This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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.
It is not my intention to give your correspondent golden rules respecting this most useful climber, but simply to state how it has been treated here, and with what success, leaving him to judge for himself whether to be guided by it or not. About six or seven years back we had, I should think, by all appearance, a very old plant standing in a very low stove in a number-one pot: it grew freely, but flowered little; accordingly, we took off a cutting and struck it under a bell-glass in the stove. The next year the low stove was pulled down to make room for a larger one, and our old friend the Stephanotis was removed to the greenhouse - a large old-fashioned house - where it remained till autumn, when it fell a victim to the cold. The next February we filled a clean number-one pot to within 3 or 4 inches of the top with the following soil - peat, loam, leaf-mould, well-rotted dung, and silver sand, in equal parts, using good drainage. In this we planted our young Stephanotis, then a year old, and growing in a 6-inch pot. The young plant was then placed in the stove on the slates; a stake was put into the soil to conduct the stem up to the glass, which is about 4 feet from the slates, where wires were already stretched from end to end ready to support it.
At the time this was done the plant had only one shoot, but without pinching it soon sent out two more. The old one was then pinched back, which made it send out three more shoots, making five, equal to the number of wires we had for training them on. Each shoot was loosely tied to a wire, then nature did the rest, twisting itself round the wires in the same manner as a Scarlet-Runner Bean, and growing almost as fast, and of course very soon reached the end of the house, which is only 25 feet long: the end of each shoot was then pinched out, and it was allowed to go no further. About the end of May and June it flowered nearly up each stem. In the winter, each shoot was cut back nearly all the way: this I consider now to be too much for it, as it did not flower quite so well the next year, although the growth was the same. The last two or three years we have only cut back the main shoot a little way, but have cut the laterals back much the same as we do a Grape-Vine; and it does better, flowering pretty well in May and June, with a few flowers in the autumn. We have also an old plant that has stood for years in a large box in the conservatory trained up the back wall, but it flowers very little compared with the one in the stove.
Some time back a friend remarked that the best way to manage the Stephanotis was to grow it in the stove till flowering-time, and then remove it to a greenhouse, where it would remain in flower a long time; and this is what I would recommend. About the last week of February 1870 I took off a short stubby cutting and struck it in a dung-frame. As soon as it had rooted, I placed it in the stove: it had two shifts during the summer, giving a size larger pot each time. By February this year it had grown considerably, when I shifted it into an 11-inch pot, training it round a balloon-shaped wire, which is about 3 feet high. It is now a handsome plant, with an abundance of flowers just making their appearance at nearly every joint. About the first of June I shall remove it to a greenhouse. I consider the Stephanotis to be a strong grower and a gross feeder, and when growing it should be watered with liquid-manure twice a-week. W. Nokes.
Your correspondent, Mr Nokes, having given his experience of this valuable stove-flowering climber, p. 273, perhaps a few additional notes concerning a fine plant we have had here this year may not be uninteresting. It is a young specimen, say about three years old, planted out in a place built for it in the bed of the plant stove. Under these circumstances, there being a few hot-water pipes in the bottom of the bed to supply bottom heat, with the same treatment, as far as atmosphere is concerned, as the other plants in the house, the plant has bloomed magnificently. It made vigorous growth last year, and continued growing all winter. Early in the year we observed, from the many little prominences, I may say hundreds, that showed themselves near the axils of the leaves, that we were going to have a good show for flower. As the season advanced, the plant kept pace accordingly; and it happened on the 3d of April that we cut our first Stephanotis. Since then we have been cutting at it ever since, more or less every day or evening, still having some left; and I believe that, had it not been that we cut it so freely, the plant could hardly have perfected all its blossom.
As it was, the plant showed the effects of an over-weakening power by the young shoots getting very spindly, the young leaves not developing fully, and suchlike; but we hope that it will soon push away again in renewed vigour, and give us some more flowering in the autumn. The plant lately has had frequent waterings with manure-water, a good top-dressing, and the soil it grows in is composed of turfy peat and loam, with a slight mixture of sand. I may say that the plant covers about half the area of the roof of a house about 30 feet long by 18 feet wide. Robert Mackellar.