lblanchard: (swannfountain)
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[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: ]

Anemone demissa is definitely not a squinny. I don't believe that Farrer painted any plants he did not fall down and worship, and this is his rendering of Anemone demissa, reproduced in E. H. M. Cox, The Plant Introductions of Reginald Farrer. There is no listing for this plant, however, so apparently although it has a collection number it is not one of his introductions.

A. demissa, watercolor by Reginald Farrer, in
E. H. M. Cox, The Plant Introductions of Reginald Farrer

I found only the brief notation that "[T]his is a Chinese variety of A. narcissiflora, q.v." for it in The English Rock Garden, and a quick search of my Acrobat files for Farrer's two travelogues for his first expedition (On the Eaves of the World and The Rainbow Bridge) did not yield a mention, either. Perhaps it will turn up in one of his dispatches to Gardeners' Chronicle, or his more botanically-inclined report of his first expedition to the Royal Garden Society.

Here, instead, is his description of the generality of anemones from The English Rock Garden, the bit about A. narcissiflora, and a screencap of A. demissa page and text from the Ulster Branch of the Alpine Garden Society, plus a scrap from a Gardeners' Chronicle dispatch that may refer to this plant. Note how the image of the plant with background mountains on the Ulster page (after the jump) shows the how accurately Farrer portrayed the plant in its environment.

It appears that this is a rare pink variety. Most of the sites and images I found on the web show white flowers. I haven't identified the variety this is, but the week is young.

Anemone. - This glorious family meets us on the threshold of its house with the problem of its name. Is it Anémone or is it Anemône ! Linnaeus called it Anémǒne, twisting the word out of ανεμος, to mean wind-flower, a significance, in spite of rhapsodists, singularly inappropriate, and one which the Greek word ανεμωνη is hardly capable of carrying. But before him Tounefort, with prior authority, had called the race Anemône, from the Syrian Na-ma'an, the cry of lament for dead Adonis, whose blood flames yearly back again to light in the pulsing scarlets of A. fulgem and A. coronaria. Therefore it seems that Adonis has indeed the weight of age, appropriateness, and romance; and that we ought now to twist our tongues to the profounder music of Anemône. But who will !

Very few of the Anemones are rock-plants, the race being subalpine and alpine, descending also to the fields at much lower elevations, and abundant in the New World as in the Old, though there for the most part vastly inferior. Yet so important is the family, in the rock-garden especially, and so many are the dingy new species now creeping into commerce undescribed, on their way through our purses straight to the rubbish-heap, that the species must surely be dealt with in detail. And in so dealing let us include Pulsatilla and Hepatica, two groups of Anemone nowadays by some botanists removed each into a race of its own. All the Anemones but a few are temperate in their tastes, and in cultivation only the woodland section likes coppice and shade and moist cool soil. The alpine section, on the contrary, enjoys a soil that is very deep and rich and cool indeed, but with full exposure to sun and air; the meadow group is happy in the same conditions, but, being dwarfer, needs a position more in the foreground. The blooming season opens with A. blanda in February, ranges right through the summer, with A. rivularis taking up the mantle of its predecessors that have filled the earlier months, and closes at last with the late frosts that massacre the profuse remaining buds of A. japonica and A. vitifolia. Nearly all Anemones come readily and generously from seed, but it is essential that the seed should be sown as fresh as possible, for in the seed of Anemone the living germ has but little surrounding nourishment to keep it alive, and soon, if not sown, has devoured all its envelope and dies of inanition, impatient and frustrate. The running species can aJso be pulled to pieces, or their offsets removed at pleasure; but all the clump-forming kinds acutely resent division (they do not even readily condone removal), and take a season or two to recover.

The entry on A. narcissiflora in The English Rock-Garden:
A. narcissiflora is always and everywhere a well-beloved friend, easily adorning cooler sunny copsy corners in the rock-garden, with its soft fan-shaped, deep-cut leaves, and its foot-high heads of six to ten lovely flowers exactly like so many Apple-blossoms. Occasionally it may damp off in winter if the soil be too heavy, nor does its life appear to exceed six or seven years; but during that time it goes on from season to season in ever-increasing splendour, and looks specially characteristic if small ferns share its home, and the alpine Columbines among which it is so often found. It is a generally abundant species (apparently quite indifferent--pace other authorities, who call it a lime-lover--as to the soil or rock it grows on), not only in the Alps, where it has its center in the main chains, but also all over the great mountain ranges of the Old World and across the Behring [sic] Straits into America, creeping down to South Park in the Colorado Rockies, and in Yunnan attaining actually to the tropic of Cancer. It is a lover of open places in sub-alpine and alpine woods, or in the meadows just above, where it often makes the turf a dense waving Narcissus-field of fallen Apple-blossoms, as on one open copsy shoulder, I remember, of the Cottian Alps, looking far out over the Plain of Lombardy. Being so widely-travelled, A. narcissiflora takes many marked forms as it goes, especially in the Caucasus and the high mountains of Asia, whence two of them have lately come to us, clothed in the solemn preciousness attaching to "new species." These are A. narcissiflora var. demissa, in Eastern Asia from Tibet to Kamschatka, a fluffy form, with softer and less divided foliage and weaker stems, and A. n. var. polyanthes, ranging the other way from Tibet to Kashmir, with abundant heads of blossom. There is also a one-flowered variety, A. n. monantha; and yet another is already to hand from Russia as A. villosissima (sometimes A. villosa), an extra-specially fluffy form of an already fluffy type. All these are beautiful, but must be guarded against when they ask seven and sixpence for themselves as "new species," being in reality only local varieties of a type, almost more beautiful and charming still, that sells at eighteenpence. (See Appendix.)

Finally, there is one little snippet in the December 16, 1818 Gardeners' Chronicle that may refer to Anemone demissa: "And, on one rock hard by, there hung masses of a Narcissiflora-Anemone of exactly the same vivid pink that one gets in Potentilla nitida. "

Plant of the month, September 2013, of the Alpine Garden Society, Ulster Branch. Retrieved September 26, 2016. Link: (click image to be directed there)

Varia: English language listings for A. demissa in the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Date: 2016-09-26 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Calling them a "glorious family" and a "well-beloved friend" most certainly makes them neither mimpish nor squinny! I m not much for pink but that pink is quite lovely!

Date: 2016-09-27 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's utterly lovely, but not for South Philly, I fear. Also, this variant on A. demissa isn't available commercially that I know of.


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