This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In response to the query of Mrs. R. B. Edson, about Dreer's New Hybrid Coleus, I take pleasure in giving my experience with regard to their hardiness in the summer sun. As the summers in our city are extremely dry and hot, I think it a very fair trial of them.
When I received my box of coleus from Mr. Dreer and opened it, the first thought was that I was swindled nicely, while I at once perceived that they were of an entirely new type of coleus, but considered their colors very ugly indeed, and quite different from the colored sheet in his catalogue. However, I determined to give them a trial before expressing my opinion. I put them in the hottest place I could find, determined to get out of them all the "come out," should there be any, and to my utter surprise their colors changed so rapidly and beautifully, that after a lapse of two weeks I could scarcely believe they were the same plants. I so much liked them I determined they should have a prominent place in my garden; and accordingly planted them on my border where they did not miss the sun at all while it shone. They grew off at once with the old colors (as when received) which discouraged me again, when to ray surprise about the middle of June, they began to show their bright colors again, and in three weeks they were the brightest and prettiest coleus I have ever seen, and remained so with a continual growth until they were killed by the frost.
I must confess I never saw plants resemble as much the colored plates of their likeness, as did my Coleus; just like the plate with the exception of the fine gloss, which of course I did not expect. It seemed that the hotter the atmosphere was the brighter they looked, and have stood the sun about 20 per cent. better than the older varieties. They have given me more pleasure than any set of new plants I have ever received. I consider them the greatest acquisition I have known in the soft-wooded class of plants. While there is quite a similarity in the tri-colored set, it is not at all an objection. The only objections to any of them are that Amabilis and Mrs. E. B. Cooper, while very rank growers, are exceedingly ugly, and Superbissima entirely worthless. It will not grow; I don't care what I do with it. Some seedlings that I have raised from them are very richly colored, and I think them much prettier than their parents, though I have not had a chance to test their qualities in the summer. The dwarf set of Dreer's and Henderson's entire set I have not had at all.
Mrs. R. B. Edson, on page 2, Jan. number of the Gardener's Monthly, asks for reports on the new Coleus. The following is a brief statement of my experience with them. The ones mentioned below are selected from a large collection of the new varieties, gathered together from various sources. For bedding, these are the chosen ones. Gracilliana, Miss R. Kirk-patrick, Superbissima, and above all Speciosa of Dreer's set. Fairy and Spotted Gem, of Peter Henderson's set. The former of these (Fairy), is the best of that brilliantly striped and streaked class, both in point of habit and color, and the latter (Spotted Gem), is the hardiest of them all; it stood side by side with the old Verschaffeltii when the first frost came in the fall, and stood without blemish long after the old favorite was chilled. But for inside culture, many of the new ones are unsurpassed for beauty in any class of decorative plants. Here again Speciosa and Miss R. Kirkpatrick, of Dreer's set lay claims to attention, and his Amabilis is attractive for its free blooming properties.
Fairy is also con- spicuous, and Beacon takes the place of Superbissima in being much richer in color and more robust indoors, but Zephyr, in my opinion, crowns them all as a foliage plant for indoor culture; a single head often measuring ten inches across, with a rich bronzy-brown color. The above are all valuable acquisitions, and should be in every collection.
Mrs. R. B. Edson, in her charming "Garden Notes and Gossip," asks that "some of the correspondents who have tried the new Coleus - Dreer's and Henderson's new sets - report thereon." I have not tried Henderson's, and only six of Dreer's; so I am not prepared to report very fully. But I wish to make special mention of "Miss Retta Kirkpatrick," which looks like the picture, though it is handsomer. It is the one represented by a large leaf, creamy white centre; broad, green-lobed margin. It was a wee plant when it came to me in early spring, but it very rapidly outgrew the other five, branching out finely, so that I began in June to take slips from it, and have continued to do this each month to the present time. I should think I had rooted full thirty cuttings, and the plant itself, which has been beheaded on three of its branches, has now twenty-eight shoots, that would all make fine plants, no doubt, if treated as were the others. I rooted them all in sand, kept constantly wet, and exposed a large part of the day to the direct rays of the sun. I never saw anything so quickly take root and so rapidly grow as did these cuttings. At one time I kept half a dozen about two months in the pure sand, till they were fine, large plants, with a great mass of roots.
They can be removed from the sand to pots of earth without retarding their growth. I always allow the particles which adhere to remain in transplanting. This Coleus is a special favorite with me. " Fairy," foliage yellow and green, blotched with crimson scarlet, and "Charm," yellow, tinged with bronzy scarlet, stained with dark brown; green deeply serrated margin, were very beautiful in the open ground, and from these I rooted also in sand several very fine cuttings. But the original plants did not grow rapidly.
I think the Coleus adds much to the attractions of the border, but it is for the winter window-garden they are specially valuable.
I, too, can speak in praise of Acalypha Macaf-feana. I received mine from Mr. John Saul in June, and it was one of the bright attractions of my collection of rare plants till November, when it dropped all of its leaves. Three new ones have since put forth.
As one of your correspondents wishes some information about the new Coleus of last year, and having been the raiser of those sent out by Mr. Henderson, I send you a few lines about my experience.
In regard to their standing the sun outdoors, I would say that there are onlj' a few of them which do not "burn," and even these lose that extreme brightness which makes them so valuable for indoor decoration. One of the best and hardiest varieties is Spotted Gem; the word "spotted," however, hardly describes it, as it is dashed, striped and blotched, in a very curious way. The ground color of the leaves is bright green, changing when older to almost a clear yellow, and the markings are of very rich shades of crimson, maroon and yellow.
Another good variety is "Burning Bush." This is a very peculiar variety, and somewhat reminds one of the dark llowers of some of the Japanese chrysanthemums, the leaves being deeply cut, and of a peculiar rosy bronze color, tinted with carmine, orange, and crimson. "Cloth of Gold," as its name indicates, is of a golden yellow color, sometimes edged with green, when grown under glass; growth very neat and compact. "Glory of Autumn" is another Coleus of good habit of growth; leaves a deep crimson bronze, slightly margined with yellow. Of the lighter colored varieties, "Sensation " is one of the best, the color of the leaves is a light yellowish carmine, with bright yellow edge - very fine for indoor decoration. "Starlight " is also a good light variety; leaves yellow, veined with carmine and crimson.
"Rosamond" is one of the brightest and best of those of my raising, and is very highly colored. The leaves have a background of bright yellow, and are curiously blotched and striped with the brightest shades of carmine, green, crimson and pink.
I shall probably experiment further with the new Coleus next summer, when I hope to be able to report the result in the Monthly.
"J. R. H.," Richmond, Virginia, says: - " You will probably recollect me on new coleus in a few numbers back, in which I spoke of some improved ones I had raised. I mailed you on the 6th of this month a few specimen leaves. Will like to hear through the Monthly if you like them, and if much improvement on the late class of new coleus."
[These leaves were as beautiful as any coleus we ever saw. Just how they will suit for bedding purposes is the test of the chief value of a coleus at the present time. So far as the introductions of the past are concerned, few yet equal the oldest of all, Verschafeltii. - Ed.G. M.|
We have from a number of correspondents leaves of seedling coleus, of which all we can say is that they are very beautiful. Their exact value in ornamental gardening must be ascertained by direct competition, one with another. It is evident that good kinds are easily raised.