This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
I feel impelled to say how much Mr. Sutherland's remarks - or rather as corrected, Mr. Manning's - in the September Monthly, coincide with my own views regarding "Hardy Herbaceous Plants for general cultivation." And with him I much regret their delightful presence is not with us, in this year of grace, as they used to bo in days gone by.
Vivid recollections of the old-fashioned herbaceous flower borders, as they appeared in multiform beauty fifty years ago, are as visible in ideality now, as they were then in reality. But of these once gay, odorous beauties, we may painfully ask: Where are they? as even their names are seldom, or never, mentioned now. Surely their tender, humanizing mission is not ended yet. All moralists, philanthropists, or intelligent persons who take a warm interest in the general welfare of their fellow creatures, cheerfully admit that flowers have, besides their great importance in the economy of nature, an aesthetic and happy influence on the social affairs of mankind "in the pursuits of life, health and happiness".
So just and true to nature is George Eliot's delineation of hardy perennials, or herbaceous plants, that her admirers will remember her description in "Adam Bede," of "a once well-tended kitchen garden of a manor house." It is a choice bit of word painting, worthy of Buskin in his best efforts. It bore traces of better days, although then sadly neglected " ill that leafy, flowery, bushy time, * * * there were the tall holly-hocks beginning to flower and dazzle the eye with their pink, white, and yellow," etc, which to the mind's eye seems as if they were actually present. And the inimitable, incomparable Sir Walter Scott, when "forging the hand-writing of nature," no writer was more expert. And how charmingly he lays before his enraptured readers quaint and pleasant scenes around old ancestral halls, baronial parks, and pleasure grounds, or antique monastic gardens. For instance, * * * " the enumeration of plants, herbs and shrubs, which his reverend conductor pointed out to him; of which this was choice, because of prime use in medicine; and that more choice for yielding a rare flavor to pottage; and a third choicest of all, because possessed of no merit but its extreme scarcity." In these ancient places our forefathers proudly displayed their love of herbaceous plants, and as skilled herbalists, their knowledge of medicinal herbs, or 'physic plants," which were generally arranged in long beds, or parallel borders alongside of each other, in strict accordance with the ways of the simple, goodly folk of ye olden time.
But as I am writing in the year '82, I must come back to the time and no longer diverge from the blessed harbingers as they are, of the advent of smiling spring, who come with the first peep of the cheery Snowdrop, Crocus, Saxa-fraga oppositifolia, Anemone Appenina, Adonis vernalis, Arabis Alpina, Primrose and Hyacinth, with other early flowers, whose coy glances at one another seem like a happy recognition and welcome as each floral sister returns to the vernal scene. And afterwards, through the changing seasons of the year, what a galaxy of superb loveliness seems to spring up where the benign footsteps of " Flora" has touched, until chilly "Old Boreas," with his frosty fingers,plucks the last Helleborus niger, or Christmas rose, in the wintry snows.
Now this is no garish picture of an imaginary scene, but is in reality, simply " holding up the mirror to nature," so that all may see how exquisitely beautiful are the fair features of flowers.
Perhaps it may be thought of what I have said about the subject, that the couleur de rose has been too lavishly used But you, Mr. Editor, with many of the Monthly's kind readers, will know the writer's enthusiastic admiration for herbaceous plants has not carried him in their description to the verge of exaggeration.
To give a list of a moderate number would be a pleasant task for the writer. But as Mr. Manning hints at so doing, I will not attempt it. Assured by the editor of his abilities in that line, it would seem invidious to trespass on his chosen ground; so will leave it for him to do in his own perspicuous manner. Fully indorsing all he says about it, I would advise a re-perusal of his excellent article; and if, after so doing, any one should decide to follow his suggestions, then personally consult him or any other intelligent florist about the supply of plants, etc.; and he, or they, will gladly furnish their patrons - who delight in causing two flowers to grow where but one grew before - with proper instructions.