This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Thanks to Mr Bause's skill and energy, and to others following in his wake, we have now an almost illimitable number of this fine genus of plants to choose from for the various purposes of decoration to which they are adapted. The risk now is, that we may find ourselves embarrassed by our riches, instead of being hampered - as we were only a very few years ago - by the poverty of variety of form and colour which existed then. It is quite true that for table decoration some of the older forms, such as Dracaena Cooperii and Dracaena terminalis, cannot yet be dispensed with. On the score of cheapness and economy they must still for some time be the principal subjects for table decoration. And it must be conceded, also, that in their own particular style as regards form and colouring they are unsurpassed; but there are a good many varieties of recent origin which, when plentiful enough to be equally cheap, will divide and claim a large share of popular favour with these fine old sorts. Many of these novelties present marked features both of form and colouring from any of the older species, the forms being specially adapted in some to the requirements of table decoration, while the colouring is varied and beautiful, even to the eclipsing of that of the two fine sorts above named.
They have other recommendations, also, than novelty and grace, and fitness of form and colour. Not a few are slower growers, and do not therefore outgrow the dimensions generally requisite in table-plants. They also more quickly come to colour - many, in fact, exhibiting charming colouring when only a few inches high. In not a few instances, too, a greater persistency of the leaves is notable, which is a valuable feature, the want of which in Dracaena Cooperii is its chief objection.
In presenting the following selection, I may remark that some old and apparently comparatively inferior sorts are included, especially amongst the green-leaved varieties. My apology for so doing is, that some of these green-leaved varieties being hardier than the more showy ones, are better adapted to the requirements of a very large class of people - especially about towns - who have only, perhaps, a small greenhouse in which to cultivate the few table or room plants they want. The two varieties congesta and rubra are handsome plants also in their way, and the latter particularly will endure the wear and tear of room-life better than any other; and, being plentiful, it is cheap, which is no small consideration with the many.
A well-known sort, of common aspect, with very narrow, green, somewhat arching leaves of very leathery texture. The young leaves, when well exposed to light, assume a deep bronze tint. This is sometimes apparently confounded with the following species, which is, however, quite distinct.
This has considerably broader leaves than the last, and altogether a fuller and better habit. The leaves are a light olive-green, narrowly margined with a band of bronze.
Dracaena Gracilis is the most graceful of all the green forms, or perhaps of any form of Dracaena. The leaves rarely exceed half an inch in width: they are a fine lively olive-green, with a broad brown margin running the entire length from base to point. The sort called Dracaena marginata and this are identical - that is, they are or may be obtained from the same stock. The top-cuttings form marginata true, while the successive breaks from the same stem form gracilis true.
Why this particular form is so called does not appear in any feature exhibited in the plant. It is a very plain green sort, capable of hard wear, but not particularly ornamental.
Dracaena Haageana is one of the most distinct of the green-leaved sorts, having longish ovate, bright-green leathery leaves, which stand the dry atmosphere of rooms well. The habit of the plant is compact and pleasing.
This is a very handsome species when well coloured. As in all those remarkable for colour, the tops of medium-sized plants make the finest and most effective table-plants. The long lanceolate leaves have more than average substance in them, which enables them to stand the trying atmosphere of rooms better than most of the coloured species.
A very dwarf form, of sturdy close habit. The leaves are ovatelanceolate, bright green, striped with white, the younger leaves often becoming wholly white. It proves a capital room-plant, the dense leathery texture of the leaves resisting the arid influence of rooms. It may be grown in an intermediate-house temperature, which is an additional consideration in its favour.
A bolder form, of similar style to the last, but generally requiring to be grown to too large a size for table-work before it acquires its fine colour. Yet when well done in medium-sized plants it is very handsome.
A very fine bold species, suitable, when well grown, for contrasting with the darker-leaved varieties on large tables or sideboards. The habit is rather erect, the foliage broad and long-margined, and striped with white, the youngest leaves becoming often pure white, the leaf - stalks and margins of the leaves showing a clouding of rosy-purple.
Having the habit and form of the leaves of the old Dracaena terminalis, with more substance, this is a decided acquisition among white-coloured Dracaenas. It has the merit of colouring in a very young state; finely-coloured plants may be had from cuttings at 1 foot high.
This is a miniature species, and adapted to purposes which no other that I am acquainted with so well suits. Very nice well - coloured plants may be grown to a foot or more high in 4-inch or even smaller pots. The leaves are about 3 to 5 inches long, closely recurved on the stem, and not more than an inch broad - deep bronze, striped with purplish crimson, and occasional bars of bright olive-green. When done in small pots, it makes a most suitable ornament for small vases.
No list of Dracaenas for table decoration would be complete without this old and well-known sort.
A very handsome sort, of light, elegant habit. The leaves are lanceolate, tapering, and recurved - deep bronze-green, with broad crimson margin. The young leaves are rosy pink and cream-coloured.
This is one of the newest and best as regards colouring and habit. The plant grows to moderate size slowly, but to colour quickly. The leaves are long, stalked, and spreading. The ground colour is dark shining bronze, edged with crimson, the leaf - stalks partaking of the same brilliant colour. The younger leaves become broadly margined with purple, shading off with age into the glowing crimson of the older leaves. It is altogether one of the most effective Dracaenas for table decoration yet introduced.
A very neat and highly coloured variety, of dwarf habit. The leaves are elegantly recurved, from 9 inches to 1 foot long; they are deep bronze-green, margined and striped with deep rosy-crimson, the younger leaves being bright rose with a dash of crimson, and occasionally streaked with bright olive-green.
A very handsome variety, of free but moderate growth, and colouring early. The leaves are slightly arching, long-stalked, about 2 inches broad, deep bronzed olive-green, broadly margined with brilliant crimson.
A very excellent sort for table decoration. The sort is so well known as to hardly need description. The form which is sold under the name elegantissima is so slightly different, if at all, as to be undesirable in the same collection.
This is one of the newer introductions, and is a worthy one. The leaves are oblong-ovate, elegantly recurved. The ground colour is very deep olive-green with a dash of bronze, margined with crimson rose. The younger leaves are variegated in changeful style with rosy pink, cream colour, and white suffused with rose, the youngest ones being wholly of the latter combination.
This is of the same type as Ernestii, and perhaps not quite distinct enough to be desirable in the same collection. Its habit is freer and more open, and the leaves are longer and broader than in the latter, and also more erect. The colour is a deep bronze-green, in the mature leaves edged with deep rose - crimson. The younger leaves assume wholly a rosy-crimson tint, very bright and effective. It colours at a very early stage of growth, and. is therefore a very desirable sort.
This is sometimes erroneously called terminalis stricta, but it has nothing in common with that sort. It is a very bold, useful variety, of erect style and brilliant colour when the plants are grown rapidly from cuttings rather than eyes. It is also very serviceable, and endures well in rooms.
The last but not the least of the present selection. When rapidly grown from cuttings, this is one of the most brilliantly coloured of the whole group, and it is certainly one of the most enduring. W. S.