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.
It will interest our readers to peruse the following items from the Crystal Palace, London, where things are done on a magnificent scale:
" The forcing house for supplying the Crystal Palace is of the very best, and of the very amplest kind. It is one hundred feet long; ranges nearly south and north; is twelve feet wide, outside measure, and eight feet high in the centre over the path, which runs along the middle of the house. The path is three feet wide, and there is a flat shelf of open woodwork on each side of the path. The shelves being as high as a man's hip bone. 80 that neither male nor female can sweep off any of the pots, on either side, when walking up the centre. ' A monstrous comfort, is it not ?
The outside walls are a little higher than the shelves, and a span-roof completes the house. There is a four-inch flow and return pipe under each shelf, and high enough from the ground, to allow the bottom ventilation to enter below them. 'Cold currents' are thus avoided, as the cold air must come in contact with the warm pipes, before getting to the plants. The house is in two divisions; the one next the boiler being the hottest, and the contrivance to confine the circulation to one end, when that is desirable, is most simple. A stop-cook is in the top pipe, and a pipe communicating between the top and bottom pipes, just behind the stop-cock, and between that cock and the boiler.
" In the end, which is the forcing division at present, the night heat is just 50° to 55°, but they allow a play of 40° degrees between the night and day temperatures; not with fire-heat, how-ever, but by not giving air till the sun heats up to 90°, or, with a little top air, to 100°. This is coming close to Mr. Cidd, and Mr. Latter'B way of airing cucumbers in winter.
" The old rule of ' one to six' recurs to one on hearing the niceties of ventilation; that is, for one inch of top air, give six inches at the bottom ventilators, and never depart from that rule, in winter and spring forcing, until you are forced yourself out of it, by sun heat rising beyond the heat which the plant, or plants, you are forcing can endure.
"Hyacinths, Tulips, Narcissuses, Crocuses, Azaleas, Hydrangeas, Pinks, Cloves, Cytisus racemosus, Acacia armata, seedling Cinerarias, and China Primroses, Deutzia gracilis, Dielytra spectabilis, and all such established favorites, force from February without any bottom heat, or plunging, and will not suffer in sun moist heat up to 90° for two or three hours daily, provided the night air, or heat, is as low as 50° in mild weather, and 55° when the frost is sharp. No plants were ever forced better.
"The Hyacinths are the best of the old cheap kinds, they are potted in large 48-pots, or small 32's, in good holding yellow loam; and the bulbs are entirely on the surface of the soil, the leaves of all the offsets they make are pinched off, as soon and as often as they can be laid hold on; but the bottom, or bulb part of the offset, is never touched; the wound which the separation from the old bulb would cause, might kill, or very much injure, the old bulb in the dead of winter. The old Waterloo Hyacinth throws up four flower stems from one good bulb, by this treatment; sometimes three, and very seldom less than two, as may be seen.round the basin of the crystal fountain all the spring. The Waterloo is the highest colored one there - a crimson in fact - far better in color than we generally see it; but the immense body of fresh mild air, inclosed by the Crystal Palace, brings out colors, and the tint of leaves, far beyond any method within our knowledge. Most of those very old Camellias, and Rhododendrons, were half dead, or three parts burnt up at the roots, three years ago, when they were planted here; and many of them would have died outright, in small houses, in a few years; but what splendid specimens they are making already.
" One large oval Majolica vase, fit for the Queen's room, is managed, as most drawing-room pot flowers should be, and a hint from this Court may be useful, just now. All the most costly drawing-room vases have no hole, or holes, in the bottom, to let off the drainage from the flower-pots, for fear of soiling carpets. To get over this, the bottom half of this Majolica vase is stuffed with green moss, the pots are plunged in the moss, and the top is then mossed with the finest and shortest moss, which looks as smooth as green velvet. In warm rooms the pots must have water, but the quantity of bottom moss ' takes it up' like a sponge, for ten days, or more, or less, according to the time, temperature, and the temptations to water. After that, the vase is taken out, put on the oilcloth, and the moss is squeezed, after the manner of wringing in the laundry; the moss seeds go in the surplus water, and the moss itself is green, damp, and comfortable for the pots and plants a second, and a third, and many times, for nobody knows for how long a time; doing away with the expense of purchasing moss, so difficult in towns, and with the uncomfortable apprehension, in the country, of getting in horrid creatures and crawling things from the woods".