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.
Chorozemas are very beautiful, free - flowering, evergreen shrubs, natives of Australia. They are easily cultivated, and produce very freely their bright-coloured, pea-flower-shaped blossoms during the spring and summer months. As plants for decorating the conservatory or greenhouse during the time indicated, Chorozemas are of much value, and when large enough, and in good condition, they are amongst the best of exhibition plants. Apart from the beauty of their flowers, they have several qualities to recommend them for the latter purpose, amongst which may be mentioned their quick-growing habit, in consequence of which it only requires a few years to form them into fair-sized specimens suitable for the exhibition-table. Then their flowering season may be prolonged for a considerable length of time, by retarding the growth of some plants through placing them in a cool airy position, and accelerating that of others through subjecting them to slight forcing, both of which may be done without injuriously affecting the plants; and again, with due care, Chorozemas may be taken to and from the exhibition without injury either to the plants or their flowers.
This latter quality alone should secure for them the patronage of plant exhibitors, as it is well known many beautiful flowering-plants cannot undergo the vicissitudes consequent upon their removal to and from the place of exhibition, without their crop of flowers being destroyed at the time, and not unfrequently resulting in the death of the plants. Hence plants that produce beautiful flowers, as in the case of Chorozemas, and that can undergo without injury the exposure consequent upon taking part in a horticultural exhibition, are of more value, from the plant exhibitor's point of view, than those which cannot do so.
* The late A. B. Stewart, Esq., gave £100 for a plant of Vanda Lowii. - En.
Chorozemas are increased by either seeds or cuttings. Plants raised from seed, however, are preferable to those raised by cuttings. The seeds may be sown any time from January to August, but the earlier in the season the better. A compost of equal parts of peat and silver sand is suitable to sow them in. The pot or pan in which they are about to be sown should be properly drained, and the remaining space filled with the compost pressed firmly down to within three-quarters of an inch or so of the rim or top of the pot, making the surface smooth, on which the seeds are to be strewn as evenly as possible, and covered with a quarter of an inch or so of the compost, pressing it firmly on the seeds. This done, give a nice watering without disturbing the compost placed over the seed, and plunge the pot containing them in a mild bottom-heat, and place a bell-glass over it; shade from sunshine, attend to watering, and in due time, if the seeds are good, the young plants will appear. As soon as they are fit to handle, they should be transplanted singly into small pots, using a compost similar to that in which the seeds were sown.
After the seedlings are pricked out, give them a good watering, and plunge the pots containing them in a bottom-heat similar to that in which they were raised; then place hand-lights or bell-glasses over them, and shade closely for a week or so, until the roots of the little plants have taken hold of the fresh soil; after which time, gradually inure to more light and air. As soon as they have become established, they should be removed from the bottom-heat; but it is well to plunge the pots in which they are growing for a while longer in some light material, such as cocoa-nut fibre or sawdust: this will prevent injury to their roots through sudden drought, and consequently preserve the health of the plants. They should now be placed in an airy position as near to the glass as possible, and in future stages of their growth a similar position in the structure in which they are placed should be given them. As soon as they are about 3 inches high, they should have the points of the leading shoots nipped or cut out, which will induce them to push out three or four shoots, thereby forming a foundation for the future plants.
The second year of their existence they should be repotted about the beginning of April, and again about the first week of August, and on neither occasion should they be over-potted - that is, the pots to which they are transferred should not be much larger than those they previously occupied. In the future years of their growth an annual repotting will be all that is required; and when they occupy pots of a size that it is not desirable to increase, they will, if the drainage is all right, remain healthy for several years without repotting.
After Chorozemas become established, they should be potted in a compost of good fibry loam and coarse river-sand, in the proportion of three parts in the bulk of the former to one of the latter, thoroughly well mixed together before being applied to the roots of the plants. When repotting them, the fresh soil should be made moderately firm as the process goes on. During the period of active growth, they require liberal supplies of water to the roots; and it is essential to their wellbeing that a ready exit be provided for any superabundance that at any time may be given. To secure this, the cultivator should, when the plants are being repotted, provide them with ample and efficient drainage, and thereby guard against the evil results of stagnant water and soured soil coming in contact with their roots. It has been previously pointed out in the ' Gardener,' that the efficiency of the drainage depends as much or nearly so upon the arrangement of the materials as upon the quantity supplied; and this should be kept in mind, particularly by the young cultivator, and especially when repotting specimen plants that have to remain for a considerable length of time in the same pot without being disturbed at the roots.
Chorozemas being slender-growing plants, they require staking and training into shape; and the cultivator, owing to their slender habit, may train them into any shape that he fancies - but in my opinion, that of a blunt cone is the most desirable form. After the plants become sufficiently large for the purpose that they are intended for, they should be annually pruned or cut back immediately after the flowering season is past; and this is also the proper time to clean them from scale or other insects with which they may be affected. Like all plants cultivated under similar circumstances and employed for similar purposes, Chorozemas must be kept free from insect-pests; and the means previously recommended to be used in the case of other plants applies to them, and need not be repeated here. The following are the three best species that I know of: C. cordata splendens, C. Henchmanii, C. varia Chandlerii. J. Hammond.