I tried to persuade my children to learn Latin by telling them it would stand them in good stead when they became interested in gardening, but the very idea made them laugh. “That’s never going to happen”, they said. I think I put them off gardening at an early age. When they were very young they would happily trot along with me, admiring the flowers, when I visited a garden. But as soon as they were old enough to realise that there were more interesting things they could be doing with their time, their opposition became absolute. In fact, before any family expedition I’d be cross-examined to make sure that the trip didn’t involve even the hint of a garden visit, before they’d agree to set out.
Part of the problem of course was the horrid Latin names. If only I’d been able to introduce them to the Rock Madwort, or the Bristling Bear’s Head, I could have had them hooked for life. William Robinson, who by all accounts loathed children, nevertheless championed the use of English names for plants. If his view had prevailed things might have been different, as can be seen from this selection of plant choices taken from his Wild Garden (1870):