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.
A friend who went up to London with me to "do" the show at Kilburn, declared, after a day's wading amongst the acres of mud, that the mud of itself was worth going four hundred miles to see. For myself, after looking at the collections of manures from various firms, the collections of seeds, which were extremely interesting, and the horticultural buildings and other appliances, I thought I had had about enough of it, and left the glories of Kilburn for more congenial fields. The wretched weather of the present year has made it one of the very worst for inspecting gardens, for, despite the utmost care and energy of the gardener, the continued rain and cold have defeated even his most determined efforts. Kitchen-gardens as a rule were very weedy, crops backward and poor in quality; flower-gardens obviously failures, more especially so where many of the more tender subjects, as Coleus and Alternanthera, are used. In many instances these latter were either entirely stripped of their leaves, or at the very least badly damaged, the Coleus in some cases dying off entirely. Subtropical plants were peculiarly wretched looking, tattered with winds and spotted by hail.
In many kitchen-gardens the Potato crop will never be worth lifting: where the plants are strong, disease bad commenced its work on the shaws. Turning to fruits, bush and soft fruits are plentiful, but the Strawberries must rot unless a decided change to warm sunny weather supervenes directly. Plums are a failure, Apples and Pears the same, except in the case of the never-failing sorts which it is folly to ignore so much. Amongst indoor crops, mildew is somewhat common on Strawberries, Peaches, and Grape-Vines, a damp stagnant atmosphere being wonderfully productive of that pest in a season like this. In passing through some score or more of gardens, I was forcibly impressed with the healthy, robust, and clean appearance of the stove-plants in those gardens, where a cooler temperature was the rule, as against those where a hot steaming atmosphere obtained. It might have been that in the one case the plants could be inspected with enjoyment, whilst in the other a few minutes' steaming was certain to produce a headache, and a consequent hurried run through the houses, leaving thereby quite a different impression from the leisurely inspection in the former. Leaving out any reference to the London Parks, notes are made of some of the more interesting gardens visited.
One of the first of these inspected was that of Sir Trevor Lawrence, M.P., at Burford Lodge, Dorking, which is becoming famous for the grand collection of Orchids in course of being formed there. The collection is so large and varied that there is only space to note a few of the more rare or large specimens. In the cool-house were numbers of Odontoglossunis of various kinds, all in the finest health, including 0. vexillarium flowering freely, Mr Spyers, the Orchid-grower, thinks the flowers of this species are deeper in colour when grown in a higher temperature than that of the cool-house. The extremely pretty Masdevallia bella was flowering profusely. A fine specimen of the rare Restrepia antennifera had several flowers developed. Oncidium incurva was noted as good for producing flowers for cutting purposes; and several plants of Epidendrum vitellinum, with their glowing spikes of scarlet, lent colour to the whole. In the next house were noted Epidendrum Wallasii, rare and curious in its colouring; a grand plant of Calanthe Dominiana, extraordinary in its shade of colour; the deliciously scented AErides japonicum, fine plants of Bollea coelestis, the new B. Lawrencianae just opening, the nearly allied Pexatorea Klabochorum, a large mass of Coelogyne barbata growing and rooting quite freely, and grand plants of Cymbidiums eburneum and Mastersii growing in loam.
In the Cattleya house were flowering Dendrobium sulcatum, curious in its shade of yellow; Cattleya Mossiae in numbers, C. maxima, C. amethysto-glossa, and specimens of Laelia purpurata. Many of the species were represented by splendid masses, including a very large piece of C. gigas. In a large stove we noted the curiously bearded Bolbophyllum barbigeum, a panful of the beautiful Cypripedium niveum, many of the spikes having three flowers, grand examples of C. Sedenii, C. Dominiana, and C. Parishii, which, as grown and flowered here, is a very beautiful species. Dendrobium Wardianum was growing hung from the roof, in grand pieces and numerous varieties. In a square little house is growing a large mass of the new Odontoglossum Londesboroughianum, one of the travelling Orchids. In another structure were AErides quinquevulnerum, Oncidium intermedia, Dendrobium M'Carthiae, and Utricularia Endressii in flower. An extraordinary mass of Oncidium ampliatum majus was also growing here. Close by was a large plant of the extremely rare Coelogyne Parishii, large Angraecums, Pitcher-plants, Saccolabiums, etc.
In a frame were luxuriating large masses of Disa grandiflora, and various hardy Orchids. In a vinery we found specimens of various Pleiones, Vanda teres, Anguloas, &c; and just off from this house, in a small lean-to, is a collection of Masdevallias, in large plants and excellent health. The point of interest in this structure is a specimen of Oncidium macranthum with a grand spike. The Bull's-blood form of Masdevallia Harryana is also blooming. "We had only time to thank Mr Spyers, and run for the train, which we were just in time to - lose. Visitors to Burford Lodge will find two more gardens worth inspecting - the Denbies, just opposite, and the Deepdene. Want of time, in our case, hindered us from seeing these establishments. The next morning I found myself right north of London, close to Harrow, a district unrivalled for its views from many points. The largest garden in this locality is Stanmore Priory, between Edgeware and Harrow, and belonging to Sir John Kelk. Owing to the estate being in the market, the most is tried to be got out of it without being too particular as to look. We found some grand Azaleas here, apparently potted in loam. Peach crops were in various stages, as also Grapes, and other fruits.
Plant-houses were devoted to growing plants for furnishing purposes mainly, the most notable amongst these being a grand lot of deciduous Calanthes, the finest we have seen for some time. Dendrobium nobile was also well done and in quantity. The conservatory attached to the mansion is a splendid structure, furnished with immense specimens of greenhouse Araucarias, Palms, and Tree-ferns. The roof is draped with climbers. Extending along the front of the mansion and the conservatory is a large flower-garden, where planting out was still being carried on. Several immense pyramids of scarlet Geraniums, Heliotropes, and Clematis, is a feature in this garden: the largest Geranium pyramid is 15 feet high, and proportionate in breadth, and must, when in perfection, be a sight worth going miles to see. The kitchen-garden is also rather extensive, the walls being placed at different angles, in order to secure various aspects for fruit-trees. Of the many other gardens visited in this district there is only space to notice that belonging to Mrs Holland, Stanmore Hall, near the village of Stanmore. This is not an extensive place, but is being remodelled to some extent under the direction of Mr Sidy, the gardener there.
The clumps of Rhododendrons and hardy Azaleas are magnificent, though rather past when we saw them. A splendid conservatory, which is also undergoing a complete overhaul, occupies a prominent position in the grounds. In one of the greenhouses Tomatoes are grown in pots, the plants being trained with a single stem under each rafter. "When ripe, the clusters of rich-coloured fruit must be exceedingly ornamental, and is one of the best examples of combining utility with ornament we have seen. Vine borders are being re-made, Peach trees lifted and replanted, and stove and greenhouse plants grown on into specimens. Some of the healthiest plants of Adiantum Farleyense we have ever seen were growing in loam. R. P. B.
(To be continued).