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Having begun with a section on common names and why they are not the best way to communicate information about plants, let’s end with one celebrating them. They are, after all, often charmingly descriptive and contribute richly to our vocabulary. In a context where their meaning is clear, there is nothing wrong with using common names.
To refer to gardener’s garters rather than Phalaris arundinacea var. picta and King Edward potatoes instead of Solanum tuberosum ‘King Edward’ is usually the only sensible option. The same is true when we talk about wallflowers, daffodils, pansies and other common garden plants, either among our friends or for an audience sharing the same language and gardening experience.
Only when communicating with a large audience, as books and magazines must do, is it necessary to think more carefully about using precise botanical names. Or, perhaps, when ordering the latest introduction from a far-flung corner of the world, its common name (or names) might be even more difficult to get to grips with than, for instance, Xysmalobium stockenstroemense or Romanzoffia unalaschcensis - or would it?
If you find the database useful for your work, please mention it when citing sources of information. It may be cited as…‘The Royal Horticultural Society Horticultural Database’, available at www.rhs.org.uk
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