The Gardener's Magazine pp. 233 -241 (May 1840)

Art. I. Descriptive Notices of select Suburban Residences, with Remarks on each; intended
to illustrate the Principles and Practice of Landscape-Gardening.
By the Conductor.

No. 15. Kingsbury, The Residence Of Thomas Harris, Esq.

KINGSBURY, which is situated on the Edgeware Road, near the village of that name, may be described as a grass farm, the grounds of which have been ornamented by plantations of select trees and shrubs, and the house enlarged by additional rooms. To one of these rooms a large conservatory is attached, and with this conservatory is connected a series of green-houses and hot-houses, containing, as is well known, one of the finest collections of plants in this country, managed by Mr. Beaton, one of our first botanical gardeners. To a person accustomed to live in the confined limits of a London street house, it is a great luxury to get possession of a group of farm buildings, where there is ample room to make additions on every side. The secret of enjoying this luxury consists, in a great measure, in adding, rather than in altering; because it may be laid down as a fundamental principle, that it is quite impossible to get all the advantages of a new house by altering an old one. Any old house, however, that is not in a state of decay, may be rendered comfortable and commodious (though not well arranged) by additions. When these additions are made under the direction of an architect of taste, very picturesque effects may frequently be produced: but there are not many architects, of the old school, at least, who understand how this is to be managed; in short, how the additions to an inelegant house may be made elegant, and the effect of the whole group, however irregular, rendered symmetrical. This is not the place for going into details, but we shall do this so far as to observe, in order to give an idea of the data on which we found our opinion,— 1. that no object, either in nature or art, can be truly beautiful that is not symmetrical; 2. that there is a regular symmetry, and an irregular symmetry, and that all picturesque assemblages belong to the latter class; 3. that every symmetrical object consists of three parts, the centre or axis, and the sides; and, 4. that in assemblages of low buildings, such as those of a farm-house and offices, where the sides are given and the axis is wanting, it may be supplied by an Italian or other tower, campanile, or clock turret.

For an irregular assemblage of objects to be rendered symmetrical, it is not necessary that the tower or other object which forms the axis should be in the centre: on the contrary, it will generally effect the intended purpose better if placed somewhat on one side; because, in that case, the idea of regular symmetry is not raised up in the mind. The spectator does not think of comparing one side with the other, to see if they agree in form as well as in general bulk, but he looks to see whether the one side is balanced by the other, either by bulk, by height, or by distance. Suppose, for example, a group, in which, close by the left of the axis, there are a number of high buildings crowded together, and but very few buildings on the right, and those quite low: in what manner is this group to be rendered symmetrical? By the extension of the low buildings, on the right, so far as to produce by extension on that side, what is produced by bulk and compactness on the other. Whatever is symmetrical, must have a decided axis of symmetry; either obvious, as when a tower rises from a straggling mass of low buildings; or disguised, as when the buildings of a group arrange themselves so as to be included within a pyramidal or conical outline. An axis can frequently be given to a group of trees and buildings by tall narrow trees, such as the Lombardy poplar; but, in such cases, the buildings can never form the main feature in the landscape. These remarks are intended to hint at the proper mode of making the most of old houses in the country, which, from extensive experience and observation, we can assert ought seldom or never to be altered within, though they may generally be added to without, to an unlimited extent.

The remaining part of this article being in great part written by the gentleman who accompanied us through the houses at Kingsbury, we shall place it in inverted commas.

"March 25. — The plants here are looking as well as can be expected, after such a long, sunless, damp winter. Frosty winters are always better for house plants, and for all kinds of early forcing, than mild winters, like the last, without sun. The greater portion of the camellias at Kingsbury were forced last May, in order to finish their growth, and set their buds. They were kept in the house all the summer, and began flowering about the beginning of December; and they are now past their best. A few that were not forced, and were out of doors all summer, and in cold frames during winter, are brought into the camellia-house in succession, from the end of January till April. These carry on the blooming season till May. In a large collection of this popular shrub, many are annually to be found with few or no blossom buds, especially when young, and in a vigorous state of health. These are selected here, and put in among the stove plants early in March: their new growth is finished in six weeks; and, by the end of May, they have set their blossom buds. These plants are kept in doors all the summer, and come into flower in October and November; thus keeping up a constant bloom for six months. They are found to be as accommodating in the stove as ferns, living and thriving well under the shade of other plants; and, like the vine, and some other excitable plants, they are found to vegetate early next season.

"The old white camellia, the fimbriata, Lady Hume's, and imbricata, are well known to be the finest-shaped flowers in this genus, which is now composed of nearly 400 varieties and species. Of all the new varieties, Mr. Beaton thinks the imbricata alba is the most perfect flower; he even says that it is often more perfect than the double white, with occasional broad stripes of red in some of the petals, like a fine carnation. The King is a variety much praised lately; it is in the shape of paeoniaeflora alba, and mottled like Gray's Invincible; and, in the opinion of Mr. Beaton, only a third-rate flower. Triumphans is a noble flower, bursting out in the centre like the old cabbage rose, and something near the same colour, with pure white blotches. This variety, like Woodsii and a few others, requires more heat to expand its blossoms than is usually safe for the others; and it ought to be kept in the warmest end of the house. Donklaeri and tricolor are great favourites here: several plants of each of them are now finely in bloom, with many others of the newer sorts.

"The corraeas, which are great favourites with Mr. Harris, are in bloom from September to June, by being forced at different times to make their young growth in the same way as the camellias; and the Chinese azaleas are just ready to expand their flowers under similar treatment.

"One feature in the management of the climbers for the conservatory deserves particular notice. The orchidaceous house is at the back of the conservatory. The Combretum purpureum, one of the very finest of stove climbers, and others, are planted out in the borders of the orchidaceous house, and in the summer time their shoots are introduced into the conservatory through holes in the top of the back wall, and trained over the rafters, where they flower all the summer, and are pruned close and taken back into the orchidaceous house for the winter. Mr. Herbert wrote to Mr. Beaton lately, to say that he adopted this system at Spofforth with complete success, and that he kept the top of the Combretum purpureum in the conservatory last winter, and, though very near the glass, it was not in the least hurt by the frost. Beaumontia grandiflora, treated in this way at Kingsbury, looks now as well as if it were in the hottest stove; and Mr. Beaton thinks this long rest may induce it to flower next summer. It is well known to be one of the most difficult plants to flower. If this experiment does not succeed, Mr. Beaton intends to take it back to the stove for the growing season the following summer, and, after making its growth, he will introduce it again to the conservatory to winter. If this should fail, he will cut it away altogether. Mr. Beaton thinks all the stove passion-flowers might be flowered in the conservatory or green-house on the same principle; but the beautiful P. kermesina, for this purpose, and indeed for all purposes, ought to be inarched on some of the stronger-growing kinds. It would even be worth while to inarch it on any hardy passionflower already in the conservatory, the head being introduced into the stove for the winter. A plant of this species grafted in one of the stoves on the P. alata covers many square yards, and has not been without blossoms for the last eighteen months; and in summer this plant is covered with hundreds of blooms at a time. Mr. Beaton thinks Bignonia venusta would do admirably treated in this manner; and regrets that this, and such plants as Allamanda cathartica, the petreas, Combretum purpureum, and such like old substantial good climbers, should be so much neglected, to make room for others which have only novelty to recommend them. He also regrets the present rage for collections, when selections would answer all the purposes of private collectors so much better. But to return to climbers: the half-hardy, or conservatory, climbers are here treated on the same principle as the stove ones. These are planted out, as all climbers ought to be, in the front border of the conservatory; and, about the end of May, are taken outside through a pane of glass in the bottom of the roof-sashes, and trained outside for four or five months, to make room for the introduction of the stove climbers. They are close pruned in October or November, and taken back to the conservatory for wintering. Tacsonia pinnatistipula, one of the very best conservatory climbers, treated in this manner, covers a great space in a short time, flowers abundantly in the open air from July till Christmas, and stands ten degrees of frost without any injury. Mr. Beaton calls this plant one of Sweet's fanciful genera, which, he says, are only genera by name, not by nature.

"If Mr. Beaton were compelled to grow only three kinds of conservatory climbers, the Tacsonia would be the first he would choose; and yet it is hardly to be seen anywhere.

"The new Wistaria from Moreton Bay, of which Mr. Beaton gave an account in the preceding Volume (p. 400.), is growing rapidly in the conservatory, and in the coldest end of the greenhouse; but the one planted out against a south wall died this winter. It has been growing in the green-house all the winter, from which we may reasonably conclude that it is an evergreen. It will not flower here this season; at least, it shows no signs of flowering yet.

"Among the stove plants are many large specimens. Two fine plants of Ardisia paniculata are now in full bloom; two of the finest specimens in England of that good old plant Jatropha panduraefolia are just beginning to show their splendid flowers, and will be in flower every day till the end of next October. After flowering, this plant is kept perfectly dry for three months. It seems a great favourite here: we observed plants of it in all stages of growth, from 6 in. to 3 or 4 feet high; some as standards, others as dwarf bushes. Several species of Theophrasta make a fine appearance at this time, with their large handsome foliage, for which they are chiefly grown. Inga Harrisii will soon be a splendid object; it is literally covered, from top to bottom, with blossom buds: it belongs to the deciduous class of shrubs, casting its leaves in winter; and the flowers and young foliage appear at the same time. Another valuable plant for private collections, Clerodendron phlomöides, has been in flower here since April, 1839. A cut specimen of it, in flower, was exhibited then at the Horticultural Society's Rooms in Regent Street, when it was reported to be nearly as sweet as a jasmine. It is a half-climbing plant, with abundance of terminal racemes of flowers, similar to those of C. hastatum, with neat small foliage, and, what is strange in this genus, the plant is never attacked by any kind of insects. It delights in the hottest part of the stove. It was among the last lot of plants sent over to this country by the late Dr. Carey, and, we believe, at the request of Mr. Herbert. It is only in one or two other collections, to which Mr. Harris presented it. Speaking of Dr. Carey, we saw here, for the first time, that fine myrtaceous plant named after him by Roxburgh. It is something in the way of Barringtonia speciosa, but deciduous. The genus Careya is closely allied to Barringtonia and Gustavia. These three plants, with Magnolia, are noble plants to commemorate such names as Daines Barrington, Gustavus the Third of Sweden, Dr. Carey, and Dr. Magnol of Montpelier. We noticed more than half a dozen fine barringtonias, ixoras in abundance, a fine plant of Brownea grandiceps, the cow tree of Humboldt, and one of the finest specimens of Strelitzia juncea which we remember to have seen anywhere. In the green-house are some good specimens of Boronia serrulata in flower; also, a large specimen of Scottia dentata, several heaths, epacrises, chorozemas, eutaxias, and such like plants; also, a large Rhododendron altaclerense in full bloom; and, what rather surprised us, half a dozen fine specimens of that gay and very scarce plant Lalage ornata, a genus of which only one more species is known to botanists. Seeds of this lalage were brought over from Australia to Mr. Knight, by the late Mr. Baxter, in 1829; and, under Mr. Knight's superior management, it was flowered in 1833 or 1834, and afterwards figured in the Botanic Register. It was found to be so difficult to propagate, that fears were entertained of its being lost to the country altogether. We heard nothing of it for the last three or four years, and thought it was really lost. Mr. Beaton tells us the original plant is still in the Exotic Nursery, where plants of it may be had, and also at Clapton, and probably in some other nurseries.

"Along the front stage in the green-house we noticed a collection of new Australian seedlings. Some of these were raised here; the rest is the cream of the large collection raised last year in the Clapton Nursery, from seeds sent to Mr. Low: these were received in exchange for a beautiful corraea, raised by Mr. Beaton at Haffield. (See our preceding Volume, p. 94.) This corraea Mr. Low thinks far superior to any of the new seedlings; and we believe a figure of it will soon appear in Paxton's Magazine of Botany. There are many other cross seedlings of corraeas and other plants in progress here, which, as soon as they are proved, will soon find their way into other collections. Mr. Beaton has been for many years trying to prove Mr. Knight's theory of vegetable superfoetation, and promises (p. 161.) to send us an account of his failures. But he says, on reviewing his notes, he finds the action of the pollen in some instances so very different from what it is generally believed to be, that he shall put off saying anything on the subject till he sees how far this difference takes place in different genera or families. Our readers will recollect what Mr. Beaton wrote on the crossing of fuchsias in a former volume. We here saw what Mr. Beaton calls the most curious cross yet obtained among the fuchsias: it is a seedling from F. arborescens fecundated by the pollen of F. excorticata. It is nearly four years old, and has shown no disposition to flower. The parent plant is upwards of 12 ft. high, and beautifully branched. Mr. Beaton dusted many thousand flowers of F. arborescens with the pollen of different fuchsias, and raised many thousand seedlings from plants so dusted for several successive years; but this single instance is the only deviation he found from the arborescens. When this cross and the other splendid crosses from the F. fulgens will come to interbreed, they will raise the character of this favourite family far beyond what we have any conception of now.

"The many importations of orchidaceous plants, from Mexico and the north-east parts of South America, have filled the orchidaceous house here to suffocation. The cultivation of so many newly received plants, requiring a different treatment from established plants, prevented Mr. Beaton from following out Mr. Wailes's suggestion on the atmospheric temperature and moisture in the orchidaceous house. He highly approves of Mr. Paxton's mode of growing Dendrobia, and other similar plants. Some of these plants here begin to show blossom buds in a week or ten days after taking them into the orchidaceous house from their winter quarters. Mr. Beaton maintains that no extensive collection of this order can be kept for any length of time in a fine flowering condition without the use of two houses; the second house to be kept quite dry and cool; and the plants, while resting here, to be kept exposed to the full rays of the sun. There are many new and undescribed species here, particularly among the Mexican Orchidaceae.

"The Cacti have been more than doubled since we saw them last season, and many of the specimens are not to be equalled anywhere. Mr. Beaton has arranged his seedling Cacti on a front shelf, in sections, just to our taste; and his experience has even enabled him to follow out this plan farther than science could do. He places all his melon-shaped Cacti, which require more heat, in the hottest end of the shelf. Many of this section, in a young state, can hardly be distinguished from each other but by a practised eye. These are here planted out on this shelf, on a layer or bed of sandy compost over slabs of slate, in rows across the bed; and, where each kind terminates, a row or two of upright seedling cereuses, which require strong heat, are placed after each kind of melon-shaped Cacti. The seedlings of those Mammillariae found in the low hot valleys of the tropics follow after the Melocacti and Echinocacti seedlings; and, at the coldest end of the shelf, they finish with such Mammillariae as are found on the hills and high ridges, and require less heat. Altogether, this appears to us the most interesting shelf of Cacti, and the most scientifically arranged, in this country. Here is the largest plant of Euphorbia jacquiniaeflora that we have seen, now covered with its rich deep orange blossoms: when out of flower, it must look like a young vigorous peach tree; and, being trained after the manner of peach trees, the illusion is heightened. Nothing can exceed the splendour of Euphorbia splendens at this time, just beginning to put forth its new leaves, and literally in one mass of bloom. Several large specimens are here now in this state, one of which is perhaps the largest in the country. By the side of these stands a fine specimen of Euphorbia [j.] Brioni, a nearly allied sort, smaller than the preceding in all its parts, and more fastigiate in habit. Both these kinds seed freely, especially towards the end of the blooming season (July and August); and, notwithstanding their seeming relationship, Mr. Beaton has hitherto failed to obtain a cross between them. In another house we noticed a standard of that fine old plant the Euphorbia phoenicea, with a head 4 or 5 feet in diameter, and just coming into bloom. There is also a good stock of mesembryanthemums, aloes, and the common epiphyllums, in another house appropriated to this section of plants. The day being very cold, we did not see much of the plants in the pits. These pits, and some of the houses, are heated by Rogers's conical boilers; and also a long shed in the farm-yard, with glass sashes in front, where rare specimens of single camellias, acacias, and suchlike plants are wintered, to be turned out in summer into the flower-garden, and other convenient places round the house. The subsoil here is so cold and damp, that it is found necessary to take up in the autumn such plants as Benthamia fragifera, Garrya elliptica, and many other half-hardy plants, which are kept in this shed conservatory all the winter.

"A large number of apple and pear trees were planted here this spring. The pits for these were from 4 ft. to 5 ft. in diameter, and paved with common slates, their edges lapping over each other, as in common roofing. Prepared compost was filled over these slates till it was 6 or 9 inches above the common level of the garden, and the trees planted on these round hillocks, and mulched all over with a compost of rotten dung, rotten tan, and about one third of sifted coal ashes. The trees were bought at Mr. Forest's nursery, Kensington; and, though Mr. Forest is an entire stranger to Mr. Beaton, the latter thinks it but justice to say, that these fruit trees were the finest he ever saw coming out of any nursery whatever.

"All the paths in the houses are of Welsh slate, half an inch thick, which is found far cheaper and more durable than stone pavements; besides, there is no dust from them like that from stone paths. Many of the shelves are also of this slate; but, for this purpose, the slate ought to be ribbed, in order to carry off the drainage from the bottom of the pots more effectually, and to be drilled with small holes to let through the wet from the furrows formed by the ribbing. In one division of a range of low houses are some fine pine-apple plants, which never had any bottom heat, and nothing can exceed their vigour and healthy appearance. They are plunged in old tan, and an empty pot placed, mouth upwards, under each pine pot. The water from the pine pot passes down freely into this pot, and the worms are never found to get into the pine pot. If the lower pot were placed bottom upwards, the drainage from the pine-pot would not be complete, nor the worms kept back. When bottom heat is used for pines or other plants, this is always a safe mode to guard against too strong bottom heat. Indeed, Mr. Beaton thinks that no pot should be plunged in any cold or hot medium, in or out of doors, without first taking the precaution to place an empty pot under each pot; and the only thing to be attended to is, to have the mouth of the lower pot a little narrower than the bottom of the pot to be placed over it. This plan was shown and first recommended to Mr. Beaton by Mr. Thomson, of the Horticultural Society's Garden, one of the most scientific gardeners with whom Mr. Beaton is acquainted."

Beaton Bibliography