Beelingo.com

English Audio Books

Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a Working Amateur

SPONSORED LINKS
<SPAN name="Page_249" id="Page_249"></SPAN>[249]</div> <h2>CHAPTER XXI</h2> <h4>NOVELTY AND VARIETY</h4> <p><br />When I look back over thirty years of gardening, I see what an extraordinary progress there has been, not only in the introduction of good plants new to general cultivation, but also in the home production of improved kinds of old favourites. In annual plants alone there has been a remarkable advance. And here again, though many really beautiful things are being brought forward, there seems always to be an undue value assigned to a fresh development, on the score of its novelty.</p> <p>Now it seems to me, that among the thousands of beautiful things already at hand for garden use, there is no merit whatever in novelty or variety unless the thing new or different is distinctly more beautiful, or in some such way better than an older thing of the same class.</p> <p>And there seems to be a general wish among seed growers just now to dwarf all annual plants. Now, when a plant is naturally of a diffuse habit, the fixing of a dwarfer variety may be a distinct gain to horticulture&mdash;it may just make a good garden plant out of <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_250" id="Page_250"></SPAN>[250]</span>one that was formerly of indifferent quality; but there seems to me to be a kind of stupidity in inferring from this that all annuals are the better for dwarfing. I take it that the bedding system has had a good deal to do with it. It no doubt enables ignorant gardeners to use a larger variety of plants as senseless colour-masses, but it is obvious that many, if not most, of the plants are individually made much uglier by the process. Take, for example, one of the dwarfest Ageratums: what a silly little dumpy, formless, pincushion of a thing it is! And then the dwarfest of the China Asters. Here is a plant (whose chief weakness already lies in a certain over-stiffness) made stiffer and more shapeless still by dwarfing and by cramming with too many petals. The Comet Asters of later years are a much-improved type of flower, with a looser shape and a certain degree of approach to grace and beauty. When this kind came out it was a noteworthy novelty, not because it was a novelty, but because it was a better and more beautiful thing. Also among the same Asters the introduction of a better class of red colouring, first of the blood-red and then of the so-called scarlet shades, was a good variety, because it was the distinct bettering of the colour of a popular race of garden-flowers, whose red and pink colourings had hitherto been of a bad and rank quality.</p> <p>It is quite true that here and there the dwarf kind is a distinctly useful thing, as in the dwarf Nasturtiums. In this grand plant one is glad to have <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_251" id="Page_251"></SPAN>[251]</span>dwarf ones as well as the old trailing kinds. I even confess to a certain liking for the podgy little dwarf Snapdragons; they are ungraceful little dumpy things, but they happen to have come in some tender colourings of pale yellow and pale pink, that give them a kind of absurd prettiness, and a certain garden-value. I also look at them as a little floral joke that is harmless and not displeasing, but they cannot for a moment compare in beauty with the free-growing Snapdragon of the older type. This I always think one of the best and most interesting and admirable of garden-plants. Its beauty is lost if it is crowded up among other things in a border; it should be grown in a dry wall or steep rocky bank, where its handsome bushy growth and finely-poised spikes of bloom can be well seen.</p> <div class="floatleft" style="width: 262px"> <ANTIMG src="images/251left_a.jpg" width="262" height="350" alt="Tall Snapdragons Growing in a Dry Wall." title="" /> <span class="caption">Tall Snapdragons Growing in a Dry Wall.</span> </div> <div class="floatright" style="width: 259px"> <ANTIMG src="images/251right_a.jpg" width="259" height="350" alt="Mulleins Growing in the Face of Dry Wall. (See 'Old Wall,' page 116.)" title=""/> <span class="caption">Mulleins Growing in the Face of Dry Wall.<br /> (See 'Old Wall,' page <SPAN href="#Page_118">116</SPAN>.)</span> </div> <p class="nofloat">One of the annuals that I think is entirely spoilt by dwarfing is Love-in-a-Mist, a plant I hold in high admiration. Many years ago I came upon some of it in a small garden, of a type that I thought extremely desirable, with a double flower of just the right degree of fulness, and of an unusually fine colour. I was fortunate enough to get some seed, and have never grown any other, nor have I ever seen elsewhere any that I think can compare with it.</p> <p>The Zinnia is another fine annual that has been much spoilt by its would-be improvers. When a Zinnia has a hard, stiff, tall flower, with a great many rows of petals piled up one on top of another, and <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_252" id="Page_252"></SPAN>[252]</span>when its habit is dwarfed to a mean degree of squatness, it looks to me both ugly and absurd, whereas a reasonably double one, well branched, and two feet high, is a handsome plant.</p> <p>I also think that Stocks and Wallflowers are much handsomer when rather tall and branching. Dwarf Stocks, moreover, are invariably spattered with soil in heavy autumn rain.</p> <p>An example of the improver not knowing where to stop in the matter of colouring, always strikes me in the Gaillardias, and more especially in the perennial kind, that is increased by division as well as by seed. The flower is naturally of a strong orange-yellow colour, with a narrow ring of red round the centre. The improver has sought to increase the width of the red ring. Up to a certain point it makes a livelier and brighter-looking flower; but he has gone too far, and extended the red till it has become a red flower with a narrow yellow edge. The red also is of a rather dull and heavy nature, so that instead of a handsome yellow flower with a broad central ring, here is an ugly red one with a yellow border. There is no positive harm done, as the plant has been propagated at every stage of development, and one may choose what one will; but to see them together is an instructive lesson.</p> <p>No annual plant has of late years been so much improved as the Sweet Pea, and one reason why its charming beauty and scent are so enjoyable is, that they grow tall, and can be seen on a level with the <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_253" id="Page_253"></SPAN>[253]</span>eye. There can be no excuse whatever for dwarfing this, as has lately been done. There are already plenty of good flowering plants under a foot high, and the little dwarf white monstrosity, now being followed by coloured ones of the same habit, seems to me worthy of nothing but condemnation. It would be as right and sensible to dwarf a Hollyhock into a podgy mass a foot high, or a Pentstemon, or a Foxglove. Happily these have as yet escaped dwarfing, though I regret to see that a deformity that not unfrequently appears among garden Foxgloves, looking like a bell-shaped flower topping a stunted spike, appears to have been "fixed," and is being offered as a "novelty." Here is one of the clearest examples of a new development which is a distinct debasement of a naturally beautiful form, but which is nevertheless being pushed forward in trade: it has no merit whatever in itself, and is only likely to sell because it is new and curious.</p> <p>And all this parade of distortion and deformity comes about from the grower losing sight of beauty as the first consideration, or from his not having the knowledge that would enable him to determine what are the points of character in various plants most deserving of development, and in not knowing when or where to stop. Abnormal size, whether greatly above or much below the average, appeals to the vulgar and uneducated eye, and will always command its attention and wonderment. But then the production <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_254" id="Page_254"></SPAN>[254]</span>of the immense size that provokes astonishment, and the misapplied ingenuity that produces unusual dwarfing, are neither of them very high aims.</p> <p>And much as I feel grateful to those who improve garden flowers, I venture to repeat my strong conviction that their efforts in selection and other methods should be so directed as to keep in view the attainment of beauty in the first place, and as a point of honour; not to mere increase of size of bloom or compactness of habit&mdash;many plants have been spoilt by excess of both; not for variety or novelty as ends in themselves, but only to welcome them, and offer them, if they are distinctly of garden value in the best sense. For if plants are grown or advertised or otherwise pushed on any other account than that of their possessing some worthy form of beauty, they become of the same nature as any other article in trade that is got up for sale for the sole benefit of the seller, that is unduly lauded by advertisement, and that makes its first appeal to the vulgar eye by an exaggerated and showy pictorial representation; that will serve no useful purpose, and for which there is no true or healthy demand.</p> <p>No doubt much of it comes about from the unwholesome pressure of trade competition, which in a way obliges all to follow where some lead. I trust that my many good friends in the trade will understand that my remarks are not made in any personal sense whatever. I know that some of them feel much as I do on some of these points, but that in many <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_255" id="Page_255"></SPAN>[255]</span>ways they are helpless, being all bound in a kind of bondage to the general system. And there is one great evil that calls loudly for redress, but that will endure until some of the mightiest of them have the energy and courage to band themselves together and to declare that it shall no longer exist among them.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /><div class="pagenum">
SPONSORED LINKS