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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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Cinerarea maritima, Stachys lanata, Cerastium tomentosum, and Cerastium Biebersteinii are, for their various positions, most effective. These silvery-foliaged plants have added a softening touch to parterres which would now be much missed were it withdrawn.

In variegated plants we have most useful dwarf edging-plants, such as Arabis lucida variegata, A. alpina variegata, A. mollis variegata, variegated Balm, Dactylis glomerata variegata, D. glomerata variegata elegantissima, Poa trivialis argentea elegans, Veronica pumila, V. speciosa variegata, and, most beautiful of all, Polemonium ceeruleum variegatum; and, for positions where taller plants are required, there are Scrophularia nodosa variegata, and a few others, nearly all of which have the great recommendation of being quite hardy.

Crimson and dark foliaged plants are being yearly added to contrast with the greys. Already we can enumerate Perilla Nankinensis, Iresine Herhstii, Coleus Verschaffeltii, Amaranthus melancholicus ruber, Orach, Oxalis corniculata rubra. Some of the dark-crimson foliaged Beets are in many cases used with effect, though some object to them because they have an edible tuberous root. One or two more plants are candj dates for favour in this class, among which are Alternanthera and the hardy Ajuga reptans rubra. The Coleus and Amaranthus succeed well outdoors only in the southern part of the kingdom. Doubtless the class of plants with coloured foliage will be recruited as time creeps on; for, strange to say, when a want is felt it is generally supplied in time.

The best variety of Viola cornuta has risen very rapidly into favour, and deservedly so for it is a most useful plant for small beds and margins, and its colour is very pleasing. It is perfectly hardy, and affords another instance of how old hardy plants are becoming most useful in the parterre. There are, besides, Viola montana and Viola lutea; but of the former of them I have not much favourable to say. Though it has recommended, I do not consider it worth growing. The common blue, purple, and yellow Pansies are most useful additions in the way of hardy plants: they flower nearly the whole year round; and Imperial blue, recently sent out, is a great acquisition.

Then what can be more effective than Tritomas for back lines? Of these there are T. uvaria and T. grandis, which, if planted alternately, keep up a fine line of bloom for four or five months. The latter begins to bloom when uvaria ceases, and it is frequently fine at Christmas.

I might continue thus to allude to many plants that are suitable, and of which the pioneers of the massing style had not the advantage - some not at all, and many not in such fine varieties as we now possess. All, too, are most suitable for the mixed border, as they have great blooming powers. But I will not occupy space by so doing, any further than simply to name such plants as Gazania splendens, Tagetes signata pumila, both first-class plants for keeping up a lengthened profusion of bloom. Then there are Antirrhinums, Dianthus, Fuchsias, Heliotropes, Hollyhocks, Pentstemons, Petunias, Phloxes, Pyrethrums, Salvias, and many others, besides annuals, all of which are most useful for certain purposes, and many of them for beds and lines. And it need scarcely be affirmed, that nearly all of them have been much improved of late years; so that, beyond any doubt, the flower-gardener of the present has a much more superb fraternity of plants with which to keep a garden beautiful, than his predecessors had. And it need scarcely be said, that the plants which have thus been briefly passed in review do not include those which are mere candidates for public favour and position, but all of them have been well tried and approved; neither do they include a class of plants which have been cursorily referred to, as most desirable candidates for being more plentifully used in the flower-gardening of the future, and which, as has already been pointed out, are well calculated to add to it much elegance and grace.

It is now several years since, in the pages of the Scottish Gardener, I advocated the use of many of the gracefully-foliaged plants which can be wintered in a greenhouse temperature, and that will therefore bear exposure outdoors all summer and autumn with impunity; and from the fact of their comparative hardiness, as well as beauty of form, they must, in a general way, occupy the position which has with some success been given to tropical plants in a verv few favoured localities. It is pleasing to me to find the very same ideas advanced recently in a leader in the Gardeners' Chronicle, and the very same plants named that were spoken of by me as being those which, for the further improvement of the flower-garden, must become popular, instead of those that will only thrive in the temperatures of our stoves. A list of such plants with directions for disposing of them in beds and borders, in ways which, I think, will greatly enhance the interest and beauty of the flower-garden, will be given in a future page.


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