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Summer's favorite flowers

The good, the bad - and the chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemum Igloo Series - No, not Dendranthema. Image ©Blooms of BressinghamBack in 2007, I sounded off here about the American branch of Blooms of Bressingham exhuming the dead body of the name Dendranthema. This was the new name for Chrysanthemum conceived by botanists taking a hard line following the rules of botanical nomenclature. There was an outcry.

The botanists were sent to bed without any supper to consider the error of their ways. And, instead of making them sulky and resentful (as it did me)… it worked! The name Chrysanthemum was restored and Dendranthema was dead and buried for good. Excellent. Or so we thought.

Then Blooms of Bressingham dug up Dendranthema and arbitrarily applied it to hardy garden types of Chrysanthemum, like its own Igloo Series (right, click to enlarge). And they’re still at it. Everyone else, just about, was happy to go back to using the name Chrysanthemum for them all.

Chrysanthemum 'Clara Curtis' - No, this is not a Leucanthemum. Image © (all rights reserved)However… Now there’s a new case of pretending a plant is not a chrysanthemum. One of the largest wholesale horticultural outfits in the world, The Ball Horticultural Company, have decided that ‘Clara Curtis’ (left, click to enlarge), that familiar and dependable hardy garden chrysanthemum - is a Shasta daisy! They list it as Leucanthemum ‘Clara Curtis’. You’d think such a huge company would know about plants. Apparently not.

But I tell you who does know about plants, and their names – Hortax. Hortax is the handy name for the Horticultural Taxonomy Group. This is group of European botanists - independent, but linked to the Royal Horticultural Society - with an enthusiastic interest in the naming of garden plants. They’ve just re-launched their website at, and there you’ll find easy-to-follow explanations of all the worldwide rules that govern the naming of garden plants and plenty more great plant naming info.

Hortax has also launched a forum and anyone around the world with an interest in the names of garden plants can participate in discussions, ask questions, help others, and get advice on plant names from the people who know. I know they'd welcome more participants from outside Europe. And the Hortax members are not the dry-as-dust botanists of long ago, botanists who preferred to lock themselves in herbariums and never set foot in gardens. These are gardeners who are botanists, botanists who are gardeners.

And if The Ball Horticultural Company had checked with Hortax, they would never have decided that ‘Clara Curtis’ was a Shasta daisy. It’s a Chrysanthemum!