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.
THE illustration which graces our frontispiece this month, represents an interior view of one of the most famous Orchid Houses in England. It is situated at Hillfield, near Reigate, and is part of the establishment of Mr. William Saunders-As stated by a correspondent of the Gardener's Chronicle, who visited it, the entire place is certainly one of the most interesting gardens that one can set foot in.
In this garden, which, among other curiosities, compels Fuchsia to do duty as bedding plants, there are at least 20,000 species of plants grown in the garden, in some form or another. Every nook and corner, every house, every pit, every rockery, every border, teems with interesting plants of some sort or other.
Of Orchids, the number grown here is legion, and several houses are assigned to them.
"Mr. Saunders does not confine his attention to the large flowered showy sections, but includes in his collections a veritable host of the smaller flowering kinds, whose blossoms yield in nothing but size to their larger compeers. Their beauty is, when looked for, quite as striking, often more so; while their conformation is very generally more interesting and extraordinary. Orchid growers, enamoured of the more garish flowers, have sportively denominated the house in which these little gems are grown as The Refugium, a name which the owner has accepted, and made the title of an illustrated work descriptive of these and other treasures. And the Refugium is well filled; the refuge Orchids swarm everywhere; above, below, on each side; and to make room for more, an ingenious device is adopted, vis: that of erecting curved or bowed wire trellises, along the sides of the houses near the glass; on these bows the tiny Orchids cluster. Too thick, we hear some one say; not a bit of it. The Orchids are in the finest health and vigor; the plants are not large, but they are in perfect health; and the roots they make.
If we were to describe literally a Catasetum of no great size, we saw hanging in a basket from the roof, we should scarcely be believed. Equally remarkable is the manner in which the roots in other cases cover the pots with a perfect net-work, creeping from pot to pot; more as "Creeping Jenny " would do, than like an ordinary Orchid. The secret of this unusually luxuriant root growth, Mr. Saunders believes, lies in the due aeration of the roots. He is a great advocate for the free access of air to the roots; and when the peculiar habit of orchids is considered, and the special structure of their roots borne in mind, there can be no doubt as to the soundness of Mr. Saunders' physiology."
In another direction is a Cattleya House, elsewhere a cool Orchid House, facing the North, constructed of boarding only, with provision for keeping the frost out and nothing beyond. The air here is still cool and moist, the light tempered, and the plants seem as healthy, firm and green as so many cabbage plants. Nothing could be better for the particular kinds of Orchids, and the particular uses for which it is intended.
One house is devoted to Cape Pelargoniums, of the old stamp, with their knotted stems, bright flowers and sweetly scented foliage. Among the species in bloom at the time of our visit, was a very remarkable one - P. oblongatum, with a thick flecky root-stock, and a truss of sulphur-yellow flowers.