I have been reading lately two fascinating books on natural history by George D. Leslie the painter - one is called 'Letters to Marco' and the other 'Riverside Letters' - descriptions of his own home on the river. The little illustrations have a great deal of artistic individuality, and are to me, though slight, very superior to the ordinary photographic reproductions. His description of cultivating the difficult 'Iris Susiana' is so good that I think I will copy it:

'As ill-luck would have it, I missed the first burst into bloom of an Iris Susiana to which I had been looking forward with great eagerness. This Iris is very difficult to manage in our fickle climate. It is six years since it bloomed with me, then it did so in the open garden; but I have never succeeded in repeating this triumph in the open air, and this is the first success after many failures under glass. This Iris is in its native land (Levant) generally covered with snow during the short sharp winter, and makes its extremely rapid growth during the short spring which follows; after blooming, it endures the long, baking drought of summer, which ripens the tuberous roots thoroughly. Of course in our country such an arrangement in the open ground can hardly be expected, and though when planted in the open the tubers thrive and grow amazingly they make in our damp autumns far too early a start, throwing up a number of strong green blades, which are almost always doomed to destruction by the last frosts of winter without showing the least sign of bloom. The books say that they require some protection such as a hand-light in the winter, but I have tried it over and over again without the slightest success. In my little greenhouse, however, I think I have mastered the difficulties of its culture at last. My method is to defer planting until very late in the autumn. I put the tubers into rather a small pot of nearly pure river sand. This pot I place inside another larger one, and plug the space between the pots with dry moss. I place the pots on a shelf in the sunniest part of the greenhouse, and give no water at all until some time after Christmas. Strange to say, the green shoots begin to show before the plants have received a drop of water. I give the water very liberally at first, but in great moderation as the plant shoots into growth. I let it have all the sun that shines, and if the frosts are very severe at any time I take the pots into my studio whilst the extreme cold lasts. This year my treatment has been quite successful, and the plant burst into bloom on the 4th of April.'

This receipt will be extremely interesting to many gardeners, and especially those - and they are not few - who are striving to produce flowering Irises from January to August.

I believe I mentioned before Mrs. Brightwen's 'Guide to the Study of Botany.' I should recommend every amateur gardener to get it. It is a clear, cheap, popular book, and any grown-up person or child who wishes to understand the rudiments of the mysteries of botany could not do better than have this book as a companion.

Through the year, books on natural history and gardening must be our constant companions to be any real good. We must verify for ourselves what the book tells us. This greatly increases the interest of life in the country and no one is ever dull or bored who can learn about plants and insects. I know, alas! that to those who really love to dwell in towns it is no use speaking of such things. The poetry of life is never to be seen by them out of the streets; and children brought up in large towns rarely acquire a love of the country, I think. I remember when we were children, a friend who came from London to see us used to tell us she could not say her prayers in the country - it was so dreadfully still! Fancy missing to that extent the city's noise, the rattle of the cabs down the street, or the measured tread of feet along the pavement! It is lucky perhaps that what we are used to is what we like best.

A collector of old books objected to my great praise of 'Les Roses' by RedoutÚ. He says: 'I do not attach the same value to it that you do, and have never found it of much use, as nearly all the Roses are hybrids and varieties many of which have passed away.' I was no doubt mistaken, but my impression was that the lovely illustrations represent in many instances the wild Roses of the world, which have ceased to be cultivated, but which could easily be produced again from seed by those who took the trouble. This, I believe, Mr. Paul is doing. I think, as I said before, that in a soil where Roses grow easily a collection as large as possible of these same wild Roses would be exceedingly interesting. My correspondent goes on to describe a book - which I had never seen - that treats of all the wild Roses of the world. He says: 'You should get a coloured copy of Lindley's "Monograph of Roses," 1819. It is an excellent book, both as to plates and descriptions, and, though not common, is cheap. You can see them all at Kew. As you do not mention it, I fancy you cannot have the true York and Lancaster - Shakespeare's - a very different plant from the one with the splash petals. This difference is so well described in a page of Canon Ellacombe's endlessly interesting "Gloucestershire Garden" that I give it to you:

'"A second favourite double or semi-double Rose is the York and Lancaster, of which there are two kinds; one a very old Rose in which the petals are sometimes white and sometimes pink, and sometimes white and pink in the same flower. This is without a doubt the 'roses damasked, red and white' - the rose 'nor red nor white, had stolen of both ' - of Shakespeare, and it is the B. versicolor of the old botanical writers. In the other sort the petals are a rich crimson flaked with white; it is a very handsome Rose, comparatively modern, and is the Rosa mundi of the 'Botanical Magazine' 1794."' I have lately seen a double Rosa lucida, a great improvement on the single one; also a double white Rosa rugosa.

Since writing the above I have succeeded in procuring through my Frankfort friend a coloured copy of 'Rosarum Monographia' by John Lindley (London, J 820). On the title-page is this nice little motto:

E guadagnar, se si potrÓ, quel dono, Che stato detto n'Ŕ, che Rose sono.

The letterpress is far more interesting and instructive, but the actual artistic treatment of the plates is less beautiful and delicate than RedoutÚ's.