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For some time previous the weather had been very warm; and as we entered the grounds upon this the last occasion of the season, we expected to have found them much more parched than was the case, although evidently thirsting for a few refreshing showers. We must, before walking through the tents, supply an omission or two, that our country readers, and those who may not have attended these exhibitions, may learn the whole arrangements made for the convenience and comfort of visitors. On the right of the principal entrance is a ladies' cloak-room; and on the left, a thatched erection, beneath which is a supply of cool pure water, with tumblers, etc. for the refreshment of all that choose to partake. From this entrance also, 150 feet of the pathway leading direct to the council-room entrance is covered with an awning, supplied with abundance of seats; and a similar arrangement at the other end provides for the accommodation of those who like to watch the company entering and departing, - and this is a numerous class. But we must to our work, and away to the Geranium tent.
As might be expected, this was not in its prime; but it looked very respectable; and we were glad to see a new and promising exhibitor in the gardener of J. Ashby, Esq. of Staines, and also an exhibition of the plants of E. Foster, Esq. by Mr. Bragg, nurseryman of Slough, who made his first appearance at these gardens on this occasion. Collections were short, but the tent was filled up with Petunias and other productions; amongst which a seedling from a Cape Pelargonium, crossed with a fancy variety, exhibited by Mr. Ambrose of Battersea, and which was awarded a medal, claimed some attention.
Passing over to the next tent (see our last visit), we come to new plants; the only one of which we can heartily recommend is our now not unknown friend Mitraria coccinea, which is said to be hardy in Devonshire; but we fear it will not prove so about London. Its large tubular scarlet flowers are very handsome. Next in merit is Abronia umbellata, a trailing plant, bearing globular tufts of lilac blossoms. This may possibly prove a useful thing. A line of groups of six stove and greenhouse plants brings us to the exhibition of Fuchsias, which were, to say the best of them, "sorry affairs." But among them we saw, and with delight, a standard plant of F. corymbiflora and its white-tubed variety grafted together; and although this plan of grafting two opposite colours on the same stock may be denominated Cockney taste, yet it had a very good effect. The light-coloured variety is very pretty and new. We believe that it is only in the possession of Mr. Salter of Hammersmith, by whom it was shewn. Mr. Turner of Slough had a large and promising dark variety of Fuchsia named Falstaff, and a pretty blush Verbena with a rosy centre.
The opposite side of this tent was filled with cut Roses, from Messrs. Lane, Paul, Francis, Foster, Hermann, Parsons, Terry, Wood, Tivey, and Slowe; and these were backed up by specimen plants and the different kinds of Achimenes, - and we had nearly forgotten to mention a large purple Petunia from Mr. Conway. The Roses being abundant were very interesting while fresh; but they suffered much from heat as the day advanced. Among them we did not remark any thing very new or striking.
At the end of the next tent we found the fruit, and this time there was something to look at, for it was exhibited in quantity; and among rarities, we noticed ripe pods of Vanilla, and very highly perfumed; also Nutmegs, Cloves, and Allspice, - all from the glasshouses of the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland at Syon. Then, passing by some stove and greenhouse plants, we come to the Orchids, which were again brought forward in all their freshness and gaiety, and deserved and received as much admiration as ever. In large groups, Mr. Rucker stood first, and Mr. Warner second. In tens, Mr. Schroder gained the first prize, and Mr. Dobson the second. In Mr. D.'s group we remarked the same Oncidium am-pliatum majus that was exhibited so fine in May, still in good bloom, though of course past its best, shewing what an invaluable variety it is for the cultivator of limited means. Mr. Jack, gardener to R. G. Loraine, Esq., had the best group of six; Mr. Warner shewed the rare and beautiful Cattleya bulbosa; Messrs. Veitch the handsome Cycnoches barbatum; and a beautiful variety of Cypri-pedium barbatum.
A group of "odds and ends" past, we reach Mr. Collyer's collection of thirty stove and greenhouse plants, which were this time in beautiful condition, and nicely arranged both as regards size and colour. This was a great improvement on his last exhibition, and it was the opinion of many in the morning that he would be first; but the result proved in favour of Mrs. Lawrence, whose collection occupied the opposite side of the tent. This consisted of large, and certainly very fine plants; and among them we must not omit to mention the old-fashioned Cape Relhania squarrosa, a first-rate plant for a small collection, because of the brightness and liveliness of its yellow flowers, which it produces abundantly.
We now come to Cape Heaths; and here there is always room to walk and examine the plants comfortably. No crowding of visitors here; - a strange circumstance, considering the beauty of the Heath; but so it is.
Carnations, by Messrs. Ward, Norman, and Bragg; Picotees, by Messrs. Norman, Ward, and Bragg; and Pinks, by Mr. Norman, were exhibited, and in good condition: but as we intend to give lists of the best varieties from our Note-book, we will waive all enumeration of them here; for we desire to make our report upon these and other flowers valuable as references to purchasers and amateurs. We may add, that in these classes, Amateurs and Nurserymen exhibited against one another; a thing that, in our opinion, should never be done, except where new plants are in question. In consequence of this rule, in the present instance, the Amateurs withdrew. We hope this will be remedied in the next season, or great and just dissatisfaction will be the result. We should state, that Messrs. Veitch sent a compact and handsome variety of Crypto-meria japonica; and we noticed, among plants shewn from the Society's Garden, a beautiful blue Pentstemon, hardy, and very desirable.
On this, as for many preceding seasons, the grounds of the Duke of Devonshire were thrown open to the company, and were soon resorted to for the charming variety they afforded to the Society's gardens, comparatively so familiar. We shall enter into no description of them here; that will be a fitting subject for another paper. Our present business is merely to say, that the time was spent by a company of between 7000 and 8000 in the usual manner, until the signal of departure was heard; and a slight description of this, the concluding part of a Chiswick fete, is what we now intend. Just before six o'clock, the exhibitors, who have hitherto been scattered in all directions, are seen gathering about their plants; and no sooner has the last sound left the instruments of the band, than coats are flung off, green aprons tied on, barriers removed, and the business of tying and securing the plants for their return home is commenced with a surprising earnestness. In an inconceivably short space of time they are removed to the vans; and as the exhibitors finish their tasks, friendly farewells are exchanged between those whose opportunities of meeting each other are often limited to these occasions.
Around the departing plants hang many fair faces, for whom their attendant gallants often sue, though in vain, for some flowers to present to them. Indeed, the cutting of a few blooms for a friend is sure to bring quite a crowd around; and therefore the regulation is cruelly made, that cut flowers must not be given away in the tents. Rapidly, one after the other, all the collections are removed; and the tents, bare and deserted, present the most uninviting aspect. On the parade, - a wide and broad grass-covered portion of the ground, running parallel with the gravel-path connecting the two entrances, - linger the last of the company - generally the young - engaged in a manner so agreeable as to render the flight of time unnoticed. But they too at last depart; and the gardens, lately so animated and gay, resume their ordinary quiet appearance, as the shades of evening warn us to wend our way homeward.