This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The system of filling a whole bed with plants of one sort, which is now so much practised, has had the effect of withdrawing attention, in a great measure, from that very interesting class of flowers designated "hardy herbaceous plants;" and yet upon these the beauty of our flower-gardens mainly depended only a few years ago. Some of the kinds which bloom first in spring have already been noticed in the Ladies' Page, and we shall now mention a few other desirable species, with the view of recalling them to the recollection of the readers of this part of the Florist. It may be premised that the plants in the following list are unsuitable for planting in masses; their proper place is in those beds of mixed flowers which are still occasionally seen bordering the principal walks, or placed here and there in conspicuous situations, in some pleasure-grounds.
One advantage attached to this class of plants is, the small amount of skill or of labour required in their cultivation. Once planted in suitable soil, that is, common garden-ground, moderately enriched with manure, many of them will grow and bloom for years, with little care beyond the thinning and tying of the stems spoken of in a former Number, and an occasional reduction of size when the root-stock has become over-grown. But there are some species which demand a little more attention in return for the gratification they give us, and one of these is Lychnis fulgens, the roots of which frequently perish when exposed to wet and cold during winter; it is therefore necessary to raise young plants from seed every spring, when this species is treated as an ordinary herbaceous plant; but its splendid scarlet colour entitles it to be cultivated in pots, in the same way as the better-known L. coronata.
In height it seldom exceeds one and a half or two feet, and as it does produce numerous flower-stems, a better effect would be obtained by setting three or four plants in a patch. The double-flowered variety of the common scarlet Lychnis (L. chalcedonica) is now seldom seen, although very handsome; so likewise is the double clammy Lychnis (L. viscaria), and the double Cuckoo-flower (L. Floscuculi).
The genus Delphinium (Larkspur) contains many showy species, among which Azureum (light blue), Mesoleucum (dark blue, with white centre), and Elatum (dark blue), are suitable for the middle of large clumps or the back part of borders, as they all grow five to six feet high. Of the shorter species, Grandiflorum is one of the handsomest, and when propagated from seed, several varieties may be obtained, varying in colour between dark blue and white; and occasionally a plant having double blossoms will appear among the seedlings. The beautiful double kind commonly known as Grandiflorum appears to belong to a different species. Another taller-growing double sort is called Barlowii, and this also is very handsome. All these are usually in bloom about midsummer.
Several of the herbaceous Ranunculuses have varieties with double flowers, which are very desirable things. One with bright yellow button-like blossoms is probably a variety of Ranunculus acris; this grows about two feet high, and is in the height of its beauty in June. Another having very pretty white flowers is rather dwarfer in habit; this by some botanists is referred to 11. aconiti-folius. Allied to these is Caltha palustris, a marsh-plant with large yellow flowers, of which a double variety, very suitable for moist places, is sometimes seen in gaidens.
The common Columbine is well known, and some of its varieties are equal in beauty to many flowers of far greater pretensions; but all are eclipsed by the handsome blue and white Aquilegia glandu-losa, a species which ought to be in every flower-garden. As a spurious sort is sometimes substituted, it may be as well to intimate that the true kind has been advertised in the Gardeners' Chronicle.
In the genus Campanula there are so many fine things that it is difficult to make a selection. Among the most desirable, however, will be found Persicifolia, of which there are double and single varieties, both with white and with blue flowers; the double white Throatwort (C. trachilium), and the double white Glomerata, all of which grow from two to three feet high. Taller kinds are Grandis (blue), Lactiflora (milky white), and Pyramidalis (both white and blue varieties); and of very dwarf sorts there are Pulla (dark blue), Pumila (both blue and white), Garganica (blue), and Fragilia (blue). A biennial species called the Canterbury Bell (C medium) is also very ornamental. Seeds of this sown about midsummer will furnish flowering plants for the following season, and amongst them there will probably be different shades of blue as well as white flowers. C. nobilis will be grown as a novelty rather than for effect, its large pendulous purplish flowers being too dull to be showy. Wahlen-bergia (formerly Campanula) grandiflora is a beautiful thing, but very scarce; and Symphiandra pcndula, another campanulaceous plant, with white blossoms and a dwarf, drooping habit, deserves cultivation.
Pentstemons are all pretty, but unfortunately the best of them are the most tender. Scouleri, Venustus, Glandulosus, Ovatus, and Speciosus, have handsome blue flowers, especially the latter, which, however, is so delicate, that, to have it in perfection, seedling plants should be grown in pots through the winter, and turned out in spring; treated thus, it makes a splendid bed. Campanulatus and Atropur-pureus differ chiefly in the colour of their dull purple flowers, the latter being the darkest. Digitalis is more robust, growing upwards of three feet high in good soil, and has white flowers.
Hesperis matronalis (the Rocket) has two double varieties, one with white, and the other with purple flowers, which ought to be cultivated extensively, especially the white one. Being short-lived plants, a young stock must be kept up by putting in cuttings about midsummer, after the bloom is over.
Hedysarum coronarium (the French Honeysuckle) is one of the most showy of papilionaceous plants, its deep-red flowers being produced in profusion in June and July. It is a biennial; therefore seed must be sown every year.
Catananche cscrulca and C. bicolor, the first blue, and the second blue and white, are showy things, their scaly flowers bearing some resemblance to those of the Everlastings. These should be raised from seeds every spring, and treated as biennials.
The common Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius), as well as its white variety, are very ornamental towards the end of summer, when carelessly trained upon a few rough sticks; so likewise is L. grandi-florus.
Ononis rotundifolia is an exceedingly pretty thing, with its pale rose-coloured flowers and low bushy habit; and yet it is seldom seen, probably because it is short-lived, and therefore requires to be frently renewed from seed.
Liatris spicata, scariosa, and elegans produce their spikes of flowers towards the end of summer and beginning of autumn, are singular as well as pretty.
Dictamnus fraxinella is a good old plant now neglected, perhaps use its flowers are not gaudy; and yet there is sufficient character it the plant to make it very interesting. This species is red; and is another with white flowers, which appears to differ from it in but colour.
Of the perennial Lupins, polyphyllus is undoubtedly the hand- 1st, including, however, its white variety. Grandifolius has of a singular dark dull blue, and ornatus is pale blue. By nting the growth of seed-pods, the flowering season of these is may be much prolonged.
The Aster, in some form or other, is seen in most gardens, esthe tall late-flowering kinds commonly called Michaelmas there are, however, several species of lower growth, which never to be excluded from herbaceous beds; and of these spectabilis, sibiricus, and alpinus, have huge showy blue while the smaller blossoms of hyssopifolius and elegans are in such profusion that they equal the best in effect. mberless others, equally fine, might be added to the above list, permitted; these, however, will serve to form the nucleus of selection.
J. B. Whiting.