The history of the introduction of many of these orchids reads like an exciting adventure or fairy tale. The story of the lost orchid Cattleya labiata vera is known to all orchid lovers. The plant was originally sent home from Brazil to Dr. Lindley by Mr. W. Swainson, as a packing round some lichens, in 1818,* and Lindley described and named it in memory of Mr. Cattley, a great horticulturalist. For years after other species were sent home, which passed for the true labiata, until it was discovered that the " vera" no longer existed in cultivation, and that its native home was forgotten. For fifty years it was the aim of all collectors to find this treasure again. By chance at last in 1889 some plants were sent home to M. Moreau, of Paris, from whom Messrs. Sanders learnt its habitat, and sent off in search of it, and soon all orchid growers were able to add the long-lost treasure to their collections. Many fruitless voyages have been made to procure these floral wonders, and frequently the collector has at last met with them when least expected. One plant of Cyprepedium Curtisi was sent home by Mr. Curtis from Penang in 1882, and no more were forthcoming until collectors despaired of ever finding it. At last, Ericsson, climbing a mountain in Sumatra, took shelter in a little hut. On the walls he saw among the names of the travellers who had rested there, a drawing of the very flower he was in search of, and underneath was written " C. C.'s contribution to the adornment of the house." He at once set to work to look for it in the neighbourhood, and at length he found it in a most unlikely place, just as he was about to return home in despair. Such stories could be multiplied ad infinitum, as every year collectors are going through toilsome expeditions in order to procure these plants. One firm alone, Messrs. Sanders, at St. Albans, have often as many as twenty collectors working at one time. In the Spring of 1894 they had two in Brazil, two in Columbia, two in Peru and Ecuador, one in Mexico, one in Madagascar, one in New Guinea, three in India, Burmah, and Straits Settlements. Besides those species sent home from all tropical lands, the numerous hybrids brought out each year by large firms, as Veitch, Bull, or Low, or from private collections, must be taken into account to form an estimate of the numbers of orchids now in cultivation in England.
* About Orchids. By Frederick Boyle, 1893.
In every branch of gardening the changes have been rapid. The florists' varieties of Begonia, Gloxinia, Geranium, Cyclamen, Cineraria, Primula, Streptocarpus, Carnations, Achimenes, Chrysanthemum, Violas, Dahlias, Asters, Verbenas, and many such-like things, were unknown during the early part of this century. Donald Beaton, writing his recollections in 1854, of his early life as a gardener, tells how he remembers seeing the first Petunia that ever flowered in this country, at Lower Boughton, near Manchester, and the first Calceolaria in the Epsom Nursery. The institution of Shows and Awards of Merit has doubtless done much to stimulate the energy of florists and promote the production of new varieties. In Thomas Hogg's Treatise on the culture of the carnation and other flowers in 1820, he submits the Rules of two " Societies of Florists," in Islington and Chelsea, which had been started some years previously, for encouraging the cultivation of "Auriculas, Pinks, and Carnations." There were, he says, " several other societies of the same description in the neighbourhood of London, but these two are not only the most numerous in point of numbers, but likewise the most respectable in regard to the members composing them." The Rules of this Society are given at length. The subscription was £1. 11s 6d a year, and the value of the prizes, six in number, was presented to the successful candidates on Show Days. On the appointed days a dinner was held, and each member had to buy a dinner-ticket for the Auricula, the Carnation, and Pink shows. The flowers were judged by three members selected from among those present, and the flowers passed round the table while all were sitting at dinner, "beginning on the President's right hand, and returning on his left, in order that each person may distinctly view them." Many such societies have been started since then to encourage the florist varieties of different classes of flowers. Perhaps the most conspicuous have been those in connection with the rose, and more recently the chrysanthemum, which now boast of National Societies. The National Chrysanthemum Society originated in the one at Stoke Newington. That locality of London, which has for centuries been the haunt of gardens, from the times of L'Obel and Fairchild, and on to that of Loddiges, has not forgotten its old traditions; even in the midst of fog and smoke the dwellers in the East of London try to cultivate flowers. The chrysanthemum occupies much of their attention, and that they can cultivate them with success can be seen by the local Exhibitions.* The Horticultural Society held their first fete in 1831, and soon after the regular Exhibitions began. Since then their shows and those of the Botanical Society and of local societies in every town and county of England, have become events of yearly, or almost weekly occurrence, and the stimulus to Floriculture promoted by these institutions must be apparent to all. The Botanical Society of London was incorporated in 1839. That part of the grounds which were devoted to the illustration of the Natural Orders, were arranged by Sowerby, then the Secretary, and his father, Dr. F. J. Fane and Dr. Sigmund ; and everything was done to facilitate the labours of students of Scientific Botany.†
In the hasty review that has been taken of the progress of Horticulture, the prominent position of the Royal Gardens at Kew has not been properly pointed out. They were begun by the Princess of Wales, Mother of George III., about 1760. In the extremely quaint and original Poem, "The Botanic Garden," in 1791, Erasmus Darwin alludes to the wonders of Kew in his usual stilted verse :—
* The Shows of the Dalston and De Beauvoir Town Amateur Chrysanthemum Society, held annually, are an example of what care and attention can achieve.
† Memoirs of Dr. Frederic J. Fane. 1886.