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.
With the object of refreshing the memories of amateurs on the importance they generally attach to a supply of winter-blooming plants, both for cutting and for the decoration of greenhouses and sitting-rooms, I send you a few remarks on the culture of the Epacris, thinking that for the many purpose that such plants are required there are few to surpass it in the gayety of its colors; the succession of bloom, too, that may be obtained from a good selection is not the least of its recommendations.
The propagation of the Epacris is readily effected, in the month of May or June, by selecting shoots of the current year's growth, stripping off the leaves from the lower part, and cutting the bottom evenly. They are then inserted half an inch deep, in prepared pots, filled with sandy peat over a good drainage. The whole should be firmly pressed, and after the cuttings are inserted should receiver a gentle watering from a fine-rose watering-pot. The pots must then be covered with a bell-glass, and placed in a cold frame or pit, where they must be duly attended with water and shaded from the sun. In a month or six weeks it will be found that the cuttings have become "callused," or a ring of white cellular tissue will have formed on the margin of the eats. When this is the case the "strike" may be considered safe, and the cuttings may then be removed to a warmer situation, such as the shaded part of an intermediate stove; here they will almost immediately push out roots, and the tops will begin to elongate.. At this stage the bell-glasses must be removed, and in a short time the points of the cuttings taken off and, if a scarce variety, again inserted, and treated as before.
In a short time numerous buds will be formed at the axils of the leaves; they should then be potted singly in small pots. By keeping them somewhat close, in a cold pit or frame, they will soon commence to grow freely, and will continue to do so till late in the autumn. In winter little attention will be required, further than to keep the plants from the frost, with an occasional watering, and plenty of air during mild weather.
In order to give as long a season as possible, the young plants should be examined early in February, transferring such as require it to larger pots, and placing them in a growing temperature of about forty-five to fifty degrees. By this means the plants will make an early growth, and will require repotting early in the season, or about April. As the plants grow attention must be paid to stopping the strong growths early in the spring, as by this means a bushy compact habit is obtained, and the plants will be more compact and handsome. Shading will be required from the early part of March, in bright weather, till the middle of June. By this time, if all has gone on well, the plants will have made sufficient growth for the season; and should then be removed from the frame to the open air; if the pots can be plunged in coal ashes they may bo fully exposed to the suu, and must be attentively supplied with water. No plant suffers more than the Epacris when stinted in its supply of water, and if flagging is allowed death is almost certain.
Exposed as above the plants become browned and unsightly; by this, however, they are benefited, as the wood being thoroughly matured flowers will be more abundantly produced. Early in September the plants must again be removed under glass, and wintered as before recommended; and as little bloom may this season be expected, it will be better to cut back to within three or four inches of their base all the strongest shoots of the former year's growth early in February; the plants may then be kept somewhat warmer for a week or two, when they must be carefully potted and placed in a growing temperature. The treatment this season will differ from the last, in as much as they will not require repotting, and only the strongest of the growths need be pinched, and these not later than April. If they are required early in bloom, a light situation in the greenhouse must be selected, and the plants removed early in September from the open air.
By starting the plants early into growth they will acquire the habit of early flowering, which will in most instances enhance their value. In the dull months of early winter their varied colors look conspicuous and attractive, which is not the case to so great an extent when the more gaudy colors of "forced plants " begin to abound. - S., in the Florist.