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: http://www.theloneoakpress.com/prints/newer.html ]

I don't understand why Reginald Farrer is so cranky about sedums. Maybe they're not the showiest plants on the planet, but they're cheerful and undemanding, and the one he has singled out for censure strikes me as fine filler plant for handling spaces that would otherwise be magnets for pernicious weeds with long tenacious taproots.

Farrer himself acknowledges the contradiction, pronouncing Sedum album both "really valuable" "and perfectly pestiferous" in the same sentence. This is the sedum Rorer has chosen to illustrate in Mimpish Squinnies.


Sedum album, from Mimpish Squinnies


Sedum.—This vast race, as a whole, is curiously uninteresting : as is felt even by catalogues, that do their best, yet can't say much, and take refuge in an inextricable welter of synonyms and pseudonyms. Nearly all Sedums are of easy culture in open poor places — often far too easy in cultivation, and yet more deplorably easy of propagation. The race is much too large and dim for us here minutely to discriminate. There are, however, several main types, alike of habit and growth, with species that may be taken as typical. In the first place there is the fleshy-stocked section, with erect leafy stems and flowers usually rather dingy ; this may be exemplified in S. Rhodiola, and easily grows in any light and deep soil. Then there are the smaller sheeting rock-plants of low massing habit, such as S. acre and S. album ; the trailing green mat- or carpet-forming section, with starry radiating heads of flower, that may be seen exemplified by S. spurium in every cottage garden ; another group of the same habit, but with rounded and glaucous foliage ; and finally the type that forms loose masses of shoots, beset with numbers of narrow leaves, fleshy and round in section, with stems of 8 inches or so, and uncurling heads of branched blossom that open out like the tail of a scorpion. The type of this is S. rupestre from our cottage walls. In these later days a large number of species has been sent in from Mexico, with more, it is said, to follow. The hardiness of these in most English gardens is open to the very gravest doubt, and it will be understood that here I do no more than quote the vendor's description, such as it is, with a note that the word Mexico spells danger, and that the names are unverified. --The English Rock-Garden

S. album is a typical weed of the race —- really valuable, and yet perfectly pestiferous in its powers of propagation ; so that, within a year of receiving two squashed sprigs in a letter, you will be casting it out of your garden by cartloads, and yet never seeming to see any signs of clearance. Every fragment grows with fearful rapidity, forming matted masses of stems beset with innumerable minute sausage-like grey-green leaves ; the flower-stems rise up in profusion in June to a height of 6 inches or so, and uncoil the typical radiating heads of the group, beset with white stars. It serves as the picture of many, and is as hard to be got rid of as love or lime.




By Frank Vincentz - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2945575





By Smartse - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7167403




S. album sounds wonderful to me, and if it will only tolerate some shade I may insinuate it between the pathway pavers in our small back garden.
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