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 annual display of Chrysanthemums made by Messrs Salter & Son has now become an established floral institution of the metropolis, for it is a show of no mean order. Year by year it becomes more extensive, and at the same time more varied in its details. No description we can give will do due justice to this admirable winter-garden, when seen about the second week in November, just as autumn is merging into winter; and when "The flush of the landscape is o'er, The brown leaves are shed on the way".
It is an annual custom of the proprietors of the Versailles Nurseries to arrange this show in two long narrow houses, connected together, and forming a continuous walk. In the first of these two houses there was to be seen, ranged along the back of it, a wondrous bank of Chrysanthemums of unusual fulness of beauty, and of varied hues. This bank was so arranged as to present an undulating margin, and along the front of this was carried a neatly-gravelled narrow path, slightly winding, the which at intervals opened out and embraced a small circular bed; while along the front of the house was another bank of Chrysanthemums and other plants. The second house had at the back of it a further bank of Chrysanthemums, mainly of the new Japanese varieties. So much for a general description of the outline of the arrangement.
It is always interesting to note how nicely many things are used so as to secure pretty bits of work within the houses. For instance, Messrs Salter & Son are particularly strong in that class of useful ornamental plants that comprises Eche-verias, Sedums, Sempervivums, and many others allied, or nearly allied, to them. Especially are these used to construct charming pieces by which to give points of contrast to the numberless blooms of the Chrysanthemums, at the same time showing their special adaptability to serve such purposes. Immediately on entering the first house, the view of the Chrysanthemums was seen to be to some extent obstructed by a raised bank carpeted with patches of various of the dwarf-growing Sedums and Saxifrages, surmounted by a fringe of silvery-foliaged and other plants, while about on this bank were grouped examples of Echeveria metal-lica, E. secunda, E. secunda glauca, E. sanguinea, the curious alabaster-like Pachy-phiton bracteosum, one of the most curious and effective of the ornamental succulents, and others of equal value. On the left hand was a very pretty piece of mosaic work, formed of similar agents, and giving a raised bank in the form of a triangle.
In the bed of this triangle, which was raised about 9 inches from the ground, were three small circular designs, a larger one, and two of smaller size, one on either side. The diameter of the largest design was from 3 to 4 feet. In the centre of this one was a good plant of Echeveria metallica, round this a ring of six plants of E. rubra or sanguinea; and then a ring of Pachy-phiton bracteosum. The surface beneath these succulents was carpeted with Saxifraga hypnoides minor. Round this central design was a circle of Semper-vivum tectorum; then a band of the silvery grey Sedum glaucum; then another circle formed of Sempervivum hirtum; then a band of the curious dwarf Mentha Corsica; and lastly, an outer circle of Echeveria secunda glauca. The two smaller side circles were similarly planted - viz., a plant of Echeveria sanguinea in the centre, with some medium-sized plants of Echeveria secunda glauca round it, and encircled with Sempervivum tectorum as before; the whole carpeted with Saxifraga hypnoides minor, and outwardly edged with Echeveria secunda glauca, as in the case of the centre grouping.
Above this excellent piece of mosaic was a fringe of plants forming a raised background: first came Adiantum cuneatum; then a line of handsome forms of Beta chiliensis; next this a line of the silvery Centaurea candidissima; and behind, in the remote background, a mixture of large-growing Ferns, standard plants of Centaurea gymnocarpa, and Tanacetum elegantissimum. Another interesting feature in this house was a plant of Dahlia imperialis growing in a pot, and about 7 feet in height. This Mr Alfred Salter had grafted on a stock of one of the Lilliputian varieties in the previous spring, and had quite succeeded in his design - that of reducing the height of this grand autumnal-flowering species, while a more branching habit had also been imparted. There were a great many buds on the plant on the occasion of our visit, but whether there would be sufficient warmth in the house (there not being the aid of artificial heat) to produce flowers at that time of the year was a matter for doubt.
The lovers of the Chrysanthemum look mainly to Messrs Salter & Son for the production of new varieties, or, at least, for keeping up the supplies of new flowers annually distributed. We saw these new flowers, and the following are the descriptive notes we made of them. We commence with the new large-flowering varieties as follows: Beauty of Stoke, amber-yellow suffused with red, which deepens in hue as the flowers age - large, full, and finely incurved; Duke of Edinburgh, rosy lilac, with paler centre - very large and finely incurved; Globosa, dark Indian red, with very broad evenly incurved petals - compact habit and of unusual dwarf growth; Marginata, an anemone-flowered variety, colour rosy lilac, the guard petals edged with a deeper colour - very novel ; Meyerbeer, pale rosy chocolate, lighter towards the centre, remarkable for its very broad incurved petals; Miss Hope, delicate lilac, paling off to white in the centre - a fine incurved flower; Mrs Wreford Major, pale ground, with lines and dashes of dark rose, of compact growth and dwarf habit - an excellent variety for the decoration of the conservatory; Norma, waxy white, with short stiff petals, flowers very double - habit exceedingly dwarf; Ondine, cream, tipped with rosy lilac, and buff centre - finely incurved; and Princess Louise and Virginalis, both anemone-flowered varieties, the former with pale-blush outer or guard petals, with a high centre of a pale lilac hue; the latter white, and somewhat late in blooming.