This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The following extracts have been made from letters of a private correspondent residing in the Mount Barker district of the above colony. To us these little links connecting our far-away friends with the mother-country ape exceedingly interesting; and we hope to be favoured with future communications of a similar kind from the same quarter. It is agreeable to think that the perusal of our periodical forms the pleasing occupation of a few spare moments in so distant a land, and that it is likely to contribute its share towards the advancement of floriculture even in South Australia.
A damp spring-like day, vegetation in the garden and field making rapid progress, almonds in leaf, early plums and peaches blossoming; the Lowry parroquet very busy and mischievous among the buds, and not very easily frightened from his purpose. In the woodlands, the little spring-flowers decking the ground, the Yellow Wattle and the Blackwood, two false Acacias, beautifully in blossom. The former grows in dense masses or clumps over the poorer ground, runs up from seed very quickly, and, like most rapid-growing timber, soon reaches its prime, and as soon goes to decay. It cannot bear fire nor yet pruning; and it is well it is so, or it seems as if it would take forcible possession of the country; but by burning the grass-land in the autumn, their numbers may be kept down. This is not the case with our forest-trees, the Eucalypti, of which there are many varieties, very many varieties, but all so much alike in their general appearance, that it creates a great monotony in our landscape. The occupants of our forests lack that luxuriance of foliage which in the mass yield such grateful shade, yet we have not one deciduous tree a native of Australia. We have few that lay any claim to beauty, and very few that yield fruit, and what native fruits there are, are worthless.
Whether cultivation might improve them or not, I do not know, for we have found it extremely difficult to get any of our native fruit-stones or pips to grow. There is a very general shyness in all native seeds to vegetate, even down to what may be considered the native weeds of our colony. We have not one single plant as a weed which troubles in the garden or field like the weeds which have been introduced from England.
After having a peep at the landscape, you must now take a walk round our garden, and see most of the plants and flowers growing as nature prompts them; some of them may be kept from too much straggling by being tied to a stick, but the sun looks very hard upon them all - not so hard, however, upon them this last year or two as he has been wont to do. This season is a peculiarly favourable one for flowers, so very showery. Our garden is now looking delightful, and smelling very sweetly after a soaking shower. 1 cannot, however, appeal so strongly to your senses as you do to ours in the Florist. Yes, you make us quite long for some of the realities there spoken of. However, step into the garden; you will there observe that Roses grow admirably with us; but we have no great variety, and are obliged to make up for that want by numbers of one sort. What we used to call the Monthly Rose in England grows most rampant here, and being a shrub that seldom looks untidy, and flowers so abundantly, we have some dozens of it, some of them are from 8 to 10 feet high; then again, we have a Cluster Rose, pale blush; and another variety of Cluster, recently obtained, named Rosa Grevillia, with much deeper-coloured blossoms.
We have the Cabbage Rose, and a Persian Rose resembling the Cabbage, but flowering almost constantly. It is an evergreen delighting in the heat; if the weather is too cold or wet, the buds, though forward, remain unopen, become weather-beaten, and at last (if deliverance does not come timely to hand) rot away. We have the Yellow Rose, the Damask, Red and White Moss, but the White Moss most despicably deformed and ill-shaped. We have, moreover, the deep crimson Monthly Rose; and I think this completes our collection.
The Fuchsia grows admirably here; we have some beautiful specimens of the common scarlet, which stands our winters pretty well, though we are just a degree or two too cold for tender plants. During the months of June, July, and August, the thermometer will at times go down 6° or 8° below freezing during the night. This is the coldest district in the colony. Off the hills, or among the hills merging on the low country, the Geranium and Fuchsia may be seen flowering during the winter; but not so with us. Here the Geraniums are very apt to be quite killed if left altogether exposed to the hoar frost, and the Fuchsia becomes a deciduous tree; the ripened wood being uninjured, we can get them up pretty high, at least I have some in process of training which I hope to rear up many feet. It is only within the last year or two I have thought of counteracting the natural tendency the shrub has to grow bushy and very thick from the bottom. In consequence of the winter's check given to the upward growth, some of them have become almost unmanageable sprawling things. Last winter, a gardener advertised eight varieties of Fuchsias for sale; early in August I called, intending to get those varieties; one was the old sort, but he had seven others.
I was, however, too late; he had sold all but two varieties. I got those. One of them at that season of the year was flowering luxuriantly; but I suppose it will not do so up here (on the hills), unless much hardier than the others. The petals are thrown quite back, or rather the sepals, towards the foot-stalk; but the stamens are too short. I must try to get the other varieties next year. How I should like to get some of the new Fuchsia spectabilis ! The Fuchsia is a great favourite of mine, it is so constantly flowering. Another plant which flowers profusely all through the summer is the crimson Petunia. It is biennial with us, and the second year so brilliant with its crimson blossoms for weeks together, as to be a striking object from the public road a quarter of a mile off. In Geraniums we are most despicable; we have the common scarlet, but not another worth looking at. Dahlias poor; I have one of a rich colour raised from English seed, and nearly a first-rate flower; but it is not quite full enough in the eye. Some of the flowers are very deficient in this respect.
Aloes grow well with us, and also Cactuses, at least the few varieties we have got.
Of Florists' flowers, we have the Ranunculus, but almost single; some poor coloured Tulips, and a good variety of Anemones from English seed. As to native flowers, there are not many near us which are worth cultivating. We have the Correa; but the only place where it grows in our neighbourhood is on the summit of Mount Barker, among the rocks; it is a brilliant-coloured one, but I think not quite so brilliant as the one figured in the Florist. We find the seed, like many other native seeds, difficult to vegetate; in fact, though the plants we have in the garden flower well, and seed too, I never saw any young ones under them.