The Gardener's Apprentice

Heavenly Plants

I have always told people that there are no headaches in the garden.  There are also no social faux pas, ranting politicians or demanding bosses.  Some people, of course, bring those things into the garden because they refuse to be parted from their electronic devices.  I try to avoid co-mingling of digging and devices because it is better for my health.

To me, my garden, no matter how weedy or bedraggled it looks at any given time, is a little piece of heaven.  Doing my daily garden tour last week, I walked by the patch of yellow archangel—Lamium galeobdolon—on the south side of the house.  I have no idea how it acquired that common name, but the heavenly association made me think of the large number of other plants with divine names.

When my daughter was little and going through her purple phase, we bought ‘Angel Face’, a floribunda rose with mauve/lavender petals and a lemony fragrance.  The variety is also available as a climber, allowing those particular angels to reach for the skies.  A check of the wonderful HelpMeFindRoses database revealed a number of roses with “angel” in their names, including the lovely ‘Litchfield Angel’, a cream-colored English rose by David Austin that smells faintly of clove.

‘Celestial’, an alba rose from the eighteenth century, inspires uplifting thoughts with is pale pink petals and divine fragrance.  It is one of at least four varieties featuring ‘celestial’ in their names.

Those who prefer their heavenly plant monikers to border on the irreverent can also purchase ‘Holy Cow’, a dark red floribunda rose.

Every summer the trellising below my back porch is partially covered with ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glories, which feature sky-blue, trumpet-shaped blooms.  The morning glories are annual, but I let mine set seed and they come up every year with no help from me.  If I wanted a perennial climber in the same shade, I could buy Clematis ‘Heavenly Blue’, a large-flowered variety, with gorgeous three-inch blossoms.  I am sure that contemplating either climber would spur even the least devout to virtuous thoughts.

Gregor Mendel is probably the best known cleric associated with plants, but there have been many more of them, before and since Mendel’s time.  Brother Stefan Franzak, a twentieth century Polish monk, was fabled for clematis breeding efforts.  He named at least two after religious figures: ‘Cardinal Wyszynski’, with large, bright flowers as red as a cardinal’s hat, and ‘John Paul II’, another large-flowered climber with white and pink blooms.

The late Pope is also honored with a namesake hybrid tea rose bearing pristine white petals.

Brother Charles Reckamp was an American daylily breeder and a brother of the Society of Divine Word.  His ‘Heavenly Pastel’ daylily, bred and introduced with the help of nurseryman Roy Klehm, features flowers that contain a mix of yellow and pink, with heavily ruffled petals.  Georgia daylily breeder Tim Bell introduced a similarly colored, ruffled variety called ‘Holy Ground’; as well as ‘Water of Life’, an unusual daylily with petals in shades of lighter and darker purple, edged in cream yellow.  Many other Bell daylilies bear names with religious associations.

Of course, not all plants with spiritual names boast heavenly habits.  Ailanthus altissima is commonly known as “Tree of Heaven”, but has all kinds of undesirable traits.  Imported from its native China in the eighteenth century, the plant grows rapidly, produces abundant suckers that develop into new trees and is anchored by roots that secrete an allelopathic substance that kills nearby plants.  It is considered invasive in many parts of the United States.

We should all avoid “Tree of Heaven”, but each of  us probably contemplates a little evil from time to time, even in the garden.  If that is your inclination, rest easy.  You can also plant at least six rose varieties with “devil” in their names