Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society 1865 (vol 5, p27)
|LETTER FROM MR W. BOSANQUET IN EXPLATION OF THE ABOVE
22 Austin Friars, London, E.C.
12th January, 1865.
Dear Sir,– At the same time that I send you some suggestions for a schedule of the prizes to be offered at the Exhibtion of Windown Plants at South Kensington, I am afraid I must trouble you as some length with some explanations of the principles by which I have been guided, to enable you and the other members of the Committee the better to deal with the suggestions, as I may be unable to attend quite so early as four o'clock on Friday, and may therefore be absent at the commencement of your deliberations.
The first thing which I take into consideration, and always keep in view, is, that the object of these exhibitions is to encourage the poor to decorate their rooms with plants, and not to induce them to cultivate them more difficult sorts, by those rather which are more easily taken care of, and which are more likely to repay the attention of the poor and unscientific class of people who form the majority of the competititors at these shows. Secondly, I think it is necessary to ascertain by actual observation what sorts of plants the poor are in the habit of cultivating, and to make the sesult of such observation the basis of the schedule of prizes. Acting on this principle, in Bloomsbury, and by my advice, the classes at our flower shows have been limited to genariums, fuschias, and annuals; and at present I see no reason for advising any change or addition, so far as the parochial shows are concerned.
At the first show at which prizes were offered for annuals, many of the prizes were withheld in consequence of the small number of plants exhibited in these classes; but last year (1864) every class was well filled, and every prize was awarded. I attribute this partly to an increased cultivaion of annuals, and partly to the increase in the number of exhibitors, owing to the greater popularity of the shows.
The result of my experience, and of all the consideration which I have been able to give to the subject, is, that I cannot but advise the Council of the Society to follow our Bloomsbury schedule, and offer the principal prizes to be given to individuals for geraniums, fushias, and annuals, there being a separate class for each. There is no doubt that many of the exhibitors were, at first, and some still are, ignorant of what an annual really is; and they were often much disappointed at the rejection of plants which were raised from seed, but which were not annuals. This difficulty, howeber, would not arise in the case of the flower show at South Kensington, as the Local Committee would select for competition those plants only which properly answered the description of annuals.
I may here mention that my reason for preferring annuals is, because there is generally plenty of time for exhibitors to sow their seeds and get their plants in a forward state for exhibition after the first announcement of the intention to have a flower show, which is generally eight or ten weeks before the day fixed for the exhibition, and about a month before the last day for entering plants for competition. The same cannot be said of biennials, or any other plants raised from seed.
Perhaps some may think that these flower shows are now so comparitively well estalbished that a new line may be safely struck out, and the classes extended. I am not of that opinion, as far as regards the proposed show at South Kensington; because it is not impropbable that some parishes may compete which have not tried anything of the sort before, and it would be unfair - or, at least, very unadvisable - to ask them to enter in classes in which, from lack of experience, they would be unable to compete on equal terms with those parishes which have already held one or more shows. The exhibition must this year be considered as experiment; and the first attempt should not, I think, be too ambitious. The object should rather be to induce as many parishes as possible to enter.
And now, having dealt with the division of the classes so far as the [ital[ plants are concerned, I miust say a few words on the division so far as concerns the exhibitors.
I think it is important, and far more interesting if possible, to let the children compete in separate classes forom the parents and adults, and I have accordingly made such a division in the schedule. In order to avoid all questions as to age, and the necesssity of fixing any age as a limit, I think it is expedient to confine the competition in this class to children attending any school.
I have introduced a class for servants, because it has been tried in Bloomsbury, and this year with considerable success. I attach less importance, however, to this class than to the others; but as there is no doubt that many servants have time on their hands which they are apt to employ much less profitably than in the cultivation of a few plants, I hope the Committee may feel disposed to ask the Society to sanction this class.
I have now disposed of the prizes offered in each parish, and must trouble you with some few remarks as to the prizes which I suggest shall be offered for competition among all the parishes.
I have suggested that, in each class, prizes should be offered for the best collection of plants from all the parishes - confined, of course, entirely to those plants which are entered for individual prizes. I attach a good deal of importance to these prizes - more, perhaps, than many members of the Committee may be disposed to do. I think this competition will form the great distinguishing feature between this show and those held in each parish, and will contribute more than anything else to render this, as well as the parochial shows, permanent institutions. The competition between parish and parish will, I think, excite a deep and yearly increasing interest, and will tend to stir up those in each parish who take an interest in these exhibitions to do all they can to make theirs the winning parish. It is not to be expected that this competition will be so keen in the first year, but I cannot help thinking that, in every succeeding year, it will excite a spirit of emulation, both to the members of the local committee and the individual competitors, which will be attended with the best results.
I should not be disposed to advice that the prizes for the best parish collections should be merely honorary. I think the Council of the Horticultural Society woulddfo well to offer prizes consisting of a collection of some plain and simple books on horticulture. These could be deposited by the winning parish in some place where (subject to rules) they could be read or referred to by those in the parish who might be interested in the subject, or be desirous of getting information on any particular point.
I consider that this branch of horticulture - that is to say, the cultivation of window plants by the poor in towns - is in its infancy, and that ere many years have passed a very great improvement will be effected through the instrumentality of these exhibitions, and that this sort of competition between parish and parish will help greatly to bring about that improvement.
The other two classes which I have suggested are purely experimental. I have seen very fair dahlias grown both in Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, and I think there might be a fair class were any prizes offered, as suggested. I have also seen a few roses exhibited at the Bloomsbury flower shows, and possibly there might have been more had we included them in our schedule. With regard to both dahlias and roses, I must say that I do not think there would be a sufficient number of exhibitors to justify the Council of the Society in offering prizes for those plants in each parish; but as a very few plants from each parish would form a sufficiently good class together, I should be disposed to make the experiment. It is in this way only, I think, that we can feel our way to further progress, and a still further extension of the classes.
I should, on no consideration, recommend that prizes should be offered in any class consisting of any sort of plants which each competitor might choose to exhibit. A class for "Any plants" may be very well at a parochial show, but would, I think, be out of place at the one now under consideration. There is an objection to a class of this sort, which is, I think, of itself, sufficiently strong to render it inadvisable to add it to the schedule. It imposes on the judge an amount of trouble and responsibility which no man ought to be asked to undertake. He will frequently, if not invariably, find six or sevenm plants of as many different sorts, out of which he has to choose one for the prize. Each of the best of its sort in the class (in which, perhaps, there are exhibited thirty different kinds of plants), but there all power of comparison ceases. It is comparatively easy to decide which is the best plant of two genariums, of two fuschias, of of two calceolarias, but who is to decide which of the three, the geranium, fuschia, or calceolaria; all being good is entitled to the prize, to the exclusion of the rest.
And now I must apologise, as indeed I ought, for having troubled you as such very great length, but I could not well have put before you in fewer words the considerations which have weighed with me in drawing up the accompanying schedule of prizes.
I am, dear sir, yours faithfully,
WALTER H. BOSANQUET
ANDREW MURRAY, Esq.,
Assistant-Sec, Royal Horticultural Society
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