This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Excepting the Rose, I know of but few plants having more admirers, or of which so much has been said or written, as the well-known Calla .AEthiopica-or, more correctly, Richardia AEthi-opica. Of all plants, it seems the one with which everybody excels their neighbors in cultivation, and on that account is so justly popular. The first essays of amateurs generally begin with them, and then follows, as is very natural, their initial communication "to the editor," to announce their success. When we take into consideration the combined beauty of flower and foliage, and admit the fact of no one ever failing to produce the finest flowers that ever grew, there is no wonder why in every window stands a stately Calla. The latest remarks I quote from the January number of the Monthly and Horticulturist, in which a writer says: "I give the Callas very little rest; some of them none whatever. By this system of culture, the roots do not die, and the plants certainly produce finer flowers."
A more liberal supply of fair flowers, healthy green leaves, or sturdier plants, I never saw under any system of cultivation than which grew in the basin of a water fountain in a Cleveland conservatory. For seven long years, through all seasons, the pots stood up to their rims in water. Were never dried off, had no rest - as they were never weary of well-doing, did not require any - and so they went on blooming without ceasing. More fortunate than poor Ponce de Leon, they had found the fountain of life; and while enjoying a perpetual spring, with all the vigor of immortal youth, they freely imbibed the life-giving water.
Years before, at the junction of the Black and Yellow rivers, at the Cape of Good Hope, the writer saw untold millions of them growing in the swamps, lakes and lagoons. I believe they never dry up there, in that particular region, during the hot and droughty seasons peculiar to Africa, but are at all times submerged. Who knows but what the Arundinarias, Imperatas, Cyperus, Arundos, Papyrus, Nymphias, and Callas, overshadowed the ancient crocodile and hippopotamus many thousands of years before Vasco de Gama doubled the Cape.
There are but few plants capable of existing under such dissimilar conditions as the Calla. Treated as an aquatic, a terrestrial, or sub-aquatic, it readily adapts itself to the situation, and flourishes finely. Chilly winds and frosty weather are more fatal to them than any other causes. Notwithstanding they succumb to zero's icy touch, they will endure considerable cold, and live, if preserved from frost.
It may be argued, for argument's sake, perhaps, that, as they are tuberous plants, nature intended them to have a period of rest, and it would be folly to attempt to change such immutable laws. Such views may accord with the ideas of those who consider nature's laws as austere and rigorous as were " the decrees and statutes," right or wrong, "of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not." As regards vegetation, I honestly entertain a contrary opinion, and candidly believe, kind nature is neither so unyielding or inflexible as the Solons insist, but is, to a certain extent, governed by circumstances. That nature often deviates from accustomed ways, and seems none the worse for the change, is obvious to all intelligent observers. In corroboration of my assertion, I will cite but one more instance, which came under my notice in South Africa, namely the Erica, which is a very interesting and elegant genus, always considered so difficult to manage under cultivation. Of all the plants which come under a gardener's care, Cape Heaths require, probably, a higher order of floricultural skill than most other plants do to insure success. No mere novice, or pretender, should be allowed to meddle or tamper with them, as disappointment and loss will inevitably follow.
It is well said, " These plants are among the most beautiful in the world." Such a gentleman as Mr. Munroe deserves all the success he obtains with them, as well as the hearty thanks of every Heath grower for his pains.
At the Cape of Good Hope, Erica impe-rialis, E. pellucida, E. grandiflora, E. viridiflora, E. vestita alba, E. mirabilis, E. princeps, E. blanda, and many others, the writer saw springing from slight cracks and openings in the rocks, and growing amazingly, with apparently little or no soil to support them, and where the sun's rays literally blazed upon them. The same kinds, with numbers of other species, were equally happy and vigorous on the mountain sides, beneath shady, broad-leaved forest trees, near the sea-beach, in the snow-white sand, and in boggy hollows. With such a variety of soils and conditions, they flourished, as if to show the different ways "Dame Nature" had of doing things.
Returning to the Calla question. However much cultivators may differ about the right method of treating them, they all agree that plenty of old rotten cow manure is a pabulum they most delight in. Soot-water is also an excellent stimulant; in fact, is one of the best for pot plants generally. For vegetables it is equal to guano - especially for onions, celery, cabbage, turnips, asparagus, etc. As a fertilizer, to sow on the lawn, or green pastures, I have used it with good results for many years.
If the heart's Utopia is among Callas, why, in the name of all things flowery, let the good folks enjoy it. Certainly the joys of floriculture, either in this or any other land, are equal to any other pleasures, and far surpass most of the trivial ones which tempt us to follow. Yet, the coldblooded cynic may live unmindful of the Creator's goodness in strewing flowers along the waysides, which he refuses to see or appreciate. He may pass through the forest, cheery with the hum of insect life, and merry with the music of birds, without hearing them, or knowing there are glorious old trees around and above him. He may be in the midst of fields bearing the bending golden grain, without heed or pleasure. But, he is not " one of us "; being utterly incapable of feeling, he does not know the world is full of beauty when the heart is full of love.
Boston is as famous for Callas as it is for Lilies. Violets, Tuberoses, Pinks, and Roses; and Mr. W. C. Strong was much noted for successfully cultivating the same. Callas were a specialty, and were grown in immense quantities, both in pots and in the borders of his mammoth greenhouses, to the profit and pleasure of the worthy proprietor.