That Demmed Elusive, Pimpernel

“We seek him here, we seek him there/ Those Frenchies seek him everywhere! Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell?/ That demmed, Elusive Pimpernel?”

Odd’s Blood…I love that old Leslie Howard movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel–based on a novel about a Zorro like fellow who saves people from the guillotine of The Terror. Sink me! And I’ve discovered that, in my yard, is growing…Scarlet Pimpernel. The hero was named after this flower, for reasons of his own, and it used to be a flower unknown to America, but inadvertently we’ve brought it here and it’s a common weed now…and a beautiful one. It’s a crawling, vine like plant, with fine stems, clustering displays of leaves that are themselves organized like flower petals in blossoms, symmetrically opposed; the vines sprout minute scarlet flowers; they close up at night into tiny buds that look like miniaturized rose buds. When my wife said the weed was Pimpernel I said, “No!” I went to the garden and plucked some up, brought it to my computer, held it up next to the pictures online…the same! The oracle says so!

I’ve been thinking how many weeds are wild flowers, and how wild flowers are often seen as weeds; how garden flowers were once wild flowers, were bred to garden gaudiness; how weed flowers are often rather delicate, smaller, the blossoms not so blowsy as hybrid garden flowers. Wild roses are smaller, less like the gown of a debutante with tacky taste.

Garden flowers–I like them, especially irises. When I was 12 we had an art class printing drawings into sheets of copper. The other boys made imprinted guns and fighter jets; I made an iris. I was never a very sensitive boy, truly–I loved war movies–but secretly I also loved flowers.

Now I have to pull weeds in my garden but many of them are at least as colorful as garden flowers, and most of them more elegant. Hybridized and carefully bred for domestic pageantry, for colorful ostentation, garden flowers represent human culture, and human taste, as much as they represent nature. They’re wistful; they’re our cultivation of a dream of a prettier life…

Comments are closed.