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A Little Book of Latin

for Gardeners

How did the delphinium get its name? Which parts of the body lend their names to auriculas and orchids? Who are the gentian, lobelia and heuchera named after? Why are nasturtiums and antirrhinums connected? What does an everlasting pea have to do with Indian miniature paintings?

These are some of the questions answered in British writer Peter Parker’s adventurous exploration of the mysteries of Botanical Latin.

Evolved over many centuries and often thought to belong to the rarefied world of scholars and scientists, this invented language is in fact a very useful tool for everyday gardening. It allows us to find our way around nurseries; it sorts out confusions when two plants have the same English name; and it gives us all kinds of information about how big or small a plant will grow, what shape or colour it will develop, and what habitat it prefers.

In his lively survey, Parker agues that Botanical Latin is not merely useful, but fun. The naming of plants draws upon geography, social and medical history, folklore, mythology, language, literature, the human body, the animal kingdom and all manner of ancient beliefs and superstitions.

The book, beautifully illustrated with old woodcuts, explains how and why plants have been named, includes handy lists of identifying adjectives, and takes the reader down some of the stranger byways of human endeavour and eccentricity.




U.K. Little Brown Book Group

Praise for A Little Book of Latin for Gardeners

'Those looking for an excuse to break off from weeding or deadheading by a sudden desire to know why the Latin name for the foxglove is digitalis, or what delphiniums have to do with dolphins, will find themselves still reading an hour later, unable to break away from the fascinating mixture of history, literary allusion, anecdote and occasional gardening advice. The effect on the reader is sometimes that of being led round an English country garden by a charming plantsman,' — James Clackson, Times Literary Supplement

'A snip at the price for an elegant, and not so little, hardback . . . Witty, comprehensive and uncondescending . . . will become classic,' — Victoria Glendinning, Literary Review


'Parker makes a convincing case that a little bit of Latin goes a long way towards enhancing gardeners' knowledge and enjoyment of what they grow . . . an entertaining and invaluable resource,' — 

Ian Critchley, Sunday Times

'Offers something memorable on every page . . . Parker's book is filled with piquant little facts . . . It should be on every gardener's bedside table,' — Jane Powers, Sunday Times (Ireland)

'A treat for anyone either scared by or interested in botanical names, or both . . . A fascinating and well-written book.' — Caroline Harbouri, The Mediterranean Garden

'An entertaining narrative of this special variant of Latin, which avoids the dry details of grammar . . . Parker both entertains and informs as he runs through a wealth of information.' — John Akeroyd, Hortus

'Lively and informative . . . This is a book to delight any gardener kept indoors by dark winter days' —

Church Times

'Parker writes fluently, delving into fascinating details that immediately absorb the reader,' —

Penelope Hobhouse, Oldie 

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