Welcome to the un Magazine catalogue of flower seeds. Made available within are nineteen beings, each having persisted from the earliest of mail order catalogues through to their last. Each entry tells a plant story in language made possible through their growth and together they could even make a garden. I hope you will find something you like.
So, this orange flower bloomed in my garden in September. They had already bloomed in Seth’s garden so I knew they would bloom in mine. The wrinkled brains of double jewel trail down the desiccated pine mulch. Their rounded leaves shield aphids from the street lawn. Plant them all year round as required.
If kept in an airtight container, these seeds will last for nine years. The persistence of the cheese wheel shaped pods does not come from serotiny. Each year they linger well past abscission, presaging the gossamer funnels of the biennial. They do not appear that way in the Rachel Ruysch—a Dutch still-life painter who traversed the Baroque and Dutch Golden Age movements—paintings. In her Amsterdam studio in 1863 the hollyhocks drooped. They are languorous. Past erectophile. They wilt in the ill-suited sottobosco. The paintings evoke a vanitas; the Hollyhock has come to mean death. Ruysch’s three- hundred-year-old forest floor is quite safe at Oxford. I can offer no guarantee your seeds will survive as long. Dead head them in Autumn and they might last forever.
It is hard to tell if these are delphiniums or consolida. Cladistics tell us that one is a monophyletic taxon of the other. The delphinium name refers to its dolphin shape, its entire perianth whorl being subsumed by a single dorsal outer whorl—the dolphin-esque bit. Grow them and see the uncanny resemblance of the slender blue peduncles. The consolida’s etymology might appear more legible but do not consolidate the larkspur into yourself. A consound at midsummer was offered to the inferno alongside the request, “depart all mine ill fortune and be cast off with this herb.”1 It is odd to burn a flower which germinates only in the cold. There is no need for smoke germination as there are no pyroendemic plants in this catalogue. There are none in all of Europe.
Dehiscence allows lupines to be edible which makes them germplasm and turns them into feed: for horses, pigs, sheep, cattle, broilers, chickens, any poultry, even fish. The incessant crawl of agrilogistics deafens perceptions and mutes utterances to such an extent we can barely hear their gyrating pores, listening for the low frequency rumbling of the nearest water source.2 Too hungry to be shrewd, let us wallow in the fallow, swallowed up by the unbridled pullulation of diaphanous purple raceme. Diazotroph’s fix gas as calyptras susurrate in the podzolised sand and acid. Waves of creamy lavender bloom because all words for purple are flowers. No time for floridity, we are here for beans. And so the harvester devours the chlorosistic pulse. The rufous fallow returns and waits, perhaps listening.
The impatiens touch is reserved for virgins. The supple corolla lobes restrict the unchaste to only look. Yet looking is a kind of touch, an external pressure on the retina—the outside of the inside of the eye—reveals its verdant valves. A gliding touch on the very edge of reception, a kiss. Then insides become outsides in the radial cascade. Interior desires become external expressions. A kiss occurs when one edge [of what?] delicately brushes against another in a place too close to see.3 A lacuna that suddenly opens and disappears. Ballochory intrudes. But one kiss is never enough, kisses only grow when kissed.
Scabious – Pin Cushion
Scabious describes this flower’s mimicry; Pin Cushion describes its use. In a strange inversion of a doctrine of signatures, and
an even rarer case of its efficacy, the ‘pin-cushion’ bespeaks to cause that which it supposedly treats. A poultice of these really will heal your scabies. None of the titles do much to explain
the plant’s will. The beige pistils held aloft by crimson styles
are not really pins at all, they are hooks. Floriferous language
in a catalogue like this and by 1859 it was a weed of Australian national significance.4
At the end of their flexible pedicles, downward facing anthers, into the spur shaped nectary of the basal eudicot, the soft forked tongue of the hummingbird blooms. An automatic nectar trap just as capable if dead, closes deep within the pendulous efflorescence before silently returning to the bird’s brain, which, wrapped in its own appendage, never forgets a good meal.5 These are not hollow and capacious capillary tubes, they open to responsive agents who pollinate them in affirmation. They speak to one another and make themselves through their dialogue. There are no native hummingbirds here, but Columbine’s might suit your cottage garden.
This is our second ornamental legume: but what makes these ornaments and not decorations? Floriography is sometimes both. Love is for a rose but the pea is a sweet departure from a pleasant moment. Coincidence or fate, ornament or decoration. Most sweet peas change colour after pollination. Perhaps this is out of sentimentality. The same feeling has sold language of flower books since the nineteenth century, curiosity has sold the seeds.
Cornflower blue is Vermeer’s blue. You would know it from the paintings in the same Delft room by the window with the light and the endless checker floors reproducing themselves. ‘Effeuiller la Margueritte.’ Oracular heterochrony. They love me. They love me not. Stuck in a loop. Plucked and still growing.
What makes it difficult to hear the marigold? We look too closely for a voice and miss the rhyming ends. These ends whose intervals repeat at a pace a single voice cannot contain. We have a hard time hearing the marigold because its speech runs on
and we cannot discern versura.6 It is there, in concert in the Selam.7 Marigolds are not quiet. Polyphony makes it hard to discern a marigold’s voice. Bouts-rimés seems to suggest that rhyming is always possible, that there is always someone to talk to. That it always exists latently, like this seed.
Stock – Gilliflower – Carnation – Dianthus
Apologies for the multiple names. I am not trying to conflate them, rather I just could not help myself and have listed them all. Each name alone felt insufficient. Linnaeus would say this is pleonastic. His substitute being episteme. But something still does not line up; is not working in both directions. There is confusion because one name is never enough. Because all words are metaphors and metaphors do not work in both directions. For the signs to work they have to be detached, they would need perfect signs, never confused, and flowers are always confused.
Perhaps there will be another mania, like the rare houseplant craze or macramé or the fern fever or the tulip mania or the Roman’s Floralia. It is better to be together: in a big field; in some damp forest; by the Wardian case; Lawrence Alma- Tadema’s The Roses of Heliogabalus (1888) on a parade float like Audrey II from the Little Shop of Horrors (1960). Maybe it is less about looking for ferns and more about looking for fern flowers. Maybe it is scary to admit that you are in love with a plant. Maybe love is vegetal.
Reynard the Fox8
Forwintered in gladsome hole and parturient from pudding, Reynard the fox placed his ruddy brush over his eyes and quickly fell asleep.
But fairies circle the oneiric zone, coronet of nineteen stones,
Their somnifacient swaying charms the canid in his throes.
Dance with us, Reynard the fox, arcady is very close. Slip your paws into soft gloves and join us at the fairy throne.
But Reynard neither owns soft gloves nor can he sew to produce them.
The mitts purloined from neigbours lines fit ill with extra digits.
So Reynard searches in the woods to find the magic mittens.
I must recline I’m lost and tired, I’ll never dance with fairies wild.
Collapsing pads and plantars glide into the scrub where flowers reside.
Radicles grow tomentose about the sleeping foxes toes.
Bellflowers on single bracts caress his feet, tickle his nose.
Around his hands and feet they slip, the petals of digitalis.
Dancing amongst the fairy loves. Edges kissed by soft foxgloves.
Juvenile sunflowers face their heads to the sun, watching intently on their gentle arc. Mature sunflowers know where they rise and wait for propitious morning light. The stems are not calcified; decay does not inhibit. The sun produces them but does not reproduce them. There is an irreducible gap between the young flower and its celestial mirror. A nagging desire to see oneself replicated in the world. Narcissism is the cycle which reminds us that sensing alone is not enough.9 A narcissistic-like reproduction. The sort of narcissism necessary for expression. The sunflower wants to know it is not the sun but also that it is not just a sunflower. There is a rumour that at night, rather than being lonely, sunflowers will face each other, but that is just a rumour.
There is no smoke without fire. Which is to say there is no smoke without light, a yellow light. Fulminating yellow light erupting from the herbage. Iridescent yellow masses luring Fresian cattle down the infundibuliform conflagrations of the ardent yellow pools. Yellow lies trick cattle into false grazing, which tricks herbalists into a false doctrine, which tricks us into drinking the milk, which tricked me into writing this and tricked you into reading it. Maybe they are just kidding, they are being yellow as a joke that is very convincing. The libidinal vacuums of ardent yellow light are so convincing they drag us straight into a bright hell which seems to utter, ‘I am buttercup, I am yellow.’
The order of my nucleotides is important. If they were sequenced differently, I could not have soothed Demeter. So her corn would have gone rotten and the wallabies could not have gotten addicted to opium and destroyed the Tasmanian pharmaceutical industry.10 I was not always narcotic, I missed a fusion in an ancient gene duplication event and then the morphinan was there.11 It was an accident; that is how I know I can change. My DNA tried rhyming with itself and put everyone to sleep. The sleep of the restless barley goddess, Mekor’s verging lullaby. Like the retired seed catalogue that is sleeping to dream.
There is no good reason for this catalogue, there is no reason
it could not be something else. There is no reason it did not respond to other problems, did not come up with other solutions, did not use other words. It is a fake catalogue, in the same way that flowers are fake, in that there is no reason they are not anything else either. That is not to say they are not necessary; it is to say that they are artifice. Flowers, like language, respond to themselves. They respond to their appearance which just happens to appear. There is a sense in which this is all an analogue for plant language, its intrinsic ecological utterance and its extrinsic responsive signifiers, and in another sense non-analogically actual plant language. There might be real seeds behind this magazine, this might be a real catalogue, but only ever maybe.
I wrote all of this in a spreadsheet: Snapdragon is cell G18. Actually, this is the fifth spreadsheet I have written. I suppose I was apprehensive; I did not want to be led astray and dreaded performing a disservice. In one sense, the spreadsheet allowed me to clearly discern the intersection of the 1677 William Lucas Catalogue and Mr Fothergill’s last.12 In another sense, it recapitulates the ignorance of Enlightment era taxonomy. Taxonomy that still persists, indelible like these nineteen seeds. The angiosperm phylogeny group may arrange these beings near or far across rifts of family and clade. They have been distributed via catalogue for 350 years but have been friends for far longer. It is a good thing that science is not finished, there is a lot of gossip we need to catch up on.
Sow inside or outside, in a container or a bed. A companion to all and a deterrent to pests. A flower of all weeks, of all months, of all time. The ruched orange petals can heal sick eyes. Like all plants, we grow until we die.