This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Memphis asks: " Can you tell what is the class now called Geranium, and what is the Pelargonium? They seem now much mixed. Many years ago all were Geraniums - Horse Shoe, one type, and the other the Geranium proper with the blotch in the upper petal - these got to be "Pelargoniums, " and now they have got so that although I know what I want, I know not by what name to order. Again, if you order Pansies and you get Violas; how is that?"
[It is difficult to answer our friend's question. The trouble comes from a class of well meaning people who want to get things just right, and Yet do not perceive that an English word is not a Latin word, and that a botanical word need not necessarily he a word for every day life. So they discovered that when we had been saying Verbenas and Dahlias, Gladioluses and Cactuses, we were very wrong indeed, and must say Verbena?, Dahliae, Gladioli, and Cacti, as if we were talking in Latin and not in English. The most common sense view seems to us to be that when we have no word we want in the English language, and have to coin one from a foreign language, that adopted word should follow English grammatical rules.
The same trouble came in this Geranium matter. There is a botanical genus Pelargonium, and one Geranium, and besides this Geranium became an English word to represent an English idea, and in common use with English-speaking people. But botanists concluded that certain plants which they supposed Geraniums were properly Pelargoniums. It was right to change the botanical name with the newly discovered facts, but there is no reason that we can understand why the English name should be changed also. Like our correspondent, we are often puzzled when reading English Horticultural literature to know what they are talking about when they get on "Pelargonium."]