Wednesday, May 24, 2017

1899 - A Cool Cover from the Cool Seedsman, John Lewis Childs

I had never seen this cover.  I like Childs' portrait's use in the design...quite unusual!

Childs is a great seedsman when it came to organization and public relations.  He made a fascinating seed empire, not to mention his own town!  He was a very interesting man.

Childs, John Lewis - Floral Park, New York..........(1) (2) (3) (4(5) (6)

Sunday, May 21, 2017


was working on gathering illustrations for a more specialized history of the Show and Fancy pansies when I found this article in The Gardeners' Chronicle of 1896.  This one is more "fun" so I jumped ship to do this one first!

As usual, my interjections are in italics and reddish brown.

OPINIONS vary among botanists as to the origin of the cultivated Pansies. Charles Darwin discussed the question in his Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, but arrived at no definite conclusion, saying on p. 369, “Hence, after having carefully compared 
numerous varieties, I gave up the attempt as too difficult for anyone except a professed botanist.”

My own investigations have led to the following conclusions :—

The botanists of ancient days knew of only one kind of Viola, namely, Viola odorata, L., and those of the Middle Ages were acquainted with no other.

The Heartsease, or wild Pansy, Viola tricolor, L., was first mentioned and described by O. Brunfels (1533), and L. Fuchs (1542), both Germans.  The latter relates that “Herba Trinitatis”— the name by which the Heartsease was then known—was not only found wild, but was also cultivated as an ornamental plant in the gardens of Germany.

1542 - De historia stirpium commentarii insignes... , Fuchs

The name Pansy, so far as I have been able to make out, is used for the first time in botanical literature in 1537, by the Frenchman Ruellius, where it occurs in the Latin form Pensea.

B. Dodonaeus, from the Netherlands, is the first to use the name Viola tricolor for the Heartsease.

From the works of Dodonaeus, Dalechampius, and Gerarde, we learn that during the latter part of the sixteenth century the Heartsease was used as an ornamental plant in the Netherlands, France, and England, and that the flowers thereof showed no slight variety of colouring.

Parkinson, in 1629, describes and delineates not only the common Viola tricolor, but also a form with double flowers from gardens in England.

From the middle of the seventeenth century Viola tricolor has existed as an ornamental plant in Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and Poland.

We learn from J. W. Weinmann, Ph. Miller, and D. Villars that Viola tricolor was a very general ornamental plant in Germany, England, and France during the eighteenth century, and Weinmann’s Phytanthozoa Iconographia, published in 1745 (with coloured plates), enables us to form an exact idea of the appearance of the Pension at that time, as the eight coloured figures representing Pansies show flowers that are neither larger nor otherwise coloured than the varieties of Viola tricolor growing wild.  (BELOW)

Phytanthoza iconographia -Vol.3 -pg 595

Besides those small flowering V. tricolor Pansies already mentioned, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century more large-flowering kinds were cultivated, even if but seldom, of Viola lutea, Huds., growing in the mountainous districts of Germany, Switzerland, and England.  
Seboth, J., Graf, F., Die Alpenpflanzen nach der Natur gemalt,  (1839)

 C. Clusius, the renowned botanist, in 1583 gave the first description of this plant from specimens cultivated in the gardens of J. Camerarius, of Nuremberg. In the celebrated Bishop’s garden, at Eichstett, in Bavaria, four varieties of large-flowered V. lutea Pansies were cultivated in 1613, all being delineated in the gigantic Hortus Eystettensis.

Bessler, Basilius, Hortus Eystettensis,
vol. 1: Primus ordo collectarum plantarum vernalium, t. 21, fig. II (1620)

J. Parkinson mentions the great yellow Pansy as in cultivation in England in 1629.

From Holland and Poland there are also statements concerning the cultivation of large flowering Pansies in the seventeenth century, doubtless Viola lutea.

That this species was cultivated in England during the eighteenth century is proved by a statement by Ph. Miller in the Gardener's Dictionary.  Miller certainly calls the Pansy in question V. calcarata; but as he expressly states that it came from the mountainous districts of North Britain and Wales, there can be no doubt that the true V. lutea, Huds., is really meant.  Viola calcarata, as is well known, is not found in Great Britain, being a native of the Alps.

All the Pansies of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries may be called wild Pansies, as in all essential points they resembled those growing wild; and it is only in the present century that, thanks to the action of man, those numerous varieties of garden Pansies have been produced which, in their display of flowers, so vastly surpass their wild relations.

The Pansies of the present day were originally raised in England. In the early days of the present century several amateur horticulturists in England began to pay special attention to the Pansy, as for instance, Lady Mary Bennet, of Walton-on-Thames (1810), Lady Monks (1812), and Lord Gambier, of Iver (1813 or 1814), who instructed their several gardeners— of whom Thomson, of Iver, deserves special mention—to obtain as many varieties of Wild and cultivated Pansies as possible.   (I think there may be some confusion here, as Lady Mary Bennet became Lady Monck...or maybe not.)

Seeding was now undertaken on a large scale in specially suitable soil, and from the seedlings thus obtained those with the largest and most beautiful flowers were selected; and continued selection was made in this way year after year. By these means no small number of unusually beautiful and large-flowering varieties. were obtained, which were undoubtedly largely hybrids, that, without any intervention from man, were produced by insects which, on visiting the flowers of the different varieties and species cultivated side by side, caused a rich cross-fertilization. 

The species of Viola cultivated were those native to England, viz., the common Heartsease, Viola tricolor, L., and the yellow large-flowering Viola, V. lutea, Huds.

Winkler, M., Sudetenflora, t. 11 (1900)

The last mentioned was cultivated on a large scale at an early date, as is proved by a statement made in 1819 by Dean Herbert, the well known horticulturist and botanist, that “the great Heartsease,” which, under the name of Viola grandiflora, was then sold at Covent Garden, was identical with V. lutea, Huds., from Yorkshire and Durham.

A circumstance specially favourable for the formation of new varieties of Pansies, is that the hybrids of species of that section (Melanium) to which belong the two species just mentioned, as a. rule are more or less fertile, while hybrids of species belonging to other sections are generally sterile.

Reliable statements prove that dating from 1816, Viola altaica, Ker, a native of Siberia and the Caucasus (illus. below), was cultivated in England. It is more than probable that this species played some slight role in producing some of the Pansies of those days. Several authors have even ascribed so much importance to the part played by Viola altaica in the origin of the Pansies that they consider it their real parent. This is, however, in my opinion, a mistake, as, with the exception of bearing large flowers, the Pansies of our century have scarcely a single characteristic in common with Viola altaica, and this species seem always to have been—as it still is—a great rarity in European gardens.

1816 - The Botanical Magazine - Viola altaica

During the twenties and the thirties, the cultivation of Pansies became more and more general in England. J. Harrison tells us that from 1827 to 1833 nearly 200 new varieties of Pansies were raised; while Charles Darwin relates that in 1835 there were 400 named varieties of the Pansy on sale in England.

An account of the then demands on a good Heartsease was given by J. Paxton in 1834: 

“ The flower-stem must be of sufficient height and strength to raise the flower above the foliage of the plant; the petals of the flower large, flat, and without notch or fringe on the edge. The colours must be clear, brilliant, and permanent. The eye should be small compared with the size of the flower.” 
V. B. Wittrock, Stockholm.
(Dr. V. B. Wittrock was the Director of the Botanic Gardens, Bergisland, Stockholm, Sweden.)
(To be continued).

Well, it will be continued if I can find the next part!!