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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [21 February 1863]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

The Plants arrived quite safe last night. Pray thank Mr Gower for the trouble which he must have taken.—2 I am fairly astounded at their number! why my hot-house is almost full!—3 I have not yet even looked out their names; but I can see several things which I wished for, but which I did not like to ask for.

You have indeed set me up. I got my neighbour’s gardener to come & do the Orchids.—4

Thanks, also, for very valuable seeds.— How very good of you to write to Paris about seeds. All that were on list were for experiments, which seem to me really worth trial.—5

Let me hear about Glass-man, as I must order some Bell-glasses soon on a venture; & for ventilation—iron-plate man.—6

I stewed so long admiring the plants, that I have got a bit of a headach.— so farewell | Ever yours | Ch. Darwin

P.S. We are in a puzzle; in neither of my Orchid-culture book is Acropera mentioned: is it grown in Basket, or pot or Block of wood? These Acroperas are so valuable to me, pray tell me.—7


The letter is dated by the relationship between this letter, the letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 February [1863], and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 February 1863]; the intervening Saturday was 21 February.
CD had sent his tax-cart to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to collect plants for the new hothouse at Down House (see n. 3, below); William Hugh Gower, a foreman at the gardens, assisted Hooker in selecting and packing the plants for CD (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 15 February [1863] and 5 March [1863]).
The building of CD’s hothouse, in the kitchen garden at Down House, had recently been completed (see LL 1: 321, and letter to G. H. Turnbull, [16? February 1863]).
The reference is to John Horwood, gardener to CD’s neighbour, George Henry Turnbull. In a letter from Henrietta Emma Darwin to William Erasmus Darwin of [22 February 1863], which is in DAR 210.6: 109, Henrietta explained that the plants sent from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see n. 2, above), had been sent ‘out of pots’ and the gardener at Down House, Henry Lettington: had potted them all in common earth, the orchids I mean, & we had to send off instanter for Mr. Horwood to undo them & pot them as they like with their particular kind of moss & peat & the exact sized bits of charcoal. In addition to supervising the construction of the hothouse (see letter to G. H. Turnbull, [16? February 1863]), Horwood had previously aided CD with some of his observations on orchids (see Correspondence vols. 9 and 10, and Orchids, p. 158 n.).
CD may have given Hooker a list of the plants he required when he visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 11 February 1863. The list referred to has not been found; however, a contemporary list of hothouse plants in CD’s hand is in DAR 255: 8 (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VI). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [16 February 1863].
CD probably discussed the requirements for his hothouse with the staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, when he visited on 11 February 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)). In his letter of [23 February 1863], Hooker recommended the ventilation services of John Weeks & Co. of Sussex Terrace, Chelsea, London, and the glaziers James Powell & Sons of Fleet Street, Whitefriars, London.
The references have not been identified. For Hooker’s response to CD’s question, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23 February 1863]. For CD’s interest in Acropera, see, for example, the letter to John Scott, 20 [February 1863], and letter to John Scott, 16 February [1863] and n. 3.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Plants, safely arrived from Kew, fill new greenhouse.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 182
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4004,” accessed on 9 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11