"Not a tree, A plant, a leaf, a blossom, but contains A folio volume. We may read, and read, And rend again, and still find something new, Something to please, and something to instruct."
To cultivate all the species and varieties of flowers described in this section of the work, will require a greater extent of land than most of my readers will be disposed to appropriate to a flower-garden, even if they have the time and requisite skill to devote themselves to its cultivation.
It must be left to the judgment of each one to select from this list such plants as they have space for, and time to attend to. There are many other interesting ornamental plants which might be noticed, but should I attempt to describe all that are known, it would require a number of volumes like the present one, to complete the list.
Such have been the diligence and perseverance of collectors of plants who within the last fifty years, have been sent out to all parts of the world, under the patronage of wealthy individuals and associations in Europe, that one would suppose that every nook and corner of the globe had been explored, and that nothing more of interest could be garnered up to gratify the eye of the florist.
But such is not the fact. Every year brings to light "something new, something to please, and something to instruct," in the floral kingdom. But, however rare and interesting many of these newly discovered plants may be to the florist, their value for ornamental purposes cannot be compared with that of some of the improved old standard varieties of the flower-garden. The science, skill, and perseverance, of amateur gardeners and florists, have transformed many comparatively inferior species of flowering plants from a state of simplicity and inelegance, to that of gorgeous magnificence. "We can hardly believe our senses, as we call to mind the great improvements that have been made in many of the races of ornamental plants, with which we have for years been familiar.
Let us look at the Verbena, hardly known twenty years ago, now sporting into every conceivable color and shade, excepting yellow, always in bloom, and never tiring. Or the Portulaca, with its shining scarlet, purple, yellow, orange, white, and variegated blossoms, ever bright and beautiful, making itself perhaps too common, but certainly very gay and lively, and forming an indispensable appendage to the flower-garden. But these single varieties are now eclipsed by the recently introduced double sorts, as large and as double as a Rose, with all the brilliant colors of the single.
Who would recognize the Aster, the old-fashioned China Aster, since, by the florists hands, it has been transformed into the variety called "Paeony-flowered," a class unsurpassed in brilliancy of color, perfection of shape, and in size equal to the Dahlia; or, into the other beautiful varieties of Pompon shape, Imbricated, Bouquet, and many other styles of beauty, unknown only within a few years?
Then the Dahlia, the Gilly-flower, Petunia, Balsam, Chrysanthemum, Phlox, Hollyhock, and other old denizens of the flower-garden, - how have they been transformed, their beauties made more beautiful, and their varieties multiplied!
"What an unlimited field for future improvements opens before us! We shall never arrive at perfection, but great improvements are yet to be made in many of the new as well as in the old flowers. We do not hold that the excitement and pleasure incident to the improvement and cultivation of a flower-garden, will wholly remove the ills and troubles of life; but it is an occupation that has a tendency to remove many disquitudes of the mind, and gives employment for many odd moments, that would otherwise be spent in brooding over some real or imaginary evil. We think Cowper came near the truth when he said:
"The spleen is seldom felt where Flora reigns; The lowering eye, the petulance, the frown, And sullen sadness, that o'ershade, distort, And mar the face of beauty, when no cause For such immeasurable woe appears: These Flora banishes, and gives the fair, Sweet smile and bloom, less transient than her own."