off topic yards and gardens

Peter Franks
Tue, 11 Feb 2014 14:39:13 PST
Hi Rimmer

This new turn brings to mind one of my favourite gardens in Mount Wilson, a
hill station settlement west of Sydney. The garden is named "Merrygarth" and
I assume a reference to a happy place to be, within an enclosure. The name
may also be a remembrance of a cherished place in England. The garden itself
is well known to many of Sydney's gardening fraternity

This garden is indeed well stocked with cool temperate geophytes including
galanthus, lilium, erythronium and various other well known varieties

So, there we have it - a tangible link between our enjoyable esoteric
etymological discussion and geophytes

Thanks Rimmer and thanks Peter in Scotland for starting us off!

Peter in steamy cloudy and dry Sydney

-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Rimmer
Sent: Wednesday, 12 February 2014 6:07 AM
To: Pacific Bulb Society
Subject: Re: [pbs] off topic yards and gardens

I passed this discussion on to a family member who is a language professor
specializing in Old English and this was his response regarding the ancient
root words for garden and yard as in back yard:

"All of these words are related.  Comparative study of Indo-European
languages suggests that an early Germanic word *war-, meaning "to watch or
guard" was the basis for all of them.  The variety in modern English is due
to overlapping waves of influence.  A noun form of the word, *gardo-z,
meaning a small piece on enclosed land, became garthr in Old Norse.  To the
south it was borrowed into popular Latin as *gardinumand thence in to modern
French jardin and Italian giardino.  It was also carried to England by the
Anglo-Saxons as geard, where the pronunciation of the initial g was softened
to y, giving modern English yard.  Later, when the Normans invaded England,
they brought a variant of the French version, gardin, which led to the
modern English garden.  This word had develop the more specific meaning of
an enclosed, cultivated space, so the two words continued to existed side by
side.  Meanwhile, Scandinavians entering the north of England brought
garthrwith them, and it left the word gard or gart in northern English

Guard and warden come from the same Germanic root but took different paths
that led to the different initial vowel sounds."

Rimmer de Vries
Southeast Michigan
continental Zone 5- coldest and snowiest winter in memory 
the pink and yellow Velthiemia are blooming nicely by my window

On Feb 10, 2014, at 3:19 PM, penstemon <> wrote:

> As an aside, I have a feeling that the word "garden" has something to do
> with "guard house", in the days of castles and fortified houses. It would,
> perhaps,have been the area between the inner and outer defended walls of a
> dwelling?
> You would have to go back further than Old Norse to find a connection; the

> OED suggests that the words up to that point had different meaning. 
> Garden=enclosure; guard=custody. "Ward" comes into this somehow; there's a

> relationship there, probably.
> It seems to me that books like The New English Garden make attempts to 
> define the word "garden" completely pointless.
> Bob Nold,
> Denver, Colorado, USA 
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> pbs mailing list

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