This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
I like your flower-garden much; its long, broad, Italian terrace, with geometrical flower-beds on gravel, and bounded by dwarf parapet-walls, ornamented at intervals with vases filled with Scarlet Geraniums, Fuchsias, etc. has a noble effect. But then you are favoured by Nature; although I admit that you have greatly improved her appearance by art. Your garden is altogether a striking-instance of what a refined taste can effect. Out of a narrow valley, through which a small stream meandered, an intellectual flower-garden has been fashioned. I say intellectual, because mind is apparent in its every feature. The once rude slopes have now become the close-shaven lawn. By means of an embankment at its lower extremity, the small stream has put on the form of a lake, whose outlet over craggv fragments forms an agreeable waterfall. And then how delightfully varied the shores of the lake! Its little island in the middle, planted with Evergreens, Laburnums, and choice shrubs; the well-managed piece of artificial rock-work on this bank, with its recesses and rustic stone shelves, and the fine masses of Rhododendrons on the opposite side, - here boldly approaching the water's edge, there coyly receding from it, - give to the whole the colouring and finish of a beautiful picture.
But take away the water, and how different the scene! Water, whether in a flower-garden of considerable size, like yours, or in a small one, like mine, has a captivating effect; for I too have a little lake, by which I love to walk in the calm stillness of a summer's evening. But I have no water-plants. What kinds should I procure, - Water-Lilies? Yes. No hardy aquatics are so beautiful. Their white and yellow flowers and deep green leaves floating on the surface are charming additions to a piece of water. Speaking of Water-Lilies reminds me of that queen of aquatics, Victoria regia. I saw it at Kew the other day, with leaves 18 inches across. Have you heard of this vegetable wonder? It was discovered by Sir R. Schomburgk in a currentless basin of the Berbice River in British Guiana. It is stated to have a gigantic leaf from 5 to 6 feet in diameter, salver-shaped, with a broad rim, of a light green above and a vivid crimson below, resting upon the water. Quite in character with the wonderful leaf is the luxuriant flower, consisting of many hundred petals, passing in alternate tints from pure white to rose and pink. The smooth water where it was found is said to have been covered with its blossoms.
The stalk of the flower is an inch thick near the calyx, and is covered with prickles, as are also the leaf-stems. The blossoms are said to be very large and sweet-scented. It need hardly be stated that it is named Victoria regia in honour of the Queen.
But beautiful as it is, we have none of the sweet associations of home connected with it which we have with our own indigenous kinds. Long may they flourish the ornament of our woodland ponds, and of our rustic children's nosegay of wild flowers!