This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
Nothing in floriculture has marched so rapidly and steadily onward as an improved and common-sense taste for Roses. It is only a few years since all the gardening world used to talk of the 2000 varieties of Roses grown by the Messrs. Loddiges; and happy was the amateur who could beat his rival by a score or two of varieties; I mean, varieties in name and not in fact. In this we had, with our usual national weakness, copied our neighbours the French, who will even now say to their English visitors, " Ah, Monsieur ! have you seen my new Rose? - la voila!" and then you will have pointed out to you a seedling from La Reine, with an accidental stripe on each petal; or a seedling from Madame Laffay, with smaller flowers than its parent: then takes place the following dialogue:
English Florist. These are of no use, Monsieur; they are not distinct enough.
French Florist. Monsieur, distinct! they are new.
E. F. New or old, they are of no use, I tell you: have you a scarlet La Reine, or a yellow one, or a white Madame Laffay?
F. F. Monsieur, cest impossible-, but stop! I have fine new Roses from La Reine, all superb! Voila Perpetuelle, Coupe d'Hebe.
E. F. Why, your seedlings are all pretty, but they are not distinct enough. But at what charge do you propose to sell these seedlings? for although of nearly the same colour as their parent, I should like one or two, if not too dear.
F. F. Monsieur, they are new. What a horrible word is that "distinct" of yours; I pray you do not use it. But for my seedlings I must have a high price, as I will deliver to you all the property in them; let me see, for No. 1 you must give 100/.; for No. 2, 125/.; for No. 3, 150/.
E. F. Stop, stop, Monsieur! I will not give you one hundred shillings for your "propriete;" they are not distinct enough.
F. F. Monsieur, what a horrible word ! it kills me.
And so, as usual, not only with Roses, but with many other matters, the quiet cool Englishman sees through his lively brother.
When I commenced this, I was going to illustrate the improved taste in our culture, by observing that amateurs are not now content with mixed beds of Roses; all our finer sorts are planted in masses: thus, in some Rose-gardens formed this season, the beds are made to contain from fifty to sixty plants each; in olden times, these would each have had fifty varieties, forming a patchwork of colour; now they are arranged so as to form masses of distinct colours. Thus, No. 1 is Baronne Prevost; No. 2, Doctor Marx; No. 3, Madame Aimee; No. 4, Geant des Batailles, and so on: now these crimson and blush and rose-coloured large groups must have a fine effect.
We are still too much inclined to copy our neighbours, and to have our catalogues burdened with too many names. In some of our English catalogues are more than one hundred varieties of hybrid Perpetual Roses; and in the French catalogues one hundred and fifty of the same family. Now from forty to fifty sorts of this very interesting and beautiful group will give us every shade of colour and every variety of excellence. Let us be severe, and use our heavy English common-sense, by naming and describing such Roses as are really worthy of culture, and not be taken by new names, but keep to those only that are good and - oh, horrible word in a Frenchman's ear! - distinct.
Nurseries, Sawbridgworth. T. Rivers.