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.
Your correspondent, A. Leslie Melville, writing on the above subject in last number, says he staged from forty to fifty plants on a space 6 feet by 6. Surely there must have been a mistake in figures somewhere, or the plants must have been very small indeed. But apart from that, the idea is a very good one, and one that I have advocated for years. An immense deal of trouble and time is saved; and, moreover, a greater variety of plants can be brought forward. Indeed, a number of very fine things can be shown in a group that otherwise would never be seen on a show-table. In 1870, the Dundee Horticultural Society offered prizes for two groups of stove and greenhouse plants, twenty-five and fifteen respectively. Exhibitors for the twenty-five were excluded from the fifteen. I was chief mover for the above prizes, but it met with determined opposition among the members of the Society, and all sorts of consequences were to follow; yet the show turned out to be the best ever seen in Dundee. I said at the time that, taking the show as a whole, it was the best I had ever seen. The groups were a grand feature. The lot shown by myself, which came in first, occupied a space nearly 18 feet by 8. The others were much about the same.
In 1871, the number was reduced to fifteen and ten respectively, the space occupied being not very much less, as the plants brought forward were larger. In 1S72, the number was again reduced to nine and six, so that the idea of a group had all but disappeared. The plants shown by me were not grown for exhibition alone, but lifted out of the stove and greenhouse, where some of them occupied their place all the year round. The idea was for exhibitors to bring forward a nice tidy useful lot of plants, with perhaps a few large ones for a set-off. I laid my ideas before the Committee, "of which I was a member," with no more selfish motives than that I intended to exhibit, and fully expected the idea would meet with the approval and hearty support of the greater part of the members. But, as I have said, there was great opposition, and many hard things were said. I still hold to the idea, and maintain that it is the most satisfactory way of exhibiting plants, and show on our exhibition-tables who has the best-conducted greenhouse and stove; and there are several ways in which the thing can be done - viz., a given space, a given number of plants, and certain restrictions as to size of pots or pans; or any space, any number of plants, and any size of pots or pans.
I heartily wish to see more of Mr A. L. M.'s suggestion in our show-rooms, but beg of him to allow a little more room or a smaller number of plants.