For the first time in my life I went to a Horticultural Society Show at the Drill Hall, Westminster, in August. The interest centred chiefly in the new hardy Water Lilies which everyone with small ponds or lakes ought to try and cultivate, I think. There were a few new Lilies that I had never seen before; but what particularly attracted my attention was an exceedingly good strain of my favourite Campanula pyramidalis, exhibited by the Syon House gardener, and flowered under glass. He afterwards gave me an interesting account of how he cultivates them, which I quote:
'I am glad you liked the Campanulas, but I am sorry they were not quite as good as some I have shown in previous years, as we forced some of the plants, and they do not like much heat. There is no special way of cultivating the plants. Those you saw were sown early in April '97 in pans in a cold frame, and pricked off end of May into boxes, potted up six weeks later into forty-eight pots, singly. Up to this they had been grown in a cold frame, but from July till October they were stood outside on ashes, but well watered. In winter we place rough boards round these, or stand in cold frames. Too much moisture is worse than frost, and very little water is given in mid-winter. Early in March we place them in seven- or eight-inch pots, and stand in the open or on ashes to keep out the worms, potting in a good soil with a little manure, but as firm as possible, and they then flower the end of July or early in August.
'The flowers are purer in colour if they are placed under glass when opening. We do not grow any plants over sixteen or seventeen months. I would advise sowing in March for flowering in following August twelvemonth. Ours is a very fine strain - the Syon House variety - and a compact grower. I do not plant out at all for conservatory decoration. By planting out and lifting in spring you would get larger plants.'
I am quite sure these flowers can never be seen in anything like perfection except grown under glass when the flower is appearing.
Not the least interesting sight was the variety in shades of blue - some very soft and delicate-looking, almost gray; some a good china-blue. There were many more of the white ones, and I find them rather easier to grow.
Another way of growing the G. pyramidalis, especially any good colour you want to preserve, is to cut up the roots and re-pot small pieces. I do not think the plants will be as strong as those grown from seed, but it is less trouble.
I was pleased the other day to read in the papers that the old Chelsea Physic Garden has been saved from being built over by the London Parochial Charities. The garden was presented by Sir Hans Sloane to the Society of Apothecaries, on condition that fifty new varieties of plants should be grown in it and annually furnished to the Royal Society till the number amounted to two thousand. These gardens and the Botanic Gardens at Oxford are the oldest of the kind in England. The land at Chelsea was acquired by the Apothecaries as far back as 1674. Evelyn visited the Chelsea Gardens in 1685, and mentions that he saw there a Tulip-tree and a Tea shrub. Here too, it has been said, one of the first attempts was made to supply plants with artificial heat, the greenhouse having been heated by means of embers placed in a hole in the ground. Poor plants! they must have been rather smoke-dried, I fear. It was here, too, that Philip Miller, the 'prince of gardeners' - so styled by Linnĉus - spent nearly fifty years. He managed the gardens from 1722 to 1771, during which period they attained a great reputation throughout Europe. Miller was the author of the much-admired 'Gardener's Chronicle.'