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 1st ult., the president, Mr D. Doig, in the chair. Mr W. S. Watt, landscape-gardener, Broughty Ferry, read his second paper - "Effect in Suburban Landscape Gardening." After describing the style in which villa grounds were laid out and planted in the neighbourhood thirty or forty years ago, he said : "It seems very desirable to preserve in all time coming every interesting view of external scenery that can be obtained from the mansion or any part of the grounds; and this could be done by planting dwarf subjects only in front of mansions. On the other hand, unsightly objects could be hidden by planting trees of rapid and taller growth. In planting for effect, the experienced landscape-gardener would carefully select those subjects that harmonised and contrasted in foliage and in habits of growth." Mr Watt divided the first into four classes - flowering trees, variegated-foliaged trees, coniferous trees, trees changing colour in autumn; and the second into groups or characters - round-headed trees, oblong-topped trees, spiral-topped trees, spreading trees.
He also named a few representative ornamental evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs for groups, or single specimens on the lawn, where the character of the ground and situation were favourable. With such a variety of materials at command, the intelligent planter, by judicious grouping and wise distribution, would be able to form scenes of great interest and picturesque beauty. The grouping system, where it could be carried out, was preferable to any other. Dense backgrounds could be formed, and these again relieved by foreground masses of rich variegated shrubs of striking character. These, again, could be "toned down" by dwarf plants having silent shades of green with flowers. Boundary belts should exhibit in the garden or lawn side bold curvatures of outline, in the deep recesses of which the ingenious gardener might erect rockeries and grottos, or form lakes, rivulets, and cascades. Mr Watt did not approve of the annual digging of clumps and shrub borders, as much injury was done to the young roots thereby. All mural decorations, he thought, should harmonise in style with the mansion, as should also the design of flower-garden if seen from the windows. September and October he considered the best months in which to plant evergreens, then deciduous plants.
The next best period was from April to May inclusive, but the operation, if conducted properly, would be successful at other seasons, the dead of winter excepted, which he found the worst.
Mr James Scrymgeour then read a lengthy paper on "Horticultural Exhibitions." At the outset he said that, though personally greatly in favour of such exhibitions, it might not be amiss if he recounted some of the objections against them. He had met with those who, though practically favourable in other respects to shows, did not care for their own gardeners becoming competitors. They considered that the needful if not monopolising care, attention, skill, and exertion required for special flowers, fruits, and vegetables, for which they expected prizes and honours, proved detrimental to the general interests of the garden. The gardener's heart and affections being set upon certain petted and pampered favourites, to the detriment of all the unschedulable things under his charge, his manoeuvring with those favourites, among which he saw medals, cups, cash, and honour, and the time and skill spent in forcing certain specimens forward and keeping others back for certain shows, were far too much, and the garden suffered accordingly. Moreover, the great bunches of prize grapes, raised at the expense of numerous bunches ruthlessly nipped off the vine without an opportunity of ripening, were not so sweet and pleasant as the ordinary bunches.
He had tasted of the great berries of the prize bunches praised in all the newspapers, and found them poor indeed. He had also tasted of berries taken from the biggest prize bunch ever shown in Scotland, at Edinburgh, and found them, as did the fox of old, "sour as crabs." Mr Scrymgeour, after forcibly pointing out the advantages of shows in stimulating horticultural enterprise and promoting a love of flowers as a refining and civilising influence, adverted to various of the leading features of shows with warm commendation or denunciatory animadversion. His condemnation of the conduct of some mere prize-mongers was very severe. In showing the progress in horticulture made by working men, even in large towns, he stated that not a few of them had daringly entered the list with the gardener class, and not un-frequently defeated them in vegetables and flowers. Some of the heaviest specimens of vegetables, and the most splendid Fuchsias, Liliums, Geraniums, and Ferns (British and exotic) ever seen at Dundee shows, were raised by working men. In extolling the working men of Baledgarno, who every year carry such a large and notable proportion of the prize-money at Dundee shows, he gave a brief sketch of their village, and history of their society.
From a sad experience of the effects of drinking and dancing at country shows, he was led to denounce such practices. Holding flower-shows as being ostensibly got up in the best interests of our humanity, bearing on Christian civilisation, he denounced the use of intoxicants among the promoters and servants, and also at the dinners of the judges and committee. Instead of providing the judges of fruit with brandy, as was usually done in their tasting and discriminating operations, he proposed that they should follow the example of many of the great tea-merchants, who had very delicate work in tasting tea samples, by using a few drops of Condy's Fluid in a glass of water, and which would serve the purpose more effectively than brandy, as sixpence-worth of Condy's Fluid would go farther than £100 worth of brandy.
Both papers were much appreciated, Mr Scrymgeour's remarks giving rise to considerable discussion. Mr Edward Moir, Newport, exhibited a splendid pot of Saxifraga burserianum, clothed with at least one hundred and twenty blooms of delicate white flowers. Two trusses of the beautiful snow-white Rhododendron Duchess of Buccleuch, with richly perfumed flowers, fully three inches in diameter, were also exhibited by Mr William Alison, Seaview Gardens, Monifieth. A vote of thanks to the chairman terminated the proceedings.