Gardeners’ Chronicle, March 24, 1906
James Douglas

THIS handsome hothouse plant will now be coming into flower. It is one I used to exhibit successfully some 20 to 25 years ago. Messrs. James Veitch and Sons, of Chelsea, had some years previously introduced two very distinct and handsome species from the Andes of Peru through their collector, Mr. Pearce. H. pardinum was the first of the two to produce flowers in the Chelsea nursery in 1867. H. Leopoldi flowered in 1869. And when we see the superb garden varieties now exhibited by Messrs. Veitch and others it is as well to know that their origin can be traced to these two species. Mr. John Seden was the first to cross-fertilise them, and the initial attempt was remarkably successful. H. Ackermanni pulcherrimum was a great favourite at that time, and it was crossed with the pollen of H. pardinum. Three very good garden forms were produced from this cross-viz., Chelsoni, Brilliant, and Maculatum. The work of cross-fertilising soon passed into the hands of Mr. John Heal, and many of the beautiful garden varieties in existence 20 years ago were raised by him at Chelsea. The characteristics of H. pardinum and Leopoldi were the very short tubes they possessed, and the habit of producing two flowers on a scape. They lacked somewhat of the vigour possessed by some other varieties in cultivation at the time.

The family of Mr. de Graaff, of Leiden, had also been, working for many years in hybridising and cross-fertilising the Hippeastrum. As long ago as 1790 the De Graaffs had raised hybrids. and they. are still continuing this work. Amongst others they raised a truly handsome variety named Empress of India, which was raised by crossing a dark-coloured seedling from H. psittacinum with another seedling of their own named H. gravianum. This handsome variety, Empress of India, produced large crimson-coloured flowers, four and five on a scape; and another variety named "The Giant" was introduced at the same time. Other growers had been working in the same direction with such material as was available. As early as 1799 a watchmaker of Prescot, in Lancashire, named Johnson, began the work of hybridising, and made a cross between H. reginae and H. vittatum and produced H. x Johnsoni. Dean Herbert asserts that Johnson raised this hybrid in 1810, and it was also raised by himself at Mitcham in 1811. Herbert was a most indefatigable hybridist, and could not be satisfied with merely cross-fertilising garden varieties. There were a number of interesting and some handsome varieties and species in cultivation before the year 1810. H. striatifolium had flowered in Messrs. Lee's nursery, Hammersmith, in 1781. The type forms of H. reticulatum was in cultivation in 1777 H. equestre was introduced in 1698; H. reginae in 1728. H. vittatum, used so much by Herbert as a parent, was introduced in 1769. The splendid strains produced by Ker, of Liverpool, and Williams, of Holloway, are known to all lovers of these plants.

The modern cultivator in nearly every instance looks to the production of beautiful garden varieties, and obtains the best he can find in the market for this purpose, and it is not important to him what were the original species from which the existing garden varieties were obtained. His object is gained if he improves upon existing forms, either by obtaining better or brighter colours, or better form in the flower, etc. Herbert's work was entirely different; he, working from a scientific standpoint, made crosses from original species, and many of them must have been of great interest. Amongst others he raised H. Henslowi, named after the Professor of Botany at Cambridge. Several interesting crosses were made at the same time by others. Sweet, at Colvill's nursery, a Mr Griffin, and also Mr. R. Harrison were all co-workers, and the result is given at pages 142 to 144 of the Amaryllidaceae. There are 31 examples of the hybridist's art described, many of them from H. reticulatum. A very pretty form of the Habranthus section is figured in the Botanical Magazine, t. 7,344. It is named H. brachyandrum, and was described by Mr. Baker from examples that flowered at Kew: "The first flowers opened in July, and they continued till September, so that the plant proves to be a valuable acquisition to horticulture." The plants seem to have been flowered in on open border with a southern exposure. The colour of the flower is a deep claret red, fading to pate pink at the top of the funnel-shaped perianth.

As is well known, the garden varieties of the Hippeastrums are really hothouse plants. They do not require a very high temperature, but luxuriate in a bottom heat of 80 degrees to 85 degrees, and an atmospheric temperature of 60 degrees when they are approaching the flowering stage. How it would rejoice the hearts of thousands of amateurs who can afford a greenhouse, but object to the expense of a hothouse, if a strain of plants of this genus could be obtained that would be at home in a greenhouse. I have seen only the coloured plate of H. brachyandrum, which shows it to be a handsome species, and a fair rival to Vallota purpurea, a well-known greenhouse plant. Another charming greenhouse plant is the Jacobean Lily, Amaryllis formosissima. This species does not seed freely. Indeed, Herbert states that no instance had come to his knowledge of its having borne seed in England; This is so near Hippeastrums that one would think it might be hybridised with them. Ripe seed was obtained from it by the late Colonel Trevor Clarke. I believe he gave seeds to Kew nearly twenty years ago. Amateurs with time to spare might obtain much enjoyment by working out scientific experiments on the hybridising of these comparatively hardy species. Cyrtanthus hybridus is stated in Gardeners' Chronicle, 1885, vol. xxiv., p. 391, to be a hybrid between the Vallota and Cyrtanthus sanguineus. No one can tell what might be accomplished by the intercrossing of these allied genera.


A few remarks may be useful on the raising of seedlings and the general culture of Hippeastrums. In order to obtain any measure of success, cross-fertilisation must be resorted to. When Empress of India was first introduced I obtained a plant and fertilised the flowers with their own pollen, and obtained over 400 plants, but they proved very disappointing; very few were as good as the parent, none was better, and not one in fifty was so good. There was also but little variation in colour, whereas if cross-fertilisation had been attempted many distinct and beautiful' varieties would have been forthcoming. The stigma and stamens are so conspicuous that it is quite easy to cross them. The stamens, of course, must be removed from the seed-bearer before the pollen-cases burst, and in 24 hours the stigma will be in condition to have the foreign pollen applied. The capsules swell rapidly, and the seed will be ripe in June or July. Sow it as soon as it is ripe in a hothouse in bottom heat. The young plants will soon appear, and if they are potted off in good soil, a dozen or so in six-inch flower-pots, they will make excellent growth the same season, and good bulbs will be formed. They will be all the stronger if the flower-pots are placed over a little bottom heat. The plants do not require a long season of rest, but should be kept dry at the roots during November and December and part. of January. They will not lose their leaves, during. the winter, and in January three of the plants may be potted into six-inch flower-pots, and, if placed in a moderate hothouse atmosphere, with a gentle bottom heat, some of them will form flowering bulbs by the end of the season. The potting soil may be good yellow loam four parts, decayed stable manure one part, and leaf-mould or peat one part. At the end of the season all the bulbs may be rested until potting time in January, when they should be repotted singly and treated as ordinary named varieties. It is not absolutely necessary that these  plants should be grown and flowered with their pots plunged over the rims in spent tan from a tan-yard, but those who cannot afford to treat them so will not be able to obtain such satisfactory results as those who can.

I would warn those young gardeners who aspire to success in the culture of these plants that they must be very careful as regards watering, especially after the bulbs have been recently repotted. If the potting compost is fairly moist to start with, no water should be given for two or three weeks afterwards. By that time some growth will have been made, and water of the same temperature as the atmosphere of the house may be applied at first round the sides of the rims, so as not to allow any to lodge at the base of the bulbs. When the pots have become full of roots water may be applied freely; but if the flower-pots are plunged they will not require a very great quantity of water. The garden varieties of Hippeastrum have now attained to such a high standard of excellence that fewer varieties receive certificates than heretofore. I have looked through the reports of the Floral Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society, and find that one only was certificated in 1904 and none in 1905. That in 1904 was a truly handsome variety named Snowdon (see fig. in Gardeners' Chronicle, April 30, 1904), pure white, and raised by Mr. Fielder, the very able gardener at North Mymms Park. This received a first-class certificate for its vigorous habit, large size of the flowers, and their perfect form. Other white varieties have been raised, but none at all approaching this. Many very fine varieties were exhibited, but the committee evidently thought that none of them were advances on previously raised varieties. J. Douglas.

Gardeners’ Chronicle, April 7, 1906
J. W. Miles
Blenheim Gardens

Mr. J. Douglas, on pp. 177-78. in his interesting account of the species of Hippeastrum and their hybrids, in lamenting the supposed absence of a hardier race of Hippeastrums, says:—"It would rejoice the hearts of thousands of amateurs if a hardier race of Hippeastrums could be produced suitable for cultivation in a greenhouse temperature. " I am pleased to say that we have, and have had for several years past, plenty of material for the purpose. Forms of H. vittatum and H. aulicum are now being grown extensively in structures where artificial heat, sufficient only to exclude frost, is employed. An amateur with a greenhouse or a frame from which frost can be excluded can grow Hippeastrums well, provided he fulfils the necessary requirements in the matters of drainage, suitable soil, watering and firm potting. The careless use of the watering can is responsible for more dead bulbs than any other cause. When an amateur learns to administer water to the bulbs at the proper time, he can grow Hippeastrums. At Isleworth, in the gardens of A. Worsley, Esq., where a speciality of these and many other plants of Amaryllidaceae is made. Hippeastrums are grown from the seedling to the flowering state in frames where frost is kept out. Splendid bulbs are thus grown, and some are planted out of doors at the foot of a wait, facing south. The most floriferous bulb that I have ever seen was planted thus, and threw up three flowering stems in succession, the first showing on February 4, 1903. It s only fair to add that the roots had penetrated into some mortar rubble, and that hot-water pipes were near by. The plant was a form of H. vittatum. I can go even further, and add that plants subjected to a few degrees of frost afterwards flowered as though nothing had happened to them, but I do not for one moment recommend such treatment. Hippeastrum brachyandrum is not a very tractable plant for culture in pots. It is very irregular in its flowering, and when once flowered it seldom recovers from the strain. To pit this plant as a rival to Valotta purpurea is not saying much for Valotta: for they are vastly different in colour of flower, height, constitution and general effectiveness. The growing of Hippeastrums in pots, to a flowering size, is not to be recommended if there is space sufficient to plant them in the greenhouse. By the former treatment it takes three or more years to flower plants from seed, while I have flowered them in 22 months from seed by planting out the bulbs. Spent tan, as a plunging medium, is needless and expensive, and is not always convenient to obtain. J. W. Miles, Blenheim Gardens.

E. Bonavia

In the Gardeners' Chronicle for March 24, Mr. J. Douglas stated that H. pardinum was introduced from the Andes by Messrs. James Veitch and Sons, that Mr. John Seden had crossed it (or H. Leopoldi) and produced H. Ackermani pulcherrimum (the origin of the latter, however, is not mentioned, as two are mentioned). Then H. Ackermanni was crossed with, the pollen of H. pardinum, and from this cross three very good forms were produced, viz., Chelsoni, Brilliant, and maculatum. One of the characters of H. pardinum is a profuse spottedness, which no other that I have ever seen possesses. H. maculatum may have possessed some of it; if so, why has such a character been lost? I have not seen any such feature in the plants shown at the R.H.S. meetings, nor among the splendid collections of Messrs Veitch and Sons and others. It is not impossible that many of the crossings with the pollen of. H. pardinum were what we now call false hybrids, that is hybrids that take after the mother parent only, without a trace of the pollen parent, i.e., the pollen never amalgamated with the ovules, but merely started the ovary into growth, with the ovules as buds, so that the plants resulting from the seeds would be equivalent to offsets. Of this phenomenon I have had many experiences. A cross that I have recently obtained through the pollen of H, pardinum and a show Hippeastrum has even more spotting than its pollen parent, and in skilled hands might initiate a new section. The crossings with H. pardinum which Mr. Douglas mentions may have been called hybrids, because the pollen of H. pardinum was used in the crossings; but it does not at all follow that the so-called hybrids had any pardinum blood in them. There is a notion among enthusiastic florists that in breeding plants the flower must conform with what is called a florist's flower—a flower of a certain form—otherwise it is rejected and may be lost. In India I bred Hippeastrums with petals so narrow that they resembled certain Crinums, and others so tubular that they resembled the flower of a Solandra, and they were all very interesting, but then I was not breeding for profit. No commercial horticulturist will be bothered with anything that does not appear to have money in it. E. Bonavia, M.D.