This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Evergreen or deciduous trees or shrubs. Leaves simple, alternate, often serrulate. Flowers solitary, racemose, or in fascicled corymbs, white or rose. The number of the species is estimated at about eighty, chiefly inhabiting the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, fewer in tropical America and Asia. Prunus is the Latin name of the Plum-tree.
There are several species belonging to this genus, of which the names will be sufficient, such as P. spinosa, Sloe or Blackthorn, with its varieties from which the Plums and Bullace of our gardens are believed to have sprung; P. Cerasus, Cherry, of which there is an interesting double-flowered variety; P. Persica, the Peach, also furnishes several handsome varieties with double flowers (fig. 79); P. Iaevis, Nectarine; P. Arme-niaca, Apricot; P. Sinensis fibre albo pleno, and fl. roseo pleno, require no further description; and P. triloba (Amygdalopsis) is a very hand-some early flowering shrub with more or less 3-lobed leaves and white or rose large double flowers appearing before the leaves. Besides the above there are some other useful species, such as P. Virginiana; and also other varieties of the Peach, Almond, and some Japanese and Chinese allied species, will be found in the catalogues published by our nurserymen, including weeping varieties of the Almond, Peach, and Bird Cheny, and a variegated variety of P. Mahaleb, a species with fragrant flowers, extensively employed as a stock for grafting cherries upon. A few of the more ornamental species cultivated in gardens we will arrange according to their affinities.
Fig. 79. Prunus Persica flore pleno.(1/4 nat. size.)
1. P. Laurocerasus. Cherry Laurel or Common Laurel. - The common form is too well known to need description here, but there are some of the varieties, notably the Caucasian Laurel, P. L. Caucasica, superior to it not only in appearance, but also in hardiness. This variety has very rich dark green glossy foliage, the broadest part of the leaf being above the middle. It is, moreover, a vigorous grower, and when better known will doubtless supersede all others for general purposes. The Versailles Laurel, P. L. latifolia, differs from the ordinary form in having larger leaves. The Colchican Laurel, P. L. Col-chica, is also of a hardy type, and quite distinct in habit and foliage. It is a dwarf spreading bush with narrow sharply serrated pale green leaves. Besides the above there is a variety called rotundifolia, of recent introduction, with short broad leaves; another, termed the Grecian, with very narrow leaves; and a third with very small leaves known as the Alexandrian: none of these, however, are desirable in small gardens. The variety with variegated leaves scarcely deserves notice.
2. P. Lusitdnica. Portugal Laurel. - This is perhaps the most valuable of all our hardy evergreens. There is a variety, myrtifolia, of compact habit with smaller narrow leaves, worthy of a place where the ordinary form would be too large. There is also a variegated variety of no particular merit. The variety Azorica is of recent introduction, and probably not so hardy as the Continental form.
3. P. Podus. Bird Cherry. - A handsome small tree, occurring wild in several parts of Britain. Leaves oblong or obovate, doubly serrate, unequally cordate at the base. Flowers white, in terminal or axillary racemes, appearing in May.
4. P. communis (fig. 80). Almond.- This tree very much resembles the Peach-tree, but it is larger, of more erect habit, has larger flowers, and the fruit is not fleshy, the stone being enveloped in a tough downy fibrous husk. The varieties are numerous, and include pink, deep red, and double-flowered, and another of weeping habit. A native of North Africa, and a very ornamental tree in early Spring when covered with flowers.
Fig. 80. Prunus communis, (1/3 nat. size.)
P. nana and P. pumila, syn. Cerasus Japonica, are allied dwarf shrubby species, the former with single, the latter with double red or white flowers, and leaves bordered with red.