This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
THERE is lying before us as we sit down to write a bunch of flowers plucked from trees growing in the Chiswick Gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society. Each one of them has its pleasant tale of high floral service to rehearse, as
"Nature, rejoicing, shows an aspect fair," and spring
"Heaps up her gifts in happy plenteousness".
Let us take them singly, and note their qualities and appearance. Here is a species of Pyrus malus, known as floribundus, the very gem of our group, and a most noteworthy hardy-flowering shrub. Along each branch is seen a row of glittering red buds, hanging like lines of tempting cherries, which, as they expand, take the form of large deep-blush-coloured flowers. This Pyrus is a thing of beauty that should adorn every shrubbery, and be in every group where flowering trees are seen to alternate with the quiet beauty of green leaves. Our sprig was gathered from a spreading plant some 4 feet in height, and at this stage of growth it was profusely covered with flowers. P. malus spectabilis, or the double-blossoming Apple, is another, plucked from a huge tree, every branch of which was lit up with a charming sheen of radiant pink flowers of large size - a grand tree for woodland ways, where it can be looked on with a dark background of budding trees. Here, too, is the large double-blossomed Cherry of the Big-arreau type, taken from a fine tree, each branch of the spreading head having the under part thickly hung with large snow-white blossoms, each facing downwards, as if desirous of turning the full face of its pure and chaste flowers to greet the eye of the beholder beneath.
Is this a double-flowering form of Cerasus Japonica? and who wonders that it is such a great favourite with the ladies 1 for they eagerly beg for a cluster of its snowy blossoms. There appear to be two types of double-flowering Cherries, the one after the model of the Bigarreau, the other after that of the Morello, the former yielding the largest and showiest flowers.
Next comes a group of four forms of the Prunus, comprising the white and rose-coloured double forms of P. Sinensis, both early blooming, very free, and very attractive indeed in shrubberies. Here is the curious Prunus triloba also, with its large and showy pink blossoms and singular fruits, each one a cluster of several, all grown into one - a curious botanical phenomenon. This, too, is an extremely effective flowering plant; besides, all three are well adapted for early forcing, and should be laid hold of for conservatory decoration in early spring. By the side of these lies a sprig of P. Serotina, taken from a large tree, with spreading branches overhead, sheeted in white; a tree for parks and pleasure-grounds, as well as for small villa-gardens, that produces in a most luxuriant manner racemes of white flowers: even the young branches growing from the trunk amid the Laurels that surround its base furnish their quota of flowers, though half-hidden from view. Whitest of all, perhaps most profusely floriferous, is that gem among white-flowering hardy shrubs, Spirea prunifolia florepleno, the double-white plum-leaved Spirea. Flowers of spotless white fringe half-pendent branches, and bring out by force of marked contrast the wreath of orange-coloured blossoms of the bright-looking Berberis Darwinii lying by its side.
Here, too, is Viburnum plicatum, just coming into flower, but as yet only in the first degree of its floral service.
And, lastly, here lie side by side the remains of three varieties of double-flowering Peaches, that lingered on the trees as if waiting the advent of the warm late spring showers, and to catch the far footsteps of the coming rain. They are the white, the crimson, and the carnation-striped, the flowers white with lines of pink. Exquisite even in decay, what must they have been in the full flush of their highest beauty 1 What glorious subjects for forcing !
The rehearsal is done - the last of our floral actors are laid aside. If we have but quickened into an active regard for some of these spring-blooming shrubs the hearts of a few of our readers, our bunch of flowers will not have been passed in review altogether in vain.