fears, doesn't matter the age. I've been touched reading your personal story.
      Know, now I'll always look at your avatar and remember it.
      A gardening friend managed to source via Iain Christie Alpines in Kirriemuir - a good bit cheaper than Sheila and I.

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    2. Wanted to add, I don't believe (long time ago now) I picked my avatar for its name. I do know I picked it for the purple ball of tiny flowers that bees love.I have a few alliums and love the colour purple in the garden against all the greens of foliage I have. I wanted to show I am a gardener and plants person when I left comments on blogs and questions on forums - it stands out on the birding ones!

      Thanks for the nursery suggestion, its a bit of a drive from here but my daughter is working nearby at the moment ;-)

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  9. Dear Angie, what a touching story and so you have a much stronger bond with your plant. I'm a very curious person and have lots of books on plant names, not only the latin ones but I read "Who does your garden grow" and "Women in my rose garden" at present. I don't think I'd buy a plant just for a name, it would need to have other qualities that appeal to me but still it's intriguing and great to know more. Enjoy your little treasure :)

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    1. It is a touching story Annette. Those sound like interesting books, I'll keep my eye out for them. I've never had the notion to buy a plant in such a way before, mind you - I don't think I'd consider purely for a name either - it would need there qualities to tempt me too.
      I'm intending enjoying this little treasure - here's hoping it enjoys my garden ;)

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  10. I remember the day well, I too had a similar aged child though placed far, far away from the dreadful event that took place in Scotland. A sad & sweet blog post, on a brighter note a name will always sway me into buying a plant a story behind it even more so.

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    1. Joanne, a dreadful day - wherever in the world we were!
      I'll always look at plant names differently now - especially if there is a story attached. There must be quite literally thousands out there!

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  11. A lovely story but a tragic event!

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    1. I should have added that the events at Dunblane changed schools dramatically. I was a primary school teacher at the time and school security certainly went up several notches. The front door was fitted with a keypad. Each of our classrooms had a door leading outside so we have to lock these once the children were all inside. The trouble was though that you couldn't help thinking a determined individual would just find a way.

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    2. It's always special to be able to have something in the garden that reminds you of something else.
      Cher Sunray Gardens

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    3. Teaching would never have been the same again, I imagine Sue. I'm a great believer in where there's a will, there's a way! Where I work we are under extreme security regimes and do think that if somebody really wanted they would!

      Cher, it will be nice to recall this story in my mind each spring, thank you.

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  12. I have been moved to tears reading your tale. All the memories of that horrible day have come flooding back. Like you, I had a son of the same age, but although we were many miles away, it struck a horrible chord with us. My son was born while we lived in a small town in Scotland, similar in size to Dunblane and, knowing Dunblane slightly, it seemed unthinkable that such an atrocity could happen in such a quiet, beautiful town. The question "What if....? kept going through my mind. As I recall, it was also just before Mothers Day, making it all the more painful. But it is such a nice thought that there is a little remembrance of that day, in the form of the simple, innocent white snowdrop, that brings help to others from out of the tragedy and heartache. I, for one, will be keeping an eye out for Sophie North. Thank you for sharing that story.

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    1. It's difficult not to be touched isn't it. Not that it's any less acceptable but it's the kind of event you would expect to take place in an inner city school rather than such a quiet wee town like Dunblane. It was a kind of there but for the grace of God moment to many of us! Do let us know if you manage to find here.

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  13. Such a beautiful snowdrop and such a moving story which I read a few years ago in a book about Meconopsis. Dr. Stevens is a renowned expert on Meconopsis and the author of the book, from Vancouver,came over and visited her. She gave him a bulb of G. Sophie North which he took back to Vancouver where he now increases it and passes on the story of its naming. Little Sophie and her friends will never be forgotten.

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    1. Yes, I saw that Dr Stevens is also expert on Meconopsis. If there is one thing I'm going to do this summer, is visit her garden. It sounds truly wonderful.
      You've given another side to this story - Canada has very close ties to Scotland, I'm sure there are many folks with Scottish heritage growing Sophie North in their garden.

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  14. I always like to know how plants got their names; there is often an interesting story.
    This is such a moving story, I'm not surprise you had to have the snowdrop. When you said you were going to the show in Dunblane in an earlier post, the terrible tragedy was the first thing that came to mind. For most of us Dunblane will always have this association.

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    1. Chloris, as soon as you hear the name Dunblane - the connection is immediate. Andy Murray narrowly escaped this tragic event by hiding in his classroom that day. It's difficult to comprehend just what the survivors feel. I didn't touch on the subject in my previous blog, knowing that I wanted to write about it here.

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  15. a tragic event but the little girl is remembered in a beautiful flower, x

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  16. Angie I collected my Sophie North snowdrops this morning.

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    1. Well done Kath - I hope we get to see them soon :)

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  17. I didn't know and still don't know about that massacre. I am going to read about it once I finish writing here. I am now in all tears and throat lumpy. What's wrong with our world? I hope the guns are banned there. I don't know when that will take place in the US as well as so much gun violence happens here.

    I never knew that such interesting stories are associated with those names. Now I am going to look for it and find something that truly touches my heart.

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