Of Ammonites and Nautiloids

Amy Michelle reminds me of a zombie lavatory. She’s a corpulent bladder of vile, a pot-bellied and squat little chamber-pot. She’s predatory, opportunistic and she’s strongly redolent of offal. I suspect she eats bat crap; I know for certain she eats cockroaches. She also breaks horticultural hearts.

Don’t worry readers, the heart is not mine. This is not that long anticipated post where I pathetically insult all my ex-girlfriends through a haze of gin and tears – stay tuned though. No, the lovelorn chap is a either a botanist or an ecologist, and therefore bespectacled, bearded, bumbling and huggable. God knows what that Amy did to him, but it must have been something pretty spectacular for the poor bugger to name this after her:

Amy Michelle

I give you Nepenthes ‘Amy Michelle’ a carnivorous tropical pitcher plant, thought to be a hybridized form of N. rafflesiana and N. thorelii. I could be wrong, the naming of this cultivar might not be a bitter parting shot aimed at a receding lover. It may be a thoughtful tribute to a longstanding partner, a nod to a dedicated mentor, or a gift for a cherished sister. If this is the case then it’s one of the worst abuses of plant nomenclature since The American Hemerocallis Society published their 2010 Daylily Reference Guide.

Now I like a daylily, they add a welcome Tropicana feel to even the shrubbiest border. So I admire and respect the work of the dedicated hemerocallis breeders. But the names, oh God the names! If I’d spent years pushing about pollen, watching, waiting, inseminating, recording, retracing and incubating, I think I’d give the progeny a more dignified handle than ‘Apricot Fairy Angel’.

The crocosmia breeders have got the right idea, they choose exiting inflammable titles like ‘Spitfire’  ‘Flamethrower’ and ‘Lucifer’ for their creations. They’ve even got a ‘Prometheus’ and a ‘Vulcan’. You wouldn’t catch one of them christening their new plant ‘A bauble for Bilbo’. I’ve only browsed the ‘A’ section of the Daylily Reference Guide, and it might get better as the alphabet progresses, but this segment reads like a Hollywood play date.

A Bauble for Bilbo

‘Abiding Joy’ Paltrow, ‘Absolute Zero’ Beckham. Blueergh! Other names aren’t much better ‘Algebra of Darkness’ sounds to me like Dan Brown fan fiction and ‘Alan-A-Dale’ nods to the limpest of Robin Hood’s merry men. There is simply no dignity in ‘Angels Whisper For You’ likewise ‘Amber Curls’ and ‘Ashes of Roses’.  Others are just tedious, there are over 35 different ‘Ann somebody-or-other’ cultivars, nearly 50 ‘Alices’ and even  20 different ‘Alberts’.

But tucked away in the list are some rare flashes of genius. I’m sorry ‘Albert Behnke’ and ‘Albert Riley’, I’m sure you’re are both fine plants, but next time I’m shopping for Albert themed Daylilies I’m buying ‘Albert Albertopolis Albertgator’ – crocodile king of all the Hemerocallis.  The brilliantly descriptive ‘Andy Warhol’s Hair’ is a fine name for a scruffy white flowered cultivar and ‘Ammonites and Nautiliods’ displays an irreverent love of fossils that has long been missing in commercial horticulture. The finest name of course belongs to ‘Armed Azerbaijanies’ – at once the scourge and fantasy of all good plant breeders.

With these dignified and proper names acting as a guide I have decided launch a plant naming contest – The annual appellation cup. The plant breeder who, over the next 12 months, I deem to have given the most imaginative, amusing or thought provoking name to a new cultivar will win a coveted mention on this blog, October 18th 2012. I need not remind competitors that the London Olympics will have been finished a month when the results of this competition are announced, so the media will probably want to loose their starved and out of control hype machine on it – this could be the making of your nursery.

Extra points will be awarded for cultivars named ‘Ben Dark’. No Nepenthes.