The Cottage Gardener 6: 367-368 (Sept 11, 1851)
Confessions of an Old Gardener
Donald Beaton

The Cottage Gardener 6: 390 (Sept. 18, 1851)
FUCHSIA CAROLINA.—A Devonian says—"Mr. Pince, of the Exeter Nursery, having obligingly corrected an error I have made regarding the parentage of this truly fine variety, I am enabled to give you its pedigree with confidence. It was raised from seed of Exoniensis, fertilised by F. montana, not Radicans, which Mr. Pince considers would have produced a coarse race; Exoniensis being a hybrid from F. cordifolia, fertilized by Globosa, the progeny, of which we write, is a descendant of many noble ancestors in which all their merits are united." You are quite right as to the passage inadvertantly inserted.

About the time that I was invited to become a writer in The Cottage Gardener, I had almost made up my mind to write a book on my own account, and to call it The Confessions of an Old Gardener. In this book I intended to relate all the accidents, the mishaps, and the disappointments, I had either experienced myself, in the affairs of the garden, or had known to have happened to other gardeners who started on equal footings with me, and to trace, as far as I could, the causes which led to such failures; so that the book would be a kind of lighthouse to the next race of adventurers. To get this lighthouse afloat, I knew it would be necessary to thatch it with anecdotes, about gardeners and their patrons, so thick as to resist all weathers; or, rather, to make the sides of the reader ache with laughing, or to make his hair stand on end, or "both by turns." But THE COTTAGE GARDENER came just in time to spare me the labour, and my book from the butter shop. On all fitting occasions, however, I have, in these pages, told of as many of my failures as it was safe for me to do without altogether damaging my own character, and here is another addition to the list. I have failed most completely in doing any good with the bed of Fuchsia carolina, my next best favourite after the gracilis, and I give it up after trying every mode that I could think of; but I quite agree with "Devonian"* about growing it against a wall, and also as standards with five feet of clear stem, and a head like a standard rose as big as the stem could carry. A hundred such standards in a row, at the back of a flower-border, not less than eight or ten feet, would look splendid in the extreme. An avenue of them along a straight walk would be worth walking ten miles to see; the only other plant that I can now think of, if used in the same way, that could give so striking an effect, is the Humea elegans. People who are easily struck and pleased with a violent contrast, might wish the Humeas and the standard Fuchsias to be planted alternately; but I would prefer two kinds of Fuchsias in the same way, and my second plant would be the Fuchsia Ricartonii, which is exactly the same coloured flower as the other, but the shape of the flowers and the style of growth would be as great a contrast as any other two Fuchsias could possibly produce; and of all the family they are the easiest to make standards of.

My next failure was with a beautiful climber, called Tecoma jasminoides, better known as a Bignonia. I have in vain striven to get this beautiful plant to flower very freely in-doors; but out against a wall, which is protected from the frost, it is a most beautiful thing, flowering as freely as can be from June to October, and it catches everybody's eye who comes near it. The mode of treatment is the same as that prescribed by Mr. Errington for a vigorous pear-tree. Main shoots are allowed to extend wherever there is room for them, and the side branches from these are stopped at a few joints, to form clusters of spurs, and on the young wood from these spurs the flowers come in long succession. Whenever the current growth refuses to give flowers, it is a sure sign the plant is getting too strong, and a few roots are cut to bring about a balance between them and the branches.

Talking of conservatory walls brings to my recollection a new idea that has been floating before my eyes for the last tour or five years; and, by a few simple experiments, I think I have brought down the idea into practical working order. Conservatory walls are very aristocratical things, very expensive in the first going off, but once finished and set a-going, the expense is not nearly so much as one would suppose. Now my plan is to have a conservatory wall for everybody who has a garden, and everybody to build his own conservatory wall, plant it, and look after it himself, with the assistance of this Cottage Gardener, and I shall stake my head on the issue, and not only that, but if I do not succeed in rendering this new wall ten times more gay than all the big walls in England, I shall never put another pen on paper. This new wall need not be a wall at all, but we shall call it so for the look of the thing. The height of it will be seven feet, and a four feet wide border in front of it for the things to grow in. The whole will front the mid-day sun, and will be planted with nothing else but geraniums, and these only of such kinds as will flower on from early in May to Christmas, or rather say, to Michaelmas to begin with. The whole length of the wall will be divided into spaces of six feet each, which will be effected by pillars projecting three or four inches from the line of the wall; and why might not these pillars be posts of oak or larch, and the intervening spaces be of boards, nailed to the back of the posts, and the back of all be banked up, first with turf, and then a slope of any angle made up with earth? in short, make a fernery of it, or a rock-work, or, may be, a green sloping bank.

Now there are thousands of gardens whore all this might be made at less cost than even this rough sketch would intimate. Fix on a sloping piece of ground facing the south, and out it down perpendicularly, as if for a ha-ha fence; three feet or so will be deep enough, the earth that must be removed may be thrown up on the top of the cut, and so get the height by that means. I have seen miles of these sort of banks made in Scotland to build dry stone walls against, that is, stones without mortar, for securing young plantations, and for other kinds of fences. When the mason gets up with his work to the level of the top of the bank, another man comes after him, and lays a turf on the top of the wall with the grass side downwards, and then another turf on the top of that with the grass side upwards; the loose earth from behind is thou sloped up to be level with the grass coping, and after that grass seeds are sown over all the naked earth, and in a few months the whole is green, and these walls last out a lifetime. Posts and boards, however, with a good coping, will last long enough for all that I want, and may be put together as for the back of a "cold pit." Slabs of slate, a quarter-of-an-inch thick and six feet long, would last for ever, but let us say will last out your lease of the ground, and be as good as ever to remove to your new holding when you remove to another part of the country; the slates might be fastened to posts or pillars of iron, by getting the ends to meet behind the support, and then merely pushing the soil up against them from behind. I put stress on a bank of earth behind the slate, &c., on account of the protection it gives in winter at little or no cost. I know that slate walls, such as these, are now in use for training fruit trees on both sides of them, wires being stretched from post to post, and quite close to the slate, for tying the branches to, and this would need to be done for the geraniums as well; but, after all, a neat board fence would be the handiest to nail the shoots to in the usual way.

Then comes the making of a good border for the geraniums to grow in, and no one is more up to the mark for this part of the work than Mr. Appleby himself, for I quite agree with him about pure turfy loam as being the very essence of what they like best; a good, very good drainage is essential to the scheme, and I think twenty inches deep would be quite enough, perhaps a few inches less would suffice; I said four feet for the width. Let us now suppose that all this is finished, and that the wall is covered from one end to the other with geraniums in full bloom, and arranged upon some particular system as to the colours of the flowers. The best arrangement that occurs to me at present is this: to have the exact centre division of the wall covered with the Unique Geranium, the very one which first suggested all this. There is a variety of it called The Queen of Portugal, which is much the stronger grower; but the true Unique is strong enough to cover a space up to seven feet, if three plants of it are put into one division of six feet wide, which would he the best plan with the whole lot of them; but every one of the divisions ought certainly to be given up to one kind of geranium, otherwise we shall make a mess of it. On each side of the Unique division put in the next nearest shade of purplish flower, and follow on to each end of the wall in as regular a gradation of tints as the family will give, and the last one at each end should be a pine white one. But any other arrangement of the colours will do, provided always that no two colours are in one division. The height of seven feet is not absolute; but it should not be much higher, because many of our finer sorts of geraniums will not get higher for a long time, and some of them never; anything from five to seven feet I should think more proper. If any very slow or weak growing kind were to be planted, nest to one of an opposite tendency, it might be wise to make a division across the depth of the border to keep the stronger from robbing the other, as the Hambros and Tokays do the Frontignacs in a vine-border. The border itself must be left to the best of the fancy sorts, and to such as the variegated Oak-leaf, the Dandy, and the Golden Chain, and they would not rob much from the trainers. All these dwarf plants on the border I would plant at good wide distances apart—some eighteen inches, some two feet, and some a yard apart, and in the centres between them I would plant all the kinds of Ixias (in Jersey, the Zephyranthuses), and, indeed, as many of the less strong bulbs from all the temperate regions of the world; and outside of all, next the walk— for we must have a walk in front of such an enchanting scene as this—I would have a thick hedge of that lovely little bulb the Anomatheca cruenta: and what a beautiful fringe it would make from May to October, in flower all that time, and ripening seeds the while. After the Crystal Palace is stripped, there is nothing else to be had or seen which would at all come up to this arrangement; but how it and the Crystal Palace are to be kept warm enough we have yet to learn.

Beaton Bibliography