Putting a little `heart' into your plants

Blossom, foliage, and seed shapes often give rise to romantic names

In the Garden

February 13, 2005|By Nancy Taylor Robson | Nancy Taylor Robson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Hearts, symbols of romantic love, have long been celebrated in word and song, often in conjunction with nature: "My heart to thy heart, My lips to thine," wrote poet Charles Warren Stoddard (1843-1926), "In the dew of the cornfield, The blood of the Vine." But for those who bubble with passion but lack poetic phrasing, there are plenty of plants whose names can deliver a state-of-the-heart message.

"Of course, roses are the favorite flower for Valentine's Day," observes Gene Sumi, horticulturist at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville. "And there are a number with heart names.

`Heart's Desire' and `King of Hearts' are both hybrid tea roses with large deep crimson and red blooms. `Heart o' Gold' has yellow inner and cerise outer petals. `Heart 'n' Soul' is a red and white shrub rose, `Heartbreaker' is a miniature whose cream petals have deep pink edges, and `Purple Heart' is a floribunda rose with clusters of wine-red blooms.

But it's not just roses. Heart-named plants run the gamut from trees and ornamentals to herbs and weeds. Some, like perennial hearts-a-burstin' (Euonymous americanus) and bleeding heart (Dicentra) are Maryland natives.

"There are several kinds of bleeding heart," notes Cindy King, horticulturist at Kingstown Home, Farm and Garden Center in Chestertown. "They are great for shade gardens and are low in allergens."

"Most bloom in spring through early summer," adds Nancy Mickey, plant advisor for The Perennial Farm in Glen Arm. "But the old-fashioned cutleaf bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) will continue to bloom into fall with regular deadheading."

All bleeding hearts are various shades of pinky red. (White-bloomedDicentra is called Dutchman's Breeches). For example, Dicentra spectabilis is magenta with white-petalled `blood' dripping from its parted center while D. formosa `Luxuriant' is cherry red. And, despite the redundancy, growers have saddled some Dicentra with additional heart variety names - for example, bleeding heart `Angel Heart' (D. eximia), which has a pink flower.

Many heart plants are named for their foliage like Heartleaf Arnica(Arnica cordifolia), a western member of the daisy family that produces a muscle-soothing oil. Likewise shade-loving Hosta `Candy Hearts,' whose heart-shaped leaves surround spikes of lavender flowers in summer as are the white-edged leaves of its slightly smaller sport (natural hybrid) H.`Heartsong.'

`"Heartleaf' Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) is obviously named for the shape of its fleshy evergreen leaf, but it's also called pigsqueak, because its leaf makes a squealing sound when you rub it," says Mickey. "It blooms in spring with bright pink flowers."

Heart-named trees include heart-leaf willow (Salix cordata), and heart-leaved silver gum (Eucalyptus cordata).

"Cordata means heart, so anything with that Latin name has heart in the common name," explains Paul Babikow, president of Wm. Babikow & SonsGreenhouse Growers in Baltimore.

Heart vines that can twine together up a trellis include heartwort (Aristolochia clematitis), also known as birthwort; bleeding-heart vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) and hearts-and-honey vine (Ipomoea luteola), which has striking scarlet blooms.

"It's an annual that grows 6 to 12 feet in a season and is attractive tohummingbirds," says Marilyn Barlow, owner of Select Seeds in Union, Conn."The honey is the yellow on the throat of the flower."

But not all heart plants are named for their leaves. Heart pea (Cardiospermum halicacabum),also known as heart seed, is named for the tiny heart-shaped white spot on the seed, while heartnut (Juglans ailantifolia var. cordiformis) is named for the Valentine-shaped nut inside a heart-shaped shell. Then there's heartsease (Viola odorata), a violet/pansy. Also called call-me-to-you, herb trinity, three faces in a hood, and love-in-idleness (among about 55 others), heartsease was a Shakespearean favorite whose virtues still win gardeners' hearts.

"I like them because no matter how badly you treat them you always seemto have new ones come up the following spring," says Barlow, "and you're glad to have them back."

Another nice thing about heart named plants is they can be a beautifulgift from the heart almost any time, spring through fall - just in caseValentine's Day slips by unobserved.


Select Seeds

180 Stickney Hill Rd

Union, CT 06076-4617



The Perennial Farm

12017 Glen Arm Rd.

Glen Arm, MD 21057




Homestead Gardens

743 W. Central Ave.

Davidsonville, MD 21035



Wm. Babikow & Sons Greenhouse Growers

7838 Babikow Rd.

Baltimore, MD 21237




wholesale only

Kingstown Farm, Home, and Garden Center

7121 Church Hill Rd.

Chestertown, MD 21620


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.