When I was about seven I learned my first Latin plant name. My uncle, a landscape gardener, came to see us after we had moved house, and as we studied the rockery, he pointed to a patch of small white flowers and said: Saxifraga grandiflora. I actually thought it was four words â€“ saxi-fraga-grandi-flora â€“ but I loved the idea that the plant had such a poetic sounding name. Rather than being put off plant classification, I was eager to learn more. I soon learned that the saxifrages contained some interesting plants. Right next to the Saxifraga grandiflora, until my father uprooted it, was an extensive spread of London Pride, looking nothing like my saxifrage, but still a member of the same genus.
I was sorry when the London Pride went. I always liked its delicate pink flowers on top of those long pinkish stems growing out of a rosette of leaves. But I neednâ€™t have worried: it popped back the next year. London pride is like that. I recently remembered the flower and looked up Wikipedia to find that it has a host of common names (including â€˜look up and kiss meâ€™), and it has its own day (July 27), and Noel Coward wrote a song about it. Apparently, it grew well on the bomb sites in London during the blitz and became a symbol of the unconquerable spirit of Londoners during World War II. A further bit of surfing revealed that some people referred to the flower after the bomb blasts on the tube, but many people thought that the comments referred to beer and not a plant!
I also learned that in the language of flowers London Pride stands for frivolity. But so far no one seems to have written anything about my Saxifraga grandiflora â€“ do let me know if you find anything.
- 5 May, 2007
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