I returned home to-day after staying some little time in London. Apart from other reasons, it is worth going away for the joy of returning. While in London I again went to the Drill Hall Show, on the 14th, some few days later than last year. Nothing struck me so much this year as the Amygdalus davidiana did the year before; but it was an especially good show of flowers for so early in the season. Year by year the Cyclamens grow larger and finer in colour, but I do not think they are plants that have been greatly improved by increased cultivation and Brobdingnagian size. I prefer the pretty, little, old, sweet-smelling types. Pans full of miniature Daffodils were very attractive, and Messrs. Hill & Co. of Lower Edmonton had a lovely and most uncommon collection of greenhouse Ferns. Nephrodium membranifolium and an Aspidium struck me particularly, from the charm of their growth. The fashionable, little, bright pink Begonia Gloire de Lorraine was in large quantities and most effective. The lovely Iris reticulata was also exhibited. The London streets were more than ever full of beautiful flowers, none beating the showy branches of the Mimosa, Acacia dealbata, from the South of France.
I found at home that the Crocuses had made much progress, and the Daffodils, instead of only showing green spears, are all now in bud. The complete stillness is so delicious to me!
How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude! But grant me still a friend in my retreat, Whom I may whisper, 'solitude is sweet.'
That is what the young feel. The old can do without companionship.
My little conservatory looked bright and full of bloom. Last year I had a lot of Daffodils in pans, and they did very well and forced easily. This year I have Hyacinths; but though they were not very good bulbs - some being successful, and some failures - still they look well and picturesque in the open pans: far prettier than in pots. I have one little Oriental slop-basin filled with the bright blue Scillas, which is very effective; and the Freesias are always most satisfactory. Mr. Sydenham recommends buying them each year; but I think, cheap as they are, that must be advice rather for the seller than for the buyer, as with us, treated as recommended before, they improve and increase, and, when there is so much to buy, that is what I call satisfactory. The common Lachenalias do the same. The Lachenalia aurea is more difficult to increase. Lachenalias do not require so much baking and drying as the Freesias do, and should be kept in half-shade in a frame after the leaves die down, and not quite dry. Early re-potting in July is desirable for both.
To make variety in colour, and because they are such useful flowers for picking - their duration in water being almost endless - I have several pots of the Orchid Dendrobium mobile, and one fine spike of Odontoglossum alexandrce in full bloom. My large, old-fashioned, sweet-smelling white Azalea, which has been so faithful a friend for many years, has failed this year - either from mere fatigue of being forced, or from being over-dried and pot-bound last summer, which I think more likely. I have a young plant of the same which is now in full flower - Azalea indica alba it is called in the catalogues. But often other varieties are sent out under the same name which have no scent at all, and are consequently much less worth growing in a small greenhouse. My old plant had the most delicious, delicate, and yet powerful perfume. We have now broken it up and re-potted small pieces, with the hope that they may grow again. The large pots of Imantophyllums are looking glorious. They are rather handsomer varieties, both in size and colour, than the usual ones. I got them two or three years ago from Veitch, who has specially improved these most useful and showy of winter-flowering plants. A small shrubby plant of the bright yellow Coronilla gives another spot of bright colour by the blue-green of the sweet-leaved Eucalyptus. We have brought the forcing of the Polygonatum multiflorum (Solomon's Seal) to most useful perfection; and, put back in a reserve bed after flowering, it is ready to force again after a year or two. It is the easiest and most effective of the hardy plants to bring on in a greenhouse.