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.
Almost every florist knows, or has heard of, the Royal Nursery, Slough. For years past - even long before Mr Turner became associated with it, it was a spot towards which florists turned their eyes and wended their steps; and forty years ago Dahlia cultivators looked as expectantly and as anxiously for the Dahlia catalogue of Messrs E. & C. Brown, the then proprietors, as the 'Times' newspaper has been at any time during the prevailing Franco-German war. Subsequently a Mr Cutter became the tenant of the Royal Nursery, and eventually Mr Turner, who had previously established himself in business at Chalvey, a small village lying midway between Slough and the classic halls of Eton. From the time that Mr Turner first became the lessee of the premises, and subsequently its proprietor, it has gone on increasing in extent, year by year adding to the rich floral treasures it contains, till it has now become one of the largest establishments of the kind in the United Kingdom.
The Royal Nursery, Slough, comes into our garden records mainly to afford us a means of recording our impressions of the new Dahlias of the present year, as well as those not so new to the floral world. The Dahlia has long been one of the leading flowers grown there, and the number cultivated for sale annually is something enormous. Notwithstanding the apparent decline of the Dahlia as an exhibition flower, there seems no lack of purchasers; and the Dahlia trade appears as brisk as ever.
For a few years past Mr Turner has given up the exhibition of Dahlias. During a long term he stood in the van of successful cultivators, and to the last was capable of holding his own against his most determined and talented opponents. At length he laid aside his arms, not because defeated, but to all appearance because satiated with victory; and retired from the field like a valiant warrior crowned with the trophies of conquest. He now arbitrates where he once pleaded, for having never lost the respect and confidence of Dahlia cultivators, his services are always in request as a judge. When the order of St Flora is established, and its honours dispensed, and the muster-roll of her worthy adherents called, one of her most gallant knights, for the sake of the victories his high talent and patient skill have won for him, will be Charles Turner of Slough.
Altogether, Mr Turner had this season planted out something like 700 Dahlias, and as there were three or more plants of each variety selected, a pretty accurate estimate could be formed of them. Not being required for exhibition purposes, but simply for comparison and stock, they were planted closer together than is usually the case when blooms are required for show. Of the new flowers sent out by Mr Turner in May last, Alice Gair (Turner), pure white, edged with purple like a Picotee, had not done well, owing to its being so hot and dry. A moist cool season suits it best, - then it is very pretty. Head Master (Turner), deep rose, had not done well; yet it must be a good flower, as on p. 473 of the October No. of the 'Gardener' it was commended by Mr Perry. Mrs Coleman (Turner) is another flower with a white ground, tipped with crimson, very pretty, but the dry weather had told against it also. Oxonian (Turner), a deep flower of a bluish-purple shade, is distinct in character, of fine petal and outline, and likely to prove very useful. Provost (Turner), shaded orange, is a flower suitable for exhibition or border purposes, having a capital upright habit, and being free blooming, makes a fine back-row flower.
Sunshine (Turner), yellow, tinged with red on the points of the petals, pretty, good, and very constant; and Toison d'or (Turner), no doubt the finest yellow Dahlia in cultivation, of a deep pure golden hue, very fine and constant.
Of Mr Keynes's new flowers of the present year, the following were seen here, and they were estimated as under: Aristides (Rawlings), deep crimson, shaded with purple, perfect form and fine quality, but, as seen here, too small; Charles Backhouse (Goodwin), glowing scarlet, fine shape and hue of colour, also small; Gipsy'.King (Hopkins), a novel shade of mulberry, new in colour, and fine quality; Golden Eagle (Keynes), yellow, with a lacing of maroon, like a Picotee, petals a little pointed, but a good useful constant flower; James Grieve (Keynes), buff, deeply edged with crimson, late in blooming, large and coarse; Mrs Eckford (Keynes), blush, a large and bold flower, but rather inclined to coarseness; Netty Buckell (Keynes), blush, tinted with pink, large, and wanting refinement; Paul of Paisley (Keynes), lilac, fine form, high centre, full substance, promising to be very useful; Pretender (Keynes), lilac, nearly white at the base of the florets, flat, and a little coarse; Roundhead (Keynes), a peculiar shade of bronze, novel and distinct, large, fine shape and substance; Royalty (Rawlings), rich golden-yellow, with a dark centre, fine outline and petal, canes good early in the season - wants another season's growth to test its constancy; and Thomas Hobbs (Keynes), deep crimson, of good size and quality, and a constant and reliable show-flower.
Of older kinds the following were passed in review, and possibly the descriptive notes appended may be found of some service to our readers. Adonis (Fellowes), French white tipped with lilac rose, a lovely Dahlia; Albion (May), white, very useful as a back-row flower, though a little coarse; Andrew Dodds (Keynes), a good useful dark flower, of fine quality; Artemus Ward (Fellowes), blush, striped and edged with lilac rose, actually a fancy flower, though capable of being shown in both classes, a novel and pretty variety; Autocrat (Fellowes), rich maroon, shaded with purple, very fine; Bullion (Fellowes), deep yellow, a good useful flower; Buttercup (Fellowes), very fine shade of yellow, but comes thin; Champion (Thorneycroft), crimson, a good-shaped flower, but uncertain in a dry season; Charles Turner (Keynes), yellow, tipped with crimson, very fine and useful; Charlotte Dorling (Turner), white ground, edged and tipped rosy-purple, very fine; Fair Imogene (Fellowes), white, delicately edged with lavender, very fine and constant; Hugh Miller (Salter), shaded orange, very useful, though old; Iona (Fellowes), buff, edged and tipped with lake, wants depth of substance; James Bennet (May), blush, veined and tipped with purple, very useful and good; John Downie (Keynes), yellow, tipped with red, a good early-flowering variety; John Dunnington (May), dull red, large, and very constant; John Kirby (May), a very good and constant buff-yellow flower; King of Primroses (Rawlings), primrose, very fine, of great depth of substance, and constant; Lady Gladys Herbert (Keynes), white, deeply edged with crimson, inclined to be coarse, but a very useful exhibition flower; Lady Jane Ellis (Eckford), cream ground, tipped with purplish - rose, very constant; Lord Derby (Pope), rosy crimson, a very useful show-flower, but inconstant this season; Lord Napier (Keynes), both thin and inconstant; Memorial (Eckford), pale rose, a most useful and beautifully-formed flower; Mrs Boston (May), lilac, exquisite shape, and very constant; Mrs Brunton (Eckford), pure white ground, heavily laced with deep purple, very fine indeed, and constant; Mrs Dorling (Turner), in the way of Charlotte Dorling, and quite constant; Paradise Williams (Keynes), clear claret, with a good deal of fire in it, very useful and constant; Princess (Fel-lowes), pure white, good, constant, and early to bloom; Queen of Beauties (Fel-lowes), pale straw, tipped with purple, very fine; Valentine (Fellowes), white, with a well-defined edge of purple, fine outline, and very constant; Vice-President (Keynes), bright-orange, a good, useful, and constant flower; Yellow Boy (Keynes), pure deep yellow, somewhat uncertain, but comes very fine occasionally; and Yellow Perfection (Turner), bright yellow, of fine shape, but apt to come quilled in the petals.
No new Fancy Dahlias were sent out by Mr Turner last spring. Mr Keynes sent out the following: Judy (Keynes), yellow, fully striped and spotted with maroon, good and useful; Lord Dalkeith (Keynes), pale ground, edged with purple and crimson, wanting in quality; Model (Eckford), pale buff, striped with maroon, fine petal, shape, and substance; and Purple Flake (Keynes), pure white, deeply flaked with clear purple; came somewhat thin this season. Among older Fancy flowers, the following notes will pretty fairly estimate their worth, as seen this season: Annie (Collier) crimson, tipped with white, useful and good; Bessie Wyatt (Keynes), white, striped with red, fine and constant; Butterfly (Keynes), pale ground, striped with scarlet and brown, very constant and good; Chang (Keynes), yellow, striped and mottled with scarlet, very large and somewhat flat, but very useful; Ebor (Godwin), chocolate, striped with dark maroon, fine form, and useful; Fanny Sturt (Pope), red, tipped with white, very pretty, and a reliable show variety; Formidable (Legge), red, tipped with white, pretty and good; Frank Tiffin (Keynes), yellow, heavily striped with red, fine and constant; Galatea Fellowes), white, striped with maroon, very pretty; Glory (Legge), blush, striped with rosy-crimson, useful, and dwarf in growth; Lady Dunmore (Turner), saffron, with bright crimson stripes, and tipped with white, very fine and constant; Le Domine Noir (Turner), maroon, tipped with white, very pretty indeed when caught good; Miss Annie (Eckford), yellow, tipped with white, the best of its class; Negress (Fellowes), rosy purple, striped with maroon, and tipped with white, very pretty, but comes small; Norah Creina (Green), orange, tipped with white, very fine and constant; Pauline (Turner), buff, tipped with white, of extra fine form and quality; Pluto (Turner), dark maroon, tipped with white, a fine and showy flower; Polly Perkins (Turner), yellowish buff, tipped with white, fine quality, one of the best Fancies grown; Prospero (Godwin), maroon, tipped with white, very pretty; Punch (Keynes), light ground, striped with purple, pretty and good; Queen Mab (Turner), white, with scarlet edges, very showy and fine; and Top Sawyer (Keynes), white, striped and mottled with purple, very good.
There were many other features of interest to be seen in this Nursery which were noted down at the time, but our space forbids any further extension of this paper. In subsequent numbers we shall be able to allude to them.