The New Year has opened strangely, characterised by singular variations of weather - heavy rains, then hard stern frost, immediately succeeded by a close foggy atmosphere and warm dull days; and then violent raging storms of wind and rain, so wild and strong in their terrible rage that destruction of life and property, alike on land and at sea, has followed in their wake: and these, again, alternated by balmy sunny days, as if spring had prematurely awakened to active being ere the soft winds had whispered to her that her appointed time was come.

With the close of the year two men of some standing among practical horticulturists passed away from our midst. One was Mr William Perry,for many years with Messrs Thomas Rivers & Son at the Sawbridge-worth Nurseries, and who was well known at the exhibitions of the Royal Horticultural and Royal Botanic Societies as an excellent judge of Roses. Painstaking, straightforward, and always kindly and courteous in his demeanour, he was much respected in his particular walk of life, and his death may be said to be the snapping asunder of one of the links in the chain that binds the present of horticulture to what belonged to it in the days that have passed away. A more notable man was Mr William Barnes, of the Camden Nursery, Camberwell, London, who died at the close of the year, well known, and as widely respected and deplored, leaving behind him a reputation as a plant-grower never perhaps surpassed and rarely equalled. Born in 1809, in the county of Surrey, he might be said to have always belonged to the London district - the scene of his greatest triumphs and his most splendid successes. Like his father before him, he adopted the profession of a gardener when about nine or ten years of age - even then he had made British plants his special study.

From the 'Gardeners' Chronicle' we learn that "about three years later he left home and came to London, where he was employed by Mr Moore, the then great early fruit, plant, and vegetable grower, of the King's Road, Chelsea. At this time Mr Moore's foreman and manager was William Barnes's brother James, late of Bicton. In the year 1824, William Barnes was under-gardener at the Earl of Onslow's, in Surrey, from which place he went to the Messrs Young's nurseries at Epsom; and from there to Plastow Lodge, Bromley, where horticulture was then at its zenith. Some three years later he was engaged as gardener to George Ward Norman, Esq., where he soon began to carry out his ideas in plant-growing. Although the place was small, with very little glass or other convenience, he grew stove and greenhouse plants, Heaths, Azaleas, and New Holland plants in general, to such perfection as had never been seen, surpassing all the great plant-growers of the day, as may be seen recorded in the 'Proceedings' of the Horticultural Society of London. The story of his triumphs in this department is thus recorded by his old friend, Mr W. P. Ayres, in the 'Nottinghamshire Guardian:' -

"The first time Mr Barnes ever exhibited was at Chiswick, when he came out with a collection of fifty stove and greenhouse plants, and took the first prize - the first gold Knightian Medal, value 10, ever awarded by the Society. As a contrast to the enormous plants exhibited at the present time, we may say that Mr Barnes conveyed his fifty plants in one van with one horse ! but, as an example of the progress he made in plant-gi'owing, we may state we have seen his collection when he required eight vans and sixteen horses to convey the same quantity of plants. Cramped for means, having only five small houses (two of them filled with Vines - one, which filled the larger house, the finest Muscat of Alexandria Vine perhaps in Europe, being nearly two hundred years old, and still in vigorous health) - the wonder was how Mr Barnes could produce such gorgeous collections, especially as his excellent employer did not care about exhibiting, but would rather have kept the plants at home. Thus the expenses of conveyance to shows, and also of replenishing the collection of novelties, fell mainly upon Mr Barnes. To go to Bromley Common in the exhibition season, say a few days before one of the great shows, and from what you could see in the glass-houses you would return with the conviction that 'Barnes could not show at all.' Such has been the avowal of scores; but they did not go into the back .sheds and Mushroom-houses, neither did they explore the barns nor look under the Cedar trees upon the lawn, where plants of rare excellence would be set out in the full light to colour.

These things, unless they were intimate friends, they did not see, and hence concluded that Barnes had nothing to show. On one occasion, and the last time Mr Barnes showed a large collection at Chiswick, he had staged a superb group of fifty stove or greenhouse plants in flower, not having a duplicate plant of any kind. The first prize was given to his rival, because she had two plants of this, two of that, and two of the other thing - facts which, with discriminating judges, would have placed the collection incontestably second. Mr Barnes returned home disgusted. On the following morning (Sunday), Mr Norman went to him in the garden, and condoling with him for the wrong to which he had been subjected, gave him, as a solatium, a cheque for 50. We see the tears in our honest friend's eyes as he told us a few days afterwards of this act of considerate kindness, and we mention it now, perhaps for the first time, as a public fact. Never afterwards did Mr Barnes show the large collection at Chiswick, remarking to us, ' I can take my own van, and clear 10 and my expenses; while by showing the large collection, if I gain the first prize, I am frequently a loser by the expenses.' Shortly after this, when the want of the Bromley collections made a sad gap in the shows at Chiswick, it was tauntingly asserted that those only abstained from showing there who were sure of being beaten, pronouncing at the same time a grand eulogium upon the Ealing Park plants.

On the following Wednesday was the great 6how at the Royal Botanic Gardens, and Mr Barnes, to resent the taunt, took up the gems of his collection - and they were gems - and beat the Chiswick prize collection with ease, - caustically retorting upon Dr Lindley, 'they are not good enough for Chiswick, but they are good enough to beat the best you can get there".

As a nurseryman, Mr W. Barnes had proved successful, and his nursery at Camberwell, though somewhat small and unpretending, was well worthy a visit at all seasons of the year. As a judge, both at the metropolitan and some of the leading provincial shows, his services were much in request, and in the ' Journal of Horticulture' of January 6, the Rev. Mr Dombrain of Deal bears kindly testimony to his great and special qualifications for his work. In private life he was much respected; he was a good and just man, leading a simple unpretentious life; sorely afflicted at times by a trying bronchial affection, and at length, overcome by it, he was seen softly sinking down towards the death that has removed him from us. "Cradled in its quiet deep," we leave him to that hallowed sleep, holding him to our hearts in pleasant memories not soon to be effaced. He too was a strong link binding our times to those which twenty years ago he made so famous, and his death also weakens the hold of the past upon the active and progressive present. In the removal of a third, Mr John Sladden of Ash, next Sandwich, floriculture loses one of its most devoted sons. He has passed away just as the prime of life glides almost imperceptibly into age.

In the strength of his floricultural manhood, he identified himself more closely with the florists of the midland districts rather than with those of the south. He came prominently on the public scene at the time of the establishment of 'Gossip of the Garden,' in 1856, by John Edwards and E. S. Dodwell, and the first article of the first number bore that signature which remained with 'Gossip' till it ceased to exist in 1863 - A. S. H.; and in the ' Florists' Guide,' which succeeded 'Gossip' for a brief season, his signature also appeared. Though known to us by sight, we had no personal intercourse with him, but he wrote like a man with genial kindly sympathies, and with a heart full of regard for those attracted to the culture of flowers, like himself. During the past two or three years he made the culture of the Gladiolus his special study, and exhibited at the meetings of the Royal Horticultural Society when opportunity served, and had succeeded in raising some very promising seedlings. May his memory, like the flowers he loved, dispense a pleasant fragrance !

The schedule of prizes of the Grand National Horticultural Exhibition to be held at the Manchester Botanic Gardens, on the 3d of June next, has just been issued. In addition to fourteen classes, in which all the prizes are special gifts, there are seventy-three other classes giving in the aggregate a sum of 900 as prizes, independent of the special classes. This is one of the most popular, as one of the best, meetings of the year, though there seems to be a probability that the Manchester gathering will not have in the future the magnificent plants belonging to H. L. Micholls, Esq., by means of which Mr Baines has gained such a high reputation as a successful grower, seeing that Mr Micholls has recently removed from Manchester to the neighbourhood of London.

Mr W. Egerton Hubbard, jun. of Leonardslee, Horsham, has placed at the disposal of the Royal Horticultural Society the sum of 8, of which the sum of 5 is to be given for the best ' Essay on the Management of Cottage Gardens/ and a further sum of 3 for the best' Essay on Window Gardening.' These essays are to be sent in to the Secretary of the Royal Horticultural Society on or before Wednesday the 16th of February next. The object of these essays is thus stated by Mr Hubbard: - "By putting together some plain directions in a form that uneducated people can understand, to enable cottagers to make the most of their gardens; and it seems to me that hints as to the best kinds of seeds, or the best paying vegetables and fruit-trees, will be the most valuable part of the essay, but the main object will be simplicity of language and clearness of expression." This information is intended to be printed on cards, and placed in the hands of the secretaries of cottage garden societies, etc, for distribution.

We hope that competent men - men with the special knowledge required for the purpose - will be selected to examine the essays and make the awards.