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.
Among the many objects of delight, there are few more interesting to the cultivator of plants, than the Calceolaria. I scarcely know what genus of plants is more interesting, when we take into consideration their diversity of color, and the rich, vivid markings of their corollas, and the airyness of their general appearance, when seen in full bloom. In the rapid strides that horticultural science has made of late years in England, the cultivation of the Calceolaria has not been overlooked.
The original old yellow species was shrubby; then the herbaceous sorts were introduced, of which yellow was the pervading color of the flowers, and from the latter, through incessant perseverance, have sprung all the numberless varieties that the most fantastical taste can desire. From the herbaceous yellew species, we have now varieties with the white, cream, purple, lemon, and chocolate grounds, with their unique spots of brown, maroon, and white; and lastly, the hybridizer's art has so nicely controlled color, that he has produced the varieties with stripes equal to that produced in the Carnation; nor is this all - for he has also so modified the form of the flower, that its original long, ribbed, oysterehell appearance, has been replaced by the globular form of the cherry, having narrow throats, and highly colored caps.
Amateurs in general, consider the culture of this plant rather difficult. I hare, myself, seen number; under what is termed cultivation, in most miserable condition, huddled up together in small pots, struggling for existence, and placed so far from the glass that they vainly sought to reach more light a long way off - their leaves like cork-screws, devoured and distorted by the green fly. The buyer gets a set of these plants - pays a pretty good price for them - gets them home in the fall of the year, and they remain, most probably in the same pots, till they flower, producing a stem like a screw, with two or three stunted flowers to crown its miserable appearance; and should the cause be inquired into, the reply is, "the climate don't suit them;" a few hot days in this stunted condition, exposed, perhaps, to the direct burning rays of their life destroyer, Sol, and lo! they are gone as the gourd of sacred history.
This is the way that more than half the Calceolarias are grown - destroying the reputation of the parties who sell, by not answering the high description given, and the totally disappointing the purchaser. As for myself, I am not aware of a class of plants more easily grown with a little care, under the following provisions. Remember, in the first place, that Calceolarias require no more heat than a cabbage, and that the green fly, or epfcr, is their deadliest enemy. If allowed to remain a day, they suck out the juices of the leaves, and the consequence is, the foliage contracts, curls, and twists up, and when that takes place, all the fumigation and care you could afterwards bestow, would be useless I invariably consider a plant half dead, when I see its foliage curled by aphis. Guard against this insect, and you have achieved the great imagined difficulty in the cul-tnre of the Calceolaria. The remainder is simple and easy, and as follows:
I commence with seedlings, and if proper attention is paid to crossing, there is always something interesting and amusing in their development. In fertilising flowers for seed, select those of the half shrubby varieties - they will stand the hot summer better; use no flowers but such as are good in form; never cross a blotch with a spotted variety, or a striped with a spotted one, if you wish to improve your sorts, as the progeny will generally be nothing more than a jumbled up mixture.
Keep spots, blotches, stripes, and self-colored varieties, crossed respectively in their own class, and after a little practice in this art, you can form a pretty correct idea at the time you are fertilizing, of the ultimate results of your labor.
In raising seedling Calceolarias, you should sow your seed early in August, in broad pans or boxes of sandy earth, covering it but very slightly, and remember never to allow the surface of the soil to become dry. Cover it over thinly with moss, or some such material, as will prevent quick evaporation. There is generally a great difficulty complained of in getting the seed up. It is generally sown and watered - and watered again when dry - and so on, and probably never comes up at all. The simple fact is, the seed when first damp begins to germinate, and if it is then allowed to become dry, it is, of course, killed in the germ. Keeping it constantly damp will obviate this.
As soon as the young plants make their appearance, they require transplanting into pans or boxes of richer soil, and placing in cold frames close to the glass. When they are sufficiently advanced in growth, pot off into three inch pots - keep them cool and near the glass. Repot the young plants always (by turning out the ball,) as soon as you perceive the roots touching the side of the pot; do this irrespective of any prescribed month, until you have them in the sized pot you wish them to flower in. I generally flower them in nine inch pots. If you use rich, open loam, with plenty of well decomposed cow manure, giving the plants good drainage and plenty of water, you will be able to see the true character of your seedlings. Act as above laid down, and the leaves of your seedlings will measure something like twelve inches long, with a corresponding amount of dower. When the bloom is over, those you esteem worthy of propagation may be readily increased in the following manner. Take some old frames, select a north aspect, and place the back of your frame to the north; put in drainage, and fill up the frame with good, rich, open compost. Then plant out your Calceolarias, giving them a good watering; shade and keep them close for a day or so, to induce them to root.
In this situation, if attended to, they will produce a multiplicity of cuttings. To be successful in striking, requires a little carefulness. Four inch pots, well drained and filled with sand, are the best for this purpose. The cuttings should be taken off four or five joints long, placed around the sides of the pot, and well watered.
Take a little box, a yard square and nine inches deep, glazed air tight, placed over an excavated piece of ground of the same dimensions; place the cutting pots on the ground, cover up with your box, and tread the soil tight round the sides. In this simple manner I have struck eight thousand between August and November. The cuttings are never allowed to flag for want of water, or you may as well throw them away at once. In three weeks they will be ready to pot off. I seldom take the box off before the expiration of that time, unless they appear to be very dry. When struck, pot off singly in three inch pots.
The next process is the sytem by which to produce a specimen plant. If you do not require your best selected seedlings for propagation, after they are out of flower, and prefer growing them as specimens for the ensuing year, my process is as follows: When out of flower - cut down, select a north aspect, and plunge up to the rims of the pots; early in September, partially disroot, re-pot, and place them in a close frame; keep them there until you perceive indications of growth; then give air, syringe frequently with water slightly colored with soap; continue potting and re-potting, as directed for the seedlings, and at every potting lay the growing branches regularly all round the pot, and fasten them in their positions with hook pegs. The last potting should be early in February. I then generally use a pot from fifteen to eighteen inches diameter, (what some of our friends about Albany call hogsheads,) pot with rich, open soil, and neatly and regularly peg the shoots down over the surface, and as they continue to grow, continue to peg down; they readily emit new roots from the shoots as they are laid down, and will produce a great number of shoots; and all that are not required should be taken off, which will materially strengthen the selected branches for flowering.
Towards the end of March they will throw up their flower stems, which will require to be supported, and properly arranged with small sticks, so that the plant will form a globular mass of well arranged flowers.
Amateurs who feel an interest in the cultivation of the Calceolaria, by following this simple treatment, as laid down, will produce a plant when in flower, that will measure four feet diameter, with something like a hundred, or a hundred and twenty flower stems to one plant. But I would here remind amateurs, that he who waters without ascertaining if it is required, or lets his plants remain pot bound, or potting them "when he has time," or permits them to be devoured with aphis, must never expect to realise such a specimen as above described. A Working Gardener.
[A good practical article - by one whose beautifully grown plants we have, if we mistake not, seen more than once. Very few of our floral readers in this country know the curious beauty of the new hybrid Calceolarias, and those who will follow the directions given by our correspondent, will find themselves amply rewarded. Ed].