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plan presented advantages superior to those of a mere alphabetical arrangement; and as it presents a ready means of reference, and is calculated, besides, to show at a glance the relative floricultural importance of the various orders, and to be of some use in stimulating gardeners and others to inquire into the principles on which the affinities of plants are based, it is hoped that it may prove generally convenient and acceptable.
The descriptions of the species are couched in the plainest terms consistent with impressing on the mind of the reader the general character and value of the plant from an ornamental point of view. In pursuance of this object, I have confined my attention chiefly to those features of plants which are essential to the production of effect in the flower-garden, such as stature, habit, foliage, the general character of the inflorescence, and the colour and duration of the flowers. To have described the more minute features and organs on which the exact generic and specific characters are founded, would have necessitated the employment of technicalities by no means attractive to the unscientific reader, and, without securing any compensating, advantage, the bulk of the book would have swollen to expensive proportions, and the popular character which it has been my desire to give it would have been sacrificed. Although, therefore, scientific precision and completeness have in no case been aimed at in the descriptions, it is hoped that they will prove generally helpful, not only in the selection, but also in the identification, of species. I have been careful to adopt those names of genera and species only that are approved by the best authorities; but, for the convenience of readers who may be ac
quainted with species under different names, the synonyms are added in all important cases in which I am cognisant of a duplicity of names.
The selections have been made freely, but by no means exhaustively, from the various natural orders comprising ornamental herbaceous and alpine plants. Most of the old plants that were popular in British gardens before the introduction of “bedding -out,” and many beautiful new ones that have been introduced since that time, are described in the body of the work. Among the many considerations that influenced me in making the selections, the chief were the claims of the parterre, the mixed border, and rockwork; our groves, wild places, and waters; and the important requirements of amateurs and cottagers.
Ample practical details of various means and methods that may be employed in the culture and uses of herbaceous and alpine perennials, are given under the various subjects in the body of the book, and more general remarks on these points, and on methods of raising them from seed, will be added further on in these introductory pages. Before leaving matters prefatorial, it may be proper to state here the circumstances which have led to the appearance of the book, and the title on which the author has presumed to address the gardening public on the subject of which it treats. By natural bent, and the force of somewhat peculiar professional circumstances, he is an earnest lover of herbaceous and alpine plants. Whilst resident at Kew, his duties as manager of the herbaceous department brought him into daily contact with the thousands of species that form the hardy collection in that establishment; and in solving
the endless questions as to nomenclature and identity that inevitably arise in connection with so extensive à collection of plants, he had opportunities of consulting many authorities in the library, as well as authenticated specimens in the herbarium. He was privileged also, while at Kew, to make several journeys of inspection to the principal public and private collections in this country, with a view to negotiating exchange. One of these journeys alone resulted in the addition of nearly a thousand species of hardy and half-hardy plants to the collection in the royal gardens, and contributed in a large degree also to the author's own information and improvement as a cultivator. The mass of the materials worked up in this work was collected at Kew from many authorities for private use, in the form of an omnium gatherum of notes on plants in general, but never with a view to publication, else in the case of this fragment, at least, the fulness should have been more complete, and accompanied with the authorities whence the information given is culled.
The idea of such a publication originated with Mr William Thomson of Dalkeith, under whose editorship portions of the matter appeared from time to time in 'The Gardener' during the past four years, and to whom I am much indebted for valuable suggestions and advice relative to the book. I was further induced by solicitations from many friends, both amateur and professional, to undertake the work. In a work embracing so many details, it is hardly possible that errors have been altogether avoided; but I trust such as may appear will be found neither so numerous nor important as to affect the general value and accuracy of
the information it has been my earnest wish to impart. While I am fully aware that my opportunities have been exceptionally favourable to the acquiring of information from the best sources, I am also sensible of many disabilities in myself for authorship, which should, perhaps, have deterred me from its responsibilities. With reference to this, however, I may say that, as literature is not my profession, I am more concerned for the fate of my clients than the fate of my advocacy of their cause; and I trust that their well-founded claims on the attention and regard of all true lovers of flowers may be established, notwithstanding the weakness of the advocate.
In passing on to general introductory details, it may not be amiss to inquire, at the outset, what is meant by the terms herbaceous and alpine plants. At local hortus shows there not unfrequently occur disputes as to what is meant by the word Herbaceous; some holding, for instance, that bulbs and general hardy Liliaceæ are not herbaceous, but bulbs; and others holding as stoutly that they are as much so as any of the Ranunculacea. The latter are right, and the former can only be justified in excluding bulbs from the category of herbaceous plants if they provide a separate class for them in their schedules, and prominently announce their ineligibility to compete in other classes of herbaceous plants. Broadly stated, herbaceous plants are those which make an annual development of stem of one year's duration only. The root may be annual, biennial, or perennial, but when the stem has fulfilled its functions, it dies in either case, and, in perennials, is produced and decays annually from the same root. In this book the plants are not all strictly herbaceous that are selected; but the exceptions, and the
reason why they are exceptions, are pointed out together where they occur. But in this as in every other merely technical division of the vegetable kingdom embracing numerous and varied subjects, it is easy to define the typical characters, but difficult to describe them in the extremes and in exceptional cases. In the case of alpine plants, any tangible definition of the class by its features, apart from that commonly known as herbaceous, is impossible. The terms herbaceous and alpine are employed arbitrarily in these pages, and in gardens, to define the same types of vegetation, as existing under different conditions in nature; the former applies to the general herbage of the plains of all countries similar to our own in climate, and to that of those of the warmer latitudes; and the latter includes the general herbage and minute shrubs that clothe the mountains of all quarters of the earth. Beginning first to appear at the highest limits of cultivation, they ascend to the confines of perpetual snow, where life of all kind ceases to appear. In so vast a realm nature has scattered practically limitless stores of floral wealth. Much of it already lies within our reach, tempting us to appropriate and make it our own; but in the wide untrodden mountain tracts in many parts of the Old World, and in the unexplored regions of the New, more may be expected to lie hid, waiting only for the seeker in order to be found. But in scanning even slightly the species of herbaceous and alpine plants that are at hand in the botanic gardens or in the nurseries of a few men who are bestirring themselves to make collections of them, we find ample variety of habit and aspect, endless diversity and grace of foliage, and exquisite types of flowers in every imaginable hue,