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.
The rural flower-garden, where little labor can be given, and that generally from those of more zeal than knowledge of the cultivation of flowers, is best made up from perennials. As a rule, any good garden soil will serve to grow them, and should their culture be neglected a week or more, they are very accommodating, and instead of dying off, they exert hemselves to rise above the surrounding weeds and shame their owners by their bloom into more careful attention and culture. Time was when a hundred or so comprised the list of desirable perennial plants, but now the number is so extended that to know and understand them all, one needs to devote all his time. We shall not attempt to enumerate even, much less to describe, all the sorts, but confine ourselves to remarks on, and names of, a few varieties that are always to be depended upon, and that may be obtained at any florist's. We say we will confine ourselves to varieties that are always to be depended upon, and yet here, at our first start, we place a plant, the Dode-catheon Media, that is hardy, and yet sometimes, from too much wet, or too much dry, when flowering time comes, is not in its expected place. It is, however, so pretty, with its stem of twelve rosy lilac flowers, that we should dislike much to omit it.
Many of our readers, doubtless, know it as American Cowslip, and also know that a light loam and shade suit it best. A mark or label stake should always be placed near it, otherwise, when out of flower, it is liable to get dug or hoed out and lost.
The Columbine - Aquilegia - found wild in many parts of our Eastern and Middle States, especially in rocky, romantic sections, has been increased and multiplied into many varieties, all of which are truly beautiful. A rather poor soil gives the best flowers.
Campanulas, or Canterbury Bells, of which there are now numerous varieties, adapt themselves to almost any soil or situation. An old variety, called Pyramidalis, yet remains one of the best, frequently in good deep rich soils sending up flower stems six feet or more high, and covered with blue blooms from top to bottom. Many campaaulas are biennials, and require to have seed sown every year in order to produce the best of flowers the succeeding season.
I agree with you, that perennials are, as a class, those which should make up the main portion of the flower-garden, when but little care and labor can be devoted to it. Your list is good, but why can not you prevail on Mr. Charles Downing to give the readers of the Horticulturist a short, condensed list of some of the best varieties, adding to the name of each its color and height of flower-stem. Mr. D. I know to have one of the largest collections of herbaceous perennials in the country, and to have given their culture daily attention, as a source of personal enjoyment, for many years. The Messrs. Ellwanger and Barry, as commercial growers, have a very large collection, and one or the other of them should give us remarks and descriptions, especially of those introduced lately.