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 ordinary monthly meeting of this Association was held in the Imperial Hotel, Dundee, on Friday evening the 7th ult. - the President in the chair. There was a large attendance of the members. Mr William Stewart, Cedarlea, read a paper entitled "Recollections of a Tour in the United States of America and Canada." His account of his travels was both instructive and amusing, and was listened to with great relish by the meeting. Mr T. H. Miln, Linlathen Gardens, read an able and highly interesting paper on "Hardy Border Flowers." This subject, he said, might embrace annuals, biennials, herbaceous perennials, and alpines; but it was chiefly herbaceous perennials and alpines he meant to speak of to-night. He then pointed out the difficulty of deciding what was actually a hardy herbaceous plant: in common usage the name herbaceous embraced a great variety of plants, which, strictly speaking, did not belong to that class. Many plants, too, were truly hardy under skilful and liberal culture, which, under indifferent or unnatural cultivation, were merely annual or biennial. Many of our hardy mountaineers will not live in our borders if we overlook their natural requirements, whereas, with some forethought and attention, they will live and thrive for years.
A plant whose native soil is bog-peat or rocky grit, cannot be expected to thrive in a stiff tenacious soil without some other preparation for its reception beyond making a hole of sufficient size to hold its roots, and then covering them, even with care. Yet this kind of cultivation, or some such closely akin to it, is by far too common. In any ordinary good garden-soil a considerable number of even our more rare hardy herbaceous and alpine plants will thrive fairly well, but there are others again that require to be specially cared for, and these well repay the extra labour expended to suit their individual requirements. Many plants (especially alpines) which otherwise would perish, did well when planted in a mixture of leaf-mould and small stones, such as surface-rakings, placing a few flat stones round the collar of the plant, and covering them with a thin sprinkling of soil. The stones thus act as a mulch, and keep the roots moist and cool.
Mr Miln then spoke of the most approved methods of planting and arranging a herbaceous border, the distances required between the plants, and the necessity of thinning some of the more robust-growing kinds. He thought it best to thin out principally from the centre after the plants had attained a height of from 15 to 18 inches, then to gather the stems together and tie tightly at about a foot from the ground; in many cases no stake is needed as the stems tied thus act as so many supports, the one standing against the other in a slanting position. As the season advances it becomes requisite, for the sake of tidiness, to remove the haulm of some of the stronger - growing species. In this case it is sometimes necessary to make compensation, as the crowns of some plants will be too much exposed by being deprived of their natural winter protection; and for this purpose a spadeful of soil from a brake that has been well manured for kitchen crops answers very well, affording both a protection and a supply of nourishment at the same time. The speaker then made some remarks on behalf of those old-fashioned flowers, portraying the picturesque and interesting style of the mixed border, the favourite fashion of a flower-garden in the days o' langsyne.
Hardy border flowers display a great variety in habit, much diversity and beauty of foliage, while they present a wonderful variety both in form and colour. Most of them bloom abundantly, and are excellent for cut-flowers, and by a proper selection a continual bloom may be kept up from early spring till late in the autumn. They are also to be recommended as meeting the wants of more people with limited means than any other class of plants. The speakers received the hearty thanks of the meeting; and after the usual vote of thanks to the chairman, the proceedings terminated.