Briefly stated, the modus operandi should be as follows: Sow the seed at the natural season, soon as ripe, on moist vegetable soil; do not cover it with more than a mere dash of sand; the aspect should be north, but with a little shade any other will do; the seedlings will be pretty strong by the time of the early frosts; about that time they should, on dry days, have three or four slight dressings of soot and quicklime; it should be dusted over them with a "dredge" or sieve; this may be expected to clear them of the slug pest, after which a dressing of sand and half-rotten leaves may be scattered over them; this will not only keep them fresh and plump during winter, but also protect them from the effects of wet succeeded by frost, which often lifts such things entirely out of the earth. In March, plant out in well enriched loam, in shady quarters; many will flower in late spring. Another plan would be to leave them in the seed bed if not too rank, where most would flower; in either case, the seed bed might be left furnished with undisturbed seedlings. The main crop of bloom should not be looked for until the second spring after the summer sowing.
The double forms are not only less vigorous, but the means of propagation are limited; offsets of only healthy stock should be taken in early summer. A rich retentive loam suits them, or moist vegetable soil would do: shade, however, is the great desideratum; exposure to full sunshine harms them, even if well moistened at the roots; besides, in such positions red spider is sure to attack them. This mode of propagation is applicable to desirable single varieties, as they cannot be relied upon to produce stock true to themselves from seed. In planting offsets it is a good practice to put them in rather deeply; not only are the new roots emitted from above the old ones, but the heart of the offset seems to be sustained during the warm and, perhaps, dry weather, by being set a trifle below the surface. This I have ever proved to be a sure and quick method in the open garden.
Flowering period, February to June.
ROUND-HEADED PRIMULA; Nat. Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
Hardy, herbaceous, and perennial. Before referring to this Primula in particular, I would say a word or two respecting hardy and alpine Primulae in general. It may appear strange and, on my part, somewhat presumptuous, when I state that this section of the Primula family is little known. Gardeners, both old and young, who have seen them in collections, have asked what they were as they stood over them admiring their lovely flowers. They are, however, very distinct on the one hand from the primrose (Primula vulgaris or acaulis) and polyanthus (Primula elatior) sections; and also from the P. sinensis section—the species with so many fine double and single varieties, much grown in our greenhouses, and which, of course, are not hardy. The hardy and distinct species to which I now allude are mostly from alpine habitats, of stunted but neat forms, widely distinct, and very beautiful.
The British representatives of this class are Primula farinosa and P. Scotica, but from nearly all parts of the temperate zone these lovely subjects have been imported. It may not be out of place to name some of them: P. Allioni, France; P. amoena, Caucasus; P. auricula, Switzerland; P. Carniolica, Carniola; P. decora, South Europe; P. glaucescens and P. grandis, Switzerland; P. glutinosa, South Europe; P. latifolia, Pyrenees; P. longifolia, Levant; P. marginata, Switzerland; P. minima, South Europe; P. nivalis, Dahuria; P. villosa, Switzerland; P. viscosa, Piedmont; P. Wulfeniana, P. spectabilis, P. denticulata, P. luteola, P. Tirolensis, and others, from the Himalayas and North America, all of which I have proved to be of easy culture, either on rockwork, or in pots and cold frames, where, though they may be frozen as hard as the stones amongst which their roots delight to run, they are perfectly safe. The treatment they will not endure is a confined atmosphere.
P. capitata, which is a native of Sikkim, is still considered to be new in this country, though it was flowered at Kew about thirty years ago, but it has only become general in its distribution during the past three or four years.
The flowers are borne on stems which are very mealy, and 6in. to 9in. high; the head of bloom is round and dense, 11/2in. across. The outer pips are first developed, and as they fade the succeeding rings or tiers extend and hide them. The very smallest in the centre of the head remain covered with the farina-like substance, and form a beautiful contrast to the deep violet-blue of the opened, and the lavender-blue of the unopened pips. One head of bloom will last fully four weeks. The denseness and form of the head, combined with the fine colour of the bloom, are the chief points which go to make this Primula very distinct. The leaves, which are arranged in rosette form, are otherwise very pretty, having a mealy covering on the under side, sometimes of a golden hue; they are also finely wrinkled and toothed, giving the appearance, in small plants, of a rosette of green feathers. Sometimes the leaves are as large as a full-grown polyanthus leaf, whilst other plants, which have flowered equally well, have not produced foliage larger than that of primroses, when having their earliest flowers.
It makes a fine pot subject, but will not endure a heated greenhouse. It should be kept in a cold frame, with plenty of air. It may be planted on rockwork where it will not get the mid-day sun. I hear that it grows like grass with a correspondent whose garden soil is stiff loam; there it seeds and increases rapidly. My first experience with it was troublesome; when dying down in the winter, the leaves, which are persistent, seemed to collect moisture at the collar and cause it to rot. I tried planting not quite so deeply, and I imagine that it has proved a remedy. So choice a garden subject should not be passed by because it cannot be dibbled in and grown as easily as a cabbage. Old plants produce offsets which, as soon as the April showers come, may be transplanted in loamy soil and a shady situation. Propagation may also be carried on by seed when well ripened, but that has not been my experience of it hitherto.
Flowering period, April to June.
CASHMERE PRIMROSE; Nat Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
This belongs to the large-leaved and herbaceous section, and though it comes (as its name specifies) from a much warmer climate than ours, its habitat was found at a great altitude, and it has been proved to be perfectly hardy in North Britain. This species is comparatively new to English gardens, but it has already obtained great favour and is much grown (see Fig. 76). No collection of Primulae can well be without it; its boldness, even in its young state, is the first characteristic to draw attention, for with the leaf development there goes on that of the scape. For a time the foliage has the form of young cos lettuce, but the under sides are beautifully covered with a meal resembling gold dust. This feature of the plant is best seen at the early stage of its growth, as later on the leaves bend or flatten to the ground in rosette form, the rosettes being often more than 12in. across. The golden farina varies in both quantity and depth of colour on different plants.
The flower scape is from 9in. to 12in. high, nearly as stout as a clay pipe stem, and very mealy, thickening near the top. The flowers, which are small, of a light purple colour, and having a yellow eye, are densely arranged in globular trusses, each lasting more than a fortnight in beauty. The leaves when resting on the ground show their finely serrated edges and pleasing pale green, which contrasts oddly with the under sides of those still erect, the latter being not only of a golden colour, as already mentioned, but their edges are turned, almost rolled under.
This plant loves moisture; and it will adorn any position where it can be well grown; it will also endure any amount of sunshine if it has plenty of moisture at the roots, and almost any kind of soil will do except clay, but peat and sand are best for it, according to my experience. During winter the crown is liable to rot, from the amount of moisture which lodges therein somewhat below the ground level; latterly I have placed a piece of glass over them, and I do not remember to have lost one so treated. Offsets are but sparingly produced by this species; propagation is more easily carried out by seed, from which plants will sometimes flower the first year.
Flowering period, March to May.
TOOTHED PRIMULA; Nat. Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
This is one of that section of the Primrose family having stout scapes and compact heads of bloom. It is a comparatively recent introduction from the Himalayas, a true alpine, and perfectly hardy in this climate. As a garden flower, it has much merit, blooming early and profusely. It cannot be too highly commended for its fine form as a plant and beauty as a flower, more especially as seen on rockwork. The flower buds begin in very early spring to rise on their straight round stems, new foliage being developed at the same time.
The flowers are arranged in dense round clusters, and are often in their finest form when nearly a foot high. They are of a light purple colour, each flower 1/2in. across, corolla prettily cupped, segments two-lobed, greenish white at bases, tube long and cylindrical, calyx about half length of tube, teeth rather long and of a dark brown colour. The scape is somewhat dark-coloured, especially near the apex. The leaves are arranged in rosette form, are lance-shaped, rolled back at the edges and toothed, also wrinkled and downy; they continue to grow long after the flowers have faded.
Delicate as the flowers seem, they stand the roughest storms without much hurt.
P. d. major is a larger form in all its parts.
P. d. nana is more dwarfed than the type.
P. d. amabilis is a truly lovely form, having darker foliage and rosy buds; its habit, too, is even more neat and upright, and the blooming period earlier by about two weeks.
A moist position and vegetable mould suit it best, according to my experience, and the dips of rockwork are just the places for it, not exactly in the bottom, for the following reason: The large crowns are liable to rot from wet standing in them, and if the plants are set in a slope it greatly helps to clear the crowns of stagnant moisture. Propagation is by means of offsets, which should be taken during the growing season, so that they may form good roots and become established before winter.
Flowering period, March to May.
MEALY PRIMROSE, or BIRD'S-EYE; Nat. Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
The pretty native species, very common in a wild state in some parts, near which, of course, it need not be grown in gardens; but as its beauty is unquestionable, and as there are many who do not know it, and evidently have never seen it, it ought to have a place in the garden. It is herbaceous and perennial. All its names are strictly descriptive. The little centre has a resemblance to a bird's eye, and the whole plant is thickly covered with a meal-like substance. Small as this plant is, when properly grown it produces a large quantity of bloom for cutting purposes.
It is 3in. to 8in. high, according to the situation in which it is grown. The flowers are light purple, only 1/2in. across, arranged in neat umbels; the corolla is flat, having a bright yellow centre; leaves small, ovate-oblong, roundly toothed, bald, and powdery beneath; the flower scapes are round and quite white, with a meal-like covering.
In stiff soil and a damp situation this little gem does well, or it will be equally at home in a vegetable soil, such as leaf mould or peat, but there must be no lack of moisture, and it is all the better for being screened from the mid-day sun, as it would be behind a hedge or low wall. So freely does it bloom, that it is not only worth a place in the garden, but repays all the trouble required to establish it in proper quarters, after which it will take care of itself, by producing offsets and seedlings in abundance.
Flowering period, April to June.
Syn. P. CRENATA; MARGINED PRIMROSE; Nat. Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
A native of Switzerland, so rich in alpine flowers; this is but a small species, yet very distinct and conspicuous (see Fig. 77). As its specific name denotes, its foliage has a bold margin, as if stitched with white silken thread, and the whole plant is thickly covered with a mealy substance. So distinct in these respects is this lovely species that, with, perhaps, one exception, it may easily be identified from all others, P. auricula marginata being the one that most resembles it, that species also being edged and densely covered with farina, but its foliage is larger, not toothed, and its flowers yellow.
P. marginata has bright but light violet flowers on very short scapes, seldom more than 3in. high; these and the calyx also are very mealy. The little leaves are of various shapes, and distinctly toothed, being about the size of the bowl of a dessert spoon. They are neatly arranged in tufts on a short footstalk, which becomes surrounded with young growths, all as clear in their markings as the parent plant, so that a well grown specimen of three years or even less becomes a beautiful object, whether it is on rockwork or in a cold frame.
The flowers are produced and remain in good form for two or three weeks on strong plants, and for nearly the whole year the plant is otherwise attractive.
I scarcely need mention that such plants with mealy and downy foliage are all the better for being sheltered from wind and rain. In a crevice, overhung by a big stone, but where the rockwork is so constructed that plenty of moisture is naturally received, a specimen has done very well indeed, besides keeping its foliage dry and perfect. When such positions can either be found or made, they appear to answer even better than frames, as alpine species cannot endure a stagnant atmosphere, which is the too common lot of frame subjects. It is not very particular as to soil or situation. I grow it both in shade and fully exposed to the mid-day sun of summer, and, though a healthy specimen is grown in loam, I find others to do better in leaf mould mixed with grit and pebbles. It enjoys a rare immunity—the slugs let it alone, or at least my slugs do, for it is said that different tribes or colonies have different tastes. To propagate it, the little offsets about the footstalk should be cut off with a sharp knife when the parent plant has finished flowering; they will mostly be found to have nice long roots. Plant in leaf soil and grit, and keep them shaded for a month.
Flowering period, March to May.
PURPLE-FLOWERED PRIMULA; Nat. Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
A truly grand primrose of the same section as P. denticulata, coming also from an alpine habitat, viz., the higher elevations of the Himalayas. It has not long been in cultivation in this country compared with our knowledge of the Himalayan flora. It is perfectly hardy, but seems to require rather drier situations than most of the large-leaved kinds. I never saw it so fine as when grown on a hillock of rockwork in sand and leaf mould; the specimen had there stood two severe winters, and in the spring of 1881 we were gladdened by its pushing in all directions fifteen scapes, all well topped by its nearly globular heads of fine purple flowers. It begins to flower in March, and keeps on for quite a month.
The flower stems are 9in. high, stout, and covered with a mealy dust, thickest near the top and amongst the small bracts. The umbels of blossom are 2in. to 3in. across, each flower nearly 3/4in. in diameter, the corolla being salver shaped and having its lobed segments pretty well apart; the tube is long and somewhat bellied where touched by the teeth of the calyx; the latter is more than half the length of tube, of a pale green colour, and the teeth, which are long, awl shaped, and clasping, impart to the tubes of the younger flowers a fluted appearance; later on they become relaxed and leafy. The leaves have a strong, broad, pale green, shining mid-rib, are lance-shaped, nearly smooth, wavy, and serrulated; the upper surface is of a lively green colour, and the under side has a similar mealy covering to that of the scape. Flowers and leaves develope at the same time, the latter being 8in. long and of irregular arrangement.
The exceedingly floriferous character of this otherwise handsome primula renders it one of the very best subjects for the spring garden; it should have a place in the most select collections, as well as in more general assemblages of plants, for not only does it take care of itself when once properly planted, but it increases fast, forming noble tufts a foot in diameter, than which few things give a finer effect or an equal quantity of flowers at a time when they are not too plentiful. As already hinted, it should have a somewhat drier position than P. denticulata, but by no means should it suffer from drought, and a little shade will be beneficial. Propagated by division during the growing season, immediately after flowering being the best time.
Flowering period, March and April.
SCOTTISH PRIMROSE; Nat. Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
This charming little member of the British flora very much resembles the native Bird's-eye Primrose (P. farinosa), which is very common in some parts. It is not uniformly conceded to be a distinct species, but many botanists believe it to be such. As a matter of fact, it is different from P. farinosa in several important points, though they are not seen at a mere glance. That it has darker flowers and a more dwarf and sturdy habit may, indeed, be readily seen when the two are side by side. Size and colour, however, would not in this case appear to be the most distinctive features. The seed organs differ considerably. "In P. farinosa the germen is broadly obovate and the stigma capitate; here the germen is globose and the stigma has five points." But there is another dissimilarity which may or may not prove much to the botanist, but to the lover of flowers who tries to cultivate them it is all-important. Whilst P. farinosa can be easily grown in various soils and positions, in the same garden P. Scotica refuses to live; so fickle, indeed, is it, that were it not a very lovely flower that can be grown and its fastidious requirements easily afforded, it would not have been classed in this list of garden subjects. Here it begins to blossom in the middle of March at the height of 3in. In its habitats in Caithness and the north coast of Sutherland it is considerably later—April and May.
The flowers are arranged in a crowded umbel on a short stoutish scape; they are of a deep-bluish purple, with a yellow eye; the divisions of the corolla are flat and lobed; calyx nearly as long as tube, and ventricose or unevenly swollen. The whole flower is much less than P. farinosa. The leaves are also smaller than those of that species; obovate, lanceolate, denticulate, and very mealy underneath.
To grow it requires not only a light but somewhat spongy soil, as peat and sand, but it should never be allowed to get dry at the roots; a top dressing during summer of sand and half decayed leaves is a great help to it, for the roots are not only then very active, going deep and issuing from the base of the leaves, but they require something they can immediately grow into when just forming, and to be protected from drought. It will be well to remember that its principal habitats are on the sandy shores, as that gives a proper idea of the bottom moisture, and, from the looseness of the sand, the drier condition of the immediate surface. My specimens have always dwindled during summer and failed to appear the following spring, excepting where such treatment as the above has been adopted. I am much indebted for these hints to several amateurs, who grow it well. That many fail with it is evidenced by the facts that it is in great demand every spring and that there are few sources of supply other than its wild home. Never was it more sought for, perhaps, than at the present time, not only by amateurs at home, but by both private and trade growers abroad. The exquisite beauty of this primrose when well grown and the technical care required to have it in that condition are both things of which any plant lover may be proud.
If once established, its propagation is scarcely an affair of the cultivator's; the self-sown seed appears to germinate with far more certainty when left alone, and, as the plants are always very small, they hardly need to be transplanted. If left alone, though they are often much less than an inch across, many will flower the first season. Some have taken it as something of a biennial character. The treatment is at fault when it gives cause for such impressions; its perennial quality is both authorised and proved under cultivation.
Flowering period, March to May.
Nat. Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
The specific name of this noble and lovely plant has reference to its habitat, Sikkim, in the Himalayas, where it was found not many years ago. It is not largely cultivated yet—probably not well known. It may, however, be frequently met with in choice collections, where no plant is more worthy of a place. Its general character may be said to be very distinct, especially when in flower. It is herbaceous, hardy, and perennial. Its hardiness has been questioned for several years, but the winters of 1880 and 1881 settled that beyond the region of doubt. I had then many plants of it fully exposed, without even a top-dressing, which is sometimes given to plants of unquestionable hardiness, and they stood the winters as well as their kindred species—our common Cowslip. It was also said to be not more than biennial, as if it were a plant too good to be without some fatal fault for our climate. However, I can say emphatically that it is more than biennial, as the specimens from which the drawing (Fig. 78) is taken are three years old. Several correspondents have written me stating that their plants are dead. That has been during their season of dormancy, but in every case they have pushed at the proper time. I may as well here explain, though somewhat out of order, a peculiarity in reference to the roots of this species: it dies down in early autumn, and the crown seems to retire within the ball of its roots, which are a matted mass of fibres, and not only does it seem to retire, but also to dwindle, so that anyone, with a suspicion, who might be seeking for the vital part, might easily be misled by such appearances, which are further added to by the fact that the species does not start into growth until a late date compared with others of the genus. So peculiar are the roots and crown of this plant, that if a root were dug up in mid-winter, and the soil partly shaken from it, a two-year-old specimen would be found to be the size and shape of a cricket ball, and the position of the crown so difficult to find that, on planting the root again, considerable discrimination would have to be exercised, or the crown might be pointed the wrong way.
P. Sikkimensis is a Cowslip. The flowers are a pale primrose yellow, rendered more pale still by a mealiness which covers the whole stem, being most abundant near the top, but whether it is produced on the petals, or, owing to their bell-shape and pendent form they receive it from the scape and pedicels by the action of the wind, I cannot say. The flowers are considerably over 1in. long; they are numerously produced on long drooping pedicels, of irregular lengths; the tallest scape of the specimen illustrated is 18in. high, but under more favourable conditions this Cowslip has been said to reach a height of 3ft. The leaves are 6in. to 12in. long, wrinkled, unevenly dentate, oblong and blunt; during the time of seeding the leaves increase in length, some becoming spathulate, or broadly stalked; it ripens seed plentifully, from which seedlings come true.
Although I have never grown this noble plant otherwise than in ordinary garden loam well enriched and in shady borders, it is said to be more at home in peaty soil always in a moist state. However that may be, I have proved it to do well under ordinary treatment; it should be well watered during hot dry weather; amongst dwarf trees, in the more damp parts of rockwork, or at the foot of a north wall covered with any kind of foliage, it will be grown and seen to advantage.
Besides by seed, which should be sown as soon as ripened, it may be propagated by root divisions at the time the crowns are pushing in spring.
Flowering period, June and July.
Primula Vulgaris Flore-pleno.
DOUBLE-FLOWERED PRIMROSE; Nat. Ord. PRIMULACEAE.
It is not intended to descant upon, or even attempt to name, the many forms of Double Primrose; the object is more to direct the attention of the reader to one which is a truly valuable flower and ought to be in every garden. Let me at once state its chief points. Colour, yellow; flowers, large, full, clear, and sweetly scented, produced regularly twice a year; foliage, short, rigid, evergreen, handsome, and supporting the flowers from earth splashes. Having grown this variety for five years, I have proved it to be as stated during both mild and severe seasons. It seems as if it wanted to commence its blooming period about October, from which time to the severest part of winter it affords a goodly amount of flowers; it is then stopped for a while, though its buds can be seen during the whole winter, and when the longer days and vernal sunshine return, it soon becomes thickly covered with blossoms, which are of the most desirable kind for spring gathering.
Its flowers need no further description beyond that already given; but I may add that the stalks are somewhat short, which is an advantage, as the bloom is kept more amongst the leaves and away from the mud. The foliage is truly handsome, short, finely toothed, rolled back, pleasingly wrinkled, and of a pale green colour. It is very hardy, standing all kinds of weather, and I never saw it rot at the older crowns, like so many of the fine varieties, but it goes on growing, forming itself into large tufts a foot and more across.
It has been tried in stiff loam and light vegetable soil; in shade, and fully exposed; it has proved to do equally well in both kinds of soil, but where it received the full force of the summer sun the plants were weak, infested with red spider, and had a poorer crop of flowers. It would, therefore, appear that soil is of little or no importance, but that partial shade is needful. It is not only a variety worth the having, but one which deserves to have the best possible treatment, for flowers in winter—and such flowers—are worth all care.
Flowering periods, late autumn and early spring to June.
LUNGWORTS; Nat. Ord. BORAGINACEAE.
In speaking of these hardy herbaceous perennials, I should wish to be understood that the section, often and more properly called Mertensia, is not included because they are so very distinct in habit and colour of both flowers and foliage. Most of the Pulmonarias begin to flower early in March, and continue to do so for a very long time, quite two months.
For the most part, the flowers (which are borne on stems about 8in. high, in straggling clusters) are of changing colours, as from pink to blue; they are small but pretty, and also have a quaint appearance. The foliage during the blooming period is not nearly developed, the plants being then somewhat small in all their parts, but later the leaf growth goes on rapidly, and some kinds are truly handsome from their fine spreading habit and clear markings of large white spots on the leaves, which are often 9in. or 10in. long and 3in. broad, oblong, lanceolate, taper-pointed, and rough, with stiff hairs. At this stage they would seem to be in their most decorative form, though their flowers, in a cut state, formed into "posies," are very beautiful and really charming when massed for table decoration; on the plant they have a faded appearance.
Many of the species or varieties have but slight distinctions, though all are beautiful. A few may be briefly noticed otherwise than as above:
P. officinalis is British, and typical of several others. Flowers pink, turning to blue; leaves blotted.
P. off. alba differs only in the flowers being an unchanging white.
P. angustifolia, also British, having, as its specific name implies, narrow leaves; flowers bright blue or violet.
P. mollis, in several varieties, comes from North America; is distinct from its leaves being smaller, the markings or spots less distinct, and more thickly covered with soft hairs, whence its name.
P. azurea has not only a well-marked leaf, but also a very bright and beautiful azure flower; it comes from Poland.
P. maculata has the most clearly and richly marked leaf, and perhaps the largest, that being the chief distinction.
P. saccharata is later; its flowers are pink, and not otherwise very distinct from some of the above kinds.
It is not necessary to enumerate others, as the main points of difference are to be found in the above-mentioned kinds.
All are very easily cultivated; any kind of soil will do for them, but they repay liberal treatment by the extra quality of their foliage. Their long and thick fleshy roots allow of their being transplanted at any time of the year. Large clumps, however, are better divided in early spring, even though they are then in flower.
Flowering period, March to May.
SCILLA-LIKE PUSCHKINIA, or STRIPED SQUILL; Syns. P. LIBANOTICA, ADAMSIA SCILLOIDES; Nat. Ord. LILIACEAE.
As all its names, common and botanical, denote, this charming bulbous plant is like the scillas; it may, therefore, be useful to point out the distinctions which divide them. They are (in the flowers) to be seen at a glance; within the spreading perianth there is a tubular crown or corona, having six lobes and a membranous fringe. This crown is connected at the base of the divisions of the perianth, which divisions do not go to the base of the flower, but form what may be called an outer tube. In the scilla there is no corona, neither a tube, but the petal-like sepals or divisions of the perianth are entire, going to the base of the flower. There are other but less visible differences which need not be further gone into. Although there are but two or three known species of the genus, we have not only a confusion of names, but plants of another genus have been mistaken as belonging to this. Mr. Baker, of Kew, however, has put both the plants and names to their proper belongings, and we are no longer puzzled with a chionodoxa under the name of Puschkinia. This Lilywort came from Siberia in 1819, and was long considered a tender bulb in this climate, and even yet by many it is treated as such. With ordinary care—judicious planting—it not only proves hardy, but increases fast. Still, it is a rare plant, and very seldom seen, notwithstanding its great beauty. It was named by Adams, in honour of the Russian botanist, Count Puschkin, whence the two synonymous names Puschkinia and Adamsia; there is also another name, specific, which, though still used, has become discarded by authorities, viz., P. Libanotica—this was supposed to be in reference to one of its habitats being on Mount Lebanon. During mild winters it flowers in March, and so delicately marked are its blossoms that one must always feel that its beauties are mainly lost from the proverbial harshness of the season.
At the height of 4in. to 8in. the flowers are produced on slender bending scapes, the spikes of blossom are arranged one-sided; each flower is 1/2in. to nearly 1in. across, white, richly striped with pale blue down the centre, and on both sides of the petal-like divisions. The latter are of equal length, lance-shaped, and finely reflexed; there is a short tube, on the mouth of which is joined the smaller one of the corona. The latter is conspicuous from the reflexed condition of the limb of the perianth, and also from its lobes and membranous fringe being a soft lemon-yellow colour. The pedicels are slender and distant, causing the flower spikes, which are composed of four to eight flowers, to have a lax appearance. The leaves are few, 4in. to 6in. long, lance-shaped, concave, but flatter near the apex, of good substance and a dark green colour; bulb small.
As already stated, a little care is needed in planting this choice bulbous subject. It enjoys a rich, but light soil. It does not so much matter whether it is loamy or of a vegetable nature if it is light and well drained; and, provided it is planted under such conditions and in full sunshine, it will both bloom well and increase. It may be propagated by division of the roots during late summer, when the tops have died off; but only tufts having a crowded appearance should be disturbed for an increase of stock.
Flowering period, March to May.
P. s. compacta is a variety of the above, having a stronger habit and bolder flowers. The latter are more numerous, have shorter pedicels, and are compactly arranged in the spike—whence the name. Culture, propagation, and flowering time, same as last.
MARSH FEVERFEW; Nat. Ord. COMPOSITAE.
A very bold and strong growing species, belonging to a numerous genus; it comes to us from Hungary, and has been grown more or less in English gardens a little over sixty years. It is a distinct species, its large flowers, the height to which it grows, and the strength of its willow-like stalks being its chief characteristics. Still, to anyone with but a slight knowledge of hardy plants, it asserts itself at once as a Pyrethrum. It is hardy, herbaceous, and perennial, and worth growing in every garden where there is room for large growing subjects. There is something about this plant when in flower which a bare description fails to explain; to do it justice it should be seen when in full bloom.
Its flowers are large and ox-eye-daisy-like, having a white ray, with yellow centre, but the florets are larger in proportion to the disk; plain and quiet as the individual flowers appear, when seen in numbers (as they always may be seen on well-established specimens), they are strikingly beautiful, the blooms are more than 2in. across, and the mass comes level with the eye, for the stems are over 5ft. high, and though very stout, the branched stems which carry the flowers are slender and gracefully bending. The leaves are smooth, lance-shaped, and sharply toothed, fully 4in. long, and stalkless; they are irregularly but numerously disposed on the stout round stems, and of nearly uniform size and shape until the corymbose branches are reached, i.e., for 4ft. or 5ft. of their length; when the leaves are fully grown they reflex or hang down, and totally hide the stems. This habit, coupled with the graceful and nodding appearance of the large white flowers, renders this a pleasing subject, especially for situations where tall plants are required, such as near and in shrubberies. I grow but one strong specimen, and it looks well between two apple trees, but not over-shaded. The idea in planting it there was to obtain some protection from strong winds, and to avoid the labour and eyesore which staking would create.
It likes a stiff loam, but is not particular as to soil if only it is somewhat damp. The flowers last three weeks; and in a cut state are also very effective; and, whether so appropriated or left on the plant, they will be found to be very enduring. When cutting these flowers, the whole corymb should be taken, as in this particular case we could not wish for a finer arrangement, and being contemporaneous with the Michaelmas daisy, the bloom branches of the two subjects form elegant and fashionable decorations for table or vase use. To propagate this plant, it is only needed to divide the roots in November, and plant in deeply-dug but damp soil.
Flowering period, August to September.
Syns. CHAIXIA MYCONI and VERBASCUM MYCONI; Nat. Ord. SOLANACEAE.
This is a very dwarf and beautiful alpine plant, from the Pyrenees, the one and only species of the genus. Although it is sometimes called a Verbascum or Mullien, it is widely distinct from all the plants of that family. To lovers of dwarf subjects this must be one of the most desirable; small as it is, it is full of character.
The flowers, when held up to a good light, are seen to be downy and of ice-like transparency; they are of a delicate, pale, violet colour, and a little more than an inch in diameter, produced on stems 3in. to 4in. high, which are nearly red, and furnished with numerous hairs; otherwise the flower stems are nude, seldom more than two flowers, and oftener only one bloom is seen on a stem. The pedicels, which are about half-an-inch long, bend downwards, but the flowers, when fully expanded, rise a little; the calyx is green, downy, five-parted, the divisions being short and reflexed at their points; the corolla is rotate, flat, and, in the case of flowers several days old, thrown back; the petals are nearly round, slightly uneven, and waved at the edges, having minute protuberances at their base tipped with bright orange, shading to white; the seed organs are very prominent; stamens arrow-shaped; pistil more than twice the length of filaments and anthers combined, white, tipped with green. The leaves are arranged in very flat rosettes, the latter being from four to eight inches across. The foliage is entirely stemless, the nude flower stalks issuing from between the leaves, which are roundly toothed, evenly and deeply wrinkled, and elliptical in outline. Underneath, the ribs are very prominent, and the covering of hairs rather long, as are also those of the edges. On the upper surface the hairs are short and stiff.
In the more moist interstices of rockwork, where, against and between large stones, its roots will be safe from drought, it will not only be a pleasing ornament, but will be likely to thrive and flower well. It is perfectly hardy, but there is one condition of our climate which tries it very much—the wet, and alternate frosts and thaws of winter. From its hairy character and flat form, the plant is scarcely ever dry, and rot sets in. This is more especially the case with specimens planted flat; it is therefore a great help against such climatic conditions to place the plants in rockwork, so that the rosettes are as nearly as possible at right angles with the ground level. Another interesting way to grow this lovely and valuable species is in pans or large pots, but this system requires some shelter in winter, as the plants will be flat. The advantages of this mode are that five or six specimens so grown are very effective. They can, from higher cultivation (by giving them richer soil, liquid manure, and by judicious confinement of their roots), be brought into a more floriferous condition, and when the flowers appear, they can be removed into some cool light situation, under cover, so that their beauties can be more enjoyed, and not be liable to damage by splashing, &c. Plants so grown should be potted in sandy peat, and a few pieces of sandstone placed over the roots, slightly cropping out of the surface; these will not only help to keep the roots from being droughted, but also bear up the rosetted leaves, and so allow a better circulation of air about the collars, that being the place where rot usually sets in. In the case of specimens which do not get proper treatment, or which have undergone a transplanting to their disadvantage, they will often remain perfectly dormant to all appearance for a year or more. Such plants should be moved into a moist fissure in rockwork, east aspect, and the soil should be of a peaty character. This may seem like coddling, and a slur on hardy plants. Here, however, we have a valuable subject, which does not find a home in this climate exactly so happy as its native habitat, but which, with a little care, can have things so adapted to its requirements as to be grown year after year in its finest form; such care is not likely to be withheld by the true lover of choice alpines.
This somewhat slow-growing species may be propagated by division, but only perfectly healthy specimens should be selected for the purpose, early spring being the best time; by seed also it may be increased; the process, however, is slow, and the seedlings will be two years at least before they flower.
Flowering period, May to July.
ACONITE-LEAVED CROWFOOT, or BACHELORS' BUTTONS; Nat. Ord. RANUNCULACEAE.
An herbaceous perennial, of the alpine parts of Europe, and for a long time cultivated in this country. It grows 1ft. high, is much branched in zigzag form, and produces numerous flowers, resembling those of the strawberry, but only about half the size; the leaves are finely cut and of a dark green colour; it is not a plant worth growing for its flowers, but the reason why I briefly speak of it here is that I may more properly introduce that grand old flower of which it is the parent, R. a. fl.-pl. (see Fig. 79), the true "English double white Crowfoote," or Bachelor's Buttons; these are the common names which Gerarde gives as borne by this plant nearly 300 years ago, and there can be no mistaking the plant, as he figures it in his "Historie of Plantes," p. 812; true, he gives it a different Latin name to the one it bears at the present time; still, it is the same plant, and his name for it (R. albus multiflorus) is strictly and correctly specific. Numerous flowers are called Bachelor's Buttons, including daisies, globe flowers, pyrethrums, and different kinds of ranunculi, but here we have the "original and true;" probably it originated in some ancient English garden, as Gerarde says, "It groweth in the gardens of herbarists & louers of strange plants, whereof we have good plentie, but it groweth not wild anywhere."
Its round smooth stems are stout, zigzag, and much branched, forming the plant into a neat compact bush, in size (of plants two or more years old) 2ft. high and 2ft. through. The flowers are white, and very double or full of petals, evenly and beautifully arranged, salver shape, forming a flower sometimes nearly an inch across; the purity of their whiteness is not marred by even an eye, and they are abundantly produced and for a long time in succession. The leaves are of a dark shining green colour, richly cut—as the specific name implies—after the style of the Aconites; the roots are fasciculate, long, and fleshy.
This "old-fashioned" plant is now in great favour and much sought after; and no wonder, for its flowers are perfection, and the plant one of the most decorative and suitable for any position in the garden. In a cut state the flowers do excellent service. This subject is easily cultivated, but to have large specimens, with plenty of flowers, a deep, well enriched soil is indispensable; stagnant moisture should be avoided. Autumn is the best time to divide the roots.
Flowering period, May to July.
Ranunculus Acris Flore-pleno.
DOUBLE ACRID CROWFOOT, YELLOW BACHELOR'S BUTTONS; Nat. Ord. RANUNCULACEAE.
The type of this is a common British plant, most nearly related to the field buttercup. I am not going to describe it, but mention it as I wish to introduce R. acris fl.-pl., sometimes called "yellow Bachelor's Buttons"—indeed, that is the correct common name for it, as used fully 300 years ago. In every way, with the exception of its fine double flowers, it resembles very much the tall meadow buttercup, so that it needs no further description; but, common as is its parentage, it is both a showy and useful border flower, and forms a capital companion to the double white Bachelor's Buttons (R. aconitifolius fl.-pl.).
Flowering period, April to June.
STEM-CLASPING RANUNCULUS; Nat. Ord. RANUNCULACEAE.
A very hardy subject; effective and beautiful. The form of this plant is exceedingly neat, and its attractiveness is further added to by its smooth and pale glaucous foliage. It was introduced into this country more than 200 years ago, from the Pyrenees. Still it is not generally grown, though at a first glance it asserts itself a plant of first-class merit (see Fig. 80).
The shortest and, perhaps, best description of its flowers will be given when I say they are white Buttercups, produced on stout stems nearly a foot high, which are also furnished by entire stem-clasping leaves, whence its name; other leaves are of varying forms, mostly broadly lance-shaped, and some once-notched; those of the root are nearly spoon-shaped. The whole plant is very smooth and glaucous, also covered with a fine meal. As a plant, it is effective; but grown by the side of R. montanus and the geums, which have flowers of similar shape, it is seen to more advantage.
On rockwork, in leaf soil, it does remarkably well; in loam it seems somewhat stunted. Its flowers are very serviceable in a cut state, and they are produced in succession for three or four weeks on the same plant. It has large, fleshy, semi-tuberous roots, and many of them; so that at any time it may be transplanted. I have pulled even flowering plants to pieces, and the different parts, which, of course, had plenty of roots to them, still continued to bloom.
Flowering period, April and May.
SHOWY CROWFOOT; Nat. Ord. RANUNCULACEAE.
This is another double yellow form of the Buttercup. It has only recently come into my possession. The blooms are very large and beautiful, double the size of R. acris fl.-pl., and a deeper yellow; the habit, too, is much more dwarf, the leaves larger, but similar in shape.
Flowering period, April to June.
All the foregoing Crowfoots are of the easiest culture, needing no particular treatment; but they like rich and deep soil. They may be increased by division at almost any time, the exceptions being when flowering or at a droughty season.
CALIFORNIAN CONE-FLOWER; Nat. Ord. COMPOSITAE.
This, in all its parts, is a very large and showy subject; the flowers are 3in. to 6in. across, in the style of the sunflower. It has not long been grown in English gardens, and came, as its name implies, from California: it is very suitable for association with old-fashioned flowers, being nearly related to the genus Helianthus, or sunflower. It is not only perfectly hardy in this climate, which is more than can be said of very many of the Californian species, but it grows rampantly and flowers well. It is all the more valuable as a flower from the fact that it comes into bloom several weeks earlier than most of the large yellow Composites. Having stated already the size of its flower, I need scarcely add that it is one of the showiest subjects in the garden; it is, however, as well to keep it in the background, not only on account of its tallness, but also because of its coarse abundant foliage.
It grows 4ft. to 6ft. high, the stems being many-branched. The flowers have erect stout stalks, and vary in size from 3in. to 6in. across, being of a light but glistening yellow colour; the ray is somewhat unevenly formed, owing to the florets being of various sizes, sometimes slit at the points, lobed, notched, and bent; the disk is very bold, being nearly 2in. high, in the form of a cone, whence the name "cone flower." The fertile florets of the disk or cone are green, and produce an abundance of yellow pollen, but it is gradually developed, and forms a yellow ring round the dark green cone, which rises slowly to the top when the florets of the ray fall; from this it will be seen that the flowers last a long time. The leaves of the root are sometimes a foot in length and half as broad, being oval, pointed, and sometimes notched or lobed; also rough, from a covering of short stiff hairs, and having once-grooved stout stalks 9in. or more long; the leaves of the stems are much smaller, generally oval, but of very uneven form, bluntly pointed, distinctly toothed, and some of the teeth so large as to be more appropriately described as segments; the base abruptly narrows into a very short stalk. The flowers of this plant are sure to meet with much favour, especially while the present fashion continues; but apart from fashion, merely considered as a decorative subject for the garden, it is well worth a place. There are larger yellow Composites, but either they are much later, or they are not perennial species, and otherwise this one differs materially from them.
I need not say anything respecting this form of flower in a cut state—its effectiveness is well known. If planted in ordinary garden loam it will hold its place and bloom freely year after year without further care. Smaller subjects should not be set too near it; it may be unadvisable to plant too many clumps in the same garden, but it can be allowed to spread into one bold patch. The best time to divide or transplant is in early spring, when growth is just pushing, for vigorous as this and many other perennials are, I have often found them to rot, when the dormant roots, after being cut into pieces, have had to face the winter.
Flowering period, July to September.
Late CONE-FLOWER; Nat. Ord. COMPOSITAE.
This hardy American species, though not an old plant in English gardens, is nevertheless classed with "old-fashioned" plants and flowers; and certainly its sombre but pleasing dark golden ray flowers, together with its likeness to many of the old sunflowers, favours such classification. It is the latest of a late-flowering genus.
It attains the height of 2ft.; the root leaves are of irregular shape, some oval and pointed, others, on the same plant, being lance-shaped, with two or three large teeth or acute lobes; in size the leaves also vary from 3in. to 8in. long, and being covered with short bristly hairs, they are very rough, also of a dull green colour; the flower stems have but few leaves, so it will be judged that the plant has but a weedy appearance, but this is compensated for by the rich and numerous large dark orange flowers, 3in. across; the ray is single, and the centre, which is large and prominent, is a rich chocolate brown.
This subject, to be effective, should be grown in large specimens; mine is about 3ft. in diameter, and the level mass of flowers, as I have often noticed them in twilight, were grandly beautiful. I can well understand that many have not cared for this cone flower when they have judged it from a small plant which has sent up its first, and perhaps abnormal, bloom. It is especially a subject that should be seen in bold clumps, and in moderately rich soil it will soon become such. Moreover, the flowers are very effective in a cut state, when loosely arranged in vases, only needing something in the way of tall grasses to blend with in order to form an antique "posy."
Autumn is the best time to plant it; its long roots denote that it enjoys deep soil, and, when planted, the roots of this, as well as all others then being transplanted, should be made firm, otherwise the frost will lift them out and the droughts will finish them off. Many plants are lost in this manner, and, indeed, many short-rooted kinds are scarcely saved by the greatest care. The stem-rooting character of this plant affords ready means of propagation by root divisions.
Flowering period, from September till strong frosts.
WRINKLED or NETTED WILLOW; Nat. Ord. SALICACEAE.
A native deciduous shrub, of creeping or prostrate habit, not growing higher than 2in. As the flowers are inconspicuous and only interesting to the botanist or when under the microscope, let me at once say I mention this subject because of its beautiful habit and distinct quality of foliage. When grown on rockwork, no other plant can compare with it, and where choice spring bulbs are planted, this handsome creeper may be allowed, without injury to such roots, to broadly establish itself; so grown, its little stout leaves, thickly produced, flatly on the surface, are much admired.
The flowers or catkins stand well above the foliage, but are unattractive, being of a dusky brown colour; the leaves are dark green, downy, of much substance, 11/2in. long, and nearly 1in. broad, but the size of foliage varies according to the conditions under which the specimens are grown; the sizes now referred to are of plants grown on rather dry rockwork and fully exposed; the form of the leaves is orbicular, obtuse, not in the least notched, bald, reticulately veined, and glaucous beneath; the stems are short and diffuse, and tinged with red on the younger parts.
During winter, when bare of foliage, its thick creeping stems, covered with fat buds and interlaced in a pleasing manner, render it interesting in almost any situation not shaded. It forms a capital carpet plant from early spring to the end of summer.
It is in no way particular as regards soil, and though it loves moisture, like most other willows, it proves thriving in dry places. It is, moreover, a good grower in large towns. Its propagation may be carried out before the leaves unfold in spring. Little branches with roots to them may be cut from the parent plant, and should be set in sandy loam and watered well to settle it about the roots.
Flowering period, September to strong frosts.
BLOODROOT; Nat. Ord. PAPAVERACEAE.
This is a native of North America, and is, therefore, hardy in this climate; tuberous rooted. It is a curious plant, not only from its great fulness of sap or juice, which is red (that of the root being darker, whence its name Bloodroot), but also because of the shape of its leaves, their colour, and method of development (see Fig. 81). Though very dwarf, it is handsome and distinct.
The flowers are pure white and nearly 2in. across; the petals have good substance, but they fall in five or six sunny days; the stamens are numerous and bright yellow. Though belonging to the order of the Poppy, it is in many respects unlike it; each flower stem, which is 6in. high, springs directly from the root, and only one flower is produced on a stem; the leaves are also radical, so that the plant is branchless and stemless; the leaf stalks are rather shorter than those of the flowers. The foliage is of a slate-grey colour, prominently veined on the under side, the upper surface being somewhat wrinkled; the leaves are 3in. across when fully developed, vine-leaf shaped, deeply and beautifully lobed; their development is slow, not being completed until the bloom is past. Both leaves and flowers are produced in a curious fashion; for a time the flower-bud is compactly enfolded by a leaf, and so both grow up to the height of 2in. or 3in., when the former pushes through, and soon swells its olive-shaped buds. At this stage a good specimen clump is very attractive, and is only more so when the fine blooms first open.
It should be grown amongst some such carpeting plants as Sibthorpia Europaea or Linaria pilosa, so as to protect it; moreover, these creepers are suited for a similar soil and position. The soil should be light, either of sandy or vegetable character, but one that cannot bake; shade from the mid-day sun is essential, as also is plenty of moisture. When the growths have become crowded, as they do in about three years, it is as well to lift, divide, and replant at a distance of 3in.; this is best done after the tops have died off in summer; plant 4in. or 5in. deep.
Flowering period, April and May.
ROCK SOAPWORT, or BASIL-LEAVED SOAPWORT: Nat. Ord. SILENACEAE.
A very hardy alpine from France, and one of the most floriferous subjects that can be placed on rockwork, where should be its position. During a single season it is no uncommon thing to see a small plant grow into a large cushion 2ft. in diameter, and only 6in. or 9in. high. In planting it this fact should not be overlooked, not only for the sake of giving it plenty of room, but also in order that less vigorous subjects near it may not become overgrown; it blooms all summer, and though the flowers are small and not at all bright, their numbers render it attractive.
The flowers, which are about 1/2in. across, are of a pink colour, and produced on many-branched prostrate stems; the calyx is five-toothed; the corolla is formed of five flat petals; the leaves are small, basil-like, oval-lance shaped, entire and smooth; the general appearance of the plant when in bloom is that of a compact mass of small leaves and flowers, the latter predominating.
It will grow in any kind of soil, but prefers that of a vegetable character, with its roots amongst large stones; but, strictly speaking, it needs nothing but an open situation and plenty of room to spread. It ripens an abundance of seed, and there is not a better mode of propagation than its own; hundreds of stout seedlings appear the following spring around the parent plant, and these may then be transplanted, and they will flower the same season.
S. o. splendens is a variety of the above very much improved indeed; and though one cannot discard the good old plant for its very recent offspring, the former is certainly very much eclipsed. Splendens has foliage slightly different, but its flowers are much larger and brighter; and though it may not be quite so vigorous, in this case that may be considered an improvement. It is said to come true from seed.
Flowering period, May to August.
BURSER'S SAXIFRAGE; Nat. Ord. SAXIFRAGACEAE.
A hardy evergreen alpine. A native of Carniola, not long discovered, and quite new to English gardens. Though it belongs to a very extensive genus, it is a distinct species; many of the Saxifrages are not so, neither are they sufficiently decorative to merit a place in any but large or scientific gardens. This one, however, is a truly handsome kind, and its flowers are produced amid the snow and during the bleak and dull weather of mid-winter.
The plant in form is a dense cushion of little spiked rosettes, of a dark green colour, slightly silvered. The flowers are produced on bright ruddy stems 3in. high, and are creamy white, nearly the size of a sixpence. Small as the plant is, a moderate sized specimen is very attractive, especially before the flowers open, when they are in their prettiest form. They open slowly and endure nearly two months.
It enjoys light soil and a well drained situation, such as the edge of a border, where strong growing kinds cannot damage it, or on rockwork, where it will be fully exposed to the sun. To be effective, it should be grown into strong clumps, which may easily be done by annually giving a top-dressing of leaf-mould; the older parts of the plant will remain perfectly sound and healthy for years. When it is desirable to propagate it, it may best be done in April, when the tufts should be carefully divided, and its short roots made firm in the soil by one or two stones being placed near.
Flowering period, January to April.
SILVER MOSS, or GREY SAXIFRAGE; Nat. Ord. SAXIFRAGACEAE.
One of the alpine gems. This has been grown in English gardens since 1752, yet good specimens are rarely met with, though its culture is simple and easy. It is found wild on the Alps of Switzerland, Austria, and the Pyrenees. To the lover of the minute forms of genuine alpine plants, this will be a treasure; it is very distinct in form, habit, and colour. Its tiny rosettes of encrusted leaves can scarcely be said to rise from the ground, and the common name, "silver moss," which it is often called by, most fittingly applies; but perhaps its colour is the main feature of notice. The meaning of its specific name is grey, to which it certainly answers; but so peculiar is the greyness that a more definite description may be useful, in giving which I will quote that of Decandolle and Sprengle: "The lavender-blue is a pale blue (caesius); it is mixed with a little grey." This exactly answers to the colour of the pretty Saxifrage under notice, and it is far from a common one in foliage.
The flowers differ but slightly from those of other encrusted forms of the genus, but they are a creamy white, arranged in small panicles on short and slender stems. They are sparingly produced in May and June. The leaves are 1/4in. long, aggregate or in miniature rosettes; in shape, linear-oblong, recurved, and keeled. The upper surface is concave, having marginal dots, evenly disposed; the dots are bright and excavated, and some of the leaves (those of the stems) are scale formed. The glaucous or lavender-blue colour is beautifully enlivened with the crystal dots. Its habit reminds one of the more distinct forms of lichens, and, when it is grown with suitable companions on rockwork, it has a happy way of showing and adapting itself in such situation; besides, its colour then shows with more effect.
There is a variety of this species not yet in general cultivation, and it cannot be too strongly recommended to lovers of the finest forms of rock or alpine plants. It is called S. c. major (see Fig. 82). The name at once suggests the main difference from the type, but there are other features quite as marked as that of its extra size in all its parts; the foliage is more crowded, which seems to cause the largest leaves to become more erect, and the habit, too, perhaps from the same cause, is ball shaped; the small rosettes of thick encrusted leaves, from the manner in which they are packed together, form a rigid mass, which differs widely both in detail and effect from any other Saxifrage I know.
These dwarf subjects are best suited for rockwork; but another plan, now much practised, is to grow them in pots. This in no way implies that protection is given or needed—these sturdy subjects are far better fully exposed—but the pot system has advantages; when so planted, the roots are more likely to be placed in a better selected compost, and the specimens can be raised in order to examine their miniature beauties. The above kinds enjoy a gritty vegetable soil; perfect drainage is indispensable. These are not among the Saxifrages that are readily propagated; a few crowns or rosettes with short pieces of stem are not sure to root, and if more careful division is not carried out, perhaps but two or three growing bits from a large specimen may be the result, so lessening instead of increasing the stock. Before cutting let the roots be washed clear of soil, trace the long roots, and so cut up the plant that each division will have a share of them. Sometimes a rather large specimen will have but few of such roots, in which case it will prove the better and safer plan to make only a corresponding number of divisions, so making sure of each. A further help to such newly planted stock is gained by placing small stones about the collars; this keeps the plants moist and cool during the dry season, when (after flowering) the divisions should be made.
Flowering period, May and June.
HORN-LEAVED SAXIFRAGE; Nat. Ord. SAXIFRAGACEAE.
For the most part, this numerous genus flowers in spring and early summer, the species now under notice being one of the late bloomers; its flowers however, like most of the Saxifrages, are small and insignificant; on the other hand, its foliage, as may be seen by the illustration (Fig. 83) is highly ornamental. In November, the grand half-globular tufts of rigid dark green foliage are delicately furnished with a whitish exudation, which, seen through a magnifying glass, resembles scales, but seen by the naked eye—and it can be clearly seen without stooping—it gives the idea of hoar frost. We have here, then, an interesting and ornamental subject, which, when grown in collections of considerable variety, proves attractive; and as even after many degrees of frost, it retains its beauty, and, I may add, its finest form, it may be confidently recommended as a suitable winter garden subject. This species proves evergreen in our climate, though a native of Spain, from which country it was imported about eighty years ago. It is sometimes called S. cornutum, a name quite applicable, and it is frequently confounded with S. pentadactylis (the Five-fingered-leaved Saxifrage), which it much resembles, from which, however, it is distinct in several respects.
Its flowers are small, white, and numerous, produced on slender stalks in summer; they are of the general type of the flowers of the mossy section, and need not be further described. The foliage forms rigid cushions, dense, rounded, and of a dark green colour in the early season; later it becomes grey, with an exudation; the leaves are arranged in rosette form, having stout stalks, channelled or folded on the upper surface; there are three deep divisions, and others less cut; the segments are subulate, bent back and tipped with horny mucrones, whence its specific name; these horn-like points are bent under, which, together with their transparency, renders them all but invisible; they can, however, be clearly seen if brought near the eye and looked for on the under side of the foliage. The leaves are of good substance, 1in. to 2in. long, having broad stipules; the stems are exceedingly slender in the older parts, and somewhat woody, having the appearance of being dried up and dead.
On rockwork it is seen in its best form, as the slope not only shows it off better, but is conducive to a finer growth. In flat places, the dense cushions, which are 6in. or 8in. high, often rot from too much moisture. I have never seen this occur in the drier positions afforded by the slopes of a rockery. If planted between large stones it has a happy way of adapting itself to them, and few plants are more effective. It thrives equally well in soil of a loamy or vegetable character, but it seems to enjoy a little limestone, small pieces of which I place round the specimens; they also serve to hold up the lower foliage and favour the admission of air. Where alpines are grown in pots this should form one, as it makes a charming specimen; the drainage should be perfect. It also makes a capital edging plant, especially for raised beds, as then it is accommodated in the same way as on rockwork.
It may be propagated by taking the slips nearest the earth, which will often be found to have a few rootlets, but if not they will still prove the more suitable; if taken in summer and dibbled into sand, they will make good roots in a week or two, when they may be transplanted to their permanent quarters, so as to become established before winter.
HAIRY-MARGINED SAXIFRAGE; Syn. MEGASEA CILIATA; Nat. Ord. SAXIFRAGACEAE.
This is a peculiar, distinct, and beautiful form of Saxifrage; there seems, however, to be some confusion in reference to its nomenclature. That it belongs to the Megasea section there can be little doubt, so that its synonym (M. ciliata) is fairly descriptive; but when it is said to be identical with S. ligulata, also of the Megasea section, the difficulty of recognising the form illustrated as such is very great indeed. It is also supposed to be a variety of S. ligulata, and though it has many important dissimilarities, it has also many affinities. So much does it differ from S. ligulata that it seems to be fully entitled to the specific honours which some authorities have given to it. It differs from S. ligulata, described by Don, in being rough and hairy on both sides of the leaves; in other respects it agrees, more especially in the colour of the flowers, which is uncommon. It may be the Megasea ciliata of Haworth, which Don refers to under S. ligulata, or it may be a distinct form of the latter, as, on the authority of Dr. Wallich, of the Botanical Gardens of Calcutta, the species has varieties. Wherever its proper place may be in its numerous genus, the name at the head hereof is a good descriptive one. It is an Indian contribution, hailing from the mountains east of Bengal. In this climate it endures our winters, though it is not one of the hardiest of its tribe. It has not long been cultivated in this country, and is rarely met with. Its distinct habit and fine flowers render it desirable, and it will with many be more so on the score of its peculiarities. A few of the latter may be mentioned here. Anthers very large, and brick-red before becoming pollenized; scapes and scape-sheaths nearly smooth, though all other foliar parts are hairy; stipules very large and fully developed whilst the leaves are in their rudimentary stage. When not in flower the plant has a strong resemblance to S. sarmentosa, which belongs to another section, but S. ciliata has features belonging to both sections. The habit, however, is more flat, and leaves more oval, and if, as has been hinted, this is a hybrid, it may not be without some relationship to that species, which is also of Asian origin. Further, on the authority of Murray, Sax. sarmentosa is identical with S. ligulata; so that, if we may suppose S. ciliata to be a distinct variety of S. ligulata, and the latter to have such affinity to S. sarmentosa that Murray puts it as identical, the chief difference between our subject and the form generally accepted as S. ligulata is accounted for, viz., the hairy and rougher surfaces of the leaves, which are traits of the well-known S. sarmentosa. If these remarks prove nothing, they may serve to show the difficulty of recognising the various forms and species of so popular a genus from reading alone, it having been so extensively treated of, and the classifications being so varied. Its study, when the species are being cultivated, is simply delightful, compared with the confusion of book study alone; and yet it is no uncommon thing, when forming a collection of Saxifrages, to receive three or four different forms from different sources under the same name, and each perhaps more or less authorised. The student by growing this genus of plants will reap other pleasures than that of identification, and in a few years time will find in his own garden (as the outcome of growing allied species) new forms springing from seed, and scattered about the beds and walks in a pleasing and suggestive manner. (See Fig. 84.)
The present subject has bell-shaped flowers, arranged in short-branched panicles, each flower 3/4in. across, and sometimes, when well expanded, quite an inch; the colour is a delicate pink-tinted white; petals obovate and concave, inserted in the calyx, clawed, sometimes notched and even lobed; stamens long as petals, inserted in throat of calyx, stout, green changing to pink; anthers large and brick red when young; styles massive, joining close together, turgid, nearly long as stamens, and pale green; stigmas, simple, beardless, turning to a red colour; calyx bell-shaped, five-parted, wrinkled; segments slightly reflexed and conniving or joining; scapes 4in. to 6in. high, stout and smooth, excepting solitary hairs; bracts, leaf-like; leaves oval or cordate, 2in. to 4in. long, wrinkled, slightly waved, and toothed, conspicuously ciliated or haired on the margin, whence the specific name "ciliata." Both surfaces are also furnished with short stiff hairs, the whole leaf being stout and flatly arranged; leaf stalks short, thick, and furnished with numerous long hairs, and ample stipules, which are glabrous, but beautifully ciliated. Roots, woody, and slightly creeping on the surface. Habit of foliage reflexing, forming flat masses; smaller or supplementary scapes are sent up later than the main scape, from the midst of the stipules, bearing flowers in ones and twos. The blossom, which is effective and very beautiful, is also sweetly scented, like the hawthorn.
As already hinted, this is not one of the most hardy Saxifrages, but I have twice wintered it out on gritty beds, well raised, also on rockwork, under a warm south wall; and, as such positions can be found or made in most gardens, it would be advisable to try and establish this distinct and lovely spring bloomer. Lime and sandstone grit mixed with loam and leaf soil I find to be the best compost I have yet tried for it; in fact, until a dry situation and a little lime were given, it proved a shy bloomer. It is now quite the reverse, notwithstanding that the roots were divided during the previous autumn. Fogs and rain are its greatest plagues, owing to its hairy nature; the glass and wire shelters should be used for this most deserving subject. Propagated by division of the woody semi-creeping roots during early autumn; each division should have a crown and some roots, when they may be planted in their permanent quarters.
Flowering period, March to May.
Saxifraga (Megasea) Cordifolia.
Nat. Ord. SAXIFRAGACEAE.
A first-class herbaceous perennial, grown for over a hundred years in English gardens; it comes from Siberia, and consequently, it is very hardy in this climate. The Megasea section of the Saxifraga is a very distinct genus; there are several forms with but slight distinctions in the section, but the species now under notice may be readily distinguished from its nearest known relatives, first by its extra size in all its parts, next by its wrinkled heart-shaped leaves.
The flowers are produced on stout stems nearly a foot high, a section of which will cut the size of a sixpenny piece; the rose-coloured flowers are perfectly developed before they push through the many-times over-lapped foliage; they are neatly arranged, the branching stems sometimes giving the panicle of blossom the form and also the size of a moderate bunch of grapes. Just at this stage the flowers, to be most enjoyed, should be cut before the weather spoils their delicate colour. The fine pale green calyx, which is also conspicuous by its handsome form and extra length, is far from the least important feature of this flower, especially at the above-mentioned stage. The leaves are 6in. to 10in. across.
Of the use of its flowers in a cut state, a few words may be said. The weather soon destroys their beauty, but when cut they may be preserved for fully a fortnight. On one occasion I took a blossom and placed it in a flower stand for single specimen blooms; in this instance all the other glasses held such fine roses as Baroness Rothschild, Madame Lacharme, and Edouard Morren, but so richly did it compare with these roses that it was given the place of honour—the top centre glass; this flower I should say had never seen the full light in the open. After that others pushed out of the leaves and were speedily damaged, and not fit to cut.
Flowering period, March to May.
Nat. Ord. SAXIFRAGACEAE.
This is a rather recently discovered alpine species, very dwarf, but beautiful. The specific name would appear to be in allusion to its flowers as pink-shaped; they are very small, but the reader, by referring to the cut (Fig. 85), may form his own opinion of such likeness; however well founded or otherwise the name may be, we have in this subject a gem for the rock garden. It is a native of Albania, and belongs to that section of its extensive genus having triquetrous and obtuse leaves, or blunt three-sided foliage, as formed by a well developed keel. It is in flower in the middle of March, at the height of 2in. All its parts are of miniature dimensions, and yet when grown in a suitable position it is effective.
The flowers are pure white, produced on leafy stems an inch or more high; they are few, and open in succession; petals round and overlapping; calyx large for the size of flower, and covered with down; sepals obtuse and tipped with a brown, almost red-tint; stamens short, having rather large yellow anthers, which fill the throat of the corolla. The leaves are evergreen or silvery grey, arranged in small rosettes, and 1/4in. long, of good substance, rigid and smooth; their shape is obtuse, concave, and keeled; they are furnished with marginal excavations, which present themselves as dots; the habit is compact, the rosettes being crowded and forming cushioned-shaped specimens; the flowers last for a fortnight in average weather.
Between large stones in vegetable mould and grit, it both thrives and shows to advantage; it is also a charming subject for the pot culture of alpines. In company with the red-stalked and white-flowered S. Burseriana, the purple S. oppositifolia, and the many other forms of the mossy section, all, or nearly all in bloom about the same time, it offers a pleasing variety, as being distinct in every way from its contemporaries, more especially in the foliage. It is rather a slow grower, and not so readily increased as most Saxifrages; it is greatly benefited by having pebbles or small stones about the collar. These keep it moist at the roots during the growing season. If a little dry cow manure or guano is dusted amongst the stones during early summer, the results will soon be seen; such growth, however, should not be stimulated during the latter half of the year, or from its want of ripeness it will be liable to damage during winter. This practice of top dressing greatly assists the parts touching the earth to root, and so either an increased stock or larger specimens may sooner be obtained.
Flowering period, March.
FORTUNE'S SAXIFRAGE; Nat. Ord. SAXIFRAGACEAE.
This, as may at once be seen by a glance at Fig. 86, belongs to the lobed-leafed section. It is as yet new in English gardens, and is often grown in pots in warm glasshouses. It is, however, perfectly hardy, having stood out with me in the open for the past three years. It is nearly related to S. japonica and its varieties, but is without the stolons or runners. In this climate, with outdoor treatment, it flowers in October until cut down by frost, which sometimes happens before the flowers get well out. It has been stated not only that it is not hardy, but that its flowering period is May. With me it has proved otherwise, and others have proved it to flower naturally in October. I also observed it in bloom in the Hull Botanic Gardens on the open rockwork in November, 1882. I have no doubt that autumn is the natural season for well-established plants to flower; weaker specimens may fail to push forth ere the frost cuts down their leaves, when the dormant buds must remain sealed for the winter, but ready to develope with the return of longer and warmer days.
The flowers are arranged in panicles on scapes nearly a foot high, the panicles being 6in. long and 3in. in diameter. The petals are long and narrow, of uneven length, and notched; colour pure white. The calyx is well developed; segments oval, notched at the ends; colour, pale apple green. Stamens, long and tipped with beautifully orange-coloured anthers. The ovary is prominent, and of a pale yellow. Besides the above features, the flowers, which mostly look sideways and are quite an inch across their broadest parts, have one very long petal at the low side, and the two next are at right angles with it, less than half its size, the two upper ones being still less; the effect is both unusual and pleasing. The leaf stalks are long, stout, and of a succulent nature, semi-transparent, and slightly furnished with longish hairs; the stipules are ample, and of a bright red, which colour extends for a short length up the stalk. The leaves are kidney-shaped, 2in. to 5in. across, eight or ten lobed, toothed and reflexed; they are furnished with solitary stiff hairs, are of good substance, and a very dark green colour, but herbaceous. The habit of this species is neat and very floriferous; therefore it is a valuable plant for in or outdoor gardening; but owing to its late season of flowering outside, the blossom is liable to injury. A bell glass, however, will meet the case; it should be placed over the plant, but tilted slightly, when there are signs of frost—the flowers will amply reward such care. If the bloom can be cut clean, a good cluster will vie with many orchids for delicacy and effect.
I find it to do well in fat loam, and with the same kind of soil in pots, which comes in for placing in cold frames when frost threatens. I find it one of the easiest plants possible to manage—in fact, it needs no care to grow it; still, many amateurs fail to keep it, I suppose from taking it into a warm greenhouse, where it is sure to dwindle. It is readily propagated by division of the crowns, which should be done in spring.
Flowering period, October until strong frosts.
Saxifraga (Megasea) Ligulata.
Nat. Ord. SAXIFRAGACEAE.
One of the large-leaved species (see Fig. 87) compared with others of the Megasea section, its leaves are strap-like, as implied by the specific name. It is sometimes called Megasea ciliata, but there is a large-leaved species, commonly called S. ciliata, which is very distinct from this one, and it is all the more important that they should not be confounded with each other, as S. ciliata is not very hardy, whilst this is perfectly so, being also one of our finest herbaceous perennials. It comes to us from Nepaul, and has not long been cultivated in this country.
Its flowers are produced numerously on bold stout stems 10in. high. Sometimes the flower-stem is branched. The pale but clear rosy flowers are not only showy, but very enduring, lasting several weeks. The leaves are six to ten inches long, of irregular form, but handsomely ribbed and wavy; the new growths are bright yellowish-green, and tinted from the edges with a reddish bronze, so that, during spring, besides being finely in flower, it is otherwise a pleasing plant to look upon. Moreover, it is one of the few bold kinds of plants which flower so early and therefore a most valuable subject for the spring flower-beds.
It looks well in any position, either near or back from the walks, in shrubs, or as a centre specimen for beds; it is also a plant that may be moved easily, as it carries plenty of root and earth, consequently it may be used in such designs as necessitate frequent transplantings. It is not particular as to soil or position, but in light earth, well enriched with stable manure, I have found it to thrive, so as to be equal to many of the so-called "fine foliage" plants during summer; therefore, I should say, give it rich food. To propagate it, a strong specimen with branched crowns should be selected. These branches or stems are 1/2in. to 1in. thick. They should be cut off with as much length as possible; if they have a bit of root, all the better; if not, it does not much matter. Let the cut end dry for a little time, take off half, or even the whole, of the largest leaves, or the action of the wind will prevent their remaining firm. When so prepared, the cuttings may be deeply planted in sandy loam, which has previously been deeply stirred. This may be done as soon as the flowers are past, and by the end of the year the cuttings should be well rooted and suitable for moving into the ornamental part of the garden.