Sunday, 18 May 2014


Oh, you would be looking for 'dicentra spectabilis' she smiles and walks me down an aisle of perennials.  Just past the 'leucanthemum maximum' and 'thunbergia alata' up here, she directs, hands sweeping towards row upon row of unidentifiable green sprouts.

The what?  I quietly groan? An arrow inscribed with Perennials is the only sign I have thus far understood.  Have I been beamed into a foreign country? I wonder.  New to serious gardening, this is all Greek ( or should I say, Latin ) to me.  Thoughts of fleeing to our local Canadian Tire Gardening Centre and buying up pots of geraniums and impatiens, simply labeled as such, crosses my mind. Only my determination to finally learn this "gardening thing" in my retirement years, pushes me forward.

Unable to control my mouth ( no comments here, please ) and totally incapable of keeping the whine out of my tone, I utter, Why all this Latin?  What about common botanical names?

Latin describes both genus and species of plants for us.

Did I just sense some condescension here? my full blown insecurity now cries. I see, I say. Not really,  I think.  With my shopping list of perennials, this morning nursery visit will likely now be a day long affair.

In large, black felt-penned letters, semper ubi sub ubi adorned the majority of Latin texts in my Grade 9 Latin class. Literally translated always where under where, the phrase sounded phonetically like always wear underwear. A huge, laughter-inducing joke with my Latin-learning confreres.  Such was the sorry state of Grade 9 humour in my era.

Through five years of high school (yes, we once had Grade 13), I endured Latin Literature and Grammar, actually passing my two Grade 13 Latin courses with honours.  Sure doesn't help me now! What's that old adage about you have to use a language to remember it.  Funny thing, I never met anyone whose primary language was Latin! I believed wholeheartedly in the truth of the old ditty that also decorated our texts:
Latin is a language,
As dead as dead can be.
It killed the ancient Romans
And now it's killing me.

At this moment in time and in this very serious nursery, I discover that Latin is a language as alive as alive can be. Now where is my high school Latin teacher when I really need him?

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