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.
Here, in what must have appeared at the time to be one of the most uninviting spots to be found in the whole county of Berkshire, Mr John Standish set about the formation of a new nursery, when, a few years- ago, he dissolved his business partnership with Mr Charles Noble of Bagshot. The nursery at Ascot lies on the west side of the rising-ground on which is situated the celebrated racecourse at Ascot, and is only divided from the Swinley Course by a highroad, and includes something like 80 acres of what was once wild forest-ground. Mr Standish has already broken up a large piece of land and planted it; he has also erected a great quantity of plant and propagating houses, etc, and has many acres yet in reserve that can be broken up as occasion requires. The nursery contains many features of interest, but lovers of hardy ornamental trees especially can revel here amid many varied and beautiful forms, among which newly-introduced Japanese plants are numerously included. The South-Western Railway from London to Heading has a station close behind the grand stand at Ascot, and a short cut across the course - a very pleasant spot in summer-time, commanding fine views of the surrounding country - soon brings the visitor to the nursery.
At the top of it Mr Standish resides; from this point one looks away in the direction of Windsor, and sees the nursery-grounds stretching along for a considerable distance in that direction, with the large area of glass erections set down almost at its furthermost point. The soil varies somewhat: on the upper ground it is a sandy loam, in depth from 30 to 40 feet, well suited to the growth of fruit-trees, ornamental shrubs, etc.; but on the lower ground, near to which are situated the Royal kennels, it is a peaty bog resting on clay, well suited to the culture of Rhododendrons. At the depth of 6 feet there is a plentiful supply of water.
It is impossible to attempt a regularly-detailed account of what was seen here on the occasion of a visit early in September; rather, there can only be set down certain features of more than usual interest, by way of indicating what can be seen here by any one interested in horticultural pursuits. Close by the dwelling-house was a group of seedling Hollies from 7 to 8 feet in height, raised five years ago from a cross made between Ilex Balearica and I. Shepherdi. The leaves of I. Balearica are of a pale-green hue, but the leaves of the seedlings were nearly all dark, and they make rapid vigorous growth, and appear to be exceedingly hardy. Mr Standish stated that some of them had made a growth of 5 feet in one season; also that he had raised some 60,000 of these seedling Hollies. Thu-jopsis dolabrata was doing remarkably well on a raised bank, somewhat steep in construction, and on which the sun acts with considerable power when shining brightly. It seems to like a position where its roots can run away from it freely, and there it succeeds best. One can imagine the beauty of this splendid coniferous tree as seen by Mr Fortune in Japan, growing like a huge Selaginella, some 80 feet in height.
Retinospora obtusa appears one of the finest of all hardy plants for the country; it is if anything hardier than the common Yew, while it is not a formal-growing tree, but has a nice spreading growth. R. obtusa Kete-leeri resembles obtusa, but is prettily variegated with cream, and very handsome, and even showy. Lygustrum coriaceum is one of the most distinct of all the species, being quite a shrub, and of very compact habit. Having thick and glossy leaves, it looks like an invaluable dwarf-growing hardy shrub for the outsides of windows in London. This was edged with that very useful hardy variegated plant Euonymus radicans variegata, the last being much used at Ascot as a margin for large beds. Another good plant is Retinospora filifera, which has been pronounced to be one of the most beautiful weeping trees ever seen. The late Mr John Gould Veitch has described how he saw this growing to a height of 50 feet in Japan - a sight to be envied. Equally valuable is Juni-perus Japonica albo variegata, a veritable king among Junipers, growing about the size and form of a Red Cedar or Juniperus Chinensis, but even closer in habit; the foliage of a glaucous green and white.
Never sickly or poor-looking, it is always thick and fully dressed all the year round, and is a great acquisition to the winter-garden. Picea nobilis robusta is a very good form of this fine coniferous plant, and quite distinct; it has larger leaves, and is more glaucous in character than the form usually seen in our gardens. Cryptomeria elegans is also a fine hardy conifer from Japan, and has proved thoroughly hardy even in the interior of Scotland; during winter the foliage turns to a lively reddish-brown, while it is of a very elegant and dense habit. Cordolyne Australis was doing remarkably well, though occupying a position fully exposed to the east wind, and stands out all the winter. It has stood 20 degrees of frost without sustaining any injury. Abies grandis is a very beautiful tree when obtained in its true form, and should be in every collection of hardy plants. A. Japonica, thought to be a new form of A. obovata, is a very distinct species, the leaves being of a beautiful glaucous green, the growth very rapid, and the young shoots have the appearance of being almost transparent. It came from the Altai Mountains of Siberia. A. Orientalis is a handsome plant also, and can be highly commended.
Raphiolepis ovata is a very fine hardy Evergreen; its white flowers are freely produced during the end of May and beginning of June, after which it becomes covered with purple-black berries.
In one part of the nursery was a plantation of a very fine ornamental-leaved Walnut from China; the leaves are compound, the component parts taking the form of the Ash leaf - one of these measured 42 inches in length. It is just as hardy as the common Walnut, and has been called provisionally Juglans macro-phylla. It bears somewhat small fruit. This species was sent home by Mr Robert Fortune from North China, and were it evergreen it would be invaluable. It is a plant well worth looking after. Close by was a piece of variegated Hollies, about 7000 in number, of all the leading kinds. Many of these were becoming finely coloured, appearing to like the exposure to which they are subjected. One of the most distinct is Perry's Weeping Silver. This was growing, as it should grow, in a standard form in belts of shrubberies by the principal roadways, and formed a very elegant and handsome object. It should be worked high upon the stock, to allow ample space for the development of its elegant pendulous growth, especially as it is the fastest-growing of all the variegated Hollies.