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.
Habrothamnus. It seems to us that amid the plethora of new plants, fruits, and vegetables, and the existing rage for novelty at any price, horticulturists are in danger of forgetting or ignoring old favourites, equal, and in many cases superior, in point of beauty and usefulness, to those by which they have been supplanted. In how many greenhouses or conservatories, for example, will we find nowadays well-grown specimens of Habrothamnus elegans, with its broad fresh foliage, and clusters of waxy bell-shaped carmine flowers; its twin sister H. aurunti-acus, equally gay in orange-coloured blossoms; or any of the other species of the genus, which though, to our thinking, scarcely so showy, are nevertheless fine decorative plants? Yet these were the glory of our conservatories twenty-five years ago, and notwithstanding the many brilliant accessions of the past few years, these two have not yet in their own way been eclipsed.
They are evergreen shrubs, with a rambling, vigorous habit of growth, belonging to the natural order Solanaceae, and are natives of Mexico and Central America, from whence they were introduced into British gardens about the year 1844. Though of easy culture in pots, and very beautiful in the comparatively limited accommodation afforded by an ordinary greenhouse, it is as pillar shrubs planted out in the border of a lofty conservatory that we would recommend them: as such they have few rivals, and may be so managed as to have them in flower during the greater part of the year. In regard to soil, a good compost may be made of two-thirds rich turfy loam, not chopped too fine, and one-third well decomposed leaf-mould, with the addition of as much, sharp sand as Will keep the mass sufficiently porous to allow the water to pass off freely. The pot or border should be well drained, as any stagnation or sourness at the roots is fatal to success. During the growing season a plentiful supply of water should be given, and an occasional dose of weak liquid manure will add greatly to their luxuriance.
As these plants flower on the shoots of the preceding year, they should not be pruned till after they have done flowering, and then the weakest shoots only should be cut in, the others merely shortened; and if the operation is performed at intervals, that is, only shortening a few shoots at a time, the flowering season will be very much protracted; while in cases where a number of plants are grown, an almost constant supply of flowers can be had by pruning at different seasons, and allowing the plants to have their periods of rest and growth in succession. Not the least important feature of these fine shrubs is their fruit, which occasionally ripens under conservatory treatment, and is very ornamental, hanging for a long time after it is in perfection. Like all other plants of their tribe they are easily propagated from cuttings, which if put in sand or light soil in spring or summer will root in a close place with a little heat as readily as a Fuchsia or Geranium. Omega.