This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The correctness and beauty of the last plate prompts me to offer a few remarks upon this ancient Florists' flower, of which the poet well says:
"Let yon admired Carnation own
Not all was meant for raiment or for food, Not all for needful use alone;
There while the seeds of future blossoms dwell, 'Tis coloured for the sight, perfumed to please the smell".
Shakspeare makes Perdita say,
"The fairest flowers o' the season Are our Carnations".
I could quote whole pages in its praise, if such were needed. I take it that in the whole range of Florists' flowers, not one is more largely cultivated in all parts of the country. It is asserted, that in the vicinity of Manchester alone, there may be two hundred growers of this flower.
That the requirements for a perfect Carnation were well known many years since, is proved by Mr. Hogg's Treatise published in 1820. The thirty years which have elapsed have not brought to light any thing desirable which he had not claimed as essential to form a first-rate flower. He says, " The stem should be strong, tall, and straight, not less than thirty, nor more than forty-five inches high; the flower should be at least three inches in diameter, consisting of a great number of large well-formed petals; but neither so many as to give it too full and crowded an appearance, nor so few as to make it appear thin. The petals should be broad and substantial, particularly those of the lower or outer circle, commonly called guard-leaves; these should rise perpendicularly about half an inch above the calyx, and then turn off gracefully in a horizontal direction, supporting the interior petals, and altogether forming a convex and nearly hemispherical corolla. The interior petals should rather decrease in size as they approach the centre of the flower.
The petals should be regularly disposed alike on every side, imbricating each other in such a manner as that both their respective and united beauties may captivate the eye at the same instant; they should be nearly flat; however, a small degree of concavity or inflection at the broad end is allowable, but their edges should be perfectly entire, that is to say, free from notches, fringe, or indenture. Whatever colours the flowers may be possessed of, they should be perfectly distinct, and disposed in stripes, broadest at the edge of the petals. Each petal should have a due proportion of white, i. e. one half, or nearly so, which should be perfectly clear and free from spots. Bizarres, or such as contain two colours on a white ground, are esteemed preferable to flakes, which have but one, especially when the colours are remarkably rich, and very regularly distributed. Scarlet, purple, and pink, are the three colours most predominant in the Carnation; the first two are seldom to be met with in the same flower, but the last two very frequently".
The same author says, "A Florist that raises six new Carnations in his lifetime may be considered fortunate." How has Dame Fortune, then, lavished her bounty upon the two amateur Florists, Messrs. Puxley and May, whose flowers form the plate alluded to above ! The former gentleman must have enjoyed the success of half-a-dozcn lives at least, for his career has not only been brilliant, but continued through a long series of years; nor shall I err much in awarding to Mr. Puxley the merit of raising more good flowers in his time than any other individual. His liberality also is only equalled by his perseverance and determination to obtain first-rate varieties, of which the following is a brief list: Armada, Emperor, Falstaff, Howard, Lionel, Prince Albert, Robert Bruce, Saladin, Gil Bias, Jenny Lind (see plate), Queen Victoria, Princess Helena, Perfection, Crusader, Mars, Madame Sontag, Princess Royal, Prince of Wales, President, Lady A. Peel, Dr. Solander, and others.
Mr. May's victories are of more modern date, and for the short time he has pursued the art, it would be impossible to find any one to surpass him. A large portion of his finest varieties are the produce of two or three seasons only, - a career unprecedented beyond doubt.
Unlike Mr. Puxley, Picotees have also claimed Mr. May's attention; and as the raiser of Sebastian, Ann Page, Constance, Jessica, Juliet, Portia, Viola, Phoebe, and others, he occupies no mean place. As the raiser of Bolingbroke, Hotspur, Caliban, Duncan, Edgar, Mercutio, Owen Glendower, Poins, Cardinal Wolsey, Justice Shallow (see plate), Tybalt, Antonio, Ariel, Lorenzo, Romeo, Tymon, and others, he holds a most enviable position indeed amongst Carnation raisers.
1. JENNY LIND.
2. JUSTICE SHALLOW.
I have heard it asserted that a grower of both Carnations and Picotees could never expect to obtain good seedlings, on account of the intermixture of their pollen where the two flowers are cultivated together. Now this doctrine has proved only empty theory, for Mr. May has had the most marked success; and further, I have heard that gentleman say, that in his batches of seedlings, the seed was always true from the sort saved, whether Carnations or Picotees; and the produce was always distinct, and so kept by him until blooming time.
With much pleasure I thus register my thanks to these raisers, in return for the delight I have experienced in the cultivation of their beautiful productions.
Holloway, October 1850. John Edwards.