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Now that it’s spring, I have been taking advantage of the warmer weather and lighter evenings to get out into the garden more. I love the spring flowers, which make me think of floral names, so here are some from our native blooms.
Boronia (bor-OH-nee-uh) is a native shrub whose cup-shaped, pink or red-hued flowers give off the most exquisite sweet scent; boronias are related to citrus trees, and the fragrance of boronia is slightly lemony. It is a popular ingredient for perfumes and scented oils, but oddly enough, quite a few people are unable to smell boronia at all. Boronias grow in many parts of Australia, but the Brown Boronia, considered to have the most magnificent scent of all, is from Western Australia. Many people find boronia difficult to grow, and might enjoy this plant more by walking through the bush in spring. The plant has given its name to a pleasant suburb of Melbourne, while Boronia Heights is a suburb of Logan. The boronia is named after Francesco Borone, who was the servant of botanist Sir James Smith, but became his talented and valued field assistant. Francesco died in a bizarre accident when he sleep-walked out the window while recovering from illness. When Sir James discovered the boronia several years later, he named it in Borone’s memory. There are quite a few people with the name Boronia in Australian historical records, mostly as a middle name. Bo would make a charming nickname.
Correa (KOR-ree-uh) is a small shrub related to the boronia, but its bell-shaped flowers have no fragrance; instead it is the leaves which have a fruity smell when crushed. Correa reflexa is known as Native Fuchsia, because of its long tubular petals which are often a dusky pink colour, although correa can come in a range of colours. Correa grows all over Australia, and is an easy garden plant to grow; it blooms in autumn and winter, making it a great plant to brighten up your garden during the cold months. Correa is named in honour of the Portuguese botanist José Correia da Serra; the Correia part of his name is a common Portuguese surname meaning “leather strap”, originally given to those who worked in the leather trade. Correa is a rare find in Australian historical records, and would make a distinctively Australian alternative to names such as Cora.
Daisies are simple little picture-book flowers common all over the world; they are symbolic of childhood innocence. There are many types of daisy native to Australia; one of the most popular is the Paper Daisy, called the Everlasting in Western Australia. Small with crisp, papery petals, they are pink and white, and very easy to grow. The word daisy comes from the Old English for “day’s eye”, as English Daisies open when the sun rises and close in the evening. Daisy has been used as a girl’s name since the 16th century, and became popular in the 19th, along with other floral names. It is also used as a nickname for Margaret, because the French name for the Ox-eye Daisy is the Marguerite. The name Daisy was #58 in the 1900s, and left the Top 100 in the 1920s. It dropped from the charts in the 1940s, made a minor come-back in the 1950s, then dropped out again the following decade. Daisy returned to the charts in the 1980s at #646, and climbed fairly steadily. It rejoined the Top 100 last year at #90, making it one of the fastest-rising names of 2013. Wholesome yet also sexy, retro Daisy still sounds fresh … as a fresh a daisy!
Dianella is commonly known as Blue Flax-lily, found in all states of Australia. These woodland plants grow in clumps with small, deep blue flowers that bloom in spring and summer; they are popular garden plants being hardy as well as decorative. The Perth suburb of Dianella was named after the flower, which grew in abundance there before development. Dianella is named after the Roman goddess Diana, goddess of the hunt, because she is associated with woodlands; the name Diana may mean “heavenly, divine”. Dianella seems like an interesting way to honour a Diana or Diane, while giving a nod to native flora, and offering popular Ella as the nickname. The name Dianella shows up several times in Australian historical records, always in South Australia for some reason.
Hakea laurina, also known as Pincushion Hakea, is a large upright shrub or small tree from south-west Western Australia. The flowers are very striking, being deep pink or red, and shaped like globes with cream spikes coming out of them; they have a mild fragrance, but are best known for producing nectar, which is very attractive to birds. Hakea laurina blooms in autumn and winter, and this popular garden plant is easy to grow, being both drought-tolerant and frost-hardy. Laurina is simply based on the Latin Laurus, as its leaves are similar to those of the laurel tree. The name Laurina dates to the 18th century, and is an elaboration of the name Laura. It has recently been brought to attention through “Melbourne princess” Laurina Fleure, who was a contestant on this season of The Bachelor: although portrayed as a villain by the show’s producers, she gained a fan following and has been dubbed “Australia’s Carrie Bradshaw”.
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a small tree native to the Balkans, famous for its pale purple flowers, which have a beautiful sweet fragrance. Australia has a plant which is sometimes called Native Lilac, or Lilac Vine, and that is Hardenbergia violacea, also known as Purple Coral Pea, as it is member of the pea family. It is a hardy and vigorous climbing vine, capable of growing twenty feet; some varieties are low-growing shrubs. In winter it produces masses of showy violet pea-flower blooms, and is an easy to grow garden plant, popular for training over fences and pergolas. Lilac is a word from the French, which ultimately goes back to the Sanskrit for “dark blue”; it has been used as a girl’s name since the 19th century, when other flower names came into fashion. Lilac has never been a common name, but it is very pretty, and would be right on trend, fitting in with popular Lily and Lila, while having its own distinctive sound. It would also make a lovely middle name to match all those girls’ names ending with -a or an EE sound.
The lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera), sometimes known as Sacred Lotus, Red Lily, or Lotus Lily, is an aquatic plant native to Tropical Asia and Northern Australia; it is thought that the plants were brought to Australia many centuries before European settlement. There are many different varieties and cultivars, with one of them being the Waltzing Matilda Lotus, which is small with pink flowers. Lotus flowers can be easily grown all over Australia, but the native lotus will only be happy in warm areas. The Lotus is a very symbolic plant – as it is a stunning flower which grows out of slimy mud, you can see it as a message that life can be beautiful no matter what your origins or circumstances. In Hinduism, a lotus is often used to indicate divine beauty and spiritual growth; in Buddhism it represents purity and non-attachment to the material world. Asian literature sees the lotus as the ideal of feminine grace, beauty, and elegance. The lotus is also a peace symbol, and Aboriginal people from the Top End held up lotus leaves to strangers to show they meant no harm. With so many wonderful meanings for this lovely flower, it’s surprising how little Lotus has been used as an English name. Many will see it as having a hippie vibe, while others may see it as a car name.
Orchids are extremely diverse plants found almost everywhere in the world except on glaciers; they grow in the Arctic, and on Macquarie Island near Antarctica. There are hundreds of types of orchids native to Australia. Orchids are grown for their often beautiful flowers, and excite a passion in those who cultivate and collect them that amounts to an obsession. The Cooktown Orchid (Dendrobium phalaenopsis) is the state emblem of Queensland, and grows naturally in the state’s tropical far north. It is considered to be Australia’s showiest orchid, with beautiful mauve flowers that bloom in the dry season. With care, it can be grown outdoors as far south as Brisbane; any lower than that and you need a glasshouse. Orchid has been used as a girl’s name since the 19th century, and despite the beauty of the orchid flower, it has remained in rare use. This may be because the ORK sound at the start is not considered attractive, or because the flower’s name comes from the Greek for “testicle”. Orchid is an unusual, sophisticated floral choice that starts with the fashionable O, but sounds quite distinct from today’s popular names.
Pandorea (pan-DOR-ee-uh) are climbing vines native to Australasia. Pandorea pandorana, otherwise known as Wonga-wonga Vine, is a popular garden plant, being an easy to grow vigorous climber with glossy leaves. The flowers are bell-shaped, bloom profusely in spring, and are naturally creamy-white with maroon markings, but cultivars come in a very wide range of colours. Hardy and adaptable, Wonga-wonga Vine grows all down the east coast, as well as in the central deserts, and is also native to several Pacific Islands. The wood of the vine was used by Aborigines of central Australia to make spears, and it appears in their mythology as a group of women with very thin and flexible bodies. The plant’s scientific name is after Pandora from Greek mythology, who legend says had a container filled with all the world’s evils, which she opened out of curiosity. It is usually thought the name came about because the Pandorea vine grows a pod which opens to reveal a multitude of seeds; supposedly the plant’s namer was reminded of “Pandora’s box” by the seed pod. The name Pandora has a lovely meaning – “all gifts”. If you are attracted to the name Pandora, but have doubts about the myth, or worry it’s too Avatar, or don’t like the -dora sound at the end, why not consider Pandorea as a floral alternative?
Violets are small violet-blue flowers, which symbolise modesty – we call a shy person a “shrinking violet”, and connect the flowers with pure femininity. They are associated with death and resurrection in Greek myth, and can be used to denote death which comes too soon, such as for Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Violet Day was commemorated in Australia to remember those who died during World War I; the last Violet Day was held in 1970. There are a few species of violet native to Australia – a favourite for gardeners is Viola banksii, which grows naturally in New South Wales. It has striking purple and white flowers, and is very easy to grow, forming an attractive groundcover. The word violet comes by way of the Latin viola, and simply refers to the colour. Violet has been used as a name since the 16th century in Scotland, influenced by the French name Violette. Violet was #22 in the 1900s, and left the Top 100 in the 1940s, before dropping off the charts in the 1960s. It didn’t return until the early 2000s, when it was #569; this follows the publication of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, starring pretty teen inventor Violet Baudelaire. After becoming a celebrity favourite, and having a staggeringly swift rise, it made the Top 100 in 2009 at #85, and was #51 last year, being the fastest-rising name in both Western Australia and Tasmania. This is a dainty retro name that has a dark side: its similarity to the words violence and violate act as a counterweight to its maidenly timidity.
The public’s favourite names were Violet, Daisy and Lilac, and their least favourite were Orchid, Boronia and Pandorea.
(Photo shows a Pink Boronia (Boronia heterophylla), Pink Lipstick variety)