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.
This is a rather numerous family, and presents a greater variety of colour in its species than Alyssum; but I do not think a more extensive selection would be proper, for though easily-managed hardy plants, only two or three species are far enough removed from weediness to be admitted among ornamental plants. Those included in the following selection are most easily cultivated, thriving in most soils and in almost any situation. They are, however, most characteristic of rockwork, and even when grown in borders and other flat surfaces have the best effect when raised in hillocks. They are of more straggling growth, if Arabis lucida is excepted, than the Alyssums, and require a little more attention where trimness and smoothness of surface are required; but the pegging necessary to secure this object may be turned to account for the purpose of increase, as by this means alone, owing to the tendency of all species to strike root from their trailing stems into the ground, if they are kept firmly attached to it, a larger increase may be obtained in one season from a plant than by means of cuttings or division. Cuttings, if they should be resorted to for increase, require the same treatment as has been already noticed for Alyssum, only the bell-glass is not so indispensable.
They must be taken as soon as growth is active, and as they are of an unhandy style - always top-heavy - in the case of the species of the Albida type, as much of the flexible cord-like stem should be taken along with the rosette of leaves as is convenient, in order to provide means of fastening the cutting securely in the soil. Seeds also may be used sown out of doors in any spare spot, but only the specific forms may be raised in this way with certainty; the variegated varieties do not come true.
This is the best known, and one of the best, of the family. The plant forms diffuse patches of running stems, clothed at the extremities with rosettes of pale-green leaves, wavy and toothed on the margins, and clothed with greyish hairs. Flowers white, in profuse loose panicles about a foot high, appearing in greatest profusion from March till June, but flowering more or less earlier and later than those months. A most valuable plant for spring flower-gardening, for rockwork, for the mixed border, and for naturalising on dry banks, about ruins, and in open woods. The variety named Arabis albida variegata is a beautiful and useful plant for purposes of edging and massing in the flower-garden. There are two distinct forms of this - one with the variegation white, and the plant more weakly and small in all its parts; in the other, the variegation is yellowish or sulphur, and the plant more robust: both are useful, but the smaller-growing plant is the more elegant of the two. Native of Sicily, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Russia.
This form does not differ much from Arabis albida, except in respect of freeness of growth, in which it is inferior to that species, and in the smaller size and closer toothing of the leaves. The flowers are equally profuse and white, and appear from March till June, but are less disposed to flower either before or after those periods. Enjoys a very wide distribution on the Alps, and affects a variety of habitats, but chiefly stony places.
This species is of recent introduction. It is nearly allied to Arabis albida, having the same mode of growth and similar character of foliage, but the flowers, also of the Albida type, are of a rosy-purple colour. The flowers appear in May and June. Best adapted for culture on rockwork, but in dry warm soils will likely prove hardy in most parts of the country in the open border. Height about 9 inches. Native of California.
The species in this case is of much less ornamental value than the variety named Arabis lucida variegata, which is undoubtedly one of the handsomest of hardy yellow variegated plants at present in cultivation. The plant grows in close tufted habit, producing close rosettes of shining dark-green leaves beautifully margined with bright yellow. About 4 to 6 inches high, not plentiful in the country; the flowers are white, but should not be allowed to appear in the variety, as the foliage becomes injured thereby. The normal form is a pretty plant on rockwork, being very neat and compact in growth. Native of Hungary.
This is a pretty smooth-growing prostrate plant, with entire, shining, almost linear leaves, entire on the margins. Flowers largeish, pure white, rather profuse, appearing in April, May, and June; height 6 to 9 inches. I have grown this plant for greenhouse decoration in shallow well-drained pots, and found it most useful in the end of February and throughout March for ornamenting front stages. A very pretty variety with variegated leaves is not very plentiful in gardens, but it is a beautiful plant, and should be more popular once it is more widely known than it is at present. Native of Carniola and Hungary. Easily propagated by cuttings in early summer, and by division in autumn or winter.