Diversity is Beautiful (and Other Tangents to See You Into the Weekend)

Squash and Cucumber Flowers

I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity in the garden. As I wander around, observing everything that is growing, the beautiful diversity within each family and genus, and even within the same plant amazes me. I don’t have anything super profound to say about this right now, it’s just something that I am appreciating in new ways and I think that my understanding of diversity within plants is maturing with time.

I will say this: lately, the diversity I observe on even a superficial level (I am after-all merely a gardener and an observer and not a botanist) leaves me wondering whether a photo of one flower, leaf, etc from one plant growing within a single garden can represent a specific variety.

I originally intended to demonstrate this phenomenon with a photo of the many different shapes and sizes of currant leaves of the various bushes that I grow. However, my morning routine these days, before I do anything else, is to take a few minutes to harvest the male squash flowers for future eating. And as I was standing at the kitchen counter, packing each one into a jar, it occurred to me that the diversity I was seeking to depict was right there in front of me. So I went outside and grabbed a few cucumber flowers to make the image complete.

The flowers shown here were picked from 3 different squash plants. I love that some have long and pointy “fingers” and others are ruffly and soft along the edges. Some are small, and then some, like the one to the far left are as big as an adult’s hand.

Incidentally, I recently purchased a book from the thrift store, “A Gardener’s Handbook of Plant Names: Their Meanings and Origins” by A.W. Smith and originally published in 1963. I’ve been keeping it at my work station so that I can look up the origin of any plant name that comes to mind. I looked up cucurbit and it wasn’t there; however, it did have cucurbita, which is apparently the Latin name for gourd. I also found a word that is new to me:

Cucumerinus: Resembling a cucumber.

I think this could be used as an insult or compliment, depending on the… errr… context.

My real takeaway from this section of the book was the horrible realization that I’ve been mispronouncing cucurbit as… and now I’m kind of red-faced to admit this… cu-ker-bit as opposed to what I now know is the proper (and obvious, dur) pronunciation, kew-KERB-it. You know, I have probably butchered that word dozens of times before audiences of people, and no one (and I will take this as a kindness) ever corrected me. And now I know.

But I still reserve the right to pronounce basil as baa-sill as opposed to bay-sill.

And one final tangent: I regularly post photos of books that I buy, have already read and recommend, or just find interesting to my Instagram account under the hashtag #thriftscorebooklist. Some are gardening or food related and many are not.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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11 thoughts on “Diversity is Beautiful (and Other Tangents to See You Into the Weekend)

  1. I noticed your pronunciation of basil in Milwaukee, and have tried it out myself, but it feels so pretentious rolling off my tongue. I guess I’m just a bay-sill kind of guy.

    There are so many gardening words & terms I avoid using because I know I don’t know how to pronounce them. Maybe one day I’ll break down and learn them.

  2. Bay-sill?
    I say Bay-zil!
    I don’t grow it, as it’s an annual here and therefore not worth it’s temporary spot in my herb garden.

    My daughter can’t stand how she grew up pronouncing almond without the “l” sound! As an adult she says my family is wrong! We always pronounce it like the silent “l” in salmon. I did quit using an “r” in wash when I got married! (Some people say “worsh”)

  3. I subscribe to the “pronunciation” rule that I came across ages ago in a gardening book…
    If the person to whom you are speaking understands what plant you are referring to, your pronunciation is acceptable.

    Ex: CLEM-a-tis or cle-MAT-is, either way.

    • I agree. I find it interesting when different pronunciations come up between gardeners. After all, most of us learned botanical names from plant tags or books.

  4. I’m with Mr BrownThumb, I’m hesitant to pronounce many plant names when I talk to people because I have no clue how they’re “supposed” to be pronounced. Your photos are especially beautiful lately Gayla!

    • Don’t worry about what people think about your pronunciations. I’ve heard some plant names pronounced in several different ways.

      I switched to a larger image size and it is making all the difference.

    • It has been a terrible tomato year so far — cold, cold, cold. I have worried about my tomato harvest all season and actually pulled a few plants out early because I knew they were not going to produce in time.

    • Same here… I’m in Milwaukee, WI, and it looks like bed news, nights are very cold, I even have one tomato plant that didn’t even start blooming yet! The rest have green tomatoes, but not sure if I’ll see them ripe before October!

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