This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
With the exception of a paper written many years since in the Transactions of the Horticultural Society, and one which lately appeared in the Midland Florist, little or nothing has been done to promote the cultivation of the Tiger Flower. This (considering the unrivalled splendour of its flowers, its unique character, and the eagerness with which all seek to possess it) is a circumstance much to be regretted, and must be matter of surprise to many florists. True it is that, in the hands of the unskilled amateur, it is soon lost altogether, for no plant is more impatient of neglect; and in wet and unfavourable seasons it is liable, even in the hands of the most skilful cultivator, to disappoint his hopes; its flowers moreover, it is said, are of short duration. But, to my mind, these are but frivolous objections when compared with the many attractive qualities which this gorgeous flower possesses; and I have little fear of being able to convince those who may chance to read this communication, that the Tiger Flower merits much more attention than has hitherto been bestowed upon it by modern florists; and that but little trouble, and still less expense, is required for its successful cultivation.
But while I express my surprise that florists should have neglected the cultivation of this flower, I am altogether at a loss for an explanation of the unaccountable circumstance, that no distinct varieties have as yet been produced from it, and that no one should hitherto have attempted a union between T. pavonia and T. con-chiflora, the prettiest species of this genus that have, as yet, made their appearance in our gardens. These flowers not only unite with each other, but the offspring produced by their union has proved quite as fertile as their parents; which is rarely, if ever, the case with the offspring of two distinct species. I am, therefore, justified in considering the one merely a variety of the other. But which, it will be asked, is the variety, and which the original plant? The following circumstance may throw some light upon the subject.
While I feasted my eyes one morning upon a more numerous expansion of bloom than usual of both species, I beheld in one of the petals of Conchiflora a broad stripe running from the base to the apex, like the stripe in a Carnation; and its colour resembled that of the petal of Pavonia so nearly, that it immediately struck me the two flowers must be much more nearly related to each other than botanists were willing to believe. The very next morning I arose earlier than usual, that I might deprive some of the flowers of T. conchiflora of their anthers, in order that the pistil might be fertilised with the pollen of T. pavonia. Six flowers (the strongest I could select) were chosen for experiment; and from these the anthers were removed while the morning dew was yet upon the flowers. The anthers, moreover, were removed from every other flower of T. conchiflora in my garden; and as soon as I thought the pistils in a fit state for fertilisation, the stigmas of three only of the six selected for experiment were dusted with the pollen of T. pavonia. These produced three seed-pods; but the other three which were not dusted withered and died without producing seed.
From this little experiment I felt satisfied 1 had proved, first, that the two flowers T. pavonia and conchiflora were not distinct species; and secondly, that I should have the satisfaction of beholding, in little more than two years, an interesting collection of seedling varieties from them. Nor have I been disappointed. The two flowers represented in the plate in a previous page, were selected from these seedlings for the purpose of embellishing this Number of The Florist, not so much on account of their brilliant tints, as from their possessing distinct characters; and it was the opinion of the talented artist, Miss Drake, by whom they were drawn, that it would be impossible to do justice to some of the more highly coloured varieties. To those who may feel inclined to make experiments with the Tiger Flower for the purpose of obtaining a collection of seedling varieties, I would recommend that they procure half-a-dozen bulbs of each variety, and having planted them in small flower-pots containing old vegetable mould mixed with about one-third sand, plunge them into a gentle bottom heat; and soon after the plants appear above ground, gradually remove them from thence to a greenhouse, and ultimately to a warm south border, taking great care not to injure or disturb the roots in shifting them from the pots.
Here, if the weather prove unfavourable, they may be protected by a hand-glass for a short time. Thus treated, they flower much earlier than such as have been at once planted into the open ground, and will be sure to ripen their seed. Plants raised from seed will always flower the second year, but it is possible that some of them may during the autumn of the first, as the following circumstance has proved.
TIGRIDIA PAVONIA & CONCHIFLORA.
Early in the spring of last year I gave to my friend Mr. Coulson, of Assington Hall, a small packet of seed of T. conchiflora, which had been fertilised by Pavonia (about as much as might have been produced from three or four seed-vessels). This seed was raised in a cucumber-frame; and the seedlings, as soon as the weather permitted, were pricked out into a south border. Here their progress was much more rapid than could have been anticipated; for in the month of September several of them sent up flower-stems, and four actually expanded their blossoms. From the appearance of these seedlings, I have no doubt that every root will produce several flower-stems next season; and I will leave it to my readers to form an idea of the interest and anxiety with which my friend looks forward to the time when his bed of seedlings shall reward him with their varied hues.
[To be continued].
(Concluded from p. 91).
The Tiger Flower will grow and blossom tolerably well in almost any soil that is not very tenacious, or retentive of moisture; but that which appears to suit it best, and in which I have grown it with the greatest success, was composed of about equal parts of old vegetable mould and cow-dung, with a third, or at least a fourth part, white sand. This compost should be at least two or three years old before it is used; and each bulb, at the time of planting, should be surrounded with a small quantity of sand, or, what in my opinion is much better, and which I have generally used, a mixture of equal parts of white sand and very old vegetable mould. Very old sandy peat has sometimes been employed for the same purpose, and probably nothing would answer better, provided it were frequently turned over, and sweetened by exposure to the atmosphere for some time previous to its being used. In the above-mentioned soil, the depth of which ought not to be less than eighteen inches, the Tiger Flower grows with excessive luxuriance, many of its flower-stems measuring nearly three feet in length, and each stem producing in succession from six to ten flowers.
These, it is true, last but for a few hours; but the rapid succession in which they are produced when many bulbs are grown, the excessive richness of their colours, and the endless variety of tints in a bed of seedlings, more than compensate for the short duration of each individual flower.
From the time the Tiger Flower first appears above ground, until it is taken up in autumn, it appears to suffer little or nothing from the attacks of insects, birds, or, indeed, any kind of enemy; but I never yet met with any one who had attempted its cultivation, that did not acknowledge he lost many bulbs during the time hese remained above ground; and many friends, to whom I have given the Tigridia, have seen it blossom but for one season.
The most difficult part in the cultivation of this plant is the ripening of the bulbs in autumn, and this, I fear, in our climate, can rarely be accomplished (certainly not after wet and cold summers), since the foliage invariably retains its green hue until it is either destroyed by frost, or cut off by the merciless gardener.
The following plan, which 1 have adopted in bringing these bulbs more gradually into a state of rest, has, for the most part, answered the purpose remarkably well. In the month of October, as soon as I apprehend frost is about to set in, the plants are carefully lifted from the soil, and packed closely in large flower-pots, the interstices between them being filled up with some of the soil from which they were removed; great care being taken to injure as little as possible the fibres which are attached to the bulbs. They are then watered, though sparingly, and the pots are placed in an airy part of a greenhouse. Here they remain during the whole winter, and if their foliage has escaped being materially injured by frost, a portion of it often remains green till after Christmas, and that of seedling varieties frequently during the whole winter; for some of these are much later in flowering than their parents. This mode of bringing the plants gradually into a state of rest answers much better, and is much more consistent with their natural habits, than the ruinous system of cutting off the leaves while yet green, and drying the roots more suddenly, the common practice with the generality of gardeners.
Though the above plan of managing the Tiger Flower answers well, nevertheless the strongest and most luxuriant plants of this flower in my garden are those the bulbs of which remain in the ground the whole winter; and I am inclined to believe that the Tiger Flower might always be advantageously allowed to remain in the ground during the whole year. There need be no fear of the bulbs being injured by frost, provided they had a sufficient covering of old tan or partially decayed leaves; and they certainly appear to have fewer enemies in the ground than out of it.
In front and at the east and west ends of my greenhouse the Tiger Flower remains in the ground during the whole winter without any kind of covering. The bulbs are generally taken up in the month of April for the purpose of dividing them and separating the offsets (for they increase with astonishing rapidity in this situation), and I rarely find more than half-a-dozen or so decayed, out of some hundreds. In this situation the soil is so far under the influence of the greenhouse flue, which is heated in frosty weather to protect Geraniums and other plants, that, though its surface is frozen in very severe weather, the cold has never penetrated so deep as to injure the bulbs, which are about three inches below the surface, and within five or six of the foundation wall. Last winter some bulbs were left in the ground, in the most exposed part of my garden, with but a thin covering of partially decayed leaves, and these without an exception were uninjured; but the season was a mild one. Next season I shall subject a larger number to similar treatment.