Thursday, June 8, 2017

To-Die-For Litho Columbine Seed Packet from Toronto

Be still my heart...I love this one.  
I have not found many packets for the Steele Bros., Toronto. They are an old company.  I think I found a 19th century reference to them.
There were two more packets but my computer ate them.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


This second part of V. B. Wittrock's article ... 



IN the thirties, one of the favourite flowers of the English was the Pansy, which competed with the Rose itself for popular favour. Both distinguished amateurs and talented nurserymen devoted themselves to the cultivation of the Pansy, and gained one success after another. The English horticultural societies offered prizes for the finest flowers. Every nobleman, every owner of an estate wished to have their special collection of Pansies, and the nurserymen, who were well rewarded for their pains, did everything they could to keep alive the interest of the public by constantly producing new varieties. 

In the middle of the thirties (1830s) the price for new and good varieties was 5s. a plant, and for specially excellent ones a far higher price was paid; £10 was offered for the seedling of “Metropolitan”, and refused.

Those varieties raised from 1820 to 1836 certainly possessed larger and more brilliantly-coloured flowers than their wild ancestors, but as regards the form of the flower no change was made, it being still more or less elongated in the same way as in the wild Viola tricolor, L., or V. lutea, Huds.    

During the latter half of the thirties, however, a change took place, as, dating from 1836, the first object of the British Pansy raiser  was to get the flowers as circular as possible (fig. 122).

In The Floricultural Cabinet and Florists' Magazine of the above-mentioned year, this quality is described as more to be desired than all others, and but a couple of years elapsed before this ideal was attained. The magazine just mentioned of 1838 and 1839 contained several figures representing new varieties of Pansies, and among these we find at least two, viz., Ne Plus Ultra and J. Burley's Lord Durham, the flowers of which were almost perfectly circular.

In the beginning of the forties the interest for Pansies rose to such a pitch that special 
horticultural societies were formed solely devoted to this plant.

The Hammersmith Heartsease Society held its first Pansy show in 1841, and continued them for a long course of years.  At the present time (1893) it has been succeeded by a society having the same objects in view, called the London Pansy and Viola Society.  In 1845 the Scottish Pansy Society was formed in Edinburgh, which has shown such vitality, that from that day till now it has continued its activity with great success.

By these two Pansy societies, formed in the forties, certain demands were made on the 
Pansy flowers, which were to be complied with before the flower could obtain a prize at the shows. 

The principal demands were:
  1.  The flowers should be circular.
  2.  The petals should be even, thick, and velvety.
  3.  The colour should be either uniform (selfs), or else but two (belted flowers).

But besides these, several other requirements were enumerated, and, curious to relate, these demands were fully realized in a large number of varieties raised at that time.  Indeed, for about twenty years these show Pansies reigned almost supreme in Britain. All other varieties produced by the Pansy-raisers were discarded and ruthlessly destroyed.

The effects of this partiality in time, of course, became apparent. However interested the British public might be in the charming flowers of the forties, it must at last become evident that the numerous so-called new varieties continually appearing were, in fact, but a constant repetition of the five well-known types.  The need of a change in this respect began to be more and more obvious.

Salvation then came to this lovely English flower from France and Belgium in the form of an 
entirely new class of Pansies, viz., the so-called Belgian or fancy Pansies. Here we find just what is wanting in the show Pansy, viz., great variety of colouring, the brilliant colours being prevalent, and a distribution of colour not only according to the old well-known scheme, but also on a number of others that agreeably appeal to our inherent love of beauty.

In the early thirties the English Pansy was introduced into France, and was there cultivated

by skillful horticulturists, who took great pains in further improving it. Among these Pansy-raisers let me mention Miellez of Lille, and James Odier, the owner of Bellevue Castle(this is an amazing recent story of the building) near Paris.  From the latter come the Odier Pansies, remarkable for the enormous development of  the blotches on the three lower petals, which is so characteristic of the fancy Pansies of the present day, and specially for those belonging to the Cassier, Bugnot, and Trimardeau classes.

In Belgium they also strove to improve the English Pansies in the thirties, and partly in the same way as in France, without regard to the laws of beauty laid down in England.

The French fancy Pansies were brought before the English public in the early fifties by John Salter, but gained scarcely any approval.  By the prejudiced English they were dubbed “French rubbish",  and it was only in 1858 to 1860 that the interest of the British public was aroused by a whole series of brilliant French forms of Pansies chiefly imported from the florist previously mentioned, Miellez of Lille.

These fancy Pansies were cultivated by eminent horticulturists in the north of England and 
southern Scotland, where the centre of the cultivation of Pansies had been removed in the latter half of the fifties, in consequence of a destructive disease which had laid waste numerous Pansy grounds in southern England.  New and splendid forms were now raised in great numbers, more especially by the activity of William Dean of Shipley, and Downie, Laird and Laing of Edinburgh, and in time these Pansies became so general and popular, that in 1871  The Scottish Pansy Society decided to offer prizes for this class of Pansies at their shows.  Special rules of beauty were fixed which the judges had to follow when considering the several merits of the fancy Pansies on exhibition.

But now—as in former times with the English show Pansies—it happened that the limitations outside which it was deemed there could be no beauty, were far too narrow. 
The perfectly-circular form of the flowers was still one of the chief demands, the edges of the petals were to be without waviness or unevenness of any kind, and—most remarkable of all no other Pansies than those provided with large blotches were entitled to a prize as fancy Pansies.  

This last rule has certainly greatly contributed to the fact that, in spite of their varying colours, the fancy Pansies have a tinge of monotony about them.  The large dark blotch is seen everywhere, and in many cases this blotch is so large that it almost covers the entire surface of the flower (fig. 123). The general public has shown broader views in their ideal of beauty; and doubtless this is the cause why the fancy Pansies are being superseded by the far more unassuming but more natural bedding Pansies and the tufted Pansies or Violas.


The bedding Pansies are characterized by flowers of a smaller size, but at the same time they flower more richly and longer than the typical fancy Pansies, and have their lower growth and are more branched. By these peculiarities they are specially adapted for the production of numerous flowers, and make particularly pleasing beds, and it is from this fact they have their name. The original bedding Pansies Were direct descendants of the fancy Pansies, and, as a general rule, bedding Pansies are but richly flowering, more dwarf-like fancy Pansies.

The tufted Pansies or Violas have essentially another origin. They are derived from the English Viola lutea, Huds., as also from the Pyrenean fragrant V. cornuta, L., both crossed with garden Pansies. 

Their characteristics are: 
  • a more perennial habit ; 
  • a tufted growth; 
  • smaller flowers which are not circular, and 
  • generally spread an agreeable perfume.
Cross-breeding has undoubtedly always played a great Idle in the production of new forms of pansies, but in most cases without any plan, insects crossing varieties cultivated near each other. The horticulturists have simply made their selection among the numerous forms which have arisen as a result of this crossing performed by Nature herself. The tufted Pansies, on the other hand, have chiefly to thank for their existence Pansy-raisers, who themselves undertook the hybridization.      James Grieve of Edinburgh, in 1862 and 1863, crossed Viola lutea from the Scottish hills with the ordinary show Pansies of that time; and about the same time William Dean began working in a similar way in the north of England.

From these and similar hybridizations not a few of the tufted Pansies are derived, more especially those in which yellow is the prevailing colour.  Viola cornuta, L., has played a still more important part than V. lutea.  Dating from 1863 it has been used by different Pansy-raisers for crossing with varieties of dark Pansies in particular. 
Thus, in 1867, Dicksons & Co. of Edinburgh produced the, relatively speaking, large flowering dark purple Vanguard, concerning which it is stated that it is derived from hybridizing V. cornuta, as female, with a dark purple Pansy as male flower. About this time B. S. Williams of Holloway sent out his noted Viola cornuta Perfection, and somewhat later the fragrant Sensation. These and other hybrids of V. cornuta were afterwards used for further hybridization with suitable Pansy varieties; and by these means—more especially thanks to Dicksons & Co. and to Dr. Charles Stuart, of Hillside—a considerable number of new varieties of tufted Pansies were raised in the seventies. 

During the last two decades a most interesting kind of tufted Pansy has been raised, viz., the Rayless Violas, which have flowers of but one colour, free from the ordinary dark rays or streaks, whence their name. The first time I find any mention made of them is in 1881, when in The Garden Wm. Robinson related that at Laing's of Stanstead Park Nurseries, he saw two kinds of such Pansies (Hybrida tribe and Golden Queen of Spring). Not until the very last years of the eighties did they become more widely known. 

Then appeared Charles Stuart's well-known Violetta, a very small-flowering almost pure-white fragrant tufted Pansy, the product of a cross between Viola cornuta, L, as the female parent, and the Pansy Blue King as the male plant. Dr. Stuart lays special stress on the fact that in hybridization with V. cornuta it should be used as the female, and thePansy chosen for the occasion as the male plant, if a progeny be desired resembling V. cornuta as regards perfume and perennial duration. Violetta has in turn produced a numerous offspring (among others, the celebrated Sylvia), which, together with other rayless tufted Pansies, play an important part in the shows of the Scottish and English Pansy societies.

Besides the species of Violas already mentioned, in very rare cases Viola calcarata, L., has been used for the improvement of the Pansy.

Viola calcarata Vill. [as Viola zoysii Wulfen]
From Dicksons & Co, of Edinburgh, a statement has reached me that Viola stricta has been used for the same purpose (Ariel, stricta alba, Indiana, etc., are said to be derived from this species; but it is evident that this Viola stricta cannot be the Viola stricta of the botanists.

Dicksons & Co. declare that their Viola stricta is an Indian species.  In consequence of this statement, I wrote to the author of the Flora of British India, Sir Joseph Hooker, concerning the matter, and in reply, he says, "There is certainly no Indian species remotely even allied to the cultivated Pansies."

It has been mentioned above that a. double Pansy was known even to Parkinson, the old English writer on horticulture (1629).  In the present century double Pansies have now and again made their appearance, among which the most known is probably Good Gracious, a variety which was cultivated largely in Ireland and Great Britain in the middle of our century, and “Lord Waverley" from the Hale Farm Nurseries, near London, in 1876.

Into Germany the English Pansies were introduced during the thirties, but it was not until the fifties and sixties that the German Pansy-raisers began to produce new varieties. As an instance, let me mention Negerfurst, the product in 1861 of careful selection made year after year by C. Schwanecke of Oschersleben, and Kaiser Wilhelm, introduced about 1872 by Chr. Lorenz of Erfurt. At the present day the German cultivation of Pansies ranks very high.

The northern limit of the Pansy is attained in Norway where it has been cultivated with perfect success in several places in the arctic region, in East Finmark at 69º or 70º north latitude.

(to be continued with a summary)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

1906-ish - Perky Portulaca Packet from Somerville, MA

This packet of portulaca seeds harks back to the last century in its design.  
I find it charming   
If it ever stops raining and gets warm in New England I'll plant some.

I don't think of seed companies when I hear Somerville.  I think of the Museum of Bad Art (really!) and some great places to eat, breweries, a cidery and other fun urban living places.

Monday, June 5, 2017

1910ish - Luxurious Litho of a Lima Bean

Can't help it!  I am just drawn to the the lithos on seed packets.  Maybe it's all the little dots...the rich colors...the simple shapes...  Whatever it is, they make me feel good.