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.
Throughout Europe no family of plants are more popular, and certainly none possess more claims to admiration. My love for this interesting and beautiful class of plants existed long before they became 6uch general favorites, at a time when they were little known or noticed, save to the student, or in botanical gardens and collections. Some twenty-five years have' come and gone since I, in company with a loved one, went in search, over mountain and through morass and secluded valley, to collect our special favorites, and no known or unknown variety within our reach escaped our notice. And how delightful, after hours of pleasant toil, to return to our cherished homes to examine their elegant and graceful fronds, their inimitable beauty, and lovely shades of color. To my loved companion it was a never-failing charm, to collect and cultivate her especial pets; and I can never forget what a great amount of pleasure we all experienced when returning from a botanical ramble of some dozen or more miles, and sitting around our "ain fireside," in company with many dear ones, now gone to return no more.
But I am digressing.
The great value of the interesting Cryptogamia consists in their intrinsic beauty, and in their applicability to specific purposes: for growing in very shady places where very few other plants can grow. They are singularly useful for covering rocks, where but little soil can be placed; they are equally at home for covering unsightly walls, either in green or hothouses, or the open air; for suspending in wire or rustic baskets from the roofs of greenhouses, conservatories, Ac; for enriching and decorating any rustic work, or for cultivating in the popular and highly decorative portable plant cases. One of their greatest merits is, that they are never out of place, in the secluded part of the garden, or any glass structure, the sitting-room, hall, or drawing-room; in all of which they are always green, elegant, and charming, and as an adjunct to bouquets they are a positive necessity.
They are valuable, as I have said, for planting in shady situations, where but few other plants will grow; indeed, whether it be in the greenhouse or the open air, the majority of the species luxuriate in a shady place, where the direct rays of the sun never fall. In such situations they are enabled to exhibit all their gracefulness and delicacy of structure, and the ever fresh loveliness of their beautiful verdure.
Some, it is true, are often found in very exposed situations, clinging to the face of rocks where there is comparatively no soil, and where it would be thought no plant bearing such an abundance of foliage could exist. Such is often the case with our exquisite Adiantum pedatum, Woodsia ilveusis, Dicksonia pilosiuscula, &c; but these are the exceptions: as a general rule throughout the globe, plants of this order live and luxuriate in the shade. Hence the Rockery should have a northern aspect; the entrance to a grotto, lor in the neighborhood of irregular masses of rock, or sylvan retreats, the shady part of any building, bare walls of green or hothouses, or in any location overcanopied by foliage, present the very best places for them. Rock-eries in the open air or otherwise are likewise well adapted for Ferns. Here is the natural home of many of our most beautiful species, and in all our rocky and sylvan retreats they are quite abundant.
Enriched with their graceful and elegant habits, the brightest flowers seem brighter, and those of tamer colors become much more striking. Those who have used them for grouping with orchids when in bloom, as is the custom in many of the large establishments in Europe, are never afterwards satisfied to see them otherwise, or with well bloomed specimens of Gloxinias, Gesnerias, Achimenes, or any other kind of flowers.
Much more might be added upon their culture (which is very simple) in the green and hothouse, the open air, and in the elegant portable plant (not Wardian) case.
Anmated with a desire to see them more cultivated than at present, I may at some future time (should it be thought desirable) offer some remarks upon their culture, and endeavor to show that all classes, from the millionaire to the most humble artisan, may possess and cultivate at least a few of them. To me no house devoted to flowers seems complete without them.
[You have taken up a most interesting class of plants. Follow up with directions for special treatment, including plant cases, etc. Ferns and Ly-copodiums have heretofore been confined to the few, but they are preeminently the plants for the million, especially for winter culture. As intimately associated with these, take up Orchids next, Mr. Barker, and go into details. We want more knowledge on the treatment of Orchids, and your long familiarity with them ought to enable you to supply it - Ed].