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.
Near this was a bed of the pink and buff coloured Lantana Fabiola, edged with Robert Fish golden-leaved Pelargo-nium - a good thing, with a dwarf and compact habit. A noble plant, too, is Fer-dinanda eminens, with large spreading leaves. Here was a group of it in the centre of a shield-shaped bed, the plants from 6 to 7 feet in height: round this was a red-stalked form of the Castor-oil plant, somewhat dwarf in growth; then the golden-leaved Japanese Honeysuckle; the whole edged with Echeveria secunda glauca. This was indeed a foliaged bed, a masterpiece of skilful arrangement and fine effect. Then came a large circular bed, having in the centre five large plants of Musa Ensete, raised from seed last March twelvemonths. At the feet of this, "the noblest of all sub-tropical plants," was a carpet of Coleus Ver-scbaffeltii aureus marginatus, a magnificent mass of bright claret and gold: round this was Coleus Marshalli, a somewhat tender variety, yet forming a good mass; the whole edged with Fuchsia Tom Thumb of nice compact growth, and blooming freely. This also was a grand bed. Mr Gibson stated that the Musa lasts four or five years; then they fruit, and are done with.
Next was a long narrow bed of Canna nigricans, one of the best dark-leaved kinds, if not the best for foliage, though not the best for blooming. This was broadly edged with Mrs Pollock, and an outer edging of the variegated Veronica argentea, looking like Alyssum saxatile variegatum, and which produces pale-blue flowers in the spring. Here, too, were growing on a low damp spot, and flourishing admirably, two varieties of the Pampas Grass - one the old silvery form of the original species, and one with quite a red tint, which is very handsome in the autumn. Mr Gibson states that Gunnera scabra appears to be, with him, much more robust and stronger than the Bulrush of the Nile, though both require some covering up during winter; the former was certainly doing well here. A huge raised bed of Cannas here came in view - a grand object; at the back of the bed was C. Premices du Nice, having bright pale glaucous green leaves - one of the new yellow-flowering varieties, and one that throws up suckers from the roots with remarkable freedom. In front of this was C. nigricans, making a capital contrast, and edged with Fuchsia Golden Fleece, to bring out the dark metallic hue of the leaves of the Canna. Near this was a bed of Erythrina cristi-galli, in variety, and in fine bloom.
These Coral trees were a grand object, and it is found that E. Hendersoni is one of the earliest to bloom, and E. laurifolia one of the latest. A circular raised bed close by had a centre of Coleus Saundersi, perhaps about the only one of the first batch of the Royal Horticultural Society's new varieties worth keeping; round this was a belt of Centaurea ragusina compacta, and an edging of Echeveria secunda glauca. This was a splendid bed, of perfect arrangement, and remarkably effective. Then about here were dotted some plants of the single scarlet Pomegranate, plunged in pots, and nicely covered with brilliant coloured flowers, something like those of a Correa in shape. Some plunged specimens of Yucca aloifolia variegata were about and around them. The two, being so diverse in character, formed a nice contrast. Here, too, was a large bed of Funkia Sieboldi, that Mr Gibson said had been very fine when in full bloom, and by no means to be despised as a foliage bed. Then came quite a unique bed, of a raised kidney-shape. In the centre was a line of Sorchus laciniatus, with very handsome leaf foliage, dense, yet transparent, and can be clearly seen through. This also makes a capital plant for table decoration.
On either side of the Sorchus was a line of Geranium anemonaefolia, with large anemone-like leaves, and pinkish-lilac flowers; the centre of the bed carpeted with a mixture of Koniga variegata, and Velvet-Cushion Verbena; next, a line of Amaranthus melancholicus ruber, then Golden-Chain Pelargonium, and an outer margin of Sempervivum montanum. This was also an excellent bed, and especially when looked at from a distance, the arrangement came out very nice indeed. A smaller bed of the same shape had a broad central band of Lantana ne plus ultra, the flowers of which open of a maroon-crimson hue, and change to orange, of upright rigid growth, very free blooming, and dwarf habit. Round this was Black Dwarf Nosegay Pelargonium, then a line of blue Lobelias, and an outer edge of Mesembryauthemum tigrinum, so named because each pair of thick fleshy leaves represents the open jaws of a tiger, while the young leaves have the appearance of a tongue between the jaws. Farther on was a circular bed carpeted with Alternanthera spathulata: rising above this was a dwarf orange-crimson flowering Canna, obtained from Messrs T. Jackson & Son of Kingston, the species not known; and an edging of Funkia undula variegata. Next came a circular bed showing much novelty of arrangement.
The centre was carpeted with Coleus Marshalli, from the midst of which rose some tall-growing foliaged plant: round this was a ring of Coleus aureus marginatus, edged with blue Lobelia; next the Lobelia, Crystal Palace Gem golden leaved Pelargonium. From the ring of the crimson-and-gold Coleus rose a circular line of standard plants of Acer negundo variegata, about 3 1/2 feet in height, enclosing four nice plants of Dracaena Cooperi; thus the bright-coloured leaf-foliage of the Dracaena was looked at through the silvery veil of the foliage of the Acer. It was a very fine bed indeed. Next came a raised long oval bed arranged geometrically; running through the centre of the bed lengthwise was a chain, the links formed alternately of circles and diamonds, the outline of the chain formed of Veronica incurva, the three diamond beds filled each with Eclat and Grand Duke Nosegay Pelargoniums - both new of 1868, but scarcely effective as bedders - and Triumphans, a grand bedding Zonal Pelargonium, with flowers of a soft yet brilliant orange-scarlet hue, and very free blooming, and dark zonate foliage; and the four circular beds filled with double-flowering Pelargoniums - viz., two with Gloire de Nancy, and two with Rose Queen, in the way of Gloire de Nancy, but rather darker.
Pound each group of double kinds was a ring of a Nosegay Pelargonium; two of these rings were formed of Pride of Osberton, having large trusses of brilliant deep orange-scarlet flowers with broad petals; the other, Morning Star, much in the way of Lady Constance Grosvenor, but broader in the petals, both new kinds, and so promising that Mr Gibson intends giving them another season's trial. The groundwork inside and outside the line of Veronica incurva was filled with Alternanthera paronychioides, so as to form a band. This series of diamond and circular-shaped beds affords a good opportunity for testing new varieties of bedding Pelargoniums. At the back of this bed was a raised bed of Cannas. The buff-flowering variety of C. picturata formed a background: in front of this was C. expansa - both dark-foliaged and dwarf-growing, and edged with a dwarf-growing plant. By this was another raised circular bed in the turf, in the centre of which was a cross formed of Cordyline indivisa, with a plant of Dracaena terminalis at each of the points. The Cordyline had somewhat narrow leaves, but Mr Gibson states they always come broader when the plant is more grown.
The angles of the cross were filled with the silvery Cen-taurea gymnocarpa, all encircled by a single line of Alternanthera paronychioides; next this a circle of Sempervivum montanum, with an outer edging of Saxifraga cristata; this bed also was very fine and effective. Another bed had a broad band of Laotana fabiola in the centre, next this was Plumbago capensis, next this a double line of Sempervivum Californicum as an edging. Mr Gibson thinks that if Plumbago capensis and Lantana ne plus ultra could be grown mingled together, the effect would be very fine indeed. Next came a splendid bed of Canna rubro-caulis, edged with Centaurea ragusina. This combination was very fine indeed, the dark leaves of the Canna contrasting so well with the silvery foliage of the Centaurea. Equally effective was a large and long oval-shaped bed of Canna Bihorelli, with deep dark foliage, and blooming profusely, throwing spikes of orange-maroon flowers as showy as a Gladiolus - a fine species for conservatory decoration in the summer.
This bed was carpeted with Sweet Alyssum, then a line of Pelargonium Golden Fleece, with an outer edging formed of a double row of Sempervivum Californicum. Then came a circular bed, the centre filled with the old form of Erythrina crista-galli, edged with E. rubella, with rich dark-crimson flowers, very fine; round this a good dark Heliotrope, and edged with Molinia coerulea variegata, a silvery variegated grass. Near this were some plants of the double-blossomed Pomegranate, but not so effective as the single variety; and a bed, the centre formed of Hibiscus sinensis rosea splendida, also plunged in pots, flowers very large and showy, but requiring a hot dry summer to drive it into bloom; and a carpet of a dwarf double-white Balsam, edged with Bull's Serena, a very pretty pink-flowering Zonal Pelargonium, with large and showy trusses, very fine; and an outer edging of Golden-Chain Pelargonium. Then came a splendid foliaged bed; the centre had some huge Indian-rubber plants; round this Aralia papyrifera, and a carpet of Aralia Sieboldi, and Canna expansa, a very dwarf-growing dark-foliaged species - these to hide the nakedness of the stems of the Ficus; round these was an edging of Hedera multi-maculata, a good variegated Ivy, the leaves blotched and striped with silver.
This bed will be clothed in foliage during winter, as the Aralia will gradually fill out and occupy the space of the bed. Near this were two magnificent beds of Cannas; one was a huge long oval-shaped bed of C. Peruviana, edged with C. expansa, and a line of a dwarf silver-striped Ivy beneath. C. Peruviana bad soft orange-red flowers, and had occupied this place for four years past without removal. It was a grand lofty mass, and will stand for five years, when the bed becomes exhausted. The Canna throws such a mass of roots that the bed requires well mulching with strong manure every two years, and each year some 3 inches of good manure is placed on the bed; and yet, with this liberal treatment, five years is as long as a bed will last in good condition. The other bed had a centre of C. annaei, the tallest-growing of all. From the ground to the apex of the flower-stalks some of the plants were fully 10 feet in height, and one reached 11 feet; this produces deep buff flowers, and was edged with C. nigricans, a capital dark-foliaged kind, and thought to be an improvement on C. expansa; round this, Golden-Chain Pelargonium in front, Alteruanthera paronychioides, and an edging of Veronica incana.
But further details - and there are yet some very interesting features to be described - must be reserved for our next number.