This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
I take a greater interest in the Seedling Pelargonium Fund than is to be inferred from the absence of my name from the subscription-list; and as it is always easier to dispose of other people's money than one's own, I venture to suggest an improvement in the distribution of the prizes.
I wish the amount to be given away would admit of a different arrangement; but, on the supposition that you have the same sum to award as last year, I assume, without underrating the value of the prize itself, that the place on the prize-list is more to the raiser than the actual money received. And I imagine the Pelargonium-loving public to look on with interest at your proceedings, and to form its judgment in part from your decisions; in fact, that the result of that exhibition shall to a certain extent (it might to a considerable extent) represent the annual progress of the flower. Then, I think, you will agree with me, that four prizes will not be enough. What, however, is to be done? Twelve pounds cannot be stretched into twenty-four; neither should the lowest prize be reduced below thirty shillings, or the public will think too meanly of the flower it represents. But you may give eight prizes where you now give four, if you make each prize exceed the one below it by five shillings. And as I think we may fairly look for eight or more seedlings annually that are improvements, this is the plan I would recommend; and then the value of the highest prize, and the aggregate number of prizes, will depend on the state of the subscription-list.
To shew you that I do take an interest in the institution, I beg to subjoin for the assistance of the critical taste, or for the exercise of the critical propensities of Florists, the following table of nineteen points of a Pelargonium grouped into five classes.
Class I. Nature. 1. Habit. 2. Freedom of bloom. 3. Constancy of bloom. 4. Robustness of constitution.
II. Shape. As a whole: 1. Circularity. 2. Surface-curvature. 3. Sit on the calyx. In its parts: 1. Smoothness of edge. 2. Smoothness of surface. 3. Breadth of under petals, especially at the extremity.
III. Size. As a whole: Even a trifle in advance of the current average of good varieties. In its parts: Proportion between the upper petals and the lower.
IV. 1. Colour. Brightness and distinctness of each component, including the white, if any. 2. Harmony of colours, or high quality of composition. 3. Freedom from veins, and other unevennesses of colour (except under certain circumstances in the blotch). 4. Richness and velvety appearance, or high quality of tone. 5. Contrasts, namely: In the margin, by the clearness and evenness of the colours contrasted by position. In the eye, by the abruptness of termination of the colour, and purity of the white. Between the blotch, and the ground on which it is laid. 6. Variety. In the number of harmonising colours. In the forms in which they are disposed. In the number of times they occur. V. Substance. Of sufficient stoutness to maintain its shape, to avoid transparence, and to escape "burning".
On some of the above a few observations will be necessary, as it is convenient to condense a table into as short a compass as possible.
There are some varieties which naturally grow too stocky to be graceful, as there are many which run too long and spindly, and a few which are little better than creepers. Several, also, disperse their sap unevenly, and, without great care, would always form straggling plants. The habit, therefore, should be close, and inclined to throw out laterals; yet with a decided tendency to grow freely upwards, or it will be intractable to the trainer. If it presents barren axils, or throws up blind shoots, it should be discarded.
Constancy also is a great point. Some of our best varieties (best when true) are inconstant; as Hebe's Lip, Mont Blanc, and others. Some, as Foster's Favourite and Beck's Competitor, rarely bring a bloom true, and should be thrown away. Those which bloom correctly at one period of the season and not at the rest, as Cavalier, should not be branded as inconstant.
The general circularity of the blossom is understood and acknowledged as a requisite by all; and yet many flowers are highly vaunted which offend more against this canon than ought to be tolerated; for nothing can compensate for its infringement.
By surface-curvature is meant the absence of flatness, of course without crumple. The centre should always be slightly cupped, and the flower may be equally graceful whether concave throughout, or whether it change at three-fourths the length of the petals, and as gently reflex, presenting something of the open trumpet or bell-mouthed figure.
The way in which it sits on its calyx makes a great difference in its general appearance; for in this are involved the chief properties of the throat, which should be open but not staring, and taper but not elongated.
The freedom from fringe at the edge, and from crumple on the surface, need no remark. But on the breadth of the under petals, and especially at their extremity, depends the filling up of the intervals between petal and petal; and by consequence the flowing nature of the outline, and the circularity of the flower. Therefore the lower petals should be broad, and increasing in breadth outwards. And the curve with which the petal terminates should have a radius of considerable length: in flowers of high refinement, from half to the whole length of the petal; in bold flowers it may be less, say a third. If it descends below a fourth, the petal will be too pointed for a modern collection. The individual shape of the upper petals may vary considerably without much change in the general effect.
The average size may now probably be called an inch and three quarters, and a flower should be expected to be this at least.
A due relative size, or rather length, between the two classes of petals is of great importance, and should always be required. If otherwise, the flower will always sit uneasy on its calyx, besides that the proportion and the contrast are both injured.
The first four requirements in this class appear to me sufficiently to explain themselves. Harmony should rank high, because here position of itself involves contrast.
The contrast exhibited by the margin maybe either of two kinds. It may arise simply from position, it being a part of the general ground colour on which a blotch is laid; if so, the blotch should be large and even, and terminate abruptly, or the contrast will be feeble. Or there may be a contrast of colour as well as of position; and then it will admit of the upper and outer edge of the blotch being starred, which, in a contained outline, adds much to its effect. This is still more the case when there is an intermediate shade between the blotch and the margin, as in several high-bred flowers, such as Gipsy Bride; only the contrast should always be preserved unimpaired by a clean circular margin catching the eye.
Variety of colouring has become general of late; and, in fact, the Pelargonium is now the richest example we have of the harmonious blending and contrast of cognate colours by overlapping.
Variety of outline in the form in which the colours are disposed should also be looked for; as an angular-edged blotch, instead of the comparatively tame pea-blossom appearance of one perfectly smooth; which, however, when velvety, and occupying all the petal except a narrow bright margin, is very effective and rich.
Also the blotch-colour, or other besides the ground, may appear several times in splashes on the lower petals; and although this impairs the contrast between the upper and lower petals, it is well to have some varieties thus marked; besides that it adds another feature to the group. Iota.