This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
A glimpse of spring in mid-winter is most agreeable. There are two pretty shrubs which give us this, putting forth their tiny green leaves in mild weather soon after Christmas: these are, Ribes speci-osum and Ribes Menziesii; their bright red Fuchsia-like flowers do not make their appearance till May.
Evergreen rock-plants have not, I think, ever been noticed. We have really almost too many new plants; for we are apt to forget, in the charm of novelty, many old friends more worthy of our favour. These evergreen rock-plants, if planted in a shady border, or on a small mound of light sandy loam, well furnished with stones or pieces of rock, form a pretty lively group all the winter, and in early spring, for the most part, give their flowers in abundance. The genus Saxifrage is most remarkable for the pretty tufted evergreen habits of its species; such are Saxifraga retusa; oppositifolia, with its two variations, pallida and alba, - the species has bright purple flowers, the first variety pale pink, the second pure white; mus-coides, atropurpurea, laevis, hypnoides, platypetala, hirta, Sternbergii, lanceolata, ceratophylla, crustata, crustata hybrida, rosularis, and lingulata: all these species of Saxifrage are very pretty and very cheap.
Sedum dasyphyllum, S. stellatum, and S. sexangulare, are also pretty evergreens; to which maybe added Campanula nitida, Carda-mine trifoliata and hastukta, Schivereckia podolica, and Aubrietia purpurea. There are doubtless many other equally desirable evergreen rock-plants; but the above have attracted my attention, as this notice of them may probably that of your correspondents; so that they may not, in the crowd of novelties, be quite forgotten.
A pleasing and interesting winter-tree is the Glastonbury Thorn, Crataegus oxyacantha prsecox. Its imputed holy origin is well known. It was, however, well chosen; for it is often, in mild winters, in full bud at Christmas, occasionally some of its blossoms even expanded. It puts forth its leaves very early in spring, sometimes even towards the end of .January.
All lovers of spring-flowers - and who is not? - ought to cultivate the early blooming species of Scilla; but, indeed, they require no cultivation; for if a few bulbs are planted in a group, - which should have a permanent name, otherwise the bulbs may be dug up, they will continue to increase, and bloom constantly in March for ten or twelve or more years. The most desirable species are Scilla bifolia, with bright blue flowers, - how very brilliant and beautiful they are! - S. bifolia alba, with flowers of pure white, coming into bloom about a week after the preceding; S. bifolia rubra, with pink flowers; and S. sibirica, with flowers of the most beautiful azure blue.
In some of our old pleasure-grounds may be seen, in April, here and there a tree conspicuous for its snowy whiteness: this is the Snowy Mespilus, well named by our old gardeners. Its botanical name is now Amelanchier botryapium. My tree is about eighty years old; and really no greater pleasure do I feel in the varied productions of my grounds, than the constant annually recurring gratification of seeing this fine tree, covered with its pure white flowers. It is perfectly hardy, and grows well any where and every where.
Your readers will, I fear, think I write about old matters, when I mention the Persian Iris (Iris persica) as being worthy of a passing word or two. The roots of this most beautiful and sweet-smelling flower are sold in the autumn by the seedsmen in a dry state; they are potted, forced, perhaps give a flower or two, and are then forgotten. This is not the way to enjoy them. Let me tell my way. Take one, two, or three dozen - they are cheap; plant them in a group or small bed, three or four inches apart, with a permanent label, so that they are not disturbed by the spade, and let them rest, merely weeding them when required: they will, as constantly as March returns, gladden your eyes with their very beautiful flowers. My bed has now been undisturbed for ten years, and a week or two since it was a mass of beauty.
Fortune's " Yellow China Rose." Decidedly a misnomer, for it has no yellow in it. It is, however, a very pretty Rose, and appears to bloom with great profusion; in size and colour its flowers are like the Noisette Rose Ophirie; indeed, so much so, that when Mr. Fortune shewed me a figure of it, when he introduced it from China, I without hesitation assured him it must be the same Rose. This idea was almost confirmed by its foliage and habit, the former of which is small, the latter slender; but a plant has recently bloomed in great perfection in one of my forcing houses. The plant, about a foot in height, was covered with flowers. They are, as I have said above, like those of Ophirie as regards size and colour, but differ in being little more than semidouble, and all circular; while those of Ophirie are often angular, and too much crowded with petals. Their peculiar bright fawn-colour, tinted with salmon, is exceedingly novel and pleasing. A well-grown tree, trained to a wall, would have a fine effect.
Nurseries, Sawbridgeworth, Herts. T. Rivers.
What a beautiful tufted mass of bright yellow is formed by that very old plant Alyssum saxatile! From the middle of April to the same period in May does this and its congener, Alyssum gemonense, with a more compact habit and flowers of a more golden hue, enliven our flower-borders. Aubrietia purpurea, of the same dwarf tufted habit, with light purple flowers, blooms at the same season; as does Arabis albida: thus we may form pretty masses of pale yellow, deep yellow, purple, and white, in April and May, when flowers are so fresh and gay and acceptable.
Another old favourite, Polemonium reptans, deserves a passing word. This, like many other old herbaceous plants, is not sufficiently known; it is very hardy, will grow in any soil, is dwarf and neat in its habit, and gives flowers of a most lovely blue, or perhaps purple, in April. Pulmonaria virginica, with its soft silky foliage and beautiful blue flowers, is another April friend, which every lover of spring flowers should plant. Now these are all cheap, and cultivated by almost every nurseryman; and yet how rarely they are seen!
There are perhaps no shrubs more beautiful and graceful than the different species of the Broom (Genista and Spartium).
The earliest of the tribe to give us its flowers is Genista purgans, a dwarf compact- growing shrub, covered early in May with its golden flowers. It also forms a pretty lawn-tree when grafted as a standard on the Laburnum, on which it seems to succeed admirably. We have but few, very few hardy climbers that flower in early spring, which gives increased value to the genus Atragene; its species are very old plants, and yet but rarely seen. For several years past, how constantly have the nurserymen been dinned with the inquiry, " Well, Mr.-------, have you any thing new?" If we continue to neglect our old friends as we have done, the inquiry will soon be, "Have you any thing old?" Well then, Atragene austriaca, with flowers of a beautiful azure blue, and its variety with white flowers, are both worth inquiring after. Atragene americana, with purple flowers, blooms somewhat later in the season, about the same time as the Clematis montana, which, with its large white flowers, is one of the most beautiful of our early hardy climbers. Now all these are perfectly hardy, and will grow trained to a pole or to a wall, with any aspect, even the cold north.
The last named is by far the most vigorous, and will make shoots from ten to fifteen feet in length in one season.
"What a very beautiful tree is the double-blossomed Chinese Crab (Pyrus spectabilis)! My favourite tree is some sixty years old. Nothing that I know of shews more forcibly the variableness of our springs than this tree, as the following extract from my gardening "log" will testify: - "1834, March 14th, some flowers of Pyrus spectabilis open;" " 1837, May 14th, Pyrus spec, just coming into bloom;" " 1840, April 28th, Pyrus spec, in bloom;" and now, this present May 18th, it is just in full bloom; its bright rosy buds and pale pink expanded flowers are very beautiful: the tree deserves a place in every garden.
Sawbridgeworth. T. Rivers.