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.
From several sources, including our London correspondent, we have received accounts of a perfect substitute for grass lawns in gardens, etc, which requires no mowing. Think of your lawn always green, and the growth removed by the gentlest motion of a wing or brush! Why, it is exactly what we all want; the ladies may now fan away what the laborious mower took so much trouble to destroy! It may be as well, however, only to anticipate that it is adapted to small lawns.
The best account of this new plant we find in the London Horticultural Cabinet, communicated by E. G. Henderson & Son, Nurserymen, St. John's Wood, and as it is important if true, here it is entire: "Spergula Pilifera, the plant in question, in its style of growth is a neat, dwarf hardy perennial tufted alpine plant, forming close compact wiry grass-like stems, from a quarter to half an inch in height, at first erect, afterwards decumbent, clothed with closely-set green bristle-like leaves, which, by permanent growth and occasional rolling, form an unbroken, level, velvet-like surface of ,the richest conceivable verdure, remaining uninjured in severe drought or intense cold, and assuming the same beautiful verdurous tint during the winter months as in summer. The seedling plant of this highly interesting object, starts into growth with a single unbranched perpendicular radicle or root, and afterwards manifests a remarkable power of extension in its ramifying hair-like roots, penetrating to the depth of one to two feet; a fact quite sufficient to account for its enduring the opposite extremes of severe heat and cold.
In addition to its hardiness, under the vicissitudes of an English climate, its value is considerably enhanced in its adaptation to all the varieties of common garden soil, requiring but a thin firm surface stratum of one inch ordinary sifted or broken loam. Maintaining its verdant freshness alike beneath storm and sunshine, it combines every needful feature of adaptation with economy, and a uniform aspect of neatness with the least possible care or attention. Its fertility in bloom during the month of July is equally beautiful, being at that period studded over with myriads of low compact salver-shaped snow-white blossoms, appearing not as in fancy, but in reality, the living picture of an emerald-green velvet carpet, spangled with innumerable silver stars. From the preceding remarks, it will be seen that the established growth of this plant maintains a dwarf close web of green verdure, and entirely dispenses with the extra toil and expense of mowing •, its numerous small brittle flower-scapes being removed by the gentlest movement of a wing or brush over the surface of the lawn, either whilst in bloom or afterwards, and these constitute the only surface-growth, or tokens of its beauty, which require this operation but once a year.
For small or medium-sized lawns, terraces, verges, mounds, etc., this remarkably interesting and beautiful little plant offers an object of great interest to every lover of gardening pursuits, and every lady amateur cultivator may superintend and personally manage the slight attentions required to preserve the terrace margins or velvet lawn in the highest condition. The permanent and uniform condition of dense growth, with the penetrative power of its roots, preserves it from all risks of being parched by extreme exposure in sultry weather, and the progressive accumulation of its moss-like growth gives an elastic pressure to the foot, much softer than the finest Turkey carpet. The seed may be sown either in or out of pots, in the usual method observed for fine seeds, with a slight but uniform covering of soil, and placed within either a frame, cool pit, or greenhouse, using the usual precaution of shading the seed-pans from intense sunlight daily for a few hours, until well germinated, after which it may either be replanted in stores of ten to fifty plants within dishes or large pots, or' otherwise planted out in rather a shady border of the open ground for a few weeks, and ultimately transplanted upon the prepared lawn-surface in two or three plants, within one inch or more of each other, and such little plant-groups may be formed at a distance of six, nine, or twelve inches apart; in such positions the growths will progressively meet and form the rich and beautiful surface now described.
It is also admirably adapted for picturesque green tufts and edgings on avenue lines and borders, for grouping the front spaces of massive rock work, and surfacing partially raised mounds around classic fountains and basins, or artistic columns, where grass is unavailable for mowing; and equally telling for cultivation in larger vases, in alternate effect with the silvery sheen of the beautiful Cerastium tomenloswn, on terrace verges and architectural approaches.
A practical proof of the success of Sperguta pilifcra for the objects above stated, may be seen in the gardens of A. Mongredien, Esq., at Forest Hill, Sydenham, Kent; where a rich and verdant plot or lawn has been established four years by Mr. Summers, the intelligent gardener there, and is now in fine condition. In the same gardens, a considerable space is allotted for further illustration of its perfect adaptation, which may be seen on application".