lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 ]

Here's a charming plant from Abigail Rorer's little shop of horrors: Rubus australis. Reginald Farrer doesn't like it one little bit, either:


Rubus australis, as imagined by Abigail Rorer


Rubus.—Upon England has China in these latter days cast
forth from all her hedgerows and highway-sides so appalling a collection
of invasive and hideous great brambles that we have given up
all effort to say pleasant things about them (as at first their cultivators
pathetically and piously attempted), and have even developed an
undiscerning general disgust, in consequence, with the whole misguided
country that has burdened us with such horrors. For the rockgarden,
however, there are some pleasant and quite small brambles,
all well suited in a sunny but not parched place in stony peaty loam.
R. arcticus from the far North, that once was thought to have lodgment
in Scotland, is an erect little running raspberry of 6 inches or so,
with large cheery pink flowers, followed by fruits no less exhilarating
in their own way. Care should be taken, however, to got the fruitbearing
form of the plant, which is sold as R. a.fecundus. R. saxatilis,
a common species of our Northern limestones, is hardly worth a place,
though neat and modest ; and no one seems ever for long or thoroughly
to succeed with the Cloudberry, though on the moors of Ingleborough
and all the North it makes carpets of many a hundred-yard width,
with its one or two broad-lobed leaves on the upstanding stem of
4 or 5 inches, which first bears up a single erect white blossom, and
then replaces it with a succulent fruit, which is of a golden amber when
ripe, like a very big and large-carpelled Raspberry, with the sharp
sweetness of the Pomegranate. This is the staple jam-fruit of the
Scandinavian moors, but the Cloudberry, though so placid a native of
our high places, seems almost more reluctant to descend from its
ridiculous molehills and be happy in the garden, than does the King
of the Alps himself from the great mountains of the world.

And, finally, there are the Bush-lawyers of New Zealand—terrible spiny
affairs with long thin arms beset with millions of minute but efficient
ivory spines and hooks. Such are R. parvus (dwarf and prostrate,
with a large fruit—an eccentricity in an Australasian Rubus),
schmideloeides, and australis—this last being the only one
that has effected a home in English gardens, where its chief merit
is that it is not quite hardy, so that in time you may be relieved from
the inhospitable massed mess that it forms of spidery-thin and almost
leafless branchage, accumulating into an inextricable mound of white
wiry whipcord, armed with insatiable little teeth as numerous, vicious,
and ivorine as those of sharks, though not so large. There is practically
no foliage, and neither flower nor fruit would be worth contemplation
even if they ever condescended to appear. This should be planted
in a cold dank place (if you want it to die) ; if, however, the giver of it
lives near, and pays you frequent visits, you will have to assign it a
warm sheltered and sunny place in the foreground, in light and well-drained
soil—under no other pressure of circumstances to be so wasted.
--Reginald Farrer, The English Rock-Garden, Vol. 2, with paragraph break
added for legibility for our twenty first-century eyes

Here's an image from Wikipedia:


By Rudolph89 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19162151M


It doesn't look that terribly fearsome, but I haven't tried to lay hands on it.

You can find a bit more about it, from a less opinionated source, here:
http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/new-plant-page/swamp-lawyer-rubus-australis.html

And you can peruse a whole series of images here:
http://bit.ly/RubusAustralis
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 ]

Today's Mimpish Monday is uncharacteristically brief, because I was in Boston for five days at a symposium on medieval manuscripts in conjunction with a three-venue exhibition. If you're curious, you can visit http://beyondwords2016.org/

But the determined Farrerophile can find mimpery just about everywhere. I could hardly contain my glee when I beheld the plant I wrote about last Monday as part of the exhibition. Behold a fifteenth-century (by the skin of its teeth) rendering of my Halloween squinny, Physalis, on display at McMullen Museum, Boston College.


Ms Typ 220. Houghton Library, Harvard University. Figures et fleures peintes: drawings, [ca. 1500]


Then, the next day, I found chrysanthemums of the sort that Farrer described as "moulting mops dipped in stale lobster sauce" in the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, the second of three symposium/exhibition venues.



I didn't find any mimpish miseries in the exhibition at the third venue, Houghton Library (Harvard), but as the Physalis at Boston College came from the Harvard collections, I feel that I've covered all three bases.

Regular mimpery will resume next week.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 ]

A brief entry for a Halloween Mimpish Monday today, and one that is seasonally appropriate in a couple of respects, Physalis alkekengi. Reginald Farrer does not like this plant. Abigail Rorer's illustration hints at the reasons for Farrer's ire, as well as the cultural significance of the plant among some Buddhist communities.


Physalis alkekengi, by Abigail Rorer, from
Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants


Physalis. —After Phlox and Phyllodoke [the two previous entries, on which Farrer lavished fulsome praise], who will not be made sick by the mere name of these rank and leafy weeds, with their ostentatious "Japanese Lanterns " of orange and red ? These are, of course, the dismal sere decorations of winter ; and any flower that allows its corpses out for so grim a purpose can only be reckoned as a blackleg in the floral Union, going out to illegitimate employment when all decent plants are enjoying the night when no man can work ; and earning by this treachery a place in the garden to which their rank ugliness of summer would certainly not entitle them.
(The English Rock-Garden, Volume 2, page 69)



Physalis alkekengi, balloon
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=115836


Farrer is certainly unfair here, although his remarks about the plant's rankness are echoed in the Wikipedia entry ("tends to be invasive"). The flowers are white and inconspicuous, and signal the plant's kinship with the rest of the Solanaceae (potatoes, tomatoes, nightshade, peppers, etc.). After the plant has dried, the small orange fruit is caged in a skeletal housing.


By Subin.a.mathew - United Kingdom
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19393969


What's more surprising is that Farrer, a professed Buddhist and Japanophile as well as a plant-hunter, was not aware of the plant's use in the centuries-old Japanese Buddhist Bon Festival honoring one's ancestors -- putting it right up there with the Dia de Muertos, although it is celebrated in the summer and not the autumn. Shame on Farrer for not knowing that the fruits are used as an offering to the dead. Of course, he didn't have the internets to make him immediately erudite -- as we can be.


Physalis alkekengi at Hozuki Market in Japan
By Ocdp - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20220216


(I learned new things writing this entry. I didn't know anything about the Bon Festival until Wikipedia made me an Instant Expert.)
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 ]

Reginald Farrer, as I mentioned earlier, had an ambivalent relationship to gentians: loving some, loathing others, and a true evangelical about their proper care. Gentiana is a well-populated genus, and Rorer includes two among her mimpish squinnies: G. brevidens and this one, G. punctata.

Farrer devoted a full thirty pages (pp. 361-391, vol. 1) to gentians, plus other scattered references throughout The English Rock-Garden, along with numerous other references in his other works. All the choicest bits about their care show up in my G. brevidens post, link below, if you'd like to revisit them -- but here's a bit of overview after the cut tag, as well as links to my two earlier entries.


G. punctata, from Abigail Rorer's Mimpish Squinnies
Note the little froggy eyes -- this will be important later


click here for Farrerian prose )
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 ]

We return today to Reginald Farrer's final plant-collecting trip, his second expedition to Asia.


Cardiocrinum giganteum, formerly Lilium giganteum
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=518639


Mr. Reginald Farrer’s Second Exploration in Asia,
No. 3. – Round Hpimaw. July 12, 1919


The valley head of which I write is about 6,000 feet up. The fort sits on the hill above at some 7,800 feet. For such a latitude such a height should not necessarily convey any sure promise of hardiness in England. Yet even setting aside the notorious paradoxical uncertainty of plants, the peculiar climatic conditions of these parts give the strongest hopes for any parts of Great Britain that are not parched nor torrid. Hpimaw Hill gets a very cold winter, with snow lying for a week at a time; even in the valley below, though rice is widely grown in the widening of the vale, the seed that is sown in April is said not to reach maturity till October. Meanwhile, in May comes the year’s one burst of amiability; and in June the rains break, and rain, and rain, and rain, in an almost uninterrupted succession of fog and gloom and deluges, until October comes round, and the fine clear weather of autumn and winter. And such a climate, so tempered in warmth, so excessively luxuriant in cloud and wet, ought to give most of its plants a much more kindred feeling for the wet and clouds of many parts of great Britain than could fairly be hoped from very much more northerly species even, such as hail from the torrid, sun-beaten river cañone of Kansu, the Saharan heads of the Blackwater, and the droughtiness of Tien Tang Ssû.

There are Chinese and Lissu villages or settlements at the base of the hill, and the local affluents of the Ngaw Chang (left, bending northward, and a few miles below) flow down beneath the slopes and wooded chines of the hill through dense banks of coppice, more homely looking than any yet seen, with Willow and Alder and Poplar, and many another old friend, including wild Plums and Cherries, and peaches which, if not wild, have come to look so, among the rest of the copse. Neillia is here, too, and Leycesteria, and a Vaccinium of the proportions of a small tree, densely hung with blossom. And the local Bamboo is no longer Bambusa polymorpha, of the tropical jungles, nor even B. palmate of the passes. This, indeed, persists here in the highwoods, while a smaller cousin covers the high tops in a brown mantle, which looks encouragingly like bare moorland till field glasses have detected its real covering. But the prevailing Bamboo of the copses and gullies is a graceful feathery thing, not, indeed, with the incomparable grace of A. nitida, but still plumy and desirable. The Htawgaw Rhododendron, too, comes here to its own, and there is a beautiful purpurescent Deutzia so dense in blossom that one day from across the torrent it made me suspect it of being bending sprays of some unusually floriferous Lilac. On the big black boulders are enormous colonies of Polypody, Solomon’s Seal, Dendrobiums of different sorts, and a most curious Vaccinioid shrubling, which forms heavy masses alike on trees and on rocks, and, not content with emitting tubular crimson flowers, has the tips of its young shoots so flaringly crimson, too, that even its blossoms seem dull by comparison, lurking among the ovate evergreen foliage of dark lucent green. Of this tree is also another but rarer species, which weeps from tree-boughs higher up, among the rain-engendered lichen, in long nummularoid sprays of smaller, rounder, finer leaves, with the same tubular red flowers. There are other brilliant parasites, too, one which affects Rhododendron and Cotoneaster and other, forming wide bushy Witches’ Brooms, all lit up along the sprays with vivid orange-red blossoms dimly suggesting Honeysuckle; and yet another, with axillary crimson tubes and long boughs of oval-pointed evergreen leaves in pairs. And there is also Mistletoe, swinging aloft in great golden-green balls from the summit branches of the spindly tall Magnolias.


Cardiocrinum giganteum in habitat, Danyun canyon, Sichuan, China
By Ernst Gügel - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1155238


Down by the stream-bed Lilium giganteum is unfolding, and a little creamy Tiarella lights up the darkness under the rocks, while a vividly lilac-purple Cress flares among the boulders. Out in the open there are flatter spaces, burnt for cultivation. Here, in a marsh, a sibicoid Iris is coming up, while in another, that fills a dell, the whole expanse is brilliantly green with the spear blades of a flag iris. And on the black slopes fascinating little rosy Coelogyne is emerging, straight from the bare soil, on a scape of three inches, in such a way as to make one realise how and why it is that these have been so justly called the Indian Crocus. The chief of the Rhododendrons here is not yet in flower, but two very distinct large-leaved ones hang from the darker cliffs above the beck, and give promise of bloom later on. In one of these we may suspect Ward’s R. agapetum, unless this be either of two other tree-Rhododendrons, now fat in bud, one of which has the bracts on the glandular young leaf-shoots of so brilliant a read as themselves to suggest blossoms, while in the other the shoots and bracts and buds are all pale green. But two first-class beauties are now actually in bloom. One is a very near relation of R. bullatum,* with characteristic crinkled thick foliage, clothed on the reverse in a fawn-coloured felt. The flowers, two or three in the loose head, are very large (with large crimson sepals, broader than they are long), pure white but for an external blush of rose, and a basal stain of yellow – and of the most inebriately sweet fragrance. This lovely plant occurs either as a parasitic or terrestrial growth, often appearing as a blossoming trailer far up on the trunk of some giant tree. It seems, also, to flower in alternate years, to judge by the rarity of recent seed vessels (which open in six valves) on blooming bushes, and of bloom on seeding ones. The other ** is even, to my mind, almost more beautiful, and has the romance of having hitherto only once been sighted as a single specimen, that nearly escaped the collecting tin, owing to my orderly’s assertion (he did not want to cross the stream again, and climb a coppiced bluff) that it was the same as the last. On the contrary, it is very different – an erect, rather thin, tall bush, with thin, smooth, pointed leaves, most curiously fitted microscopically with brown on their glaucous reverse. The flowers are very large, pure white, with a golden stain in the throat, and as entrancingly sweet as those of the last, but in a different way, rather with the keen fragrance of Orange-blossom than with the heavy deliciousness of the other scented, white Rhododendrons. Though I do not readily believe in the existence of unique specimens, I must confess that I have subsequently searched all other likely-looking spots hereabouts without as yet coming on any second sample of this precious species, very distinct as it appears to be. But this country is so vast, its heights and depths and distances so incalculable, its coppices such impenetrable forests when you get to them, that he would be a very rash man who would claim to have made an exhaustive search after any given species. Suffice it then for the present to say only that, up to date, our one solitary hope of seed from this remarkable beauty depends on one solitary specimen, already rather too lavishly deflowered by the enthusiasm of the Gurkha. Nor can these azaleoid Rhododendrons be by any means always relied on for copious seed, unlike most other groups in the race. -- Reginald Farrer
*Rhododendron sp. F 842. [ed. note: R. bullatum, from E.H.M. Cox, The Plant Introductions of Reginald Farrer]
**Rh sp F 848 [Ed. note: R. supranubium, from E.H.M. Cox, The Plant Introductions of Reginald Farrer



The pdf version of Gardener's Chronicle was sourced from the Bioheritage Diversity Library, http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/48390#/summary . I am transcribing the dispatches because they are difficult to read in pdf and the OCR has enough errors that it's simply faster to keyboard. Ultimately, I hope to produce a Word / pdf document out of the dispatches, possibly with the images, for my personal use and the edification of any friends who want it. Gardener's Chronicle does not italicize the genus/species names, so I have not done so either. One last note: I did not locate any public domain images of much of the flora mentioned by name in this dispatch, other than Cardiocrinum giganteum.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[This is another 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 ]

For today's mimpery, we return to Rorer's book and pull from its pages Opuntia polyacantha, a ferocious cactus of the western United States. Farrer does not care for the Opuntia. In fact, the genus and its friends whip him up into great frothy word-torrents of magnificent opprobrium. He did not mention O. polyacantha specifically, but Rorer's illustration takes its cue from Farrer's general comment about the Opuntia's flowers, "looking as if they had been freakishly pinned there by a thorn." And, YAY! Abigail Rorer has just given me permission to use her illustrations, with a back link. So here's the freakishly-pinned O. polyacathana ! I can hardly wait to go back and retrofit the others. Click the photo to reach her website homepage.


Here is Farrer at his most splenetic on the genus, and here is a photo of O. polyacantha,. More photos and a little more commentary behind the cut tag.


Opuntia polyacantha, the more usual yellow variety
By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA (Opuntia polyacantha Uploaded by uleli)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Farrer on Opuntia, plus some more photos )

(As always, I am grateful to the Internet Archive for providing a pdf of Farrer's opus, The English Rock-Garden, so that I could just grab the text rather than keyboarding it.)
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[This is another 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 ]

Okay, this one is definitely mimpish -- and Reginald Farrer says so. He uses almost all his favorite terms of opprobrium here: mimpish, miffy, dingy, and even stinking (which the Fritillaria certainly do). For this one, Rorer depicts the plant holding its head in shame -- and, as she has given me permission to post her images with a back-link, I'm retrofitting some of my older posts as time permits:


Fritillaria armena, as envisioned by Abigail Rorer.
Click the image to reach her website.


But here is F. armena for real, in some photographic splendor:


A wonderful shot of F. armena, from the Scottish Rock Garden Club's's bulb log for March 3, 2009.
Click the link for all kinds of flowery goodness:
http://www.srgc.org.uk/bulblog/log2007/290307/log.html


Fritillaria.--A lovely race, but adequately coped with by catalogues of such delights, except that they always follow the mistake of the Bot. Mag., Plate 6365, in giving the name of F. armena to a charming cone-bellied yellow Fritillary, whose real name is F. Sibthorpiana, whereas the true F. armena is a dingy and lurid purple-flowered plant of lower stature. Many of the race are very miffy or very mimpish or both, and the family all around has a bad character. Among those members of it, however, who have earned a better, comes first our own F. Meleagris in its many forms and seedings, standing high among the best of all; F. pallidiflora is of more stalwart stature, with beautiful solid white bells, freely produced from a bulb of good sound perennial temper; F. lutea, of half a foot, has single golden flowers; F. aurea, of half the size, has half-sized golden bells; and catalogues will be your sufficient guide to such of the rest as may be for the moment available -- so long as it is remembered that the catalogues do not always emphasize the miffy temper of the prizes they proclaim; and that a nod ought to be as good as a wink to a blind gardener, accordingly, in the way of "should have sand" or "is best if planted early." Not to mention -- a fact which catalogues rarely do -- that an enormous number of Fritillarias have more or less stinking bells of dingy chocolate and greenish tones, which often appear transfigured by the enthusiasm who desire to get rid of them, as "rich purple" or "amaranthine violet." --The English Rock-Garden, Vol. 1, pp. 355-356


Here is one of the not-squinnies -- the lovely Fritillaria meleagris, shown here blooming at Magdalen College, Oxford. I saw them blooming there in the 1990s, starring the meadow along the River Chertwell between the College and the Fellows' Garden, and I imagine that Farrer might have seen them during his time at Balliol as well.


From Wikipedia: By The original uploader was Miles underwood at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by djsasso., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18721483


This is the plant Google returned to me when I searched for F. lutea, but I suspect it's the wrong one: the breathtaking Fritillaria imperialis 'lutea'. Since I can't find the wee thing with a single yellow flower, just enjoy this bit of flowery goodness.


By UpstateNYer - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6667581


And here is the "lovely Fritillaria sibthorpiana":


Fritillaria sibthorpiana (Sm.) Baker [as Tulipa sibthorpiana Sm.]
Sibthrop, J., Smith, J.E., Flora Graeca (drawings), vol. 4: t. 30 (1823)


(I had this all prepared and ready to go on the real Mimpish Monday, and then I forgot!)
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
It was the chance purchase of a lovely book called Grandmother's Garden: The Old-Fashioned American Garden 1865-1915 at a clearance sale at the local used book store that primed me to notice -- when it crossed my newsfeed the next day -- a review of an exhibition on American Impressionism and the garden at the New York Botanical Garden. Book and exhibition both featured the work of Celia Thaxter -- author, novelist, salonista, watercolorist, and painter of china -- who gathered an artists' colony around her at the Appledore Hotel in the Isles of Shoals each summer and was a sought after guest in winters in both Portsmouth and Boston.

It's for her gardening prowess more than her literary/artistic endeavors that she fascinates me. That, and the fact that Childe Hassam painted her garden incessently (see this Google image search). I'm also interested in the work of Anna Bartlett Warner, who had about the same pedigree but who worked a garden near West Point.






Image of pp 86-87 of the illustrated edition of Celia Thaxter, <i>An Island Garden.</i> Link leads to the page-turning interface on The Internet Archive, from which an accessible text edition may also be downloaded
Celia Thaxter, An Island Garden, illustrated by Childe Hassam.
Click the image to reach the book in a page-turning interface on the Internet Archive,
with option to download it in a variety of formats.







Neither woman was made of money, so they started many of their plants from seed. It was before Jiffy Pots or market packs, so they made do with eggshells. I've been fretting that my morning omelet produces a lot of eggshells, which could probably be put to good use somehow. Here is Celia Thaxter, from her book An Island Garden, on the practice:

For those that do not bear transplanting I prepare other quarters, half filling shallow boxes with sand, into which I set rows of egg-shells close together, each shell cut off at one end, with a hole for drainage at the bottom. These are filled with earth, and in them the seeds of the lovely yellow, white, and orange Iceland Poppies are sowed. By and by, when comes the happy time for setting them out in the garden beds, the shell can be broken away from the oval ball of earth that holds their roots without disturbing them, and they are transplanted almost without knowing it. It is curious how differently certain plants feel about this matter of transplanting. The more you move a Pansy about the better it seems to like it, and many annuals grow all the better for one transplanting; but to a Poppy it means death, unless it is done in some such careful way as I have described.

The boxes of [other seeds that do not need the eggshell treatment at first] are put in a warm, dark place, for they only require heat and moisture till they germinate. Then when the first precious green leaves begin to appear, what a pleasure it is to wait and tend on the young growths, which are moved carefully to some cool, sunny chamber window in a room where no fire is kept, for heat becomes the worst enemy at this stage, and they spindle and dwindle if not protected from it. When they are large enough, having attained to their second leaves, each must be put into a little pot or egg-shell by itself..., so that by the time the weather is warm enough they will be ready to be set out, stout and strong, for early blooming. --Celia Thaxter, An Island Garden, pp. 14-15


Sounds good to me, so I've started saving eggshells for spring. Instead of boxes of sand, they may end up in their cartons (with holes poked in the bottom of each pot for drainage. It also occurs to me that certain calcium-loving plants might be happiest if I didn't break off the eggshells but simply crushed them a bit when setting out the seedlings. A substitute for bone meal, perhaps, and I plan to try it with whatever hippeastrum seeds I need to germinate next year. I may also try drying the little eggshell topses and grinding them up in the second-best coffee grinder, the one I use for flaxseed etc.

Bonus link: organic gardener shows how it's done. They boil the eggshells to clean and sterilize. Some other google source says that you can sterilize them by putting them in the oven after you've removed a roast or backed goods and let the residual heat do the job.
http://www.17apart.com/2012/01/how-to-plant-seeds-using-eggshells.html
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
A mental note to myself: LJBook is now integrated into BlogBooker, with limited functionality in the free version (smaller number of downloads permitted every six months, lower-resolution images). It will still do.

https://www.blogbooker.com/
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 ]

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.

show text and image )
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 ]

For today’s Mimpish Monday, I offer you the second of Reginald Farrer’s dispatches to the Gardener’s Chronicle describing his second exploration in Asia. This one had no illustrations of its own, but it was by no means lacking in botanical names. I like his description of the brambles as “defeating any beater who was not armed from head to foot in coat of mail.” He does say that the huge and hideous bramble that is the largest of all does produce delicious fruit in riotous abundance.

Farrer does not seem to find any plants worthy of great rhapsodies in this dispatch, but he does have complimentary things to say about several. As he does not give a species name for the bulk of them, I cannot offer photos of those – but I did find photos, and one botanical illustration, of three.

Do not try to follow his rambles on a map – as usual, he makes up his own nomenclature for place names.


Anemone obtusilobia By M.S. del., J.N.Fitch lith. - Curtis's Botanical Magazine, London., vol. 141 [= ser. 4, vol. 11]: Tab. 8636 - [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9464030

Click here for the second dispatch )


The pdf version of Gardener's Chronicle was sourced from the Bioheritage Diversity Library, http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/48390#/summary . I am transcribing the dispatches because they are difficult to read in pdf and the OCR has enough errors that it's simply faster to keyboard. Ultimately, I hope to produce a Word / pdf document out of the dispatches, possibly with the images, for my personal use and the edification of any friends who want it. One last note: Gardener's Chronicle does not italicize the genus/species names, so I have not done so either.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 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

effusive description and more photos here )
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 ]

A short Mimpish Monday because it's a Labor Day and I don't feel like laboring.

I haven't yet found anything in Farrer's writings about this plant, Nomocharis basilissa. I am guessing that if it turns up at all it will be in one of Farrer's dispatches back to Gardeners Chronicle. I should mention, after reading [livejournal.com profile] pameladean's comment, that this is not one of the 14 mimpish squinnies and I have no reason to believe that Farrer disliked it. Indeed, if he had he probably would not have painted it. Oh bother, I didn't mention that, either!


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

Here's a link to the only page about this species that I found on a desultory Google search: http://www.the-genus-lilium.com/n_basilissa.htm
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[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 have limited time for mimpishness right now; there is a wonderful exhibition of impressionism in American gardens at the New York Botanical Garden, and we're going to see it Friday, so my head is full of American gardeners and American impressionists right now. So here is a quick one -- a watercolor by Reginald Farrer, Lilium hyacinthinum, reproduced in E. H. M. Cox, The Plant Introductions of Reginald Farrer (1930).



Farrer may have written about this species, but I did not find it in a quick search of my pdfs of his two travel books, nor in the pdf of his The English Rock-Garden. It may be mentioned in one of his dispatches to The Gardener's Chronicle from his last expedition, but those are not easily searchable. A search at the Biodiversity Heritage Library brings up several references to the plant, but none by Farrer. Here is what he says about Lilium in general:

Lilium.--We will not turn our overburdened eyes in this direction, lest we should never be able to turn them away again, for thinking of the hot limestone rocks in the far South where L. pomponium hangs among the brushwood in balls of scarlet fire, above the dancing clear blue flames of Aquilegia Reuteri; or the alpine meadows filled with the stark and stalwart chimes of L. Martagon; or the dark sombre cliffs of the Cottians where L. croceum finds root-home where none can be, in the smallest ledges of the cliff, till up and down the sheer and terrible walls twinkle at you from afar a thousand little sparks of flame that are the golden goblets of the lily, held up to catch the daylight in the darkness of the precipice, and radiate it forth again in living fire. But are there not books of such matters, to be bought for 1s. 9d.? Let these then be purchased; for indeed Lilium is no special race for the rock-garden, and, though all its members are always and everywhere to be desired and worshipped, they are not so special for the rock-garden as for beds especially made on their behalf, where their cult may be unstinted and unchallenged.

Reginald Farrer, The English Rock-Garden, Vol. 1, p. 450


(I love the Old English-y, Anglo-Saxon-ish construction "root-home" -- something the Beowulf poet might have used.)

These days the plant goes by the unwieldy name Notholirion bulbuliferum (Lingelsh.) Stearn SPECIES. and has a collection of synonyms: Liliastrum bulbuliferum, Notholirion campanulatum, Notholirion hyacinthinum, and Paradisea bulbulifera.

more photos here )

I imagine next Monday I will still be full of the wonders of the New York Botanical Garden...
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
This is an occasional series of postings inspired by Abigail Rorer, Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants. Rorer's book includes engravings 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 ]

Last Monday was my birthday, so I treated myself to a mimpery-free Monday.


Eryngium giganteum
By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20574891

I am puzzled by the inclusion of this species in Rorer's book, since Farrer has nothing bad to say about that particular species -- although there are others that incur his ire. Do hop over to the link I shared above to see Rorer's bristling Eryngium, whose foliage includes "the tusk of a sword-fish." Here is the entry from Farrer's The English Rock-Garden:

Setting aside the giant species, best fitted for the border, and adequately described in any catalogue of such things; setting aside also the terrible species from America which are best fitted for the hot and stony wild garden (where their tropical-looking foliage, like the tusk of a sword-fish, may have its splendours, and not be disgraced by the ensuing dingy heads of blossom enclosed in a cup of pointed bracts like some Protea or an Artichoke gone mad) -- it is important for the rock-garden to know which species will best suit its style, and, more important still in one case, which is which. For beautiful E. amethystinum is often sent out under the name of the much more beautiful and much rarer E. alpinum. But the two are very easily known apart. Look down from above upon the hard sugar-loaf of blossom enclosed in its wide-spreading frill of steely blue: if that cup be handsomely but thinly starry, with long spiny bracts rather broad and stiff and solid, and owning a toothing here and there, then the species is E. amethystinum. But now what a change. Look down upon the next: here the frill is double, treble, quadruple, and each bract is toothed again and again into long thorny-looking spines of its own, until the whole effect is that of a blue lacy collar of richness unparalleled. This is the only, the unsurpassable E. alpinum, a plant of the mid-alpine limestones, scattered locally here and there along the mountain chains, nowhere in any great quantity, though common enough in the small limited stations where it occurs. But in nature, accordingly, it is a prize of such preciousness that it should neither be dug nor picked-even if its root did not forbid the one crime, and the hope of seed dehort from the other. It is indeed a superb and uncanny splendour of some foot or 18 inures high, blooming through the later fullness of summer, and, like all its kind, perfectly happy in the rock-garden in any very deep loam. No other, following, can compete with this, except its peer, E. giganteum, of nearly a yard high, from the Caucasus, with much the same frill, but here of an ivory-white so ghostly-clear that the plant is called Elves' Bones. For the rock-garden, too, is fitted rare and lovely E. spinalba from the Southern European ranges, about 18 inches high, firmly spinous, with stems and frill of a silvery pale grey-blue fading into white. But for places of choice, even in the very foreground of the rock-work, there are two species of front rank to match. Of these E. prostratum, in our gardens, forms a quite small central rosette of thin oblong green leaves, sparingly toothed and wholly unarmed, from which lie out upon the earth in a star all round short prostrate stems of 3 or 4 inches, with flowers and frills of a beautiful blue. This is sometimes treated with tenderness, and felt to be impermanent, if not a biennial, even when grown in good rich ground on sunny exposures. In point of fact, this is a bog plant from Texas, and in damp places should make a running carpet, rooting as it goes, along all its ground-hugging branches. Quite different from this is the last Eryngium with which it is at present necessary for the rock-garden to concern itself (though there are many others to supply a full collection). For in the high dry open places, between 8000 and 11,000 feet up in the Sierra Nevada of the Old World, dwells E. glaciale, the neatest, finest, and most unfriendly of little thorny tuffets, armed in copious spikes of silvery grey, deepening towards shades of blue, with fish-bone spines of ivory glinting as its stems of 3 or 4: inches unfold towards the frill and the flower. This, indeed, is thankful for open very deep soil in the fullest sun and with perfect drainage, where it grows on happily into a clump, and may be raised from seed, having, like all its kind, a root so heroic and profound as utterly to discourage division or removal. It blooms in summer.


Perhaps Farrer has bad things to say about E. giganteum elsewhere. Or perhaps, having once before aroused the ire of the formidable Miss Willmott by calling her own rock garden too violent for his taste, he was reluctant to cross her again. She was, in addition to being formidable, a recklessly extravagant buyer of plants. And, I suspect, a good part of Farrer's motive in his writing was to stimulate demand for alpine plants -- a demand that he would be happy to see supplied either by him or by the seedsmen and nurserymen for whom he was prospecting in the East.

more photos below the cut )
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[This is an occasional series of postings inspired by Abigail Rorer, Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants. Rorer's book includes engravings 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 ]

After wandering through the Tibetan border with Reginald Farrer, I return us to Abigail Rorer's fourteen mimpish squinnies. Today's mimpish squinnie is Tricyrtis hirta and this entry is from The English Rock-Garden, Vol. 2.


By Juni from Kyoto, Japan (Flickr.com - image description page) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATricyrtis_hirta.jpg

Tricyrtis. — These strange plants have all the same resemblance, differing chiefly in their stature, so that one picture may suffice to express their almost inexpressible quaintness. From a short stock they send up more or less arching stems of a foot or two, embraced by dark hairy leaves, corrugated and oval-pointed, which from their axils almost all the way up emit large and evil flowers, very late in summer as a rule, or autumn, built on the scheme of a lily, but wried by perversity into an almost Aubrey-Beardsley freakishness of outline and heavy waxen texture and livid sombre colour of putrid pinks, freckled and spotted with dark purple till their name of Toad-lily is felt to be apt. They like the treatment of Trillium, and with the
Trilliums should be planted and there left undisturbed for ever, in a rather warm corner, however, that their flowers may develop betimes, for often they are nipped in the bud by autumn. T. hirta (T. japonica) is the best known ; but a better plant is T. macropoda, if only that it blooms earlier, in June and July, in rather closer sprays. Much smaller and quite dainty and charming in its sinister way is T. Hototogisu. Pronounce this " hototongeese," and think of it accordingly as meaning the nightingale of Japanese woodlands, a frail 6-inch stem or so, set rarely with heart-shaped leaves, and bearing several flowers only, in a loose spray, notable and noble for the delicate build of the plant.


By Schnobby (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATricyrtis_hirta_b.jpg


For Abigail Rorer's treatment of this plant, click here: http://www.theloneoakpress.com/prints/newer/48--Tricyrtis-hirta.jpg
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
For today's Mimpish Monday, we find Reginald Farrer close to the end of his expedition to Kansu and Tibet in 1914-15.

THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
The Hastened End, pp. 274-276


Down the depths of the Dene we rode, and up the shingled miles of the confluent river, meeting, in the alder-coppice of the boulder-bed, with the abandoned antlers of an elk, left there till its lucky murderer should have time to come and reclaim them. Then up the mountain-side we still rode, and up to the Ma-chang, and up and up and up into the Alp, and over its bays and folds, till we actually attained on horseback to the mountain of black blocks above the Clear Lake.



It is a curious place, so loose a compilation of somber vast rocks that the turf between is springy with unfilled holes beneath, and there are deep caverns and hollows everywhere among the boulders, and water trickling and lurking, as if the whole hill were a sponge. As it indeed is, a slack-woven texture, full of pores and passages, lightly accumulated, and never settled down into solidity. Here we encamped; Bill in one tent, and I in another, and the staff in the big white one, lent us by the Viceroy of the Koko-Nor.

read more )

[This is an occasional 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 ]
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
This is my horticultural triumph for the year -- actually, it's sheer dumb beginner's luck and a rogue seed that grew into a plant that decided to bloom in Year 1 instead of Year 2.



This would be Leontopodium alpinus, aka edelweiss, growing here in the mountains of South Philly (elev. 36 feet). It appears that every scornful word Reginald Farrer said about the reputed difficulty of growing the stuff is absolutely correct.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
I like this passage from The Rainbow Bridge, the second volume of Reginald Farrer's account of his 1914-1915 collecting trip to Northwest China/Tibet. Here, Farrer is writing about a vision of loveliness shared by his fellow traveler William Purdom. The two of them were moved by the beauty of the Harebell Poppy, Meconopsis quintuplinervia.

click to read purple prose and see purple-ish flowers )

[This is an occasional 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 ]
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
It's my new safe-for-work expletive. And it's backed up by a graphic:



The Holy Family at work: from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, Morgan MS M.917. More info and some backstory about the strange history of this manuscript here:
http://www.themorgan.org/collection/hours-of-catherine-of-cleves/69#overlay-context=collection/hours-of-catherine-of-cleves/69

Thought I'd tack on some updates on The Scamp. His appetite and energy level are both much improved. I had his megabucks prescription refilled so I now have two of those bite-proof 1 mL syringes, but it doesn't really matter. He's conditioned to expect Greenies dental treats before, during, and after the medication and he's more or less resigned to being squirted. This morning he opened his mouth, as much as if to say, "Well, if you must..."

I also ordered the rolling cat carrier (it's huge!). Some time this weekend I will take him around the block to see how he does, before taking him out in traffic for real.

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