This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The object of a short series of papers, with the above title, will be to assert those higher claims which floriculture has upon the notice and respect of intelligent and moral beings. Like every other pursuit in which man can engage, this possesses two very different aspects; the one prominent and seen by every eye, the other more recondite and difficult to find. When gardening engages the attention from the first of these points of view, as a mere mechanical occupation concerned with the production of articles of commerce, it is even then highly interesting and important; but when it is also looked upon in its moral relations, as affecting the intellect and the heart, it is raised into its primitive position as a divine institution, and accomplishes the highest results. The conductors of the Florist have always aimed at the cultivation of this more noble purpose of their favourite science, and it is in harmony with this expressed design that we undertake our task.
The increase of floral tastes must be considered one of " the signs of the times." Any one who is old enough to take a clear view of the last quarter of a century, will, without any strong effort of memory, recall many indications of the fact, that while, in that period, towns and cities have increased in size and outward elegance, the love of gardening and flowers has advanced with at least equal steps. In London, for instance, what unmistakable proofs are furnished of the truth of this statement, both in the increase of floral literature, of floral commerce, and of floral tastes around and within its dwellings! What attention floriculture received from the press twenty-five years ago, we are not prepared exactly to say; but we are sure the literature then devoted to it was neither cheap nor popular. Expensive works on botany, and numerous editions of M awe's Gardeners' Calendar, about met the demand; while now we have gardening newspapers, and many serial works, which find their way into every circle where a flower is loved, or a plot of ground cultivated.
The capital expended on works relating to the cultivation of the soil now, as compared with the commencement of the period just mentioned, must bear a far greater proportion to the present population of our country than it did then. If England has doubled its inhabitants within that time, floral literature has certainly increased a hundredfold; thus proving that a taste for gardening has rapidly advanced. We do not mean to assert that an increase of books on floriculture proves an increase, to the same extent, of floriculturists, for we do not forget that the press exerts an influence then unknown on all subjects. But after making every possible allowance, we think the pleasing fact is established by the literary aspect of the question, that our countrymen have advanced greatly in the possession of those tastes which regard the productions of the soil, and which contribute in so many ways to innocent enjoyment.
The commerce of flowers furnishes certain indications of the fact we are pointing out in more ways than it is requisite to mention. What man of forty years old does not remember the grotesque seed-shops of his boyhood, dark with the foliage of dried herbs, and redolent of mint, wormwood, and pennyroyal! If, as was often the case, such repositories of Nature's medicines exhibited leeches among their wares, their cabalistic and wizard-like aspect was increased. Here the gardener recruited his stores, and the housewife sought her domestic remedies. Seedshops of our youth, how have ye vanished! Now and then we meet with such a one, antique, and smelling of rare vegetable medicines; but other more gay depots of floral art have generally superseded them. The seedsman and florist now attracts the passer-by with the choicest luxuries of the season, with Azaleas, Pelargoniums, and Heaths, in all their gorgeous beauty, in the spring and summer, and with Hyacinths and Crocuses in bloom in the winter. The increase of such repositories is wonderful, and may be considered a characteristic of the age.
But a walk through the streets of any large town, either in its more crowded recesses or its suburbs, will do more than any thing else to establish the position that floral tastes have increased. Where position denies a garden out of doors, art contrives to make up the loss by the judicious use of a window or a balcony; and in the least likely places we are continually delighted by seeing dulness relieved by a display of flower-pots. How delicious is the scent of Migni-onette in a London square ! How deep and well-defined the colours of a Pelargonium at a tradesman's sitting-room window ! But if we go to the suburbs, we find floricultural tastes in greater activity; for not only are the little patches of inhabited houses enlivened with evergreens, but even the proprietors of empty ones seek patronage by this species of adornment. What a striking proof is this of the spirit of the age in this particular ! It is so well known that an Englishman loves flowers, that the builders of houses, as a source of gain, attract him by their influence!
Floral tastes, then, have increased. What are their results on the character and happiness of their possessors? The question is a very interesting one; and we shall endeavour to furnish a reply in succeeding papers. Henry Burgess.
Noticed some of the minor, though interesting and import-bcnetits resulting from the culture and love of flowers, we may on to the higher aspects of the subject. As a branch of the great field of nature, the vegetable kingdom has always yielded important contributions to natural theology, on account of the obviousness of its hearing on many of the divine attributes. A more curious piece of mechanism than a flower it is difficult to conceive of, when viewed in connexion with the secret laws of life which develop its parts, paint its petals with such various hues, enable it to diffuse double flowers, which are very desirable things. One with bright yellow button-like blossoms is probably a variety of Ranunculus acris; this grows about two feet high, and is in the height of its beauty in June. Another having very pretty white flowers is rather dwarfer in habit; this by some botanists is referred to R. aconiti-folius. Allied to these is Caltha palustris, a marsh-plant with large yellow flowers, of which a double variety, very suitable for moist places, is sometimes seen in gaidens.
The common Columbine is well known, and some of its varieties are equal in beauty to many flowers of far greater pretensions; but all are eclipsed by the handsome blue and white Aquilegia glandu-losa, a species which ought to be in every flower-garden. As a spurious sort is sometimes substituted, it may be as well to intimate that the true kind has been advertised in the Gardeners' Chronicle.
In the genus Campanula there are so many fine things that it is difficult to make a selection. Among the most desirable, however, will be found Persicifolia, of which there are double and single varieties, both with white and with blue flowers; the double white Throatwort (C. trachilium), and the double white Glomerata, all of which grow from two to three feet high. Taller kinds are Grandis (blue), Lactiflora (milky white), and Pyramidalis (both white and blue varieties); and of very dwarf sorts there are Pulla (dark blue), Pumila (both blue and white), Garganica (blue), and Fragilis (blue). A biennial species called the Canterbury Bell (C. medium) is also very ornamental. Seeds of this sown about midsummer will furnish flowering plants for the following season, and amongst them there will probably be different shades of blue as well as white flowers. C. nobilis will be grown as a novelty rather than for effect, its large pendulous purplish flowers being too dull to be showy. Wahlen-bergia (formerly Campanula) grandiflora is a beautiful thing, but very scarce; and Symphiandra pendula, another campanulaceous plant, with white blossoms and a dwarf, drooping habit, deserves cultivation.
Pentstemons are all pretty, but unfortunately the best of them are the most tender. Scouleri, Venustus, Glandulosus, Ovatus, and Speciosus, have handsome blue flowers, especially the latter, which, however, is so delicate, that, to have it in perfection, seedling plants should be grown in pots through the winter, and turned out in spring; treated thus, it makes a splendid bed. Campanulatus and Atropur-pureus differ chiefly in the colour of their dull purple flowers, the latter being the darkest. Digitalis is more robust, growing upwards of three feet high in good soil, and has white flowers.
Hesperis matronalis (the Rocket) has two double varieties, one with white, and the other with purple flowers, which ought to be cultivated extensively, especially the white one. Being short-lived plants, a young stock must be kept up by putting in cuttings about midsummer, after the bloom is over.
Hedysarum coronarium (the French Honeysuckle) is one of the most showy of papilionaceous plants, its deep-red flowers being produced in profusion in June and July. It is a biennial; therefore seed must be sown every year.
Catananche caerulea and C. bicolor, the first blue, and the second blue and white, are showy things, their scaly flowers bearing some resemblance to those of the Everlastings. These should be raised from seeds every spring, and treated as biennials.
The common Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius), as well as its white variety, are very ornamental towards the end of summer, when carelessly trained upon a few rough sticks; so likewise is L. grandi-florus.
Ononis rotundifolia is an exceedingly pretty thing, with its pale rose-coloured flowers and low bushy habit; and yet it is seldom seen, probably because it is short-lived, and therefore requires to be frequently renewed from seed.
Liatris spicata, scariosa, and elegans produce their spikes of bluish flowers towards the end of summer and beginning of autumn, and are singular as well as pretty.
Dictamnus fraxinella is a good old plant now neglected, perhaps because its flowers are not gaudy; and yet there is sufficient character about the plant to make it very interesting. This species is red; and there is another with white flowers, which appears to differ from it in little but colour.
Of the perennial Lupins, polyphyllus is undoubtedly the handsomest, including, however, its white variety. Grandifolius has flowers of a singular dark dull blue, and ornatus is pale blue. By preventing the growth of seed-pods, the flowering season of these plants may be much prolonged.
The Aster, in some form or other, is seen in most gardens, especially the tall late-flowering kinds commonly called Michaelmas Daisies; there are, however, several species of lower growth, which ought never to be excluded from herbaceous beds; and of these amellus, spectabilis, sibiricus, and alpinus, have large showy blue flowers; while the smaller blossoms of hyssopifolius and elegans are produced in such profusion that they equal the best in effect.
Numberless others, equally fine, might be added to the above list, if space permitted; these, however, will serve to form the nucleus of a good selection.
J. B. Whiting.