Welcome pigsqueak but shun hogweed

January 07, 2021



The title of a book in my gardening library by Allan Armitage might startle you unless you are familiar with a wide range of flowering bulbs. What would you think Of Naked Ladies and Forget-Me-Nots is about?

Two summers ago I moved a clump of pink Naked Ladies from the middle of a lawn. They didn’t appear last year where I placed them, so perhaps it was the wrong season for a move, or maybe they will surprise me later.

However, last summer a red flower caught my eye where no flower should be. It was a Naked Lady (Lycoris is the botanic name, Surprise Lily is another nickname). I did not put it there but it was near a plant from someone who died some years ago and it must have come along. I have to wonder why it didn’t appear for such a long time.

Plants often carry unusual, intriguing names. Some are truly descriptive (Love Lies Bleeding is dark red and its tassels dangle as if dripping), but others are hard to figure.

Pigsqueak becomes an understandable name if you rub a leaf between two fingers and listen to the sound it makes. Bergenia is a low-growing perennial with leathery leaves and pink flowers in spring.

Hogvveed actually is very handsome. It looks like an extremely tall Queen Anne’s Lace or wild parsnip, but you should avoid it because in addition to being invasive, its sap can burn or blister your skin.

Sleepy Dick could be so-named because its flowers don’t open until mid-morning. You may know this plant by the very lovely name Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) and if you have it, you know it can become a nuisance.

One of my favorite late-season flowers is monkshood (Aconitum) which blooms for me in October or early November, a welcome sight when all other flowers are finished An upper sepal laps over the rest of the flower, hood-like. This perennial also is known as wolfbane. Classified as toxic, it once was used as a poison for predators, perhaps including wolves.

A couple of years ago a friend gave me a start of Butter-and-Eggs which I remembered from my grandmother’s garden. This flower is butter yellow with an orange lip. Linaria also is called toadfiax, and it once was used to make a poultice against the pain and itch of insect bites, and as a yellow dye.

Interesting plant names go on and on: dame’s rocket, snapdragon, candytuft, Sweet William, passion plant, ice plant, pleurisy root. And about Forget-Me-Nots: once you see them in spring, you’ll certainly remember.

Sharon Daniels is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer.