A meditation on women’s botanical names
By Ross Howell Jr.
On a recent trip to Blowing Rock, my wife, Mary Leigh, and I breakfasted at a favorite spot, Sunny Rock, where we were served by a woman named Heather. That evening we dined at Bistro Roca, another favorite, where we were served by a woman named Ivy.
I couldn’t remember coming across a woman with a plant name in quite a while and certainly not two in the same day. That got me to thinking about women’s botanical names I’d come across over the years. I mentioned this to Mary Leigh as we got in the car after dinner.
“Um,” Mary Leigh said, scrolling through business emails on her phone, “There was a girl at my elementary school named Poppy.”
“That’s a good one,” I said.
“Honey, I need to answer some of these,” Mary Leigh said. Hers is the practical mind in the family, so she wisely ignores my flights of fancy.
Alone with my thoughts, I recollected my great-aunt Flora, and her daughter, Myrtle, who died young. There was a cousin Violet — on my grandfather’s side, I believe. Oh, and another cousin, Iris.
Let’s see. In high school, there was a very pretty girl named Camellia. One of my cousins dated a woman named Rose.
Back in Greensboro, I brought the subject up with my barber, Danny Vannoy, who’s within a day or two of being exactly my age. The pity for barbers is they can’t really ignore you.
“Let’s see, I dated a Holly and a Ginger,” Danny said, trimming a sideburn.
“And I knew a Hazel,” he continued.
“Those are good ones,” I said. “I remember a girl at church named Fern.”
“A waitress I know has a girlfriend named Sage,” Danny said.
“There was a skinny girl in elementary school we called Sticks,” I said.
Danny and I were looking at each other in his big barber’s mirror. He rubbed his chin.
“I don’t think you can count that one,” Danny said.
“I guess not,” I said. I puzzled for a moment.
“How about Peaches?” I asked. “You know, like in Peaches and Herb. The song ‘Reunited?’”
“Sure, that one counts,” Danny said.
“There was a girl named Laurel I met at college,” I continued.
“That’s a good one, too,” Danny said.
“In one of my writing classes there was a woman named Indigo,” I said.
“Isn’t that a color?” Danny asked.
“Uh-huh,” I said. “But the dye comes from a plant.”
Danny nodded agreement in the mirror.
“Seems like you don’t hear the botanical names like back in the day,” I said.
Danny unclipped the paper collar and lifted the barber’s apron from my lap.
“I guess not,” he said.
“Funny, I never met a Daisy,” Danny mused.
“Me, neither,” I said. “Or a Lily. Seems like at our age, a fellow’d met a Daisy or Lily, doesn’t it?”
We pondered this as I unfolded my wallet and handed Danny his payment.
“Or a Petunia,” I continued.
“Well, I don’t know about a Petunia,” Danny said. OH
Have plant names among family, friends, or acquaintances? Favorite plants? Email Ross Howell Jr. at email@example.com. (Please don’t miss the number 1 in the email address. There’s a Ross Howell working on a graduate degree, and he doesn’t need extra interruptions!)