The Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 17: 100-101 (Feb 14, 1857)


In this my second article I will briefly consider the question of large and small collections of vegetables, fruits, and flowers, but more especially of Roses. I agree with Mr. Rivers that it is desirable to cut down the varieties of vegetables, fruit trees, and flowers to a “sensible standard,” and this would tend as much or more to the advantage of the grower than to that of the purchaser. But I apprehend this theory may be pushed too far and is easier to accomplish with vegetables and fruits than with trees and flowers, because the palate is less variable than the eye of taste. I would say to all who have not already done so, cut down your lists so far as to render it impossible for a purchaser to select anything bad or indifferent, but beyond this, as a large grower, I am not prepared to go. To confine my remarks to Roses, Mr. Rivers must from long experience be well aware that persons possessed of an equally correct taste will not always select the same varieties of flowers. What one will reject another will highly approve, and in this dilemma who is to fix the standard? Does he think the amateur will waive his claim to select such varieties as may please his own taste in favour of any grower's standard, however “sensible!” I opine not; and in support of this opinion I make the following extract from the January number of the Scottish Gardener, where the Rose question is cleverly reviewed by a writer apparently seeking truth without prejudice.

“Some nurserymen cultivate only the Roses which have a secondary period of flowering in autumn; and even Mr. Rivers is swaying towards that result. Prefixed to his catalogue of summer Roses he has the following paragraph:—‘The numerous varieties of this class, once nominally more than 2000, have now become of secondary interest, except for showing as single blooms for prizes, owing to the introduction of so many beautiful autumnal Roses, more particularly the varieties of Hybrid Perpetuals, which now comprise all that is most perfect and beautiful in form and colour. A summer Rose-tree, whether bush or standard, when its flowers have passed away is a most uninteresting object; in a few years, it is most probable that, with the exception of Moss Roses, summer Roses will be spoken of as things that were.’ With all deference to Mr. Rivers' acknowledged authority and taste, we must protest against this doctrine, in behalf of Scotland at least. We will not give up our summer Roses. They are on the whole hardier and better adapted for our climate than the Hybrid Perpetuals, many of them raised at Lyons or in some of the warmer districts of France, and with a large infusion of China blood in them. Many of the former, such as Coupe d'Hébé, Chenédolé, Kean, Madame Zoutman, and some hundred others in the same families, 'make glorious summer' in July, when our weather is at the finest; and at that season, so far as we have seen, they are as yet not quite equalled by the Hybrid Perpetuals. In Scotland, at least, the flowering of the latter in September and October—greatly to be prized in itself—is only a faint Indian summer compared with the full orbed glory of the former season.”

Now, we can fancy another class of growers whose soil is light and warm saying, “We will not give up our very full Roses, although in the best Rose soils they may be indifferent or uncertain;” another class, “We will not give up our sweet-scented or, brilliantly coloured flowers, although the florist may pronounce them deficient in shape or fulness,” and so on throughout the whole range of varieties. In support of growing a moderately large collection of Roses I would say a cultivator with a large connection has not only to consult a variety of tastes, but a variety of soils, climates, purposes, &c., and it is well known to the least experienced that the same varieties are not equally good in different climates, situations, and soils. Thus, the South and West of England receive annually thousands of Roses which would not flourish in the North, and thousands travel to the North which would not meet with general approval if transmitted to the South or West. Again, the United States and some of our colonies absorb a different stock, while the West Indies and similar climates take varieties which would be rejected by all others.

Now, I apprehend it should be the object of a large grower to meet the requirements of all; if he cultivate only for one class of customers he must rest satisfied with a very limited trade. But I will go back to the question of taste, and seek an illustration from an analogous point of view—the article of dress. What is it that draws the crowds from various parts of the country to the large drapers' shops in London and elsewhere? Evidently not quality and cheapness alone or combined, though these may have some weight in the matter; the grand secret is novelty and variety, the power of choice. Where, then, is the advantage of the small list over the large one—the difference being only as 450 to 700! The large collection includes the various items of the small, and many equally select besides. Never was a greater fallacy promulgated than to say that the small list offers the purchaser advantages, provided that, which is a fair assumption, nothing bad is inserted in the other, and the descriptions are equally accurate. Those who know Roses can easily pick out the best for their individual purposes; those who do not will not find perplexity in the smallness of the difference. The question of a large or small collection of a flower seems to me more a grower's than a buyer's question. If a grower does not mind the trouble of cultivating a moderately large collection of Roses of different degrees of merit, do the interests of the buyer suffer? Nay, rather the reverse. Many buyers are not willing to pay first class prices, and there are many purposes for which first class Roses are not absolutely required. The grower of a moderately large collection acts on the principle of the publisher who publishes at the same time two editions of a book; the one in the first style large and handsome, the other small, less elegant, but still good and useful. Now by this plan it is found the sale of the last edition is not sensibly diminished while the cheapness of the other creates a demand among those who while admirers would not otherwise have become purchasers. Thus an extended sale is secured, and producers and purchasers are mutually benefited. In conclusion, I would ask the uninitiated to pause and consider whether in the recent efforts to depreciate new Roses there may not be an interest of old Roses—the old shopkeepers of commerce—as well as of new. And in the complex movements on this wondrous ball I would say, take heed lest in steering to avoid Scylla you strike against Charybdis.
William Paul, Nurseries, Cheshunt, Herts.