Strange to state, though I find myself a cultivator of the Auricula, I am wellnigh at a loss how to explain the reasons that induced me to take this flower in hand in the first instance. I had always possessed a love for flowers - and where "breathes the man with soul so dead " that does not love them in some form or other ? - but my wishes in the early part of my career as an amateur florist had not gone out towards the Auricula. Now, I confess, I am a cultivator of this once popular but now sadly neglected flower, and I find it to be a pleasant pastime. It unfolds to me, in the flowers I at present grow, forms of beauty as curious as they are captivating; and they, by the seed they yield me, and the young plants I am enabled to rear from it, give me an earnest of new joys in the years to come.

As a cultivator of the Auricula I occupy a somewhat isolated position, residing as I do in a populous district, where, besides myself, there is, to my knowledge, only one other lover of this flower. I hope this will not always be so, as I lose no opportunity of exhibiting my Auriculas; and I already find the production of my flowers has begun to excite some interest in their behalf, and to bring out inquiries as to my method of growing the same; and with these there will also come, I trust, some anxiety to emulate my doings, and perchance reach a higher level of cultural skill.

When I have been asked for "my experiences," I have rather chosen to refer my questioners to some old standard works on Auricula cultivation, but this answer has not afforded general satisfaction. So now I attempt to write them down for perusal; and when next I am asked the same questions, I shall be able to refer all further inquirers to the pages of the 'Gardener.'

I commenced my experiences with the Auricula about seven years since, by the purchase of a few plants of some common Alpines, for the decoration of my window. The attendance and care these required, and the beauty of their flowers, first formed in me a taste for them not hitherto felt; and the succeeding year a few other plants were obtained, and my stock increased. Next, I began to raise seedlings, and for this purpose got from a London house some packets of seed; but this grew so badly that I resolved to save seed for myself from the plants I possessed; and having done so, it was sown, and the produce amounted to about three dozen plants. This was something to call forth my capabilities to the utmost, as to save this batch of plants, grow them on, and flower them, was indeed an object worthy of my ambition, whilst the enjoyment to be derived from the constant watching of my slowly-opening seedling flowers was indeed great in the anticipation of it. But I speedily found that the gradual increase of my stock rendered necessary some more useful means of housing them than I had hitherto possessed.

For this purpose I procured a neat two-light frame, and had fitted to it a trellis bottom of wood; this was placed upon bricks under an east wall, and the frame dropped carefully over it upon other bricks, so that there was a constant circulation of air beneath and around the pots. This frame I nearly filled with my stock that winter, as, in addition to my seedlings and old plants, I had propagated from the latter a certain number. I now began also to perceive that it was necessary to exercise considerable caution in the use of the water-pot, and preferred to let my plants remain comparatively dry during the ivinter, rather than endanger them by excessive moisture. Of course, as the spring advanced, I became more emboldened, and now and then, when quiet rains prevailed, pulled the lights off altogether, as I believe that a good soaking so administered is beneficial to the plants. As the blooming period approached, and with it much warm sunshine, I became conscious that a somewhat cooler situation than the frame afforded was requisite, and also that a stage upon which to arrange my plants to better advantage, and in a less crowded manner, was a desirable object to possess.

Fortunately a narrow border under my east wall suggested itself as the very spot; and having plenty of loose bricks about, I so arranged these as to make them support a rising series of six lengths of open shelves, made of strips of wood 1 1/2 inch square, and about 15 feet in length, using two strips for each shelf. Over this was constructed a framework of wood, consisting of stout uprights, those behind being 4 feet in height from the ground, and those in front 2 1/2 feet. The distance of these supports apart lengthwise to the border was about 3 feet 9 inches, and across the border 5 feet. Upon each pair of these, crosswise, was fixed a grooved rail, on which to place what I intended to provide for shading purposes; and these rails, when fixed, gave a fall of about 1 foot 6 inches. Both back and front another rail was fixed lengthwise to secure each upright in its place, and thus my framework was constructed. The "shades," as I term them, were made of light wooden frames 6 feet in length and 3 feet 8 inches in breadth, and having a narrow rail across the centre; these were covered with calico sheeting, and coated with boiled oil.

And having given all the woodwork a couple of coats of paint, my al fresco stage for the housing and exhibition of my Auriculas during the blooming period was perfect.

When my seedling plants began to develop their flowers, all were (to me) very interesting and pretty, and they contained some really nice things; yet, when my critical friends dropped in to see them, they would persist in taking exception to the colour of this flower or the form of that, to such an extent as almost to make me despondent; but, fortunately for my equanimity, I got no stint of praise for the good cultivation the plants displayed; and one friendly critic having explained that to secure better kinds in the future I must select my seed from the best-formed flowers only, I plucked up further courage, and resolved to try yet another batch of seedling plants. I also got, just then, great encouragement by taking a few dozen of my best plants to a neighbouring spring show, and getting for them the highest honours the judges could award. This made me ambitious to secure some of the fine show kinds of which I had heard so much, but seen so little; and a few small plants of edged kinds were purchased, so that I might have the pleasure, in future years, of seeing them grow and bloom under my own care and cultivation.

Compared with the Alpines, I find that these same show kinds are rather "miffy" things, as it is termed, and are slow of growth; moreover, they cost a lot of money, and when they do flower (which duty they are not in a hurry to perform), I certainly got that fine form and those decided markings that florists value so much, but as to affording much to look at - well, that may be another question. My fellow-cultivator in the neighbourhood goes in for the show Auriculas largely, and spends upon them considerable sums. He will tell you this one cost so much, and another still more, and that he deals with all the big growers. But, after all, beyond satisfying his peculiar fancy, he has not much to show his friends: perhaps he does not do them well; he thinks he does; but in any case, whether it is so or not, I shall still cling to my favourite Alpines. Last year I grew a large batch of 200 seedlings, and in consequence of this great increase of my stock I found it necessary to obtain another two-light frame in which to house them. As the whole of these were in large 60-pots, I had not too much room, but the entire stock passed safely-through the trying ordeal of the recent severe winter.

Of course, from such a number of plants I have had a considerable variety of flowers, all of which are pretty, though many are deficient in colour and form; these I shall get rid of or turn out in my flower-beds, and so make room for the next batch of seedlings that are now coming in. I feel that I should forego one of my greatest delights were I to leave off raising from seed. To watch the opening flowers of the little strangers, affords one so much interest that I trust I shall continue to enjoy that pleasure for years to come. The best time to sow seed is almost as soon as possible after it is ripe, in some shallow pans filled with finely-sifted sweet loam, leaf-soil, and sand; cover over with sheets of glass, and place in a frame, watering with care. By the end of the autumn these seedlings will be ready to prick out into other pans, in which they may stand the winter, and in the next spring will be large enough to shift into sixty-pots; then they should have a cool situation, slightly sheltered during the summer, and in the autumn another shift into 48-sized pots, using a good rich compost of loam, rotten dung, and sand. After passing through another winter, the plants will bloom freely and abundantly; and if the strain be good, a lot of very handsome flowers will result.

Lest what I said previously about purchased seed should deter any from buying, I may add that I got some from another source last year, and it has come up admirably. I have no present intention of extending the space or material at my disposal for the cultivation of Auriculas. I can now house and grow with comparative ease some 300 to 400 strong plants, and as I shall continue to weed out bad ones, it will be some time hence ere I shall be quite full. Having now quantity, I shall aim at the possession of quality, and trust to kindly hints from brother growers, and growing experience, to enable me to secure this desideratum; and if in the course of my labours I can infuse into my friends and neighbours a love for the Auricula and its culture, I shall be amply repaid. Let no one imagine that I am not in truth an "Auricula Amateur:" I leave my suburban home every week-day morning at half-past eight, and walk three miles to the performance of my daily duties, where, absorbed in books, figures, quantities, and calculations, I have little time to think of my pet plants at home.

But when the day's labours are over, and I once again return to my domicile, depend upon it I seldom take rest or refreshment till I have cast a glance of anxious care over my humble, but to me very precious, collection of "Alpine Auriculas".

R. M. S. P. C. S.

[We are thankful for this record of "Experiences" as an amateur cultivator of the Auricula from our correspondent, and wish him good-luck in the time to come. Possibly he will incur the criticisms, perhaps the rebuke, of cultivators of the show kinds, but he need not be discouraged if such happens. He is now mastering the rudiments of his education as a cultivator of the Auricula; and we shall always be glad to see what he has to state in regard to his pet flower. - Eds].