This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The rage for horticultural novelties has thrown many old and deserving favourites into the background. However trite the old adage may be, that novelty is not necessarily improvement, we do not seem to acknowledge it otherwise than in theory. A modern horticultural enthusiast does not admire a plant for its beauty, or for the associations which cling around it, - the talisman, by-the-by, which must ever elevate the pursuit of gardening beyond a mere mechanical art; - he admires it only for its rarity. With such I can evince no sympathy; I love a plant for its beauty "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever".
And believing that among the readers of the Florist there are many-kindred spirits, I propose to drag from their comparative obscurity some of the old beauties of the greenhouse and garden.
For nearly a century and a half has the beautiful plant whose modern name gives the title to this paper occupied our greenhouses. I know not if it ever attracted the attention it deserves; certain it is that in the present day we do not meet with it in the degree of excellence it is capable of attaining. Easy of propagation and of growth, and magnificent in appearance when in bloom, it becomes a matter of surprise that it should be neglected. It can be grown and flowered in any-sized pot, from a 60 to a No. 1; it is equally adapted for the greenhouse of the amateur, or the more assuming conservatories of large establishments; and among the numerous exquisite plants which now crowd our collections, it would be difficult to rival a well-grown specimen of the old Kalosanthes coccinea.
As a preliminary in its successful cultivation, we must recollect that its flowers are produced only on shoots of two seasons' growth; consequently it is requisite to provide two sets of plants to keep up a yearly display. I will suppose the cultivator to possess some old straggling plants now out of bloom, and that he wishes to grow and flower some handsome specimens. He must cut back the blooming shoots pretty freely, and all straggling growths, in order to form the foundation of a symmetrical plant. All the tops of shoots which have not bloomed may be employed as cuttings. But we will first dispose of the old plants, and then take up the cuttings, and see how we can develope a handsome specimen. Place the old pruned plants in some cool place, withholding water till the old wood has "broken" freely. There will be a vast quantity of shoots beyond what will be required; thin them judiciously; and when the plant is fairly growing, turn it out of its old pot, reduce the ball, repot it in a smaller pot, place it in a cool frame till the young roots begin to appear through the new earth, gradually harden the plant by the application of plenty of air and solar influence, and give it a larger pot; shift it as often as the pot it occupies becomes filled with roots, if you require a large specimen; and get it well established in its blooming pot by the time you "house" your greenhouse plants in autumn.
And bear in mind that, although a succulent, and that it may be the winter season, your plant will require a considerable amount of water. I shall have more to say on this point presently. In the ensuing spring, or early summer, according to circumstances, you will be amply repaid for all your labours. Now for our cuttings.
Select some of the more robust pieces, of which we spoke just now, prepare them as cuttings, and place each in a small sixty pot, in a sandy compost. Here let me remind you, that the plants have extremely delicate hair-like roots. Place the cuttings in your propagating frame; a cold pit will do. As soon as they are rooted, cut each down to within an inch or so of the soil, and replace them in their nursery till they have "broken," which they will do at every eye. Remove them to a more airy place, and when established repot them; which continue to do, even in the first winters of their growth, as often as may be deemed necessary; and during the same period, repeatedly "stopping" the young growths, till the ground-work of what you intend each plant to become is formed. But never "top" and repot at the same time. Let each plant be well established before you "top" it, and never repot till the plant has broken again. These are golden rules in general plant-culture, especially among hard-wooded plants. Be liberal in your treatment to the young plants throughout their growth, and meet the blooming season with well-ripened robust shoots, and a well-filled pot of roots: a magnificent display of bloom will follow.
But of soil.
Don't, because it is a succulent, starve it with mortar-rubbish and brickbats. Secure a thorough drainage, and then employ a compost, such as you would for a Geranium. Don't dry up the plant in winter. If you once let the heap of soil become perfectly dry, a great portion of the foliage will turn brown and fall off, and leave the plant a scarecrow rather than an ornament to your greenhouse. Bloom it with foliage of a twelvemonth's growth. During the summer of its growth, you may use guano-water with great advantage, and again when the plant is rousing all its energies to perfect its blossoms. In winter, merely keep the soil damp, and the temperature above freezing. I should have observed before, that after the plants have done blooming, and previously to pruning them, withhold water for some days, otherwise they "bleed" much, and the young growth is weakened and retarded. If you desire to bloom the same plant every season, you must preserve the growths which have not bloomed this year, to produce blossoms in the ensuing one. But two sets of plants are more satisfactory, if you have room. The plant in question is, I believe, propagated extensively7, and employed as a bedding-plant, with excellent effect, by Mr. Beaton, Sir William Middleton's gardener.
Of course, for such a purpose, a different routine of management must be observed. I have used them as single plants in a mixed garden, for which purpose they are desirable.