This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
Sir, - I am glad complaints have reached you on the Pelargonium not occupying a greater space in your pages. Not that I think the complaint well-founded, - for we have about two dozen strictly florists' flowers, and the same number of honorary members of the fraternity, all of which must receive their due share of notice, - but partly as an evidence that the interest in that one is not on the decline, partly to convince you that, while you are too anxious not to incur a reproach, we are losing a part of our anticipated pleasure. I have myself, for a quiet and retired person, some means of forming a judgment on the public taste in that matter, and in the circle of my knowledge the proportion is about this, that for one who has withdrawn his fancy from the Geranium tribe, five have risen up in his place. And reasonably too, if you consider the matter; for no house-plant offers nearly so many advantages to the generality of cultivators as that does. It is all very well for Mr. Dobson's friends, the "arm-chair writers," to take it for granted that every body has a greenhouse, and to call the Cineraria, or the Epacris, or others, "the most useful flower we have;" but every body who loves flowers, and reads The Florist, does not possess a greenhouse; and we of the latter class are a people too numerous to be despised.
If it were not for us the stock-in-trade of professional florists would sadly hang on hand. Where does all that stock find its market? Does one Geranium in ten, - I had almost asked, Does one in a hundred - pass into the possession of such as can house it any where but in a sitting-room? And though the Calceolaria, the Fuchsia, the Cineraria, and especially the Petunia, are very well in their way, I think the nurserymen will tell you that, as a body, we are agreed in our judgment, and value the Pelargonium at about (for I do not pretend to exactness) five times as much as all the others put together.
And there is another reason for the preference shewn by "the masses" for the Pelargonium (and the masses are no bad judges of flowers, if you take their votes as the Romans did, by centuries), and that reason the very one that has made individual writers so highly extol the winter-blooming plants, namely, the season at which it comes into flower. Ask any nurseryman what is the time of year that potted flowering-plants are most eagerly sought by purchasers, and you will find it to be the season when the Pelargonium reigns supreme. The interest in potted flowers comparatively flags as soon as we begin to have them out of doors, nor does it fully recover itself till after the season of rest - the winter. I am willing to be counted a bad prophet if Pelargoniums at all fail in general interest till some better spring florists' flower is developed, and of that there are as yet no signs; or in interest to the connoisseur, as long as such seedlings are in store for us as I have been privileged to see open in 1849.
But you seem to doubt whether you can say any more upon them. I will cite you an authority upon the point, which may help to dispel your doubts. I lately saw a mother, whom no one could see without admiration, and several of her younger children poring with childish glee upon a portfolio of pictures outspread upon her knees, or hanging with earnest attention upon the accents of her lips, while she recited over each pictorial group its appropriate legend. All the stories were amusing, all admired in their turn. But one (if my memory does not mislead me it was Hop-o'-my-thumb,) was evidently the most popular, where all were pleasing. And ever, as the course of instruction led farther and farther away, the little voices joined in petition to revert to their favourite. And though the patience of the mother was once strained so far as to say, "What, again!" yet her goodnature led her without weariness to repeat the ever welcome ditty, which always brought the reward of a smile of approving thanks.
Is it necessary to apply this? If you will represent the mother, and call the Pelargonium Hop-o'-my-thumb, we will do our duty by playing the part of the children.
October 5th. G. J.