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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: ]

The year is winding down, and I am running out of mimpish squinnies to share -- at least, the ones imagined so exquisitely by Abigail Rorer.

Horminum pyrenaicum, Abigail Rorer

Horminum pyrenaicum. -- The time is gone by now for Horminum pyrenaicum. In former days it was the one thing over which books of gardening and catalogues alike waxed really lyrical ; and in catalogues, indeed, the name endures to this hour, in spite of the fact that the poor gardener, that patient worm, has long since turned, and declared that if ever there were an undistinguished dowdy weed it is this -- a coarse and rampant thing, forming large rosetted tufts of dark sullen-looking scalloped oval foliage, leaden and dull, from which rise spikes of some 8 inches with dull and leaden little flowers of an uninspired purple like those of some very indifferent Salvia. It is predominantly a plant of the Pyrenees and then of the Eastern ranges; it is interesting to note that even Mr. Stuart Thompson has only met it on the Stelvio, whereas in the Dolomites, that paradise to whioh the Stelvio is the dreary gate, you cannot take a walk in any direction without trampling leagues of Horminum, a typical limestone species, indeed, that fills the upper alpine turf with its wads and masses of vulgar leafage.

In cultivation the plant is worth the trouble it gives, which is none. It likes lime, and there is no more to be said for it. Occasionally rather more ample forms are to be found, and once I got a white one that was really pretty, with a fine hem of purple round its lip, but on the whole this dowdy thing is best left to catalogues, which never fail to include it, and proclaim its charms vociferously -- perhaps, as Mr. Stuart Thompson rather cruelly but justly suggests, because it is almost the only large alpine Labiate that could possibly, by the utmost stretch of even a catalogue's courtesy, be said to have any charms to proclaim. In this case it is indeed a one-eyed king in a blind kingdom.

From Wikipedia: "Horminum is a genus of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae, comprising a single species, Horminum pyrenaicum. Common names include Dragonmouth and Pyrenean Dead-nettle. " Despite its unlovely names, I think it's rather a charming plant. Certainly the flowers are by no means as boxy and featureless as Rorer's print suggests.

It grows to 45 cm in height and flowers in July/August.

By - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Hectonichus - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Horminum pyrenaicum
From: La flore et la pomone françaises, ou histoire et figures en couleur, des fleurs et des fruits de France ou naturalisés sur le sol français by Jean Henri Jaume Saint-Hilaire. Paris, the author, 1832, volume 5 (plate 464).

Date: 2016-12-19 03:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmmmm...I agree with you. It is rather charming and I love the colour of its flowers. We get something that is surely related down here, at least it looks to be though if this is Alpine, we certainly aren't in the Alps.

I have to give the man credit for knowing what he doesn't like.

A dowdy weed...
dark sullen-looking scalloped oval foliage, leaden and dull...
dull and leaden little flowers of an uninspired purple like those of some very indifferent Salvia...
wads and masses of vulgar leafage...

I think not, Mr, Farrer!


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