Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rouncival, Not Runcible

The following flower mystery is from Benjamin Townsend's book:  

The Complete Seedsman: Shewing, the Best and Easiest Method for Raising and Cultivating Every Sort of Seed Belonging to a Kitchen and Flower-garden. With Necessary Instructions for Sowing of Berries, Mast, and Seeds of Evergreens, Forest-trees, and Such as are Proper for Improving of Land. Written at the Command of a Person of Honour, Volume 1

Read this flower seed list from 1726 England.  I recognize most. The older form of the modern common name is often close enough to make it known. Holly Oak is fascinating...and a few uses of the "f" for the "s" makes for amusing looking words.

But what the heck are Horns and Hedgehogs, Bottles of All Colors and Snails and Caterpillars?!

I am not going to look them up tonight as I am too amused by just imagining what they might be.

Horns and Hedgehogs, as well as Snails and Caterpillars are pairs of different plants grown together for the amusement value.

The descriptions in this catalog are below.  Not that they help much.

Children would still be fascinated by these.  Take note, seed companies! :-)

By the way, if you read the catalog you might like to know the following.  Me, I don't remember ever hearing the word rouncival.  Edward Lear's runcible spoon, yes...but not rouncival.


Large, of gigantic size. Certain large bones of antediluvian animals were at one time said to be the bones of the heroes who fell with Roland in Roncesvalles. “Rounceval peas” are those large peas called “marrowfats,”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lucky Seeds

I was home sick when St. Patty's Day rolled around this year, missing all the fun at school!

Forgot all about posting these seed packets but I don't want to wait til next year...


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

1882 - The Painted Lady and the Scarlet Invincible - Sweet Peas

The names sound more like good old mystery titles; the ones with "guys and dames", if you know what I am talking about :-)

The article below is from Vick's Monthly Magazine, 1882. It gives a nice overview of the Sweet Pea in more practical terms than the previous post.  

The illustration is from the magazine.  It is used in the article to illustrate the different varieties. A very large image is at the end of the post.  I have added the detail cropped images next to their descriptions.


The Sweet Pea presents a charming individuality that wins and holds our admiration. Every curve in its peculiar form is graceful and its colors are bright, or soft, and contrasting. Besides, it is one of those flowers that "from the voluptuous June catch their perfumings." 

The petals of the Sweet Pea, which are five in number, and from their peculiar arrangement have received different names, are grouped into two pairs with the odd one standing somewhat erect back of them. The lower pair is called the keel, while the petals enclosing them are the wings, and the uppermost petal is called the banner. 

In the colored plate the center flower is known as Scarlet.

In this it may be noticed that the petals forming the keel are white, the wings rose-colored, and the banner scarlet. 

At the right of this center flower is one with white keel and very dark crimson wings and banner, this variety in the trade is called Black. >>

<<Directly underneath the last mentioned one is what is known as Blue Edged.

Above the center flower, Scarlet, is one with white keel and white wings and a rose colored banner, this is Painted Lady.>>

At the upper left-hand corner of the group is Scarlet Invincible, having a white keel and scarlet wings and banner.

Sow the seed as early as possible in the spring, about four inches deep, in good, rich, mellow soil. One way of sowing them, and a very good one, is to mark out a circle two feet in diameter, four inches deep, and sow the Peas around, about an inch apart. A stake about five feet high should stand at the center; just inside the circumference place a barrel hoop and peg it down to the ground, and attach strings to it about three inches apart all around, fastening them also at the top of the stake. On these strings the stems will climb by means of their tendrils, arranging themselves in a form, that of a cone, most advantageous to display their beautiful blooms. 

One of our engravings shows a portion of a hedge supported by sticks. We have made the hedge thin, so as to show how the sticks are placed, but naturally they are almost, or entirely, concealed. 

The other is a clump or group supported by a stake or two in the center.

Another course often pursued is to sow the seed in straight lines, supporting the stems either with strings or brush, thus forming a sort of hedge. 

Mulching the ground with some light litter when the season becomes advanced has the effect to keep the soil cool, which is a most favorable condition for this plant. Cutting the flowers, and thus preventing the seed to form, has a tendency to keep the plants long in a blooming state.

Sweet Peas as cut flowers, odorous and variously colored and tinted, are of the highest value for bouquets, vases, and many other purposes.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Sweet Pea Packets and a Buckbee Postcard




This is interesting.  A printer's proof sheet for seed packet art! Nice art work, too.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Father Cupani's Sweet Pea; 300 Years Ago

This sweet pea variety is Cupani.  
Available today, as it was in 1699 (if you had connections!).

The earliest mention of the sweet pea is found in '' Sillabus Plantarum Sicilke-nuper detectarum a P. F. Franciscus Cupani" (Panormi, 1695). The sweet pea is spoken of as "Lathyrus distoplatyphyllos hirsutis mollis, magno et peramoeno flore odore." 

Here it is mentioned 1696 in Cupani's Hortus Catholicus. (a bit more than 1/2 way down) The web is a wonderful thing!

Father Cupani was very enthusiastic about this flower and in 1699 sent seed to Dr. Uvedale at Enfield, England, and to Caspar Commelin at Amsterdam, Holland. 

Commelin described and illustrated the plant in his "Hort.-Medici Amstelodamensis" (1697-1701). He also adopted Cupani's name for the plant.  

Dr. Uvedale showed the flowering sweet pea to Dr. Plukenet in 1701. 

Dr. Plukenet's  own herbarium  specimen is the oldest sweet pea specimen known.  By 1713 they were flowering in the Chelsea Botanic Garden. (This link is interesting.)  Finally, by 1724, the seed was commercially available as Cupani's Original or Matucana.

The artist who did the botanical illustration for Commelin,  Jan Moninckx, did the watercolor painting below in 1699.   I am only assuming  Commelin's book's engraved plate was taken from this.  I can't track down a copy of it in the time I have available today.  I might be all wrong.

You absolutely must go to this extraordinary site to explore this painting in great detail, and to enjoy a high quality botanical art collection mounted by the Collectie Botanie of the Netherlands.