This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
X. Z. The Begonia is a hothouse plant, but most of the varieties will thrive very well with green-bouse culture. Zebrina, Fuchsioides, Coccinia, and Maculata, are four of the best.
In the whole vegetable world there is not a single family which repays the care and attention of the cultivator so well as the Begonia. There is not a single genus which combines so many good qualities; not one which, as our German neighbors would say, is so "grateful" for the pains bestowed upon it. The facility with which they can be propagated, (for anybody can strike a Begonia cutting,) their cheapness, generally speaking, and the simplicity of the treatment they require, render them general favorites. To write a long essay upon their cultivation would be simply an absurdity - almost amounting to an insult to the reader. All they require is a good, rich, open soil, and a warm, moist place to start them in - they do not care if it is a hotbed or a stove - and a snug greenhouse in which to flower. Give them these and they are satisfied - at least the greater part are so.
Some 350 species are known to botanists, but pnly about a third of the best of them are in cultivation. Some of these are remarkable for their graceful habit, such as Begonia fuchsioides and Begonia Putziesii; some for their delicious fragrance, as Begonia odorata; some for the time they remain in flower, opening one cluster after another continuously. I have known one plant of Begonia nitida which had two or three cymes of flowers always open, and sometimes more, for upwards of three years; and, for aught I know to the contrary, it may be in flower to this day. One cluster always remained till a new one was ready to take its place. Some species, like Begonia manicata and B urophylla, produce a mass of flowers at one time; and as that time is early in the spring, these plants are very valuable for decorative purposes, or for cutting from for bouquets.
Begonia Octopetala, which was one of the best in the whole family for winter blooming, has, I fear, been lost; at any rate I have inquired for it in all the London nurseries and public gardens without success. It may, perhaps, still be grown in some private garden; and if any person has really got it he would do good service to the country by placing it in the hands of some one who would propagate it to the utmost. It is a tuberous-rooted herbaceous species, (like the old discolor or the splendid diversifolia ;) its flowers are pure white, large as an Anemone - larger, in fact, than any other species, and having, as the name implies, eight petals. It is a native of Peru, ,and was introduced some twenty years ago.
But the Begonia has other recommendations of which we have not yet spoken - the exquisite beauty of its variegated foliage, and the facility with which it can be hybridized. It is only about three years since Rex astonished the world, and now it is to be met with in almost every garden you visit, either in England or on the Continent. It is a market plant, purchasable for a few pence in ail large cities from Paris to Moscow, from London to St. Petersburg. By crossing, it has already given rise to an almost innumerable progeny of vegetable genus. To develop the beauty of these variegated Begonias to the utmost, three things are necessary - heat, moisture, and shading. Let us mention a few of the best of this class.
Begonia Splendida, young leaves like crimson velvet, but the plant is apt to become ugly as it reaches a large size. The variety called Begonia splendida ar-gentea is not open to this accusation. It is really a magnificent thing, a pink tinge shining through the silver of the foliage.
Begonia Griffithii (still called picta in some gardens) is one of my greatest favorites, the various zones of color are so beautifully shaded the one into the other.
Begonia Xanthia Beichenheimiiy green bands follow the principal veins, the spaces between pure white.
Begonia Xanthia Lazuli, leaves copper colored, shining with a -beautiful metallic lustre.
Begonia Xanthiapictafolia, leaves copper col. with distinct large white blotches.
Begonia Queen Victoria, raised by Makay, the Belgian nurseryman, very delicate; the leaf milk-white except a margin of green dots, and a few about the centre.
Begonia Prince Troubetzkoy, apparently a cross from laciniata, very distinct, the leaves dark in the centre, pea-green towards the margin; footstalks and underside reddish.
Begonia Argentea, the upper surface of the leaf quite white; exceedingly delicate.
Begonia Regina, only one step removed from Rex, the bands of color being rather more shaded off. In the same strain are Miranda, Madame Wagner, and argentea guttata, which are scarcely distinct enough from each other.
Begonia Amabilis, the bright banded leaves very glossy and shining.
There are many others which have been raised more recently, of which the merits are less known, as only small plants are generally met with. Those most highly spoken of are nebulosa, Ajax, nobilis, Victoria, (different from Queen Victoria,) grandis, and others. - Karl, in Cottage Gardener.
This foliage plant is a very desirable one for the conservatory, the silvery markings, distinctly formed, render it an object of great beauty. The hybrids of this plant bow being produced, are gorgeous in the extreme.
A Few, among your many readers, are already acquainted with the many species of the begonia. To those who have not, as yet, formed acquaintance with Begonia Glau-cophylla Scandens, I particularly address myself. The plant in question was received by me, among a large package of others, direct from the greenhouses of Peter Henderson's, at Jersey City Heights, N. J.; and, strange to say, after coming seven hundred miles, it still retained its sound vitality and natural freshness, and appeared as if it had only a moment before been removed from the humid enclosure of the greenhouse. I always feel an unbounded sensation of joy on opening a box of plants that comes a distance; one plant after another is removed from its damp, mossy surroundings, with the same joy that a poverty-stricken heir would feel in diving after the unknown treasures of a deceased ancestor. We horticulturists have our own joys, our surprises and sensations - those plants we receive and those already in our collections, look at us meaningly and make known their wants in mute significance.
This little new and improved foreigner did not show any indication of wanting for anything; its thick, soft, large, healthy and dark, glossy green foliage and pink white tinted petals indicated to us that its mission and duty • was to give delight and pleasure to its owners. To maintain its prolific buds and truly beautiful foliage, I knew but too well that it required special attention. With this belief I removed its damp, mossy wrappings, thence transferred it into a well drained pot of rich, sandy loam and leaf mould, and placed it in a temperature averaging fifty-five and sixty degrees, in the conservatory adjoining our sitting-room. And now, I will say a word or two on the appearance it presented in pot. There were no orange and red veinings on the under side of the leaf such as characterize the older species of the same family; the shade of the foliage is perfectly green and glossy throughout; the leaf-stem grows laterally upward, forming where it spreads into leaf a graceful curve, similar to the neck of a swan; from this curve the leaf droops gently, the edges of the lower touching the rim of the pot and partially concealing the surface of the soil. In this way it forms a picturesque Mansard roof of foliage, and, to use a familiar expression, it is as broad as it is high.
The peduncle is produced at the second and third joint and branches into several small stems, from which a profusion of delicate pink buds, tinted with white, droop pleasingly over the foliage, and reflect their colors on the glassy leaves. The buds, before the petals open, have the form and appearance of a shield, and I am convinced that they contain substances such as bees love to abstract from flowers, as I noticed that a bee that found its way into the conservatory, preferred the open cup of this begonia to the blooms of other plants that abounded, it being the first bee of the season too.
The ladies were so much delighted with this handsome plant that they had it removed and placed among other pet flowers in their window gardens. It did not seem to be the least displeased for its removal from one situation to another; and I find that it possesses peculiar qualities of its own in not being so tender and less sensitive to rude treatment than other specimens of the same family. Scarcely had the petals on the first peduncle shown signs of decay, than another of a more prepossessing and vigorous appearance had emanated at joint second from top, and was making rapid progress to succeed the decaying blossoms of the first. B. Glaucophylla scandens is not entirely new, but it is less known than it should be; some of my horticultural friends assure me that it is the finest begonia in cultivation, and deserves a place in ever plant collection.
This class of plants is well suited for house culture. The bloom of the Begonia Magnified, is most beautiful and constant. The petals resemble frosted glass. It has a very delicate, spring perfume. I have had a specimen in bloom since the first of October. Requires plenty of water while blooming.- J&r.
Daphnes for Winter Flowering For the past two months I have had some plants of Daphne odora, flowering and effusing their fragrance in my little drawing room. Receving almost no care at all, they flourish in spite of neglect; sometimes without water for more than a week, and the thermometer ranging from 60 down to the freezing point, still they maintain their equanimity and bloom on. Slight frost does not materially injure them, neither is sunshine indispensable. My plants, about 3 feet high , have been without a glance of sun during the blooming season. In fact, the common mistake is too much care in their management, especially in regard to heat. The air of a sitting room is too warm for the health of the plant, if long confined to it. A low temperature is requisite, while at the same time it prolongs the blooming season several weeks. M. M.
Any of these plants which it is desirable to save from the open ground, should be taken up at once. Some of the winter flowering varieties are very useful treated in this way. Those plants which are in pots and require a shift into a larger size, should have it at once, to get the pots well filled with roots before winter.