This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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 'Gardener' for February, under the above heading, occurs the following passage from the pen of "J. H., B.": -
"Any species or varieties, however beautiful their flowers may be, if they require support in the way of stakes, are reluctantly admitted into the 'hardy brigade;' and, as a consequence, the greater number of the most beautiful, showy, and useful of our hardy herbaceous plants are not admissible in the ideal flower-garden of those who advocate the abandonment of the bedding-out system.
"Fancy the result of excluding from the herbaceous garden the stately Delphiniums, the beautiful Asterlike-flowered Pyrethrums, several species of the Lily family, Carnations, all the taller kinds of Phloxes, and a host of representative members of other families that in this windy island of ours it is absolutely necessary to stake, in some way or other, if we would see them in all their beauty, and not as bedraggled, bespattered, betattered objects - highly illustrative of their fitness for admission into the ragged brigade !"
If your correspondent had used the word "curtailment" instead of "abandonment " he would have been nearer the truth; but that is a small matter. What I want to draw attention to here, is his statement regarding the objections which, he says, the opponents of the bedding-out system have to the "beautiful species and varieties" of those hardy plants that need support in the way of stakes. I have only to say, that if "J. H., B." will lay his finger on any published statements of the advocates of the " hardy brigade " where it is said, or anything to the same effect is said, that they object to "any species or varieties, however beautiful their flowers may be," for the reasons assigned, or where it has been proposed to exclude "Delphiniums, Pyrethrums, Lilies, Carnations, Phloxes," etc, because they require support, I will pay the Editor of this paper the sum of £5, to be used for any good horticultural purpose he may think fit, on condition that "J. H., B." pays the same amount if he fails to make good his statements; and at the same time I hope he will see fit to withdraw an assertion which I consider in the light of a slander.
How any man could venture to make such statements as the above, who had the least knowledge of the subject he writes about, I cannot conceive. The advocates of hardy plants, and of a freer and more natural style of gardening in which all the various subjects could be effectively displayed, have continually, by articles without number, by illustrations, and by lists of the most copious description, in season and out of season, advocated the great claims of all good hardy plants, quite irrespective of their size or habit, and have never so much as alluded to any trouble connected with their culture in the way of staking till the question of the cost of such work was raised by the bedding-out brigade themselves, who alone have used that argument as an obstacle to the culture of hardy plants. I do not profess to know who the "gardeners of the arm-chair type" are to whom "J. H., B." alludes, but I think it is probable that your correspondent is casting his innuendoes at men about whose knowledge and abilities he is in all probability absolutely ignorant.
The author of these remarks has, for nearly twenty years, known some at least of the most noted advocates of hardy plants and their culture, and who have had, perhaps, more to do with the present revolution in flower-gardening than any others; and he can tell from accurate knowledge, that it would become some to sit at their feet and learn a portion of that special knowledge which has been gained in the field of actual practice, and under the very best facilities, and which has been amplified and matured by opportunities of study and observation that fall to the lot of few.
I am sorry my remarks under the above heading in the February issue of the 'Gardener' should have had such a perturbing effect on "One of the Advocates of the Hardy Brigade " as to lead him to consider them "in the light of a slander." He surely cannot have seen " nearly twenty years'" active service with the hardy heroes, as exposure to the elements for that length of time has a tendency to harden and thicken the skin - a characteristic that he cannot lay claim to, if we are to judge by his style of dealing with my remarks. His "knowledge of the subject he writes about" may be all that he claims, but he should not attribute a want of knowledge of herbaceous plants to all who differ from him as to whether they, or what are generally termed bedding-plants, are the most suitable for the decoration of the flower-garden. The writer has the privilege of reckoning amongst his friends an advocate of hardy herbaceous plants - one who has done as much as any living man to popularise these plants amongst practical gardeners. But I always observed that bedding-plants were largely employed in the flower-garden under his care. The reason for this is not far to seek.
He being a practical gardener, is able to value the two classes of plants at their true worth as decorative subjects, and to select the number and kinds of each best suited to the object in view and requirement of the establisment.
I cannot find a good reason in anything that "One of the Advocates of the Hardy Brigade" has said in opposition to my remarks why I ought to withdraw any of them as he suggests I should do. Has not he who arrogates to be the captain of "the Hardy Brigade" put it on record that Carnations and Picotees should be included in a border of plants without stakes? And from this I inferred that he condemned the practice of staking all herbaceous plants, whatever be their stature; and the non-use of stakes would virtually exclude from the flower-garden all the plants I named in my paper in the February issue of the 'Gardener.' Perhaps, however, the "rank and file" of "the Hardy Brigade" do not endorse the teaching of their commander. Be that as it may, I have done with the subject, as further discussion of this point would be of little practical benefit to any one. J. H. B.