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.
One of the prettiest little bits of bedding near London is that in front of Mr Chamberlain's cottage, in Kensington Gardens. Here we find bright colours agreeably softened down with a judicious mixture of foliage-plants - as Yuccas, Grevilleas, Dracaenas, and Palms. The central bed is a circle of crimson Alternanthera, in the centre of which is a cross formed of Lobelia pumila grandiflora, dense grower and one mass of blue. This is edged with a broad belt of Pyre-thrum Golden Feather, and a narrower edging of Sempervivum californicum. The semicircular border is also very pretty; and the interest taken in this clever bit of colouring may be inferred from the fact, that the grass in the park for a yard or two from the fence is completely worn away by the feet of visitors, who find their way here all the day long to look at this cheerful little garden.
The pretty little Santolina incana is a nice dwarf silvery plant, likely to be of great use for edgings, or for carpeting the small compartments of geometrical borders. The bedding in the Green Park is not above the average, so we will cross over the Thames and visit Battersea Park, the home of subtropical gardening in this country. Every visitor to the metropolis should see Battersea, which is one of the most interesting of all London gardens at this season of the year. Here one may find choice Ferns, such as Neottopteris indus, Dicksonia antarctica, and many others, not only existing but actually growing outside in sheltered glades and warm recesses, accompanied by choice Palms, Cycads, and other effective foliage and flowering plants in quantity. The Yuccas here bear great spikes of their sweet wax-like flowers, and have a telling effect among other vegetation. Splendid specimens of Cycas revoluta, Blue Gum Trees, Ery-thrina or " Coral Plant," and Seaforthia elegans, are isolated on the fresh green turf with good effect. The margins of the lakes are also fringed with tall reeds and noble grasses and other water-plants, which give a strikingly natural appearance to the whole place.
Pure white Water-lilies nestle peacefully on the quiet water of the glassy pool, while tall Bulrushes tower above them as freely as if in their native swamps. Iu one of the borders we noticed Eccremocarpus scaber growing and flowering very freely. This is a plant nearly allied to the Bignonias - of trailing habit and requiring some slight support. It bears its bright orange-scarlet flowers in profusion all through the summer, and is easily propagated from seeds, which are freely produced in warm sunny positions. Cannas do better here than anywhere else we have seen, and are in many cases allowed to remain out in the beds all the winter months, the only protection they require being a thorough mulching of stable-manure or leaves. Not the least interesting feature in the garden are the mounds carpeted with dwarf, dense-growing Sedums, Saxifrages, and other succulents, and dotted here and there with finer specimens of the larger-growing kinds - such as Pachyphyton bracte-osum, P. roseum, Rocheas, Aloes, Cacti, and Bromeliads.
Passing through the densely-populated east end, we reach Victoria or the People's Park, as it is more generally called. The bedding arrangements here are carried out in fine style, and perhaps the display of bright glowing colours is better appreciated here than in all the other parks. Willows grow well by the margins of the ornamental water, drooping in some places down to the very edge; but, nevertheless, the water has a wild and barren appearance, being totally devoid of aquatics, and many of the banks are also quite destitute of shrubs. The first group of beds we come to has a double-scroll bed as a centre-piece, and this is very neatly carpeted with crimson Alternanthera fringed with a double row of Echeveria secunda, and dotted here and there with escutcheons of golden Mesembryanthemum and Pyrethrum, in the centre of which large Eche-verias and Sempervivums are planted with good effect. A very pretty circular bed is planted with Coleus in the centre, surrounded by Cloth-of-Gold, Lobelia pumila grandiflora, and margined with Echeveria secunda. Another larger bed has Mrs Pollock in the centre, surrounded by belts of Coleus Ver-schaffeltii, Golden Pyrethrum, and crimson-foliaged Alternanthera, - a by no means unattractive combination.
Here, as well as in Hyde Park, there is a taste for mixed beds, one of the prettiest in this group being composed of Bijou Pelargonium and Viola Perfection, edged with Iresine Lindenii and Golden Feather. This last edging of purple and yellow is very telling, and always looks well. A triangular bed of dwarf orange-flowered Tropoeolum and blue Viola mixed, margined with crimson Alternanthera and Golden Thyme, is a well-contrasted arrangement.
The semicircular series of beds in the centre of the Park are very effective, and form the piece de resistance, in company with the subtropical walk and ribbon-borders. An oblong bed filled with Centaurea ragusina and Verbena venosa, edged with Iresine Lindenii and the soft yellow variegated Mesembryanthemum, is very fine. The Trefoil, or central bed of the group, is also well planted; the two lateral divisions being planted with Bijou, and the central one with Mrs Pollock, margined with belts of Coleus, Golden Pyrethrum, Crimson Alternanthera, and a double row of Echeveria secunda. A round bed or two planted with White-leaved Zonal and Blue Viola mixed, edged with Alternanthera amcena, Golden Thyme, and Echeverias, is very effective. An oblong of Scarlet Zonal margined with a broad band of Purple King Verbena, and edged with the dwarf Golden Feather, is also a very striking arrangement. Calceolarias here, as elsewhere, look miserable, and for the future it would be as well to exclude so uncertain a plant from the flower-garden altogether, as its failure spoils any intended effect for the whole season.
Further on, towards the pri" vate houses and frame-ground, we find two very striking circular ribbon-borders - one being cut into triangles and lozenge-shaped compartments by belts of Pelargoniums, and the other planted in semicircles of white, pink, and scarlet-flowered Zonals, having triangularly-shaped compartments in front. The first has the compartments filled in with Coleus and Alternanthera, while in the latter they are filled with Lobeliapumila or L. erinus speciosa and Bronze Zonals alternately. The margins of these borders are distinct and worth notice, the one being edged with Mesembryanthemums cordifolium var. and Lobelia pumila grandiflora, and the others with three belts formed respectively of Iresine Lin-denii, Pyrethrum Golden Feather, and Cerastium tomentosum. Passing along the subtropical walk, we meet with some distinct beds of foliage-plants. Acacia lophantha - one of the finest and freshest window-plants we have - here looks well in a bed, and a mass of the bright-looking and very variegated Maize edged with deep purple Iresine Lindenii is attractive.
A rockery carpeted and planted with succulents, similar to the one already described at Battersea, is an interesting feature in this department; while a bed of large-leaved Wigandias edged with the crimson Chilian Beet and variegated Coltsfoot is an uncommon though effective bit of colour-planting. Belts of Cannas and Ficus fringe the shrubberies, and masses of Yucca recurvata are flowering freely on the sloping bank, backed by dark-coloured evergreens, - just the position to show off their tall masses of wax-like flowers to advantage. A nice specimen of Yucca fila-mentosa is also producing a fine spike of flowers. A round bed of the new Amaranthus salicifolius is just showing colour, and promises to be more effective later in the season. It evidently likes a moist shady position, as on dry, hot, and sandy soils it loses its lower foliage and gets leggy. Fine masses and mixed beds of Cannas and other subtropicals are arranged on either side the winding walk, from which nice views are obtained of the margins of the lake and the drooping willows which fringe its banks.
A mass of Dracaena ferrea makes a distinct bed; and a round bed with a star-shaped mass'of Coleus in the centre, the intervening spaces between the ray being filled with Golden Pyrethrum, is very pretty, the whole being neatly margined with a belt of Crimson Alternanthera and a double row of Echeveria secunda. Musas, Palms, and Yuccas are dotted here and there on the turf among the beds, and help to relieve the monotony of bright colours on every side. Next year we may look for an overwhelming preponderance of " carpet-beds," which are all pretty well in their way, but masses of bright colour should be relieved by fresh green foliage, or the eye soon tires of glaring effects. Give us bright glowing colour, but let us also have cool turf, fine trees, and noble foliage-plants, in order to balance and harmonise the whole into one bright and beautiful picture, or much of the intended effect is lost on intelligent observers.
Loxdox, August 12, 1873.