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.
Mr. Editor:- In your January number there is a communication from Mr. Pentland on the Verbena, in which he takes the ground that we are carried away from the demerits of the imported varieties by their high-sounding ducal or lordly names. Mr. Editor, this is a libel on the good sense of our fraternity, that I am surprised to see you, to some extent, endorse.
Let us look at the matter. I suppose there have been as many " native " seedlings "sent out" as there have been foreign varieties imported. Now what are the relative proportions of each that has survived the test of merit? I grow upwards of a hundred varieties, the best of all I can find, old or new, native or foreign, and yet I find that at least three-fourths of them are the imported varieties; and this I believe is a fair average of the proportion grown of each by all florists of any extent in the country. Even Mr. Pentland's collection is no exception to this rule, for in his catalogue, now before me, in forty-two varieties there described, thirty of them are foreign varieties, and yet this collection, he says, is "unsurpassed by any in the country." Now, if this is so, why this ungrateful tirade against John Bull & Co.? or how does Mr. Pentland reconcile the, opinions given in his catalogue with those in his published letter 1
But to recur again to the seedlings. I believe, with Mr. P., that there is no reason why we should always be dependent on England for our new varieties; but he may rest assured we will until we produce American varieties to equal or excel them, which he has given no tangible evidence to show we have done as yet.
Mr. Pentland, in alluding to some fine seedlings he saw, says, "We know that a seedling Verbena never shows its best qualities the first season." I am sorry to have to differ from him entirely in this view, having ever imagined the reverse to be "well known," and that most gardeners of experience believe that we have ever a more healthy growth from a seed than from a cutting or layer, in plants of any kind; and also, that that very circumstance makes us too often deceive ourselves and the public, by inducing us to send out the offspring of a promising seedling, that, when less vigorously grown from a cutting, is comparatively worthless.
Last summer, from my importations, I saved about forty varieties of Verbenas, flowered them, and found about one-third of them no better than others of the same styles we already possessed; the others I retained as being superior to any thing I had, out of a bed of nearly three thousand seedlings, from as carefully collected seed as I could find. The seedlings made a splendid show, as they always do-much more so than the named varieties alongside - but were deficient in sub-stance and marking, which were the characteristics of the imported sorts. Now this, I think, can only be accounted for by supposing that in England they are more careful in choosing their seed, and, from growing them in much larger quantities, have a larger field to select from; for unquestionably our climate is better fitted for. producing seeds, and consequently varieties, if we only gave the matter the same care. There is no denying, that to them we are indebted for all the leading styles of Verbena, of which Geant des Battailles, Rosy Gem, Leviathan, Mrs. Holford, Alice, Maonetti, Gondolier, Gen. Simpson, Topsy, Mrs. Woodruff, Madame Abolt, and Victory, form a dozen which, I believe, we have no dozen of American varieties to equal, although the above are from three to twelve years introduced.
To be sure we have two American varieties perhaps superior to any of them, namely," Mrs. Field" and " Mrs. McKay;" but as these are both Jersey seedlings, some of your facetious readers might insinuate that these also are "foreign " varieties.
But what is true of Verbenas is equally true of all the leading florist's flowers, Roses, Dahlias, Chrysanthemums, Fuchsias, Geraniums, etc., in all of which for the wonderful improvements for the past few years we are almost entirely indebted to the English and French growers. No doubt we are often enough humbugged, but there is always sufficient wheat among the chaff to induce even the most knowing birds to try again.
So, Mr. Editor, I think, before we arrogate to ourselves a superiority or even an equality in seedling raising with our cousins across the water, we must turn a new leaf; we must have some central Horticultural Society Offering respectable inducements for seedlings of merit, where the claims of our "bantlings" will be decided upon by competent and disinterested judges, and not by the par-tial eye of the raiser or his well-meaning friends. Until such is the case, and publication thereof be made by the Horticultural journals, our seedlings at most can only have a local reputation.
[The above was received a couple of days after Mr. Veitch's article, but we deemed it best to give one at a time. A part of our remarks to Mr. Veitch's article will apply to this. In regard to the "libel" which we are said to have "endorsed," we have only to say, that we simply affirmed a fact, which Mr. Henderson does not and can not deny. Under the old but exploded axiom, "the greater the truth the greater the libel," we plead "guilty." The fact is, both Mr. Veitch and Mr. Henderson demonstrate the simple truth we enunciated: • "we do not yet fully appreciate the merits of our own productions;" but when we come to assign reasons for this fact, there is naturally some difference of opinion. The reasons assigned by Mr. V. and Mr. H. have much to do with the matter, but there is another underlying the whole subject which acts still more powerfully. If we wished to prove our position, we should engage a berth in the next steamer for New Jersey, (Mr. H. will excuse us for being a little personal;) after landing on that "foreign shore," we should not have to walk many miles to demonstrate, that as good seedling Verbenas are raised there as in Europe, and that they are not as much appreciated. What, then, shall we do? stop raising seedlings? By no means.
Go on raising seedlings, and at the same time import all the best European varieties. The seedling will doubtless by-and-by get a fair chance for competition. What is here said of flowers is not true of fruits, and for a very similar reason. We desire to see the public mind in such a healthy condition, horticulturally. speaking, that no seedling or novelty, either fruit or flower, would be bought until properly endorsed by some competent authority. But we do not purpose "arguing " this subject at present; it is in good hands, and the real facts will, in the end, no doubt be assigned their true position - Ed].