This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
"The fairest flowers o' the season Are our Carnations and streak'd Gillyflowers".
Parkinson, in his Paradisus, published in 1629, says Miller, in his Gardener's Dictionary, "has given a very full account, with figures, of the Carnations then in cultivation. He divides them into Carnations, or the greatest sorts in leaf and flower, and Gillyflowers, or such as are smaller in both respects." Of Carnations Parkinson gives an account of nineteen, and of Gillyflowers thirty varieties; but these, of course, have long since been supplanted by better sorts. The old name Gillyflower was supposed by Parkinson to be corrupted from July-flower; and Miller states that Ray has adopted the notion; but he adds, it is erroneous, for it is evidently derived from the French Girqflee or Girqflier, and accordingly Chaucer writes it Girofler. We learn from the last-named author, the father of English poets, that the Clove Gillyflower was cultivated in this country as early as the reign of Edward the Third, and that it was used to give a spicy flavour to ale and wine, and from hence it was called "Sops in wine." It seems to have been a flower of high estimation in Queen Elizabeth's time, for we find it often celebrated by the poets of her day.
The Carnation, which is said to have been introduced first into England from Italy, derives its name in the English language from its colour - carnation or flesh-colour. It has also been called Coronation, from its having been used in chaplets and garlands for the head. Linnaeus has named it Dianthus flos nobilis, fine or superior flower; Dianthus Caryophyllus, we believe, now denotes the Clove only. We gather from Miller, that Picotees were most in favour with the early florists, but that Flakes gradually, and in a great measure, took their place. In our own day Picotees perhaps receive the greatest share of admiration. Many varieties of Carnations were cultivated in the time of Charles the First, whose queen is reported to have been excessively fond of flowers.
Of the origin of the art of dressing Carnations for exhibition, Hogg gives the following interesting account: "One Christopher Nunn of Enfield, Middlesex, a noted florist in his day, was eminent for his skill and dexterity in dressing Pinks and Carnations for prize exhibitions; some will even tell you, that Kit was the father of the art. Upon such occasions he had as many applications to dress flowers as he had to dress wigs; for he was a barber and friseur by trade, and could both shave and lay a Carnation with the greatest nicety. The novices of that day, who, being unacquainted with his secret art, trusted to Dame Nature to open, expand, and perfect their flowers, were no match for Nunn; for he began where she left off, and perfected what she had left imperfect. His arrangement and disposition of the petals were admirable".
The little book from which this extract is taken was published some thirty years ago, and Nunn lived many years prior to that; the dressing and laying-out the flowers of a Carnation, therefore, must be an art of some antiquity.
Our plate, it will be seen, represents two of Mr. May's flowers, seedlings of 1848. This gentleman, as florists well know, has been a most successful raiser of seedlings. The saving of seed is his principal object; shewing, with him, is a secondary affair. Flora's Garland has produced a great number of good Carnations; Romeo was raised from that variety, and bids fair to become as great a favourite as its parent. Some of Mr. May's Picotees are of the finest quality and substance. The yellows raised by him have the good quality of being strong, robust growers, not weakly and yellow, as most of the old kinds. He has raised some fine things this season.
The flowers in our representation will prove a welcome addition to every collection: they are beautiful varieties.
Our readers will have observed a notice respecting these intended meetings repeated several times on the second page of our cover. A line or two will explain the object we have in view in their establishment.
A great many seedlings reach us during; the season. We reside in a neighbourhood easily reached by railway, and abounding with intelligent nurserymen, amateurs, and gardeners. It has occurred to us, that if all seedling varieties can be posted or sent so as to reach us on the Wednesday morning of each week, many would attend, and, bringing with them some of the best varieties in cultivation, the seedlings would be tested against them under the most favourable circumstances. We are amongst those who believe that the tests cannot be too severe to which seedlings are subjected, and that in no place can they be more fairly judged than under glass, side by side with their predecessors; or if they are objects of out-door cultivation, in the open clear air of the country. We are willing to try; and the result will soon determine how far our opinion in favour of the utility of these meetings is correct or not. But we must urge our seedling-raising; friends to keep before them a memorandum to post all productions for opinion so as to reach us on Wednesday morning, free of all charges.
If articles arrive with any expense on them, they will not be noticed.