This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", 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.
Or all the belles in the country-side, the Blue Bells of the wood carry the bell for grandeur and effect during what we fondly call the "merry month of May." No dwarf plant, neither native nor foreign, with which we are familiar, supplies such a beautiful sheet of richest blue as this lovely native of the grove. They generally have their habitat where they are partially shaded and also tolerably sheltered, and therefore do not suffer from the biting north-east winds, which have been so prevalent during last, or indeed during the generality of May months. During last month these Blue Bells have been the finest we have ever seen. Doubtless they imbibed a goodly supply of moisture during the late rainy season, and were thus prepared to send up and sustain a more than usually fine head of bloom. Every one at all capable of appreciating natural beauty must admire these lovely denizens of the grove, especially as sheets of blue are scarce in our modern flower-gardens; and the thought springs up, how can we accomplish such an acquisition? Hybridisers and other adepts pretend, and no doubt have done much, to alter and improve both fruits and flowers, but the little accomplished only shows how very much more remains to be done.
It may be considered absurd even to imagine that this native bulb could be induced to alter its time and manner of flowering - something like washing the Ethiopian white: with our present knowledge of natural law, it is absurd; but then our knowledge, how limited ! how little we really know !
There are many things desirable that may not be attainable. Attempts have been made to raise a Blue Geranium, hitherto without effect. Efforts have been made to procure the "Blue Camellia," but it has not yet come upon the stage, and if our knowledge is not greatly extended, we may safely assert it never will; but with an enlarged knowledge of natural laws, we should possess a power, of which, under our present circumstances, we can form no adequate conception. Nature is full of secrets. All natural phenomena are secrets until they are discovered. These discoveries are not always the result of study or of reasoning. What we perhaps erroneously call chance has often led to great results. The inquiring mind, ever on the alert, observes facts which reason moulds and shapes. Sometimes a secret is developed intuitively, as it were, when all reasoning is at fault. One fact is very certain - an unobserving mind can never expect to fathom the secrets of nature, or even to comprehend what other minds may observe and explain. Wherever the mind is given to application, the attainment of knowledge is sweet.
Whether it comes as the result of thought and reasoning, by instinct, or by chance, the pleasure derived from its acquisition is sweet, and its possession a power.
But our subject has been forgotten in following some thoughts on its attainment. A great question arises - Are the laws of Nature immutable, or are they capable of being moulded to suit the wishes and wants of man? I do not mean simply developing natural agents, such as converting water into steam, for instance; neither would we think of the art of the alchemist, or of the philosopher's stone. Yet we do think there are vast resources attainable which have never been reached or even dreamed of - great secrets to be opened which will give us power to penetrate still farther into the regions beyond; for we hold it as simply absurd that man, as man, can ever attain to all knowledge.