Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Funk's Plants

Funkia grandiflora -- also Hosta plantaginea
I did not know that hostas are also called funkias, named for Heinrich Funck, a German apothecary and botanist.

In 1812 the plants we call hostas were first named to honor an Austrian botanist, Nicholaus Host, who, in addition to being a plantsman and author of a botany manuscript, was also the personal physician of the Emperor of Austria.

It would seem he was well connected.

Later, in 1817, a German botanist proposed naming this family of plants after the Bavarian botanist Heinrich Funck instead.

As with many of the thousands of plants being classified into the new Linnaean system in those years, confusion ensued, and the name Funkia was finally rejected in favor of Hosta.

But not until after the German name was already in wide use in Europe. In the 1800s gardeners everywhere commonly called these plants funkias, and that name is still used in many European gardens today.

It's somewhat like changing aster to symphyotrichum, which, although official, is never going to happen in my garden. Asters will always be asters, even the ones that are something else now.
Funkia grandiflora blooms

I want to plant Funkia grandiflora, certainly for the name, also for the very fragrant white flowers, and surely for its light green, bright foliage. Gertrude Jekyll loved them, William Robinson grew them, and I think I should have a Funkia grandiflora in my garden too.

But . . .  it's a hosta. Ugh.

Hostas are so overused, so prone to slug and deer damage, and I don't have much shade. I find them plastic looking -- both because they can be endlessly bred to be any color or form you want, and because they so easily mimic fake plants (or fake ones easily mimic the real thing).

I have a couple that the builder put in, so I don't know what cultivars they are, but they both have muddy purple flowers on tall ungainly stalks. The one tucked under a baptisia by the basement window is shaded but goes unnoticed in its out of the way location.

The one along the front walk under the dogwood is more visible, and looks good now, but will be slug tattered and crispy by August.

I love the idea of a Funk plant in my garden, but hate the hostas I have.  How to reconcile that?

(If anyone reads this journal other than my own family, it may help to know that my maiden name was Funk. Just to explain. . . )

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