This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Only a few years ago, not one of the Coleus family had a place in the gardens of Europe and America, and I have been told, that in our absence gardeners depended chiefly upon plants with showy flowers for ornamenting their gardens and grounds. When some of my remote relatives were introduced, numerous were the surmisings as to what place they should occupy amongst cultivated plants. This was especially so in the case of Perilla Nankinensis, a plant of most sombre hue, but so striking witbal as to attract general attention. Some looked upon it as the forerunner of a class of plants destined to play an important part in the future, whilst others regarded it as a vile weed. Nevertheless, considerable attention was bestowed upon its cultivation for a time; but ultimately became so neglected as to be met with chiefly as a garden weed. This may have been owing in some measure to the introduction of Coleus Blumei, which species was regarded with greater favor, and at once took a place which it held fairly well for a time, or until he whose name I bear obtained from it varieties so novel and brilliant in color, as to entitle them to rank high amongst the time-honored favorites of the garden.
From the most reliable information, I infer that this species at least is one of my immediate ancestors, and whether I owe as much of kinship to any other has not been made known. But this I do know, from the day I was first introduced to the public in my chocolate and violet-colored suit until the present time, I have been praised as few plants have been. But being neither envious nor vain, I have desired the company of those whose colors are brighter than my own, as variety in harmony gives greater satisfaction than any one can singly bestow. Some of the older varieties are well fitted to produce this effect, and none more so, perhaps, than my old friends aurea marginata and golden circle; but the majority of their class either lack expression, or are so delicately constituted as to become perfect "frights" when planted out of doors.
During my time, many varieties with excellent characters when in my company have performed their parts but poorly, whilst others have had enough to do to keep up a doubtful reputation. It was with pleasure, therefore, I hailed the arrival of a fresh set from England a short time ago, headed by George Bunyard, who, with his companions were so highly spoken of that I hoped one or more of them would prove of service to me. But this hope has not been realized, and to-day, for all of them, I am as destitute of support as I was before their arrival. Poor George, - after being much in his company for a season, it is only fair to say, he performed his part so poorly that I hope, for the credit of both, we shall never meet again under similar circumstances.
What the incoming season may bring forth yet remains to be seen, but at present the prospects are good for a grand display, as a new order of aspirants are being marshaled for duty, whose merits, some say, are such as to eclipse the old members of our family, and even take from me the honors I have enjoyed so long. Should their claim be well founded, I shall surrender my right to the first place without regret, and be even glad to take any subordinate place I may be deemed competent to fill. But should they fail to meet the expectations thus produced, it will be my duty to remain at my post until such time as new varieties are found, regarding whose merits there can be no doubt.
Be it understood, that what has been said about my associates has reference only to them as bedders; for it is well known, many varieties when grown under glass, and partially shaded from the glare of sunshine, possess greater brilliancy and beauty than I lay claim to. For this reason, I think those so constituted as to require the protection of a greenhouse, should be sparingly, if at all, planted out of doors, and the outside department exclusively occupied by such as attain their greatest perfection in free air and the full tide of sunlight.
Before closing this monologue, I am forced to say a word in behalf of a plant seemingly possessed of extraordinary capacity for the work in which I excel. I refer to Acalypha Macaffeana, the leaves of which are large and finely formed; color, reddish-brown, and irregularly blotched with bright shades of crimson. When fully exposed to sunlight it looks as if " on fire through all its length," and being much more stately than myself might form the central figure in a group of Coleus or other plants with the greatest acceptance.