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.
A genus of pretty dwarf evergreens, all of them interesting, and, we are convinced, not nearly so widely appreciated by horticulturists as they deserve; the handsome shining foliage and elegant flowers, followed by showy fruit, of several of the species, ought to have secured them far more extended cultivation. Among the various sorts at present known, we select three as being the best and most distinct, and, at the same time, thoroughly hardy in almost any situation: -
A native of North America from Canada to Virginia, growing in dry woods, on mountains, and in sandy plains. Is a small creeping shrub with obovate leaves, and white flowers which are produced in July and August. This plant is invaluable for covering the surface of the ground on dry banks or borders shaded with trees; in such a situation, if liberally supplied with peat, it is most effective, forming a dense carpet of bright foliage, and rarely higher than 6 inches. The fruit, which is a bright scarlet berry, has a sweetish peculiar flavour, is much relished in America, and forms the favourite food of partridges, deer, and many other animals; while the leaves, when properly dried, are used as a substitute for tea.
Also from North America, but found growing in damper situations, and often so much shaded that it forms the only undergrowth. It has a procumbent habit, though much more robust than the last species, and forms a dense mass of foliage in woods or shady borders. The flowers, of a pure white colour, are in perfection in May. Apart from its value as an ornamental plant, this species might be introduced extensively with great advantage in woods and shrubberies, for the shelter and food it supplies to game. The berries, of a reddish-purple colour, are produced, where it thrives, in great abundance, and are most delicious as well as wholesome.
Acuminata is a South American species of great beauty, and hardy enough for most situations. The leaves are larger than the last-named sort. The flowers are white, and in perfection in May. This is a most desirable, though not a very common, species. It prefers a shady situation, but, in common with the other species, adapts itself to the same circumstances as most other peat-soil shrubs will grow and thrive in.
The Pernettyas form a group of neat small evergreen shrubs of great beauty, producing their lovely pure-white bell-shaped flowers from May to July in great profusion, succeeded by abundance of showy berries, which hang till late in autumn, and even in favourable circumstances over the greater part of winter. Nothing can be finer than a well-grown plant of any of the species, when covered with its bright reddish-purple or pink fruit. In a young state they are useful as pot-plants for conservatory decoration, requiring no trouble further than lifting them when the fruit is formed, or even ripe, and introducing them to the house, in which circumstances the berries will hang longer and have a brighter appearance than when exposed to the frost.
All the species are dwarf and dense in their habit of growth, seldom rising higher than 3 or 4 feet. They are perfectly hardy, and grow readily under the ordinary conditions necessary for Rhododendrons and other American shrubs.
The following are the most popular and distinct sorts in cultivation, and ought to be in every collection: - mucronata, angustifolia, speciosa. Hugh Fraser.
This Nectarine has been highly commended at different times, and so far as my experience goes, I can indorse all that has been said in its favour. It is a second early variety. The tree possesses a more than usually vigorous constitution, and bears enormously, so that your readers need not fear to include it even in the smallest collection. We have one tree in our second early Peach-house here which was planted a young tree five years ago. It has been trained on the extension system before referred to in these pages, and it has not missed a crop for the last four years. I did not take notice last year nor the year before how many fruit we gathered from it, but I know we left a heavy crop upon it, which finished well. This summer I counted the fruit as gathered, which amounted to eight dozen, or rather more, all fine fruit, many of them measuring between 8 and 9 inches in circumference. It has only one fault - the fruit takes a fine dark-red colour on the side next to the sun, but the shady side remains green even when fully ripe, so that the fruit does not look so well as some other kinds greatly inferior in quality.
When kept in the fruit-rooms, however, for a few days after pulling, the fruit gets a fine yellow colour, the flavour improves also, and it is one of the very best keepers I know of, and it will also carry well. In flavour it is rich, exceedingly juicy, and excellent. The tree referred to, in consequence of bearing heavily every year, has not grown so rampantly as some of its neighbours, but measures about 9 feet across, and is 6 feet high at the centre. It is now furnished with sturdy short-jointed wood to the base; the leaves are green and free from spider, and the promise for another year is good. I have not the least doubt that had I pinched the tree in summer, and hewn it down in winter, according to the common but doubtful practice, I would at this date have had a tree only half the size, and in all probability not a quarter of the fruit from it that we have had. J. Simpson.