The Gardener's Monthly and Horticulturist, 23: 298-299 ( October, 1881)
Greenhouses Of Col. Durrett, Louisville, Ky.
The following interesting sketch is from the Louisville Courier Journal.
"The lovely place of Col. R. T. Durrett, at the corner of Brook and Chestnut streets, is just now the object of pilgrimage to many persons in the city who appreciate rare plants and flowers. Col. Durrett's collection of flora is probably the rarest, as it is one of the most beautiful in the country. He has devoted many years and much money to obtaining all the finest specimens of tropical and foreign flowers and trees which could be successfully developed in this climate. In his grounds just now may be enjoyed the rare sight of pineapples, oranges, figs and bananas all growing and ripening into delicious fruit. The beautiful lawn is like a glimpse of the tropics, and the beds and plots are bright with the colors of thousands of flowers.
"Among the many rare and beautiful plants which adorn the premises may now be observed a splendid specimen worth walking a long distance to see. It is a Crinum amabile, standing in the front and now in bloom, with its sweet perfume loading the air, and its royal purple dazzling the eye. The plant belongs to the bulb family, or, as the botanist would express it, to the order of amarylideae. The bulb is shaped like a cone, and is fourteen inches in height from the surface of the ground to where the leaves commence, and twenty-five in circumference at the base. The leaves are four feet long and five inches wide, and in shape what is known as the lorate-lanceolate, that is, having the mixed appearance of the strap and lance in their form. The flower stalk starts from near the top of the bulb, just below where the foliage begins, and ascends to where the leaves begin to bend down, a distance of three feet, where it ends in an umbel, consisting of numerous lily-shaped flowers of a rich purple color and exquisite perfume. The flowers do not all expand at once, but come out in succession, so as to keep up the inflorescence for a long time. The plant is a native of the island of Sumatra, in the Indian Archipelago, whence it was imported six years ago. It is now twelve years old, and blooms from two to three times per year. It is now making its first bloom this year, but will bloom again in the fall. It is a plant which can stand no frost, and can only be grown by those who have greenhouses in which to protect it from the cold. Even before the cool nights of the latter part of September come it will be taken from its present position on the lawn and placed in the greenhouse, where it will be kept growing all the winter. It is during the winter's growth that the bulb is perfected and prepared for the magnificent flowers produced in the summer.
''Another plant, now in bloom on the same lot, is the Hymenocallis Borkiana. This is also a bulb, and likewise has evergreen leaves. It grows to the height of one foot, and sends up from the center of its leaves a flower stalk which bears an umbel, from which in succession issue from six to a dozen pure white flowers, having the perfume of vanilla. The flower resembles what is known here as the Grayson county lily, but is more delicately formed and its corona much more beautiful. It is a native of La Guyra, in South America, where it was discovered in 1850 by a botanist named Bork, from whom it took its name. It is also very tender, and requires hot-house culture.
"Still another bulb which attracts attention is the Batatas Paniculata, if bulb a root could be called which appeal's so much like a huge potato. It sends up a vine with leaves shaped like a human hand, and bears a rich purple flower, formed like our morning-glory, and closing like it also in the afternoon, but much larger and more showy. The root of this plant is larger than a man's head, and was imported from Western Africa. It is the same species that is cultivated for food in tropical Africa, where a negro is said sometimes to sit on one end while roasting the other of one of the huge tubers. Nothing can be more attractive than this plant early in the morning, when the whole vine is covered with large purple flowers, moist with dew.
"Col. Durrett pointed out among a large collection of amaryillises two of his own producing, which it would seem are something new in the floral world. Their merit consists in the number of times they bloom each year. The old-fashioned amaryllises can only be relied upon for one bloom per year, but these bloom from three to four times each year. One of them has a flower resembling that of the old Johnsonii, red with white stripes, which has been named Amaryllis rubra multiflora; the other has a pure white flower with foliage resembling that of the old longifolia, which has been named Amaryllis alba multiflora.
"One more plant, which is extremely lovely, is the Hedychium gracile. It is a native of Bengal, India, and has roots resembling our calamus except they are larger in size. It throws up foliage much like the common canna or Indian-shot, except more delicate; and at the summit of each shoot is a spicate or kind of pod, from which for a number of days issue one after another pure white flowers, having somewhat the shape of the ordinary butterfly and emitting the most delicate and exquisite fragrance. It is vulgarly known as the garlandflower and by some called the butterfly-flower. It belongs to the ginger family, or as the botanist would say, to the order Zingiberaceae, and is so tropical in its nature as not to be able to endure frost; but kept in the hot-house in winter and put out on the lawn in the summer in our climate, it will produce an abundance of the purest white and sweetest-scented flowers. There could be nothing more appropriate than would be a bridal or funeral wreath of these pure white and exquisitely sweet flowers."
Reuben Thomas Durrett (1824-1913)