This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
In our last paper we left the grounds as the judges were entering; but we must return and accompany them, just to give our readers an idea of the manner in which their important duties are conducted.
The whole exhibition is divided into as many parts as is necessary to prevent the task of arriving at a judgment from being hastily hurried through. To each division two judges are appointed; these receive on their entrance coloured cards, on which are printed the letters under which the plants they have to judge are entered, and the numbers of the collection present under that letter. Now all they have to do is to look through the tents, and wherever they see cards of the same colour as those in their hands nailed in front of plants, there are the subjects for their attention. If unable to agree, the judges of one department call in the aid of another division; but this is rarely required. As they award the prizes, they enter the same on their cards; and when they have judged all under their care, they return to the Council-room, where the Vice-Secretary receives their decisions, and enters them in a book, from which they are copied by the clerks on to large well-displayed papers attached to boards, which are forthwith hung in conspicuous situations outside the tents, and near the portion of the exhibition to which they refer.
But how fast time flies! the judges are scarcely finished, and it is nearly one o'clock. We must run outside; the weather is most delightful, - clear bright sunshine, tempered by a gentle breeze of wind. At both entrances, and in the road, a strong body of police are placed, to keep order in the arrival, setting down, and departure of carriages; and also for another purpose, if required, for there will soon be not a few of that unhappy parasitical class which live on their fellows, and who frequent all large gatherings; not that this sort obtain admission, - ample precaution is taken to prevent that. Beneath the canvass spread over a portion of the roadway leading to the Council-room entrance, sit, impatiently awaiting the opening of the gates, those enthusiastic admirers of flowers who come always before time, that they may make sure of seeing them well. Within are the Fellows, Members of the Council, enjoying one of their few privileges, - shewing a select number of friends the exhibition before the public are admitted. But the clock strikes one - musical sounds reach our ears - the gates fly open, and in we go, treading most daintily, lest we step on that beautiful dress moving before us.
We cast a look behind, and what a gathering already! whilst the noise of wheels tells very plainly that we are this day likely to have an old-fashioned Chiswick fete attendance.
Entering then at the gate leading to the Council-room, we take the pathway towards the Conservatory, and pass through fine Rhododendrons on either hand, loaded with their beautiful blossoms, and in great variety of colour. Here we should linger, but. that we know, on so beautiful a day, the tents will be filled to a degree rendering it utterly impossible for us to get a sight of their contents, unless we make the best use of our time, and reach them at once. On emerging from this pathway, we find, since the last meeting, that the Geranium-tent has been removed, and placed parallel with the Conservatory., which alteration we must request our readers to bear in mind, as they accompany us through the other tents, in the same order as on the last occasion. On our entrance, the seedling Pelargoniums immediately catch our eye, contributed by Messrs. Hoyle, Gaines, Whomes, and Beck: we are pleased with the brightness and variety of their colours, and glad to see that great improvement continues to be made in this popular flower, which is very apparent by the contrast between the older and new varieties, as exhibited in the collections which follow in succession the whole length of the tent, and half-way round on the other side, where the Fancy varieties begin, and continue until they reach the point where we entered.
With great pleasure we may add, before we leave this part of the exhibition, that the whole formed a mass of beauty highly creditable to the different contributors, and forming a beautiful contrast to that of the May exhibition. Nor must we forget to mention, what we unintentionally omitted to state in our last Number, that the Fancy Pelargoniums exhibited by Mr. Gaines at the last fete at Chiswick, and by Mr. Staines of Regent's Park, were, to use a technical term, as admirably done as on the present occasion. Mr. Ambrose stood first this time; but where all were so beautiful, let all have their due meed of praise: indeed, we learned that the judges were desirous of giving both the second and third exhibitions in this class second prizes, but were not allowed to do so, from the strictness of the regulations.
Passing over to tent No. 1 (see our visit in May), we come to the exhibition of new plants; and among these, perhaps the most striking was Escallonia macrantha, a rosy pink-flowered shrub from Patagonia, and stated to be hardy, from Messrs. Veitch. Then the same growers had a scarlet-flowered Lisianthus, named Pulcher, which we should like to see again; for the plant exhibited had suffered so much from travelling, that no opinion of its merits could well be formed. The same gentlemen also shewed their Mitraria coccinea, a pretty greenhouse shrub, with scarlet tubular blossoms, something like those of a Corrsea, but inflated in the middle and much larger. Mrs. Lawrence had the beautiful pink-flowered Abelia floribunda, which our readers cannot do wrong; in adding: to their greenhouse collections. A few other novelties were produced; but the above were the most remarkable. Continuing along the south side of this tent, we pass several groups of stove and greenhouse plants, and arrive at an exhibition of tall Cacti, which, being finely flowered, made a brilliant display.