This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Annual Exhibition was held this year in connection with the State Fair, in the hall of the Permanent Exhibition Company, which, as many readers may know, is the large structure covering twenty acres of ground, and which was known as the Main Building during the Centennial Exposition.
Of plants there were scarcely any blooming things exhibited, but Palms, Ferns and "leaf plants " were numerous, and for the most part presented evidences of good culture. This was particularly the case with the Dwarf Marantas exhibited by Hoopes, Bro. & Thomas, of West Chester. They were in shallow pans, about two feet wide, though the plants themselves were not over six inches high. Besides the Dwarf Marantas there were similar pretty dwarf plants, such as Peperoma maculosa, Fittonia argyro-neura, and Tillandsia zebrina, all grown in this admirable manner. Equally well grown and interesting were a collection chiefly of Echeveria and Sedum, which, as they are in such demand now for bedding purposes, were especially instructive.
There was nothing particularly new to notice among the leaf plants exhibited. Among the very well grown plants of Mr. Jamieson, gardener to G. L. Harrison, Esq., we noted that those two magnificent old kinds, Sphserogyne latifolia and Cyanophyllum magnificum, still remain at the head of their class.
Among the larger growing Ferns there are few more effective than Nephrolepis davalloides fu-cans, of which Mr. Jamieson had one about three feet high, and as much wide. Of good specimens, made so by age, was a very fine one of Croton interruptum, shown by John Nisbet. This was about six feet by six, and clothed with branches to the ground. It had a very striking effect. Another very good thing was a Fig tree in bearing, in a tub, exhibited by Laura M. Hippie. We did not notice that many of these interesting single things had any premiums awarded, as they were not probably in the "schedule of of premiums." But it is the encouragement of just such efforts as these that societies should foster. The Fig, as a tub plant for houses and small gardens, is just the thing to give pleasure to thousands who cannot have grand gardens and immense pots of foliage plants. Fine collections of the new Coleus were exhibited in pots by Hoopes, Bro. & Thomas, and by William Sutherland, showing how wonderfully variation has been increased; but the true value of a coleus depends on its behavior in large masses out of doors. In this respect the old Verscha-feltii still keeps firm hold of popular favor.
Among variegated greenhouse plants, a very fine specimen of the Ficus Parceli in the collection shown by Mr. William Joyce, gardener to Mrs. M. W. Baldwin, shows that this is still one of the most striking plants of its class. In the collection of Mr. H. A. Dreer, Eulalia japonica zebrina reminds us how useful this pretty thing is for outdoor summer decoration, and the yellowish Torenia Bailloni in full flower, proves a very valuable acquisition.
Among the exhibitors of new plants, Mr. W. K. Harris seems to be taking a lead. His twelve distinct kinds of winter blooming Carnations were very pretty, though the exact value to the florist depends on free blooming and other properties. His Begonias were also very attractive. One, Begonia Schmidtii, is a dwarf, compact, half shrubby kind, with neat woolly leaves and an abundance of pure white flowers. An older one in full bloom, B. rubra, reminds us to say that there are few better kinds to grow for red flowers.
Out among the fruits and vegetables there was of course the usual big Pumpkin of agricultural fairs, this time it weighed 130 lbs., and came from Mr. W. Sproule, gardener to John Hunter, Esq.; and there was a Watermelon from C. B. Rogers, weighing 78 lbs. The old "Mexican" or "Cassabar" Melons were out in force under a "Persian" name. It is very difficult to keep a Cantaloupe under a distinctive appellation. Mr. Dreer had a curious collection of Japanese vegetables, chiefly Legumes. A bunch of a curious Salsola, more branching and vigorous than the Salsola Kali of our sea coasts, was among them, and we are at a loss to know how the Japanese use this as a vegetable; perhaps as a pickle, as its close ally, the Marsh Samphire is so often used in Europe. Of the Beans, one with a very large pod, and after the manner of our Lima Bean, and called Ensipora, may be of value to us. A sort of Pumpkin or Squash, like a large roundish Watermelon, and with the botanical name of Lagenaria dasystemon attached, may also be of service. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. There was a curious Hibiscus, allied to the Okra, but with numerous small pods; whether better than our Okra we do not know.
Mr. Dreer had, also, specimens of the new fodder plant Teosinte, Keana luxurians, but whether this will be any better for our climate than Pearl Millet, or even common fodder corn, we have no information.
In fruits one cannot but praise the exhibit of Apples and Pears, made by Edwin Satterthwaite. Usually at State Fairs, exhibits of these are made chiefly of winter or late ripening kinds, and are in September little guide to their real character. Mr. Satterthwaite's collection were mostly approaching maturity, in immense variety, and were particularly encouraging to those who might be disposed to plant a tree. Among the Apples, Cornell's Fancy and Gravenstien were particularly beautiful; but it may be said of all these immense numbers of varieties of fruits exhibited, that now-a days they teach but little to the spectator. The true value of any variety must be tested in the orchard.
Grapes were out in great force, and showed how much had been gained in a quarter of a century. The new candidates for public favor, Prentiss, Lady Washington, Jefferson, Moore's Early, and Montgomery were among others, and if they grow as well as they taste, they will be permanently popular. Mr. T. Mellor had some remarkably fine hothouse Grapes, the Muscat Hamburg, being particularly delicious. But in this class exhibitors were not numerous.
Though not in the exhibition of the State Fair, yet on public exhibition by the city of Philadelphia at Fairmount Park, the bedding plants around Horticultural Hall were enjoyed no doubt by thousands of exhibitors. The writer, during the past few years, has had the opportunity of seeing the bedding of most of the public grounds both in Europe and this country, but has seen none that for harmony of color, grandeur of ef feet, or perfection in every detail, equaled this, and while so much is said in the public papers about the disgraceful condition of Philadelphia Parks and Squares generally, it must be set down to the credit of the city that its landscape gardener, Mr. Miller, has been permitted to make so beautiful a display here.