Among the many varieties of plants suitable for dinner-table decoration, the Dracaena, as a fine-foliage plant, is worthy to stand first; and out of a great number of flowering-plants which I have tried, none have been more pleasing than Aechmea fulgens. Its rich green foliage and handsome form make it attractive when in its growing state, but when graced with its spike of coral-like flowers, it cannot but be admired by all who see it. If you have an old plant by you, it will be very little trouble to increase the stock; if not, in making a purchase it is best to get two plants, no matter how small, so long as they are rooted and are both the same size. If they have not filled their pots with roots, allow them to remain in them until they have, but at the same time be careful not to let them get pot-bound; then shift them into the size of pots you use on the dinner-table - 4 or 5 inch are large enough, and are the size I use myself, but a size larger will do them no barm. The soil should be two parts peat, one part fibrous loam, one part thoroughly rotted cow-dung, with a good sprinkling of silver sand. Let this be well mixed together, but not rubbed, as the soil ought to be in pieces about the size of Spanish nuts.

It is a good plan to water the young plants thoroughly, if they are dry, about an hour before you shift them into larger pots; and then, after they are potted, let them stand two or three days before you water again; and if it is winter-time, they may stand a week or ten days before they require water. The pots should either be new or washed clean and well dried, as no plants thrive well in dirty pots. If the pots are new they should be dipped in water, as pots fresh from the potteries, if not wetted and allowed to dry, slightly slack when the plant is watered for the first time, and this is not good for the roots. The plants will now require very little water, except what they get by syringing. I have sometimes let them stand all winter without giving water more than once or twice; but as soon as the plant begins to show its flower-stem, it will require water whenever the soil gets dry; if not, the flower will be small. The plant should occasionally be inverted, to let out the water which is sure to lodge in its heart where the syringe is used. This should be done by placing the neck of the plant between the fingers, with the rim of the pot resting on the hand: by this means you will prevent the soil from falling out of the pot.

About the time the plant is in full flower, young shoots will make their appearance at the neck of the plant, and when these have grown to about 5 or 6 inches long, they may be cut off close to the parent with a sharp knife, and placed in the middle of a thumb-pot, using a mixture of peat, leaf-mould, and silver-sand, in equal parts, and they will very soon root and make nice young plants, which can be shifted as soon as they have filled their pots with roots, using the soil described above. When the old plants have done their best, they may be thrown away to make room for young ones; or if a number of young ones are wanted, they may be cut down, and they will soon send up three or four suckers, which may be parted with roots to them; or cut off and struck, whichever is preferred. The cuttings will strike in the stove or in a warm dung-frame.

It is a good plan to take three or four cuttings whenever you can get them, as then you will have plants in flower at different times of the year. Last year I had plants in flower from the last week of July until the last week in December. They came into flower in succession, at intervals of about a fortnight. And now some cuttings that were struck in May will, I have no doubt, flower by April; and some more that were struck in September have grown considerably, and will most likely flower by May or June; and plants struck in February and March will flower in the following August and September. So by taking a few cuttings all the year round, you may be sure of plants fit for table decoration almost whenever they may be required. And should they not be required for table decoration, their beauty, and the length of time they flower, will amply repay the trouble.

William Nokes.

Blake Hall, Ongar, Essex.