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This book is written in the hope that it may be useful in disseminating a better knowledge of the general character, uses, and culture of hardy herbaceous and alpine perennial flowers. It will be admitted, I believe, very generally, that an intimate knowledge of these neglected classes of plants has not for many years been regarded as a necessary accomplishment in a professional gardener. Herbaceous and alpine plants have been so long banished from gardens of all grades, that they have become unfamiliar to those even who once knew them well; and the mass of those who have embraced gardening as a business pursuit or a means of recreation within the past twenty-five or thirty years, have had few opportunities for acquiring any but the slightest knowledge of them of either a practical or theoretical kind. For until within the past few years, so little general interest had been taken for long previously in these old useful tribes of plants, that even the periodical press, on which we depend for guidance in our tastes and objects, has rarely been encouraged to make any but passing allusions to
the introduction of new species, while the names of the older ones have been of the rarest occurrence in its pages.
There are, however, many signs of a reaction in their favour at the present time. They may never occupy the exclusive place they once did in gardens, nor is it desirable that they should do so: but that they are destined to rise high in popular favour again has for some years past been very obvious. The prominent attention they are receiving in the gardening periodical press,
the introduction of many of them into certain public gardens, the incorporation of a few of their number in the ranks of "bedding” plants, and the general spirit of inquiry that is afloat regarding them, are all signs of their increasing importance, and auguries of their future favour.
Many that are now turning their attention to inquire after these plants find that the kind of information they are in search of does not exist in a collective, handy, and inexpensive form, and that it is only attainable at great cost, and by wading through libraries accessible only to the few, or by studying the plants themselves in the various botanic gardens in which they have taken refuge during the time of their eclipse. An attempt is made in this work to supply the desideratum indicated.
As regards the plan of the book, it is so simple and self-explanatory as to call for no special remark here. It is, perhaps, novel, in so far as relates to the arrangement of the genera and species in their natural orders; that feature, so far as I am aware, being new to books specially devoted to the instruction of professional and amateur cultivators of flowers. To friends competent to give an opinion on the matter, and to myself, that