This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In addition to the many flowering plants grown for decorative purposes at mid-winter, Ferns play an important part, and especially the Maidenhair Fern, A. cuneatum, and the elegant A. gracilli-mum. At the Royal Nursery, Ascot, Messrs. Standish & Co. grow these two in immense quantities, and at Christmas there could be seen two long span-roofed houses quite filled with some thousand plants of A. cuneatum, the great majority in 32-pots,with larger examples in pots of an increased size. Every plant was a perfect specimen in itself, so admirably was it grown. The plants are not marketed, but simply grown for the fronds, and they are constantly being-sent to London. The ripened, developed fronds are those gathered, as they stand much better and last longer than the young ones. They are gathered and carefully laid in baskets, and reach their destination without taking harm. A gra-cillimum is wonderfully grown at Ascot. There are those who term it a"mifty grower," and say they cannot do anything with it, but at Ascot it is the very perfection of vigor, and if anything, more robust than A. cuneatum.
It is a very fast grower.
A large number of plants had been raised from seed, and it was curious to note that in a very young state the pinnae were as large as those of A. cuneatum; but when it gets into size, the young fronds take on that small elegant form peculiar to it. So rapidly do the plants come on from seedlings, that there were admirable specimens in 48-pots that were in the seed-pans a year ago. Some extra-large specimens showed off the character of the species to the very best advantage. It may be that failures with this Fern arise from the use of too much peat in the soil; at Ascot no peat whatever is used. The soil is a sandy, turfy loam, and a little horse-manure, and strong plants have a little weak manure-water once a week, and rather more in summer-time. The experience gained at Ascot teaches that A. gracillimum will not grow in peat. The cuneatum is increased by dividing the plants when they break into growth after being cut over for the London season. The plants, as soon as they begin to be active, are cut to pieces, and potted in 32-pots.
Asparagus decumbens is much grown for table decoration at Ascot; its long handsome shoots are very acceptable for clothing the stems of tall epergnes. This species was growing in 48-pots, and a line of plants along the front of a stage of Camellias, etc., hung down like a fringe. The plant puts forth pseudo-bulbs like an Orchid, and is nearly deciduous in Summer, but most ornamental in Winter. - Gardener's Chronicle.