Of Naked Ladies ... Worth a Peek


"Naked lady" cover art by Linda Fraser.

From the back story of the Hydrangea named Annabelle to the tongue-in-cheek tagging of the obedient plant, Armitage has corralled some quirky stories in this portable paperback.

 Of Naked Ladies and Forget-me-Nots contains snippets of history that, at the very least, leave you wanting more. But that's a good thing. For such short stories in so small a book can be digested a snippet at a time, stretching out the the delicious stories that likely will bring on more than a few "aha!" moments.

When I read about the forget-me-not flower becoming the symbol of the Freemasons in Europe, I wanted to know more about WWII Germany.

I loved the story of the Verbena Armitage introduced to culture, and how it got its name: 'Homestead Purple'.

There are three stories about Epimedium, AKA horny goat weed, AKA barrenwort, AKA bishop's hat. I like the one about horny goat weed best. But take a minute or two to read them all for yourself as they are covered in just three photo-filled pages of the book.

If foxes wore gloves...
I passed along the story behind Queen Anne's lace while on a staff tour at the arboretum I worked for, encouraging one employee to take a close look at the center of the flower botanically named Daucus carota ssp. carota. But I still enjoyed reading Armitage's story about the queen and her tatting.

Don't miss the story behind foxgloves, in particular the one that starts with "Once upon a time,..." Although the etymologists can't seem to agree on how the common name for Digitalis came about, it's still fun to read.

I hated history in school. It was all a bunch of boring events with dates you had to memorize. And if the teacher left you snoozing, it was even worse. I wish I'd learned about John McCrae, the doctor and poet who connected poppies to Flanders fields and WWI and penned In Flanders Fields.

Or Moina Michael, the teacher from Georgia who campaigned to choose the red Flanders poppy as the flower of remembrance.

And how about the first subsidized crop in the U.S.? Not tobacco or even hemp, but a plant the British Empire coveted for its dye properties. (Find the answer on page 71.)

 Of Naked Ladies and Forget-me-Nots: The stories behind the common names of some of our favorite plants is filled with tales favored by fairies and old wives, but it also contains historical background information that is actually fun to read. It definitely sets this gardening wordsmith's heart aflutter. It's a good thing I grow foxgloves. And that's a big LOL.

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