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Victorian Plants
for Summer Grouping

From the 'Handy Book of the Flower-Garden' (1868) by David Thomson

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Of Dahlias a new race of dwarfs has been furnished for comparatively dwarf groups and lines. True, some of these are not such in their individual blooms as would he looked upon by a florist with much complacency, but they yield a compact and long-continued profusion of blooms of pure whites, purples, scarlets, crimsons, yellows, and various other shades. For back lines and large beds they are very useful, and withstand rains about as well as any flowering plants. I think perhaps the most telling group I ever saw was chiefly composed of Dahlias.

We have now a few varieties of Stocks which are most effective. It may be said that, in some localities at least, the grouping system has done much for Stocks, and they have done much for grouping. It has led to so careful a selection of seed, that we have now scarlets, purples, and whites which, in colour, habit, profusion, and long-continued blooming, are perfectly unique. Of these, five-sixths invariably come double. Indeed it is difficult to get singles enough among the purple and white to perpetuate them. They are, moreover, so hardy, that all the care they require is to be sown under a common handglass in spring, and they are generally in flower from the end of July till December.

Many can remember when our dwarf pale-blue Lobelia, such as gracilis, was a cherished pot-plant for front shelves in greenhouses. Now, in L. erinus speciosa we have an intense blue, which is admired by all. A better blue colour is hardly possible in Lobelias. What flower-gardeners have often wished for is a plant of the same colour, about a foot high, and of upright stubby growth, to take a premier position in various combinations. Salvia patens is too straggling and uncertain except for mixed borders, and, especially on light soils, hot weather tries it much. Plumbago larpentia some eighteen years ago was sent out to fill up the want, but it signally failed. Lobelia Paxtonii must be acknowledged as a recent acquisition, and in some positions as useful and effective as speciosa. The white variety sent out recently has proved a complete failure; but I am not without hope that a good dwarf white Lobelia will one day be got as a sport from Paxtonii, if not in any other way. I have seen some of that variety all but white.

In Tropaeolums we have quite a new race. A good many are too strong-growing for damp rich soils. There is, however, T. Cooperii, than which few plants will more effectively cover the ground with a sheet of bloom; and I have seen it fine up till November, so well does it stand damp weather. T. luteum improved, as a yellow compact grower, is equally good. Their green foliage and dazzling scarlet and bright yellow flowers form the most unique contrast imaginable. Then there is T. King of Tom Thumbs, and others of compact upright growth, rivalling in some soils the scarlet Pelargonium itself.

Who can look at the glowing beauty of Gladioli without being struck with the wonderful improvement which hybridizers have effected in them? We have only to look at Gandavensis and Psittacinus, and compare them with such a progeny as Brenchleyensis, La Poussin, Meyerbeer, Prince of Wales, Dr. Lindley, Lord Byron, and a hundred others, to see how much superior our material in Gladioli is, as compared to that of the past.

And what shall we say of Roses? Their name is legion, and their beauty perfectly wonderful. The great difficulty of the gardener now-a-days is to select the best. Some of the sections are admirably adapted for beds; such, for instance, as the Chinas, Bourbons, and Perpetuals, which, at several seasons of the year, yield a magnificent profusion of bloom. To point out the wonderful improvement which has been wrought in the Eose, would indeed be needless. But for purely parterre work we would not recommend their use very extensively, as there are certain seasons when there is a pause in their blooming - except, indeed, it be Chinas - that would mar the unity of designs; and for that reason I would recommend them to be grown in beds or borders by themselves; and what can be more charming in its way than a rosary?

Among plants with grey or almost white foliage there is Centaurea ragusina, which, but for the present style of flower-garden decoration, would more than likely have been all but lost to the country, but which is now one of the most popular and effectively used plants. It is most charming and graceful for many purposes, and for some it stands unrivalled. C. argentea and C. gymno-carpa are also very pretty and useful plants.

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