This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
Our readers are no doubt all well acquainted with the ordinary form of the Rhododendron as it grows in their gardens; but perhaps some whom we address may never have seen our metropolitan exhibitions of these plants. We will therefore endeavour to give, as shortly as we can, some idea of the nature of such displays, and how they are got up.
Mr. Waterer of Knaphill has for several years past had a Rhododendron exhibition in the King's Road, Chelsea; and a most excellent treat it has always afforded to lovers of hardy plants. Huge specimens of Rhododendrons, broad-leaved Kalmia, and hardy Azaleas, are taken up with good balls of earth, brought from Mr. Waterer's extensive American Nursery at Knaphill, and planted at Chelsea in clumps, among which wind gravel-walks, margined with grass, so as to form a temporary garden, which is covered with canvass. The evenness which these clumps would otherwise form is here and there broken by the introduction of a few immensely large specimen Rhododendrons, which long-established nurseries like those at Knaphill and Bagshot alone could furnish. Some of these plants are 8 and 10 feet high, and almost as much through, and when covered with blossom they are truly magnificent. When viewed from a raised stage at the end of the tent, the effect is at once grand and beautiful.
The success which followed Mr. Waterer's endeavours in the King's Road prompted himself, Mr. Waterer of Bagshot, Messrs. Standish and Noble, Mr. Baker, and Messrs. Lee, to attempt a similar exhibition, on a rather larger scale, in the Royal Botanic Society's Garden in Regent's Park. This was opened with music, and all the usual auxiliaries of an ordinary botanic fete, and we believe was perfectly successful. The mode of arrangement was the same as at Chelsea; but the tent was larger, and the effect, which would have been grand almost beyond description even on level ground, was much heightened by the undulating character of the place. It might truly have been called a "floral paradise," as we heard a lady inadvertently denominate it. Never have we seen such a mass of gay flowers assembled in one place before. Nor was there any lack of contrast; for the plentiful introduction of hardy Azaleas and broad-leaved Kalmias among the Rhododendrons served to produce that. The prettiest Rhododendron we saw to our taste was R. blandyanum, a brilliant crimson; but we fear it flowers too early to do well without some protection to its flowers. It was very early, which is the fault of all the finer kinds.
The object which hybri-disers have now in view is, to place the beautiful flowers of the finer kinds on late-blooming varieties; and when we take into consideration the beauty and usefulness of the Rhododendron, this is a subject especially worthy of attention.
The publication of the beautiful drawings and descriptions of Dr. Hooker's new Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya has created quite a sensation among lovers of this race of plants; and truly, if the plants themselves be like the drawings, we do not wonder at it, for some of them are certainly most beautiful things. We have R. Dalhousia?, with bell-shaped white flowers 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches long, and as broad at the mouth, represented as growing and flowering on the trunks of trees without any other support than what the tree affords; then R. barbatum, a rosy-pink species, with a lighter throat, is stated to be a tree from 40 to 60 feet high; R. lancifolium, a smaller kind in the way of the last; R. Wallichii is a larger and lighter coloured sort, with a tinge of lilac in it; R. Campbelliae has beautiful globular compact heads of rosy-pink flowers shaded with lilac. This species is said to attain not unfrcquently a height of 40 feet! R. Roylii and R. cinnabarinum are smaller sorts, with brownish-red flowers of apparently less beauty; but then we come to a variety called II. argenteum, a tree 30 feet high, with leaves 6 inches to I foot long, and from 3 to 5 inches wide, and white flowers 2 to 3 inches long, and nearly as much in diameter; and finally, R. Falconeri, also a tree 30 feet high, with compact heads of white blossoms, and leaves like those of a Magnolia, and ferruginous underneath.
Such materials as the above are surely calculated to revolutionise the present race of Rhododendrons, pretty as they already are.
The Editor of that popular work the Art-Union Journal has kindly obliged us with the accompanying woodcut of a rustic chair. If some of our readers could amuse themselves by drawing any thing-good in the way of garden-seats, or rustic garden-porches, gates, etc., we would gladly have them drawn on wood, which would enable us to repay the courtesy in question. The Art-Union Journal abounds with woodcuts of various objects; but the distinguishing feature of its present illustrations is the series of engravings on steel from the pictures left to the nation, and called the Vernon Gallery.