Origin of the Spencer Sweet Peas.
In addition to the sweet pea Countess Spencer, raised by Mr. Cole, a similar variety was grown about the same time by E. Viner, Frome, England, who tells the story of his production in a letter written last spring to a member of the Horticultural Club of London.
"As an artisan, living close on the town," writes Mr. Viner, "my garden has always been very limited, and therefore I have to make a selection of what serves, or what I like best.
"It must have been in the spring of 1900 I procured a few seeds each of 'Prima Donna,' and 'Lovely,' with the object of choosing the one I liked best, and my choice fell on 'Prima Donna.' I quite discarded 'Lovely.' The following year I grew 'Prima Donna' from seed I saved myself, and quite late in the season I noticed a spray of two blooms (on 'Prima Donna') at the extremity of a shoot with a peculiar crimpled character. I worked them and allowed them to seed (no other flowers appeared), and I obtained seven good seeds.
"The following year I planted them in due course, and all germinated, and, to my delight, five retained the wavy character. The other two were 'Prima Donna'—pure. But the waved ones were glorious in the fine weather of early July. Now the Bath show (roses, etc.), was, and is now, held about the second week in July, and I took a bunch of the blooms and got them placed before the judges and committee, who gave me a certificate for it, and, on the spur of the moment, at the suggestion of others, it was named 'Nellie Viner.' I. House was at the show and saw the flowers, and wrote me later with the object of buying it. Later in the season I sent blooms to Mr. Eckford, to whom I eventually sold.
"Through this part of the country it is well known that I secured this variety in the way described, but the fact has apparently never reached those in high places.
"Mr. Wright, in his book, 'Beautiful Flowers and How to Grow Them.' says in his chapter on sweet peas, that the variety was raised by some amateur, but by whom or where he was unable to say.
"Of course, I know Mr. Cole's variety was put on the market first, Mr. Eckford being obliged to grow another season, as the stock was small. Mr. Eckford was also informed that the variety on the market was something like his; he therefore dropped the idea of another name and sent it out as his superior stock of 'Countess Spencer.'
"I think had it not been for me, one of the fine forms of this charming flower would never have been known.
"Therefore, while this is being discussed, if you could bring my small share in the work before the liberal minded among those who form the moving spirits, and could do ever so small a good for me, I should be exceedingly grateful."
Mr. Viner's story is rendered pathetic by the fact of recent ill health, he having been compelled to relinquish his trade of electrotyper and to live on the scanty allowance of a sick society and what his wife is able to earn. Vernon Hill, one of the vice-presidents of the National Sweet Pea Society of England called on Mr. Viner recently and found him to be in need of aid. The general committee of Mr. Hill's society voted £10 to begin a testimonial fund for Mr. Viner, and W. Cuthbertson, of Dobbie & Co., Edinburgh, agreed to act as treasurer of a committee appointed to receive contributions.