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.
I Have at the present time two or three dozen pots of this most beautiful and useful plant in full flower, and never have I before succeeded so well with them. I attribute this success to some alteration in my mode of treatment which I have adopted this season, and I shall be glad if you will kindly spare space in the 'Gardener' for the little I have to say on the matter, hoping it will prove of use to all who are interested in winter-blooming plants. During the last week in March 1869 I put the tubers into a common cutting-box, and placed it in a warm pit, and there it was kept till the tubers had made growth fully an inch in height, the surface of the box being completely covered with foliage; and it might have been mistaken for a small bed of some new variety of Anaectochilus, the box looked so pretty. I then transplanted the tubers into their flowering-pots, placing the plants singly in pots 5 inches in diameter, and three and four in a pot 8 inches in diameter; they were then placed in a Melon-pit, watered, kept close, and shaded for some days, and when the Melon plants required all the room, the Gesneras were removed to another division of the pit; and it is in this part of the treatment I consider the germ of success lay; for instead of being treated like stove-plants, they got only such treatment as is usually given to soft-wooded greenhouse plants in a pit; in fact, the remaining space of the pit in which they were placed was filled with such plants, and there was always plenty of air given by day, and some continued all the night.
Under such treatment the plants made fine growth, and were put into the stove in September, but only because the plants were touching the glass of the pit. I would have liked to have kept them there longer - at least a fortnight - and was compelled to remove them for the cause stated.
The point I want to advance is this: That hitherto I have treated the Gesneras as stove-plants, but after my experience of this season, the summer treatment will be, as I have indicated, as long as I shall grow them, subject to any fresh discovery I may make. The soil I use is peat-loam and leaf-mould - of each an equal part - with some rotten cow-dung and a good sprinkling of silver-sand.
There are a few other winter and early-blooming plants I may have a few words to say about at some future time. We want in the 'Gardener' short suggestive papers, not only about winter-flowering plants, but about many other things quite as useful and interesting, in which the writers can give their own special treatment of things new and old, in the management of which they have proved successful: for example, such as the short articles on "Neglected Plants." Useful and instructive as the ' Gardener ' is already, it would become much more so if my suggestion could be acted on. J. H. C. P.
[Many thanks; and we sincerely hope to hear from our correspondent again. At the Exhibition of the Liverpool Horticultural Society on November 23, prizes were offered for three pans of Gesneras. They were, however, but poorly represented. Our correspondent has taught us something that we hope may produce better results at Liverpool in November next___Eds].