This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
This fine new evergreen shrub, which is attracting a good deal of attention in your columns, and elsewhere, was discovered by me in the winter of 1848, and introduced to England in 1849. I met with it in a nursery near Shanghae, and it was there the rarest and most prized plant of the collection to which it belonged. The nurseryman told me that it was brought to him from a high mountain, in the interior, named Wang-shan, and consequently the plant is called by the Chinese the Wang-ehan-Kwei. The last term was given it on account of the fragrance of its flowers, which the Chinese consider as sweet as the kwei-whs or Olea fragrant. These scented flowers are produced in great profusion in early spring, and are succeeded by bunches of red berries, like those of the English holly. The plant exhibited to the Horticultural Society, in Regent street, by Messrs. Standish & Noble, a week or two ago, gave but a faint idea of the beauty of the species. The berries of that plant were scarcely ripe; later in the season they become much larger, and are then of a deeper and clearer red.
My own opinion is that this fine bush will prove perfectly hardy in this country. It cares nothing for the cold winds and sharp frosts about Shanghae, and no doubt endures a much lower degree of temperature on the inland mountains already named, where it is found wild, than in places nearer the coast Although this is my opinion, I think your reporter was perfectly justified in "erring on the safe side," and saying that more proof of its hardiness in this country is required. I recollect well when I wrote an account of Weigela rosea, some years ago, in the Journal of the Horticultural Society, I advised the possessor of that beautiful shrub to keep it in the green-house until its hardiness was proved by the Society. Well, there was no harm done in that instance, although every one knows now how hardy Weigela rosea is.
I may now notice the letter of your Liverpool correspondent, in which he tells you that Skim-mia Japonica has borne the "pelting of the pitiless storm" during the last seven years. As you justly remark, your correspondent must be writing of Skimmia Laureola. In my opinion, however, his letter goes a long way to prove the hardiness of Skimmia Japonica, as it comes from a much colder country than Dr. Wallich's S. Laureola. It proves, also, what I have long feared, that many persons in the trade will, by mistake, send out S. Laureola with the name of S. Japonica, as the names have been mixed and confused. Until Dr. Lindley set the matter right in "Paxton'a Flower Garden," an idea had got abroad that the Chinese and Himalayan plants were identical; but in reality no plants can be more different, in so far as their ornamental properties are concerned, although they may resemble each other in their stems and leaves. The Himalayan plant has been in the garden of Mr. Luscombe for Borne years, and yet I am informed by that gentleman that it scarcely ever opens its flowers, and never produces berries. The beauty of the Chinese plant not only consists in its being a nice dwarf evergreen bush, but also in the profusion of its sweet-scented flowers, and in the abundance of its holly-like berries.
The former is a plant of no value for ornamental purposes, while the latter will, no doubt, form in a few years one of the most attractive winter plants our gardens can boast of Fancy if you can our borders or parterres dotted in mid-winter with a little evergreen bush, only two or three feet high, and covered all over with bright red berries, each of which is as large as those of the common holly. In greenhouse, too, it will be invaluable for decorative purposes, where its flowers, although not showy, will fill the air with the most delicious odor, and its berries will be most attractive in the dull months of winter.
Those of your readers who wish to add the plant to their collections, have, in the description I have just given, the means of knowing when the true Skimmia Japonica has been sent them, or whether they have received the Himalayan plant in its stead. I think you will agree with me, that the discoverer of a fine, new, ornamental plant, may justly complain of mistakes of this kind. It is only a very short time since another blunder of this description, was committed with the new Cephalotaxus, discovered by me in the north of China. Sir William Hooker described and figured that plant in the Botanical Magazine, and pronounced it to be quite new, and a tree of great beauty. And yet, notwithstanding that high authority, I find that large quantities of Cephalo-taxus Harringtoni have been sent out with the new name of C. Fortuni attached to them. Nurserymen ought to guard against such mistakes, as they are not only annoying to the purchasers of plants, but tend greatly to confuse our nomenclature, - R. F., in London Gardeners' Chronicle.