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.
In arranging a plant-house, it is a comparatively easy matter to set down the plants where they happen to fit in nicely; but when a pleasing harmony or contrast is aimed at, the task becomes a much more difficult one. Plants require to be grown in quantity for the purpose, and when a judicious selection of sorts is made and well attended to, and coming in for use at their proper time, it is well-repaid labour - at least it has always been a pleasant task to me, and I have practised it to some extent for several years. In this paper I purpose to treat of stove-plants only, and confine myself to four sorts - viz., Begonia manicata, and Dracaenas Cooperii, terminalis, and ferrea. Old Begonia manicata is a great favourite of mine. I have had large plants of it in 15-inch pots, and always several small ones, their period of flowering extending from January till the beginning of April. The idea of using it as an effective plant occurred to me some two years ago, when arranging the stove in spring. I happened to have two very well flowered plants in 5-inch pots, and set them down with a Dracaena ferrea between them. I thought at the time that a row of B. manicata, with the above-mentioned Dracaena between them, would have a fine effect.
I took a note of it, and prepared a number of plants in proper time as under. The cuttings were put into the propagating bed in the beginning of June, and when nicely rooted were potted into 3 1/2-inch pots: when ready they were shifted into 5-inch do., and allowed to remain on the back bed of the propagating pit, "among other plants grown for a similar purpose," till the beginning of November, when they were taken to a shelf in the plant-stove, where they were allowed to remain till they were coming into flower. By the time they were in full flower, their height, pot and all, would be about 18 inches. They were taken down and arranged alternately with the Dracaenas, which ranged from 15 to 18 inches in height, pot included. This made a very pleasing, and at the same time a very effective, front row. The fine dark foliage of the Dracaenas contrasted nicely with the beautiful and graceful flowers of the Begonia, while its fine large green foliage formed a beautiful groundwork to the whole, the pots being almost completely hid by it. I have a few more favourites which I have grown for similar purposes, but will reserve them for another paper.