Nice gift for a keen gardener,
This review is from: 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names (Hardcover)
This book does exactly what it says on the cover. One hundred flowers are listed alphabetically, and about each the author produces a little essay on how it got its name. There is a good deal of variety; some are "common" names with a long history, others describe some aspect of the flower (an obvious choice here is "Bleeding Heart" or "Lady in the bath"). Some tell the tale of the plant's discovery, or of the scientist after whom they are named. Sometimes we get the name of a species, such as the Dicentra spectabilis mentioned above, sometimes a Latin genus, such as Alchemilla, sometimes a whole slew of unrelated plants with a shared name, as in bluebell (now I wonder how THAT got its name???). The author does produce a lot of interesting or mildly amusing snippets, but the choice of plants is rather disjointed. There are illustrations which are a miracle of mediocrity, giving us precious little idea of the plants appearance, dull in colour and tedious in style (sorry, but I hated them).
The author is English born and educated, living in the USA. This book is published for an American audience and British gardeners will find oddnesses and puzzling bits. In the section on "bluebells", a (to a British gardener) obscure Mertensia is referred to, but not the "Bluebell of Scotland", Campanula rotundifolia or Harebell. Until I realised its transatlantic origin I was totally mystified to read under "Myrtle" the words 'What we call a Myrtle is really vinca or periwinkle.' Not in my garden it ain't.
This is a nice enough book but less useful or interesting to a British reader. It is decidedly slight and would do service as a "bog book" to while away moments spent in the smallest room. If there had been more about the technicalities of plant names (not too much, mind, but a bit), and perhaps a short glossary of common Latin terms used in plant names - such as 'hirsutus', hairy, 'praecox' - early flowering, and so on, it would have been more interesting. As it is, it's just a bit of pleasant fluff.