in my Garden
in my Garden
for the Baffled Gardener
A trilogy by Fay Clayton
Published by GP
Print, Wellington, New Zealand, 1996
by Steve Benham, Records Officer, Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens.
The book titles
'Gentlemen in my Garden', 'Deities in my Garden' and 'Handbook for
the Baffled Gardener' aroused my curiosity to such a pitch that
just had to read this trilogy from cover to cover.
Fay Clayton is
obviously a brilliantly accomplished writer, linguist, researcher
and gardener with a deep love of plants and how they earned their
These little soft
covered volumes have been attractively produced and enhanced by
numerous pencil sketches by Phillip Hart.
In this age of
voguish books and magazines awash with colour I found these books
in monochrome delightfully refreshing.
in my Garden' explains the derivation of generic plant names associated
with people - be they botanists, physicians or ancient Greek scholars.
They are all to be found in this treatise.
Fay muses in an
opening chapter titled 'On Exotica' how one rarely encounters familiar
indigenous floral icons on arriving in foreign parts. Unfortunately
this passion for exotics appears to be a worldwide trait!
The genus Leschenaultia
has often been rather a misnomer as it often appears in the
most respected of references as Lechenaultia. Fay informs
her readers that the genus honours Louis Theodore Leschenault de
la Tour, 18-19th century French botanist.
second in the trilogy is 'Deities in my Garden' whereby Fay recalls
personalities from old mythology used in the naming of generic taxa.
Nomenclature is once again brought to life by Fays colourful and
lively use of words. She delves into the dynamic mythology of those
ancient Greek civilisations and recalls how Hebe was the goddess
of youth, a daughter of Zeus and cup-bearer to the gods on Olympus.
Her most special ability was to rejuvenate the heroes!
Fay convinces me
that Greek mythology is by far the richest of the worlds mythology,
the most precise and all embracing available to modern man.
third and final in this review 'Handbook for the Baffled Gardener'
again deals with the origins of generic names commemorated by using
Greek derivatives describing the flower, seed, tree, leaf, fruit,
scent, colour etcetera.
I was intrigued
by the derivation of the generic name Cyclamen. I had always
thought it was from the Greek kyklos, a circle alluding
to the peduncle of the flower as it sets seeds and coils downwards.
Fay refers to the circular shape of the corm.
The genus Aloe
is mentioned as being a tropical genus. In fact 150 species
occur in the temperate regions of South Africa (E. van Jaarsveld
pers. comm., 1996). According to 'Families of Monocotyledons' by
Dahlgren et al. the rengarenga, Arthropodium has
been placed in the family Anthericaceae and not Asphodelaceae.
Fay Clayton has
most certainly succeeded in making what can often be a rather dry
and heavy subject into one that is both informative and a joy to
read. This trilogy is overflowing with fascinating facts, stories
and is scholarly accurate.
recommend fellow gardeners and botanists to browse through them
if you have the chance.
Zealand Garden Journal: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute
of Horticulture 1996 1(3): 30
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