We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and that is sound advice even when applied in the horticultural world. These beautiful yet unfortunate specimens were stuck with silly, weird, or just plain ugly names, but that doesn’t keep them from making us smile. After all, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right?
“Oh, how lovely!” you might say as you see this gorgeous plant in glorious bloom. Then, “What the heck?” when you read its name tag. Yep, with a name like Pigsqueak it is more than a little difficult to be taken seriously. The name comes from the tiny “pig’s squeal” sound emitted when we caress its thick, rubbery leaves, so it is an apt (if ungainly) alias. Don’t worry Bergenia, we’re laughing with you not at you.
Now be honest; when you read this common name you thought of something a witch tosses into a black, bubbling cauldron to stir up a pot of mischief didn’t you? There is just nothing appealing about a name which sounds like a medical disorder you get from kissing too many toads (Blech!) But once again the true beauty of this multi-colored marvel shines through despite its misleading moniker. Those charming blue, purple and pink blooms cluster above delightfully dappled foliage are more than enough to make up for its weird nickname.
Personally? I think this one is adorable. Blue Mouse Ears is a cute image and a perfectly accurate descriptor for the distinctly rounded foliage of this Hosta. The reason it appears on this list is that for many people rodents are something to trap or chase off with the business end of a broom. If just hearing the word mouse makes you want to dash for higher ground you might not give this Hosta the time of day. But please resist the urge to climb a chair as this handsome shade-loving plant is completely harmless and is here to steal your heart – not your cheese.
When it comes to gardening, having the word ‘weed’ in the name doesn’t do a plant many favors. And that is truly a shame because much like butterfly weed there’s a lot to love about this unusual specimen. Its curious foliage and crystal blue flowers are an unforgettable combination and look like something you might find in a garden in Alice in Wonderland. If you must allow a ‘weed’ in your landscape, let at least be one with a proper pedigree like this one.
Quite possibly the strangest flower on this list, the Toad Lily wins the prize for most oxymoronic titles. Toads are gross looking to most (though weirdos like myself find them to be cute as can be) and lilies are the epitome of elegance and purity. It seems impossible that anything could reconcile bulbous, bumpy skinned, cacophonous, swamp dwelling amphibians with the pleasant visage of a lily, yet somehow this flower does it with ease! Those exotic blooms with eye-catching freckles and bizarre form are simply incredible and more than worth enduring its awkward handle.
There’s a reason that the Tortoise and the Hare chose a race instead of a beauty contest. Turtles aren’t exactly known for their good looks, but when it comes to visual appeal, this flower is head and shoulders above its namesake. The blooms do resemble a turtle’s in shape, but that just adds to their uncommon beauty. This perennial takes a few other pages from the humble turtle’s book such as its reliability and easy going nature which makes it a breeze to grow in virtually any environment.