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.
The display of flowering and foliage plants, or sab-tropicals, is now about at its best; for though the next few weeks may improve some things, others will be going back or losing their freshness, so that now is as good an opportunity as any for making a few notes of the best combinations for reproducing next season. The public taste just now appears to be in favour of small, dense-growing plants, arranged neatly in symmetrical designs, under the technical title of "carpet-beds;" and for this purpose many succulent plants, as Eche-verias, Sempervivums, Pachyphytons, Kleinias, Sedums, and Saxifrages, are grown. Other compact-growing flowering and foliage plants, of which Lobelia erinus speciosa, L. pumila grandiflora, three or four varieties of Alternanthera, Coleus, Verschaffeltii, Iresine Herbstii, I. Lindenii, I. acuminata, Santolina incana, Mesembryanthemum cordif olium variegatum, Pyrethrurn Golden Feather, Salvia argentea, Stachys lanata, and Cerastium tomentosum, are the best and most generally used. In these carpet-beds and borders, the chief aim is to get a striking effect by contrasting well-marked colours together, such, as white and scarlet, purple and yellow, or white and dark purple, or occasionally dark blue.
There is also a tendency this season towards mixing colours in blocks, instead of contrasting them in masses; and we have noticed some harmonious and effective beds so arranged, and edged with two or three rows of dwarf foliage-plants. It is astonishing to notice the thousands of Echeveria secunda and E. califor-nica that are used for planting round the raised margins of the flower-beds. Some of the beds this season are very much elevated above the general ground-level; and to prevent heavy rains from washing down the margins, a little Koman cement is mixed with the earth of the beds while moist, and the edge is then neatly finished off with a trowel. In order to prevent the colour of the cement showing, it is sprinkled while moist with dry dust or earth. The bedding arrangements most worthy of notice are those in front of the little ivy-covered lodge in Kensington Gardens, the flower-walk leading from the Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner, the carpet-bedding and subtropicals in Battersea Park, and lastly, but by no means least, the splendid bedding and sub-tropicals in the People's Park (Victoria) at the east end of London.
One of the most notable features in the various London parks this summer has been the effective appearance of the Yuccas, nearly all of which have flowered very freely. The effect, grand as it was, would have been considerably heightened if, instead of their being dotted here and there indiscriminately, they were grouped in large clumps or noble masses. Few plants equal Yuccas in stately beauty, especially when planted in suitable positions; while for grouping with subtropicals they are invaluable. We will now just take a cur. sory glance at the bedding most worthy of notice. Entering Hyde Park by the Albert Gate, we find the triangular plot of turf on the left is occupied by Palms, Musas, Dracaenas, and Cycads. These when placed out were in fine condition, but most of them have suffered by being placed in a position so much exposed to cold cutting winds. Two or three strips of fresh green turf leading from this point to Hyde Park Corner are dotted here and there with beds, some of which are pretty, though none exceed mediocrity. The best are one or two scroll beds, planted with a block of Cannas in the centre, and margined with belts of Cineraria maritima, Scarlet Geraniums, Alternanthera amcena, and a row of Echeveria glauca.
Another effective bed is planted with light-coloured Cannas in the centre, around which are belts of Golden Zonals and Alternanthera, the whole being neatly finished off with a border of Echeveria californica. One or two beds of light-flowered Fuchsias, mixed on a deep purple ground colour, formed by planting Iresine thickly together, are very pretty.
Proceeding from Hyde Park Corner, parallel with Park Lane, we reach the piece de resistance - the flower-walk margined with oblong beds on each side. The two lodges here look very pretty, being completely draped with fresh green festoons of the Virginian Creeper, one of the finest of all deciduous trailers for town gardens. The first set of beds on the right are edged with purple Iresine Lindenii and Pyrethrum Golden Feather, and have a very distinct and telling effect. Pelargonium Duchess of Sutherland, in the first bed, is a good rosy scarlet; the next bed being filled in with Pelargonium Queen of Queens and Verbena venosa mixed. This combination of a silvery leaf with scarlet and purple flowers is a good one, the effect being considerably heightened by the above edging. The third bed is filled in with Lucius, a free-flowering Zonal; the fourth being composed of Mrs Pollock and Viola Blue Perfection mixed. This last mixture is not a bad one, though not so striking as the Queen of Queens or Manglesii grouped with Verbena venosa. Calceolarias appear to be a failure, generally, this season, owing to the disease to which they are subject having made its appearance.
A bed or two of C. amplexicaulis, however, does not seem to be affected, the foliage being fresh, and the plants are blooming well. Christine still holds a place among the pink-flowered bedding Pelargoniums, while Amaranthe is darker in tone and bears a larger truss. The corresponding beds on the left are edged with crimson Alternanthera and blue Lobelia and Poa trivialis var., in alternate clumps, the whole being margined with the glaucous-leaved Echeveria secunda. These beds are filled in similarly to those on the right. The third bed is planted with Coleus, and has a belt of the golden-leaved Crystal Palace Gem in addition to the above edging.
Stella variegata, mixed with the best of all Verbenas - Purple King - is a telling arrangement; and Heliotrope Jean d'Amour is a dwarf-growing free-flowering variety, bearing large, deep purple, heavily perfumed trusses. The second series of beds on the left are margined with rows of crimson Alternanthera, golden Mesembryanthemum, edged with Echeveria secunda. The corresponding series on the right are edged with a neat, rosy, purple-flowered Lantana, bordered with a belt of the silvery-leaved Veronica incana. One or two beds here are very effective, especially one on the left planted with Coleus, surrounded by a row of silvery-foliaged Centaurea, in addition to the above edging. Pelargonium Louis Pioselle is a bright, free-flowering orange-scarlet, and makes a fine distinct bed. Centaurea ragusina, mixed with the fine old Verbena venosa, is a telling bed, fringed with Alternanthera and deep rose-coloured Verbena. The best bed, however, that we have seen this season in this style, is Verbena venosa, mixed plant for plant with the rosy-flowered Pelargonium Manglesii, edged with rows of Iresine Lindenii (dark purple), Alternanthera amcena (carmine), and Mesembryanthemum cordifolium var. (soft yellow).