Last January someone sent me a cutting out of 'The Scotsman'; it was called 'Floral Notes from the West Coast of Ross-shire.' The writer begins by showing himself extremely proud, as is only natural, of flowering his Lilium giganteum, nine feet high and with nineteen perfect blooms on it. He also praises, what I recommend to everybody, the biennial Michauxia campanuloides. He says everyone used to exclaim on seeing it, 'Oh! what a charming white Lily!' The only way, as I stated before, is to grow it from seed. Watsonia marginata, according to him, is a lovely plant which in Scotland can be classed as a hardy perennial. It a good deal resembles the Sparaxis pulcherrima; in fact, much more so than it resembles the other Watsonias, which, he says, are shy bloomers. He speaks of another little favourite of mine, Linaria repens alba, and describes it - as I have always done - by saying it reminds him strongly of a Lily of the Valley. It is very easy to grow, and well worth having. It is seldom found in flower lists, and he says he got his from Amos Perry, of Winch-more Hill, Herts. He mentions a pure white Iris kæmpferi in full bloom, and below it a mixed mass of those new Tigridias (Aurea and Lilacina grandiflora) and brilliant blue Commelina. This mixture was hard to beat. Also the trimming round the base of the Michauxia, already described, consisted of a variety of Platycodons or Japanese balloon-plants, in different shades of blue, mixed with white Swainsonia. All these last-named, with the exception of the Swainsonia, came from Roozen's. Then he says: 'I think I have told you all that I can remember as being particularly good in 1896.' I thought he gave such a creditable list that it might interest others who did not see 'The Scotsman' - good combinations being so difficult to get in herbaceous and bulb gardens. He goes on to say: 'The most striking flowers grown here in 1897 were a collection of Calochorti. I had tried them previously on a very small scale, with very small success; but, knowing them to be quite a speciality of the Messrs. Wallace of Colchester, I corresponded with them, and they sent me a collection of Calochortus bulbs which they thought would suit, and suit they certainly did, for they gave us the very greatest pleasure and were the envy and admiration of everyone else who saw them.' He put his Calochorti into a border with all the best mixed make-up soils he could find. Planting them in November, they flowered the following June. The only trouble from which they suffered in their infancy was slugs. But slices of Potato and Turnip acted as counter-attractions, and the plague was stayed. He says: 'There were about seven varieties of the Calochorti, and I don't think that in their own Californian forests they could have done much better. Anything more perfectly fascinating than a vaseful of Calochorti it would be impossible to grow in a British garden; and they last such a long time in water.' He names, without describing them, two other favourites, the first of which I have, Dracocephalum argumense and Vancouveria hexandra, 'both gems in their way.' He goes on 'For those who are fond of rare Tulips I must not forget to recommend Tulipa kaufmanniana, which I bloomed for the first time last spring, and which is quite equal in its way to Tulipa greigi and several other Tulip species which I have had from time to time from my afore-mentioned Dutch friends. After the Calochorti, perhaps a bed of Ixias from the same Haarlem firm was the next best thing my garden produced in 1897. I find Ixias the very easiest plants to grow, and this year they were all but as good as I have ever seen them in Italian gardens. So marvellously brilliant were they as to be quite dazzling to the eyes on a sunny day. They have only one fault, viz. that after flowering in June and ripening off they begin their next year's growth in October, and so their young leaves are rather apt to get punished by the black frosts of spring. The fact is, they suffer from insomnia, and so by rights they should be lifted in July and made to sleep, in spite of themselves, on a dark shelf till planted again in March; but they do wonderfully well here even if left to take care of themselves.' It is quite a relief to hear this wonderfully successful amateur has difficulties with Lilies. All the same the description he gives of his own seems to me very like success. He speaks of the White Martagon (a Lily I am now trying to grow) and Lilium testaceum as being great favourites with him. He was struck at Torridon by another plant which he says does so much better there than with him, viz. the scarlet and green Alstræmeria psittacina. The clumps were almost as strong as sheaves of oats. 'I have a new variety,' he writes, 'of this parrot flower - a deep crimson one - which was very good here at the end of November.' But if I go on I shall end by quoting the whole of this most interesting gardening letter. I hope the anonymous writer, who dates from Inverewe Poolewe, where the climate must be such as to make any gardener jealous, will forgive this long quotation extracted by a sincere admirer, though unknown fellow-gardener.
Since writing the above I have been sent another letter from a January 'scotsman' of this year (1899) The opening sentence is so original and suggestive for anyone who has a garden capable of being easily extended that I quote it as it stands: 'My garden having become quite filled up, I have for the last few years taken to enclosing bits of rough ground inside the policies (or the domain, as they would call it in Ireland), and have gone somewhat enthusiastically into shrubs. I have now three of these small enclosures, and each one seems more or less to suit some particular class of plant. My "Fantasy" is hard and gravelly, and suits the Genista and Citisus tribes very well. My "Riviera" is very sunny and with good soil, and in it I grow my rarest exotics; and "America," my latest creation, being more peaty, damp, and shady, like a wee bit of the back-woods, has been given over to the so-called American plants - Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Andromedas, Kalmias, Heaths, and, besides these, Magnolias, Bamboos, and very many other things; so many, indeed, that besides the sixty Azaleas which fill a bed in the centre, there are a hundred and seventy kinds of rare plants in it, gathered from most of the Temperate portions of our globe; and, with one or two exceptions, I must say they appear very promising, considering my little "America" was only colonised in April last.' He then details his triumphs: 'My greatest this summer was my flowering abundantly the rare and beautiful Chilian shrub the Crinodendron hookeri. I got it from Mr. Smith at Newry, and planted it in my "Riviera" in the spring of 1897; it stood last winter well, and early in June it blossomed freely. We have but few shrubs with crimson flowers, the blooms of so many of them being either white or yellow. But the Crinodendron is a grand exception. Its nearest neighbours on each side of it consist of plants of the Abutilon vitifolium and Carpenteria califomica, both of which stood the winter; and the former, from having come on so well, will be bound to flower next season. It has a great name now, especially in Ireland, for hardiness and for its beautiful blossoms. I possess in my "Riviera" a number of things, of which I know little or nothing, with queer names, such as Coprosmas, Collestemons, Aristotelias, Pittosporums, Raphiolepis, Agalmas, Styrax, Indigoferas, etc.; and, in spite of their names, I must say they look happy.'
As from the other letter, I only extract what seems to me most interesting. 'I must now tell the contents of my Azalea bed, already referred to, all of which I got from M. Louis van Houtte of Ghent. There are sixty plants in sixty different varieties or species. There are single and double hardy Ghent Azaleas, and single Azalea mollis, and double hybrids of Mollis. They occupy the bed, with the exception of a clump of Phyllostachis viridi glaucescens and Phyllostachis mitis (Bamboos) in the centre, and I can truly say there was not a bad plant or a bad variety among the lot, and every one of them was full on arriving. If anyone wants a brilliant edging to a Rhododendron bed, let me commend to them Azaleas, Fritz Quihou and Gloria Mundi; the former is of an extraordinarily dazzling crimson. Many people are of the opinion that the flowering season of Azaleas is short and soon over, but this would not happen if they got a good selection from M. van Houtte. I see from my diary that the first Azaleas expanded with me on May 18th, and they did not finish till July 24th, so that they lasted more than nine weeks. About the last to open were the pink and the crimson doubles, Bijou de Gendbruggen and Louis Aimé van Houtte, and the lovely species Sinensis flore alba only began to expand on July 16th. For those who like species, Azaleas Occidentalis and Arborescens are both very interesting.....
'1 have a great love of Heaths, but have not got many of them. After considerable trouble I got some good plants of Erica arborea from Newry, which we had so much admired on the hillsides of Corsica. They seem to do very well here, and two of them bloomed this summer; but whether they will grow into trees in my "Riviera," as they do on the shores of the Mediterranean, I cannot yet tell. Erica australis, Erica mediterranea, and the Cornish Heath (E. vagans) are, like the Hydrangeas, delightful in late autumn, and so is the white Irish Dabæcia polifolia, of which we can hardly have too much.....
'I have, I think, merely alluded to the Genistas, and most people know, besides the common yellow, the White Portugal and the Yellow Spanish so-called Broom, which is, however, not really a Genista, but a Spartium, though it looks so like a Broom, and is very showy late in the season, when the Common Broom is over. The low-growing real Genista hispanica is a very useful little plant. Those who have not got the Broom with the crimson lip (G. andreana), nor the cream-coloured hybrid (G. præcox), should not fail to get them both, as they are an immense acquisition to our hardy flowering shrubs.
'To-day I have been reminded of a nice plant of Eugenia ugni, a kind of Myrtle which has stood out some years against the terrace wall of my garden, and which bloomed and ripened its fruit so well that I have lately sent a sample of its fragrant berries to a friend in Switzerland. The scent and flavour remind one of both Strawberries and Pineapple with a slight mixture of Bog Myrtle.' I hope no one will confound this description of a Scotch garden with what I am able to do in dry Surrey.