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.
In the matter of foliage they are as near as possible between the two. Mr Standish has also tried to cross some of the smaller flowering kinds with R. Aucklandii, but to no purpose; and he assigns this reason for his failure, - that the pollen was too large for the tubes of the pistils of the smaller ones. It is mentioned by Mr Standish as a curious fact, that in the spring, when there are any of the early-blooming kinds in flower, and there happens to be frost, the nearer the plants stand in affinity to R. arborea, the more tender are the flowers; while, on the other hand, the nearer the affinity to R. Caucasicum, the better do the plants withstand frost.
But we have lingered too long in the open grounds, for there are remarkable features within the houses.
The production of cut flowers for the aristocratic neighbourhoods of Belgravia, South Kensington, and elsewhere, is a prime part of the Ascot business. Mr Standish has a shop at Knightsbridge, and commands a wonderful sale for fruits, cut flowers, etc. There are on this nursery three houses of considerable size for the growth of forced Roses, which are in considerable demand. To one red Rose, twenty-five yellow ones are planted. Why, 3000 yellow Roses per week are sent to London, during April and May, in the height of the London season ! Mignonette is largely grown, both planted out in cold frames and in pits; so are intermediate Stocks and Tree Carnations. The biggest house for Roses is a large span-roofed building. Here was planted out on the 25th of May 1868 a Marechal Niel Rose, now 70 feet in length by 8 and 9 feet in width; this was on its own roots, and produces immense quantities of flowers. In one house we saw a new Ceanothus, named Gloire de Versailles, with very pale blue flowers; a strong plant will produce a panicle of blossoms a foot across. Mr Standish has a large stock of Daphne elegantissima, a variegated form of D. Indica, which was awarded a first-class certificate of merit by the Royal Horticultural Society a few weeks ago; it is a capital variegated plant.
That fine double-red Azalea, Francois de Vos, was also being largely propagated.
In one of the early vineries was a pot of Gladiolus cruenteus, from Central Africa, with orange-scarlet flowers blotched with white. This is a fine and showy pot plant, that remains in bloom for ten weeks together. In a stove-house, and in cooler houses, were Italian Tuberoses in various stages of growth. They are potted in February, and kept cool and dry by means of top air in a bottom heat of 90°; then they are removed into a house in order to push them on into bloom. These are very useful for cut flowers; and among other plants cultivated for the same purpose was a species of Oldenlandia, with pretty white sprays - a capital thing for wedding bouquets - that flowers all the year: Bouvardias, of variety - these are cut back in July, and come into bloom in September. There were also large plants of B. Huttoniana; this blooms very freely, and has the brightest scarlet flowers. Oncidium flexuosum is also largely grown for button-holes, and is always in flower; Jasminum Sambac and Sambac florepleno were just being placed in a stove to throw them into flower; Azalea narcissiflora, with double-white flowers, very useful, and many other things; there were also a nice lot of Camellias planted out to yield a supply of cut flowers.
In a conservatory were huge bushes of Gardenia florida intermedia, soon to be placed in a stove, and brought into flower at Christmas.
No one could think of visiting Ascot without making inquiries about the Royal Ascot Grape. We saw a house of it, and came away from it with a deep conviction on our mind that it is a Grape worthy of general cultivation. There was a commodious span-roofed house, containing forty-four Vines, which were planted out in the month of May 1868, now covered with capital bunches of full, plump, fine-coloured berries, of a fine brisk rich acid flavour. The best rod had ten nice bunches, and the weight of Grapes in the house averaged about 4 cwt. Its great value lies in that it bears and sets freely, colours well, and is easily managed. Pre-eminently does it seem to be an amateur's Grape, one that from all appearance will grow and produce good fruit under some of the many disadvantages amateur Grape-cultivators have to contend with. We also saw what appeared to be a fine new Grape, which had been named Dr Hogg, in compliment to that well-known Pomologist. This had been obtained from Chasselas musque crossed with Long Noir D'Espagne. The berries were round, finely coloured, and well flavoured; and not the least among its recommendations is this - that it is a fine-hanging Grape, keeping longer than Lady Downes. Mr Standish has a high opinion of the Madresfield Court black Grape, and is growing it largely.
Coming to the open ground again, we noticed a group of plants of the pretty Bouvardia triphylla, with its charming orange-scarlet flowers, blooming very freely indeed. This is said to be hardy; it is certain that it has stood out of doors during the winter at Langport, in Somerset, without any protection. Some seedling Zonal Pelargoniums were very fine, Mr Standish having long been known for the value of the new flowers he has raised. Some recently-named comprised Harry Turner, very rich fiery crimson, a splendid hue of colour; flowers large and of the finest form, and dark zonate foliage: Henry King, rich deep scarlet, very fine white eye, a flower of fine quality, slightly zonate foliage: and Richard Dean, very bright scarlet, with white eye; a large and greatly-improved Lord Derby. Jean Sisley and Lord Derby are largely grown by Mr Standish for flowering during the winter.
It seems a curious descent from Grapes and Roses to Onions, and yet there were growing in one part of the nursery some splendid examples of Tripoli Onions of uncommon size and high quality. The seed was sown in a little heat under glass in March, the plants pricked out in a cold frame as soon as ready, and transplanted to the open ground at the end of April.