lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[personal profile] lblanchard
[This is one in what has now become an almost-weekly series of postings inspired by Abigail Rorer, Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants. Rorer's book includes prints of fourteen plants Farrer considered worthless-- an interesting hybrid of botanically accurate and...different. You can see her work, including all fourteen mimpish squinnies, here: ]

I believe I've mentioned before that Reginald Farrer sent home regular dispatches on his second expedition to the Gardener's Chronicle. Had he lived, he would almost certainly have written another book or books about his travel -- indeed, I believe his dispatches to this publication were partly intended to build interest in both a forthcoming book and in the seeds he intended to bring back. (And partly because he couldn't help himself from sharing....) E.H.M. Cox, who traveled with him in the first year, produced an account in Farrer's Last Journey: Upper Burma, 1919-1920, and almost certainly drew heavily upon these accounts, in addition to the letters Farrer sent him after his departure.

The pdfs of the Gardener's Chronicle are not easy to read, and not searchable, so I am transcribing them as I have time. There are 39 of them, plus an obituary notice (I believe that Cox wrote it, but can't remember offhand). When they learned of Farrer's death, the editors despaired of having any further Farrer dispatches, but received a fat packet of dispatches-in-progress that were saved by his native assistants, so there's an extensive record. I hope some day to find where the Farrer/Cox correspondence is housed and look at it.

Shortly after making last week's post, on Nomocharis basilissa, I returned to transcription. I'm up to Number 9 of 39 and have great hopes that I will finish by next summer. The winter nights are long... And what did I find, but Farrer waxing rhapsodic on yet another Nomocharis -- Nomocharis pardinthina. Here's a watercolor:

Nomocharis pardanthina, watercolor by Reginald Farrer, in E.H.M. Cox, The Plant Introductions of Reginald Farrer

Mr. Reginald Farrer's Second Exploration in Asia, No. 9. – June on the Heights. Published in the Gardener's Chronicle, No. 1714, Saturday, November 1, 1919
(botanical names not italicized in original, so not italicized here)

But the glory of these days I have kept to the last. For now, and shortly, is the heyday of Nomocharis pardantina. And the first sight of Nomocharis pardanthina happy and at home marks as much of an epoch in the gardener’s life as does that of Primula spectabilis, Daphne petraea, Meconompsis quintuplinervia or Gentiana Farreri. I give fair warning to all whom it may concern that, while I may be merciful in my quantities of seed where duller things are concerned, I hope to gather whole bucketsful of the Nomocharis. It could not be humanly possible for anyone to have too much of this incomparable plant, and all those who already possess it are hereby urged to cherish it as the apple of their garden’s eye. How shall I describe it, for the benefit of those who have only seen its lovely flowers drooping lonely in a pot at a show? It is most likely some hybrid of a minor Lily with Odontoglossum Rossii, combining the perverse and sinister spottings of the one with the frank and graceful loveliness of the other, alike in proud, meek port and delicacy of shell-ink colouring. And when you see it on the open high Alpine grass slopes of Hpimaw Pass nodding down at you with myriads of wide-open, dark-eyed faces, in every shade of pale rose and every degree of freckling, there is nothing very much left for you to look at on Hpimaw Pass. All over the open slopes it incredibly abounds among the grass, and even descends into light cane-brakes and little dells on the fringes of the wood, seeding with such profusion and growing with such hearty goodwill that though for some four thousand yeears (or thereabouts) the Chinese have sedulously devoured its bulbs like Onions, and so continue to devour them, you could never believe the smallest difference had been made to the unbroken profusion of its drifted masses. Such is Nomocharis pardanthina at home, and such, no doubt, are the other recorded Nomocharis. For all of them I forecast a happy future on well-drained grassy banks in English gardens or wild gardens; but I find it very hard to believe that any one of them will surpass N. pardanthina, the longest known and widest spread of all. Scent is the only charm it lacks, but has all others so abundantly that this one lack is never noticed. --Reginald Farrer.

Wikimedia commons photos

Closeup: By Lokal_Profil, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Entire plant: By Lokal_Profil, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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