This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", 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.
This is a magnificent evergreen shrub or tree, found growing in great luxuriance on some of the smaller hills in the Valley of Nepaul, and generally in rather exposed situations, where it produces its sweet-scented, delicate, pink-coloured flowers in profusion nearly the whole year round.
It is surprising how very few places include this grand old plant. It is only met with occasionally in old-established places where the glass structures are on a large scale, and in nurserymen's collections. This ought not to be the case. Considering the merits of the plant and the easy way in which it can be grown and flowered, one fully expanded truss of flowers being enough to fill a whole house with its perfume. Cuttings of the young firm shoots, taken off with a heel, or at the third or fourth joint, and inserted thinly round the edges of 4-inch pots, in a compost of light loam, peat, and leaf-mould, with a good addition of sharp sand, made firm, and plunged in a brisk bottom-heat, strike very freely if covered with a bell-glass. They must be carefully attended to as regards watering, shading, etc.; and as soon as they are fairly rooted, turn them out of the cutting pots very cautiously, so as not to break any of the young fibres, and pot them singly into 3-inch pots in soil composed of equal parts of fibry peat and light turfy loam, with a liberal addition of silver-sand and charcoal broken up into small bits and well mixed together.
After potting plunge them in a gentle hotbed, and water them with water a few degrees warmer than the propagating-bed, to help to warm the soil in the pots, and shade them from strong sun, and keep them close for a few days until they show signs of animation, after which the shading can be dispensed with, and the temperature and moisture can be nicely balanced by putting on a chink of air in the morning, when the thermometer reaches from 55° to 60°, and increasing it gradually, shutting up again early in the afternoon with plenty of sun heat, giving them a gentle syringe with tepid water before doing so.
As soon as the roots reach the sides of the pots they should be shifted into 5- and 6-inch ones, according to the size of the individual plants. After this shift a hotbed is not a necessity, as the plants will do well if placed in a warm house on a shelf or other place near the glass, where they can have abundance of light and air to enable them to make firm short-jointed growths, which should be pinched and regulated by tying them to small stakes, so as to make sure of a nice bushy form. We do not give them very large shifts, as they are apt to grow too rampant, and with too much moisture are sometimes shy to flower, so a couple of inches at a time is quite enough, the last shift being into 10-or 12-inch pots, which will be quite large enough to flower them in if extra large specimens are not wanted. The potting material should be used in a rougher state for the two last shifts, and a little bone-meal and some small bits of white sandstone introduced, and the whole made firm round the ball. The pots must also be well drained, and not over-watered until the new soil is fairly occupied with roots, as it is apt to get soured before the roots get at it.
To prevent this, we use plenty of charcoal mixed with the compost for all classes of plants, and often dress the surface of the pots with the dust with very beneficial results.
When it is desirable to get up a specimen plant in a limited time, it is a good plan to prepare a nice border of rich soil in a warm house or pit, and put out a small pot-plant, where, if all other conditions are favourable, it will grow luxuriantly, and form a handsome specimen in much less time than when grown in pots. When lifting it and potting it, care must be taken not to hurt the roots much, and get as good a ball of earth as possible by digging well round and in below it, and syringing the foliage occasionally after potting. Old plants can also be cut back annually after the flowering period, started into growth again, and when fairly broken the old ball should be reduced and a little fresh soil added. A little liquid manure can be used at intervals to plants in full growth and when flowering, which they generally do towards the autumn and winter months, if subjected to a temperature of 50° to 55° by night, with a rise of 10° or 15° in the daytime. Although this plant is easily grown and flowered in pots, it nevertheless succeeds better and is more at home when planted out and grown as a conservatory shrub, or trained to a wall in a warm greenhouse or intermediate house.
In both cases the border must be made up for it, and the natural soil taken out to the depth of 3 feet, and as much or more all round. If the natural drainage is deficient, begin by putting in a layer of broken bricks, and over them a thin layer of crocks broken small and covered with a few turves, or with some of the roughest parts of the compost, which should be composed of equal parts turfy peat and loam, chopped up with the spade, with about a sixth part of sharp river or silver sand, broken charcoal, and good-sized lumps of sandstone, thoroughly mixed and made firm with the feet, after which put in plants which have been grown on to some size in pots. In planting, carefully remove the crocks from the bottom of the ball, and disentangle the roots all round with a pointed stick, and place the surface of the ball so that it will be a little below the level of the surrounding soil, placing some of the finest mould next to the roots, and make all firm, after which give a slight watering with tepid water to settle the soil about the roots.
Future operations will consist of watering, pinching, tying, etc.; and should greenfly or red-spider put in an appearance, give a thorough syringing on three consecutive evenings with a pretty strong mixture of tepid water and soft-soap.
When treated thus and well established, this Luculia forms one of the most effective and valuable of decorative plants, producing large heads of very fragrant flowers through the dull months of autumn and winter. Dundonian.