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.
The taste for plants coming under this designation may be said to be of comparatively recent origin, or at least we may affirm that it is only within the last few years that it has been developed and become general. This group includes tall-growing herbs with bold or graceful foliage, suitable for single specimens or clumps, or for planting at the back of mixed borders; herbs of intermediate size with variegated or otherwise ornamental foliage; and dwarf or trailing herbs with green or coloured foliage suitable for edging beds or borders or covering rockwork. Those hardy herbs of large stature desirable either for their noble habit or the amplitude or elegance of their foliage belong chiefly to the following families: Papaveraceae, Halorageae, Umbelliferae, Composite, Polygonaceae, Cannabinaceae, Liliaceae, Gramineae, and a few of the Filices or Ferns. Without entering into details, which will be found elsewhere, we may indicate a few of the best of those most readily procured : Bocconia cordata, Grunnera scabra, Heracleum flavescens, Ferula communis, Rheum undu-latum, Polygonum cuspidatum, Bambusa falcata, Grynerium argenteum, Cannabis sativa, Asparagus officinalis, Aspidistra lurida, Phormium tenax, Osmunda regalis, Polystichum aculeatum, Pteris aquilina, Lastrea dilatata, L. Filix-mas and Athyrium Filix-fcemina. Several others might be included in this enumeration, but they find a place more properly with the marsh and water plants. Ricinus communis and Melianthus major are usually treated as herbaceous, the former as an annual and the latter as a perennial. The next group comprises plants of moderate size, and includes numerous species with variegated or coloured foliage, several of which are tender and only employed for summer decoration. But as almost all hardy genera and a vast number of species are represented by variegated varieties, it will be obvious that we must limit ourselves to a selection of those grown exclusively for their foliage. A few may be mentioned here with the foliage plants that are equally desirable for their flowers, such as Astilbe Japonica, Spiraea Filipendula, S. Aruncus, etc., Polemonium caeruleum, Amaranthus caudatus, and A. melancholicus, Pelargonium varieties, Morina longifolia, Canna species and varieties, Achillea spp., etc. Others, again - as Centaurea Ragusina and other species, Ligularia Kasmpferi, Cineraria maritima, Perilla Nankinensis, Iresine Herbstii, etc., Coleus (many varieties), Funkia, Brassica, Lamium maculatum, Phalaris arundinacea variegata, Mentha rotundifolia variegata, and Tricolor Pelargoniums - are grown for their variegated or coloured foliage. Amongst dwarf or trailing plants, the variegated or coloured varieties of Arabis albida, A. lucida, Grazania splendens, Bellis perennis, Trifolium repens, Alternanthera (various), Alyssum maritimum, Thymus vulgaris, etc., are some of the best for front rows or for edging. Cerastium tomen-tosum, Helichrysum petiolatum, and Stachys lanata, have greyish, or silvery velvety foliage. Another set of dwarf plants, belonging chiefly to the Crassulaceae and Saxifragaceae, are in request, on account of their formal habit, and the regular disposition of their variously tinted leaves in rosettes. With the foregoing, many tender herbs and shrubs with ornamental foliage are associated, including several species of Solanum, Caladiuin, Begonia, Verbesina, Polymnia, Ficus, Wigandia, Ferdinanda, Musa, Vernonia, Nicotiana, Ricinus, Palmaceae, Dracaena, Cordyline, etc., etc.
Herbaceous Climbing, Twining, or Creeping Plants. - Climbing herbs come under two denominations, distinguished by their duration, whether perennial or annual. The former have annual stems, but perennial rootstocks: for example, Lathyrus latifolius and L. grandiflorus (Everlasting Pea), Humulus Lupulus (Hop), Bryonia dioica and a few other Cucurbitaceae, Tamus communis, Loasa aurantiaca, and Caly-stegia pubescens. With the annual climbers we include several tender species of perennial duration, which will flower the first season, and are consequently equally available for many purposes. Such are Cobaea scandens, Eccremocarpus scaber, Lophospermum scandens, Tropaeolum aduncum (the Canary Creeper), Maurandya Barclayana, Phaseolus multiflorus or coc-cineus (Scarlet-runner Bean), and some Cucurbitaceae. There are comparatively few climbing plants normally of annual duration in cultivation. The most familiar are Lathyrus odoratus (Sweet Pea), Pharbitis hispida (Larger Convolvulus), and Tropaeolum major (Larger Nasturtium). In addition, there are numerous species and varieties of Cucurbitaceous plants with ornamental fruits. In sheltered situations they may be grown as trailers, but they are more effective trained against a south wall or trellis.
Herbaceous Plants of large stature, with Conspicuous Flowers. - The following list contains a number of large subjects suitable for back rows of borders, for intermixing with shrubs, or for planting in the wild garden. Nearly all of the species enumerated are either old garden plants, or such as are to be had from most growers of herbaceous plants. Many more might be added, belonging chiefly to the orders from which these have been selected : - Aquilegia vulgaris, etc., various colours; Aeoniturn Napellus varieties, blue and white; Dephinium hybrid varieties, blue and white; Paeonia species and varieties double and single, white, rose, scarlet, etc.; Papaver orientale, scarlet; Lychnis Chalcedonica, scarlet; Hibiscus roseus; Althaea rosea (Hollyhock), various colours; Kitaibelia vitifolia, white or rose; Galega officinalis, pink and white; Lupinus polyphyllus, blue and white; Spiraea spp., white, rose, red; Epilobium angustifolium, rosy red; Fuchsia (treated as herbaceous), scarlet; (Enothera spp., yellow; Solidago spp., yellow; Centaurea Babylonica, yellow; Aster species, various colours; Chrysanthemum Sinense varieties, various colours; Dahlia variabilis varieties; Silphium lacini-atum, yellow; Helianthus spp. (Sunflowers), yellow; Campanula species, blue and white; Verbascum species, yellow, white, or purple-brown; Digitalis purpurea, purple or white; Physostegia imbricata, lilac-purple; Salvia spp., various; Symphytum officinale, yellowish-white; Phlox, varieties of the perennial species, white, rose, pink, red, etc.; Phytolacca, purple berries; Aristolochia Clematitis, curious yellow flowers; Lilium candidum, white; L. giganteum, white; and other species with orange-yellow flowers spotted with black; He-merocallis fulva and flava (Day-Lilies), Fritillaria imperialis (Crown Imperial), yellow, white, or red; Iris Germanica and I. Florentina, purple or blue and white; Veratrum album and V. nigrum, etc., etc.
Herbaceous Plants of medium and small size, with Showy Flowers. - It is neither necessary nor desirable to give detailed lists of plants belonging to this group, as a reference to the orders enumerated above will be sufficient to enable the amateur to select for himself. Under the head of florists' flowers, many of the principal genera and species are indicated, and these might be augmented by additional species from the same orders or genera. The majority of those species coming under the head of bulbous, aquatic, etc., belong in a measure to this group.
Herbaceous Plants with Bulbous, Tuberous, or Rhizomatous Roots, or Rootstocks. - This group includes many of the most brilliant occupants of our gardens; a large number of them flower, too, at a season when there is little else in bloom. Great use is now made of early-flowering bulbous plants to fill the beds and borders which later on are occupied by summer-bedding plants. Where this system is followed out, a fine display may be had by associating them with some other spring-flowering herbaceous plants. The nature of the root-stock admits of their being removed without much injury after the flowering season is over. Amongst the earliest of this class are Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop), Crocus vermis, C. biflorus, C. Imperati, and C. versicolor varieties, Leucojum vernum (Spring Snowflake), Erythronium Dens-canis (Dog's-tooth Violet), Bulbocodium vernum, followed by Scilla spp. (Squill), Muscari spp., Narcissus spp. (Daffodil), Hyacinthus orientalis varieties, especially the single ones, and early Tulips.
Besides the foregoing, there is a multitude of other bulbous-rooted plants, flowering from the spring onwards, till late in autumn. Sternbergia lutea, Colchicum autumnale, and several species of Crocus, are some of the later flowering kinds. The magnificent genera Lilium and Gladiolus are essentially summer-flowering plants. Lilium is distinguished from its allies by its scaly, not solid, bulbs, a distinction to be remembered, as they suffer much more from exposure than do the solid bulbs, or corms, as they are technically termed. A few other genera commonly seen are Ornithogalum, Fritillaria (Crown Imperial), Iris Xiphium and Xiphioides, Crinum Capense, Eucomis punctata, Camassia esculenta, Pancratium maritimum, P. Illyricum, and Amaryllis Belladonna, are less frequently seen, but equally deserving of a place in a large garden. Most of the preceding have solid bulbous roots, but there are many allied genera with fascicled fleshy roots, or creeping rhizomes, as Anthericum, Funkia, Convallaria, Aspho-delus, Hemerocallis, and the majority of the species of Iris. Another set of plants, whose roots are usually, in some cases, and invariably in others, stored away for a part of the year, includes the genera Dahlia, Canna, Ranunculus, Anemone, Oxalis, Tropaeolum, Begonia, and Cyclamen, For further information respecting these plants and their allies, we refer our readers to the orders Liliaceae, Amaryllidaceae, Iridaceae, and Melanthaceae. Several other genera, chiefly froin South Africa, and containing many very handsome species, will be found described in the first part of this work. Tigridia, Ixia, Sparaxis, Babiana, and Witsenia, include some of the showiest species, but they are all more or less tender.