This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
For the following particulars respecting this noble plant we are indebted to the kindness of a correspondent, who has forwarded them to us just in time for their appearance in our volume for 1849. The present year has produced no greater event in horticulture than the flowering the plant in question, which has been effected by the skill of Mr. Paxton: we quite envy the establishment at Chatsworth the gratification it must experience in this triumph.
Nov. 10th, 1849. The following particulars respecting the Victoria Regia, which has been bloomed at Chatsworth for the first time in England, may be acceptable to the readers of The Florist. It was procured from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, when it had only four leaves, the largest of which was 5 1/2 inches across or 16 1/2 in circumference; and a fifth leaf opened in the course of two days afterwards. The box which contained it was 13 1/2-inches square and about 8 inches deep, which was ample for the purpose. It was planted out at Chatsworth in a tank originally 12 feet square by 3 feet deep, now increased to 19 feet long and 18 feet 8 inches wide, the addition being considerably shallower. In the centre, about five one-horse cart-loads of turfy loam were thrown in on a foundation of brick-rubbish, and in this the aquatic was planted out, without pot or basket. Around the neck of the plant a quantity of silver-sand was placed. The water in this tank is warmed by pipes; but there is another tank beside it heated direct from the boiler, the water from which passes out of a cock, and falls upon and turns a small wheel, the revolutions of which keep the body of water in the first tank in circulation, the excess finding its way out at a waste-pipe. The temperature of the water in which the plant is growing is kept at about 85°, and that of the atmosphere at 75°. Twice in the twenty-four hours a considerable portion of the water is run off, and its place supplied with fresh.
I first saw it last evening, Nov. 9th: it has twelve leaves fully grown, the largest 4 feet 10 inches in diameter, and the others not much less; with more in different stages of growth. The length of the leaf-stalks was 11 feet. The habit of the foliage is not the least interesting part of this beautiful plant. The leaf-bud comes up above the water quite closed, and covered with spines; it then expands in a beautifully cupped form, with conspicuous ribs and veins; in two or three days it falls flat on the surface of the water, then just droops under it, and again rises, and the outer edge gracefully curving upwards, shews the under surface, which is of a beautiful red colour. The flower was just opening, and was fully expanded at nine o'clock in the evening; the outer petals were then white, and lying on the surface of the water; the absolute centre of a deep red, surrounded by petals of a rose-colour; size of flower about 12 inches in diameter. Beside it was a bud, just above the surface of the water; and beneath were several more in different stages of forwardness.
This morning the pure whiteness of the outer petals has considerably faded, the centre has quite closed up, and the entire flower has assumed a cupped form and fallen on its side, preparatory, as is supposed, to its going entirely under water to produce seed. It is expected to prove a very free bloomer, which will compensate for the transient character of its blossoms. I should not be surprised to hear that it produced leaves, stalks, and flowers half as large again.
* By being placed on the north side of a wall, vegetation is retarded in spring, so that they need not be planted out till all danger from frost is over, i. e. not till the middle of April.
† For well read better; but we must not interrupt "Poor Richard".