lblanchard: (swannfountain)

This may not be exciting news to everyone, but it certainly is to me! A professor of art history at UTexas (Austin) has a study of Farrer, focusing on his Buddhism, to be released in January. Details here:

http://www.mhra.org.uk/news/sri-lanka-western-front-farrers-buddhism

And a link to the book blurb itself (from which I stole the cover illustration):

http://www.mhra.org.uk/publications/sicl-36

The Modern Culture of Reginald Farrer
Landscape, Literature and Buddhism
Michael Charlesworth

Less exciting, or at least not exciting in a good way, is the fact that this paperback carries a price tag of $99 (*gulp*). I will need to pitch all my spare change in a jar until January to afford it.

The blurb says that the book will consider, especially, three works: In Old Ceylon, which happens to be next up on my reading list; The Void of War, which I have in reprint; and the verse drama Vasanta the Beautiful, which I do not have but which is available in pdf from the Hathi Trust (which I may be able to read online in an annoying load-each-page separately fashion).

One hopes that Charlesworth will give at least a nod to Farrer's second novel, The Sundered Streams, which owed a lot to his brush with Buddhism just before or possibly during his conversion and includes a lengthy lecture from a Buddhist abbot visiting England.

Here's hoping that this will be the first pebble in an avalanche of Farrer-related doings in the run-up to the centenary of his death in 2020.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
Whoa. One of the leading botanical illustrators in England is one Annie Farrer, something-something niece of Reginald Farrer.

http://www.ncbpt.org.uk/folly/exhibitions/exhibitions_2008/
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
First, the edelweiss (aka Leontopodium alpinum), blooming weakly in the alpine meadows of South Philly (elev. 36 ft). I think it's remarkable that it blooms at all...

Leontopodium alpinum (Edelweiss)

And now, the purple prose. This is from Farrer's second novel, The Sundered Streams, and is an example of why he's a lousy novelist but a fabulous prose stylist. First, the plot summary: Kingston, our protagonist, is married to a dull but dependable woman. He finds himself inexplicable drawn to her very odd cousin Isabel, who is living with them. Through a series of mischances Kingston and Isabel wind up stranded, alone, on a mountain top, where they discover their mutual conviction that their souls have been linked for all eternity. She demands that he run away with her; he refuses, citing the claims of duty and honor, and they are locked in a fierce emotional combat. Finally, they agree that nothing can be resolved that night; she retires to sleep in the primitive summit shelter and he remains outside to pace and fret.

And there the narrative stops dead.

For four full octavo pages, the crisis and fulcrum of the plot hangs in the balance -- while Farrer paints a word picture of the impending dawn atop the peak that I believe to be a stand-in for his native Ingleborough. But such a word picture. One can almost forget, midway through this, that two tortured souls are trying to find a way forward out of an impasse.

The purple prose, let me show it you )

At this point, Isabel joins him. The crisis has passed, and they both acknowledge the claims of duty and honor and the dull but dependable wife.

[livejournal.com profile] pameladean, I tweeted some pages of execrable dialog from this book earlier. Interestingly, that is the voice Kingston uses when talking to his wife -- that stilted, superficial, early 20th century public school voice of the English gentry. When he speaks to Isabel, it's wholly other -- more genuine, more impassioned. I could wish he had had a stern editor to trim and prune a work that had a germ of an idea, badly handled by someone who's much better at describing landscapes and flowers than at plumbing the human heart.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
[This is one in an occasional series of postings related in some way to the alpine plant hunter Reginald Farrer. The series was originally 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 my two ruinously expensive (by my book-buying standards) Farrer novels and a plan to get them digitized and up on the Internet Archive so others can enjoy them, metaphorically speaking, as he was not a successful novelist. I also have my ruinously expensive The Plant Introductions of Reginald Farrer by E.H.M. Cox, which I wanted for the twelve exquisite Farrer watercolors. I am sorely tempted to remove them and frame them, but I'll resist. Scan, print, and frame is probably the better course.

I've ordered far-less-pricey editions of two more Farrer texts -- Among the Hills: A Book of Joy in High Places and The Dolomites: King Laurin's Garden. My pdfs do not satisfy -- the reproduction of the illustrations is abysmal. I was also thrilled to find that most of the Farrer texts I don't have in hard copy are abundantly available in the $20 range.

I have pansies growing under lights, in their eggshell containers, and they're now showing true leaves. I found a few words about pansies in Farrer's magnum opus, The English Rock-Garden. These words, of course, are not about common garden pansies...images and Farrerian prose after the jump )
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 finished posting about the fourteen plants Abigail Rorer illustrated in Mimpish Squinnies. As a fitting end to a year's Farrerian posting (and, I think, the end to posting about him with such clockwork regularity), I give you Reginald Farrer as visualized by Rorer:



Rorer based this print on a photograph of Farrer in his "Buddhist robes," probably the set of Japanese Chinese court robes he bought on his first trip to Asia shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. He must have been a sight, an almost-dwarfish figure parading around a small Yorkshire village in this garb -- which he was wont to put on when giving lantern slide presentations about his travels to the local children. His rather hidebound parents were surely scandalized by this exhibition of heathen eccentricity and also by his very public announcements that he had converted to Buddhism.

I believe that Farrer made four trips to Asia in total -- the first to China and Japan; the second to Ceylon; the third to the Tibetan marches, and the fourth to the Burma uplands. They were the source material for the travelogues that brought him a reputation as a man of belles-lettres -- a reputation that eluded him as a novelist and playwright, despite his great strivings in that direction.

And there let us leave him, pleased as punch by his robes, his Buddhist faith, and his abiding love for the alpine flora of Asia. At least, let us leave him until the passion of his prose draws me back to share the tidbits I find, but not necessarily every week and not necessarily on Monday.

A very happy new year to you all.




*I was pretty sick on Monday this week, and am not yet recovered, the cold now manifesting itself as pinkeye.
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 ]

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 manfred.sause@volloeko.de - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9057423



By Hectonichus - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28643142



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).
http://www.meemelink.com/prints%20pages/18715.Labiatae%20-%20Horminum%20pyrenaicum.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 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.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
We last left our intrepid explorers engaged in a comic-opera defense of the walled city of Siku. Meanwhile, the Chinese were responding to the depredations of the Tibetans and the brigands with a punitive military force, which dispatched the troublesome foes at the cost of some casualties. These were brought to Siku some few days after that defense, and the presumed medical expertise of Purdom and Farrer earnestly besought. One case required heroics.


The heroic field surgeon Bill Purdom, seen here in Chinese coolie garb somewhat later in time,
part of a subterfuge to gain access to a region where Europeans were forbidden


read the harrowing tale )
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
I've been re-reading On the Eaves of the World, Reginald Farrer's most lighthearted travelogue / botanizing report from his expeditions to the far east. This one was written before World War I had sobered him up a bit.


Farrer's map, with all his made-up names. Click to embiggen


Farrer begins by talking about the delicacy of negotiating with Chinese officialdom and the adventures of assembling a staff. Then he and Bill Purdom (a man who so deeply loved China and its flora that he agreed to go with Farrer on nothing more than the assurance that his expenses would be paid) assembled a ragtag staff and headed out to the remote province of Kanshu on the Tibetan marches. It's hard to follow Farrer's itinerary because he insists on re-naming things according to how he hears the Chinese, or how a feature appears to him -- don't try to find the peak "Thundercrown" on any map.


View from "above the pink temple" outside Siku


Farrer also switches back and forth between an account of his travels and rhapsodizing about the plants. He had previously described the walled city of "Siku" (eventually I'll find the modern equivalent but so far Google has failed me), which was governed by the civil authority of Great Lord Jang and the military authority of Great Man Pung: both, in his eyes, Gilbert and Sullivan-esque figures of comic officialdom. After an interval there, it was off to botanize. Farrer rhapsodizes about the wonderful plants he and Bill encountered on the descent back to Siku, where they were plunged into preparations for war -- the territory was being terrorized by famed brigand Pai-Lang, the White Wolf, whose troops were expected any day. But now I'll let Farrer take over the narrative himself:

Farrer and Purdom save the city )
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'm nearing the end of the canonical mimpish squinnies; this is the antepenultimate Rorer image. Unlike some of the others, Aconitum napellus is a very dangerous plant that richly deserves Farrer's ire and Rorer's unsettling treatment of it.



Though Aconitum need not necessariIy have any place in the rock-garden, on however large a scale it may be built, and though the race is sinister and evil in its poisonous sombre splendour almost beyond any other that we have, yet, for the guidance of those who find nothing but nude names in lists, I may briefly go through the best species that may be used to adorn remoter corners of the large rock-garden, in any soil that is deep and rich and cool, whether in sun or shade, though shade best fits the gloomy tone of their magnificence.

Napellus, our own dismal Monkshood, now wild, or at all events now widely established along the stream sides of the West, and so persistent in its malign attendance upon man that it even climbs high into the Alps, and there forms dense jungles round the highest chalets, in the hope that some day somebody may eat of its poisoned root and die. Napellus has innumerable forms, not necessarily to be named, unless it be to single out the varieties carneum and roseum for special warning, these alluring epithets covering, in reality, colours of a dim and unwholesome dinginess. The blue and white bicolor form is good, however, and so is the dark-blue form called Spark's variety. Eminens is a much taller development.- All forms bloom in high summer, through July and August. --The English Rock-Garden


Aconitum napellus is a handsome plant:


By Bernd Haynold - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=237028


But beware! It's a killer. From Wikipedia:

Like other species in the genus, A. napellus contains several poisonous compounds, including enough cardiac poison that it was used on spears and arrows for hunting and battle in ancient times. A. napellus has a long history of use as a poison, with cases going back thousands of years. During the ancient Roman period of European history, the plant was often used to eliminate criminals and enemies, and by the end of the period it was banned and anyone growing A. napellus could have been legally sentenced to death. Aconites have been used more recently in murder plots; they contain the chemical alkaloids aconitine, mesaconitine, hypaconitine and jesaconitine, which are highly toxic.

Marked symptoms may appear almost immediately, usually not later than one hour, and "with large doses death is almost instantaneous." Death usually occurs within two to six hours in fatal poisoning (20 to 40 mL of tincture may prove fatal). The initial signs are gastrointestinal including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is followed by a sensation of burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen. In severe poisonings pronounced motor weakness occurs and cutaneous sensations of tingling and numbness spread to the limbs. Cardiovascular features include hypotension, sinus bradycardia, and ventricular arrhythmias. Other features may include sweating, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, headache, and confusion. The main causes of death are ventricular arrhythmias and asystole, paralysis of the heart or of the respiratory center. The only post-mortem signs are those of asphyxia.

Poisoning may also occur following picking the leaves without wearing gloves; the aconitine toxin is absorbed easily through the skin. In this event, there will be no gastrointestinal effects. Tingling will start at the point of absorption and extend up the arm to the shoulder, after which the heart will start to be affected. The tingling will be followed by unpleasant numbness. Treatment is similar to poisoning caused by oral ingestion and even handling the plant without gloves has been reported to result in multi-organ failure and death.


Farrer lists many others among the Aconitum, and is quite complimentary to several. I understand,though, that all the Aconites are toxic to one degree or another.
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)
[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 )

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