AMARYLLIS AT WESTONBIRT
THE famous collection of Hippeastrums in Captain Holford's gardens near Tetbury, which has been continuously improved upon for the last fifty years, has never before made such a grand show as at the present time. The large span-roofed house specially arranged for their cultivation is filled with gorgeous flowers from end to end, about 2,000 spikes of magnificent flowers in all stages being expanded. The flowers of this strain possess characteristics in which a descent from the fine old species which it was the delight of Captain Holford's father to collect can be distinguished. The collection was famed for the advances made upon Amaryllis Ackermanni pulcherrima, and A. marginata venusta, as they were then called in gardens; the former imparting the deep scarlet tint to its progeny, and the latter the delightful shade of scarlet and white stripe, and a delicate fragrance to those derived from it. The same features greatly improved may still be traced in the Westonbirt Hippeastrums of the present time. In the early days of the collection, important improvements were wrought by selecting seedlings of some forms of A. vittata and A. Gravinae, or Graveana as it was called; and with regard to one of the first breaks from the last-named, which the late "Squire" Holford considered perfection, it is related that its flowers first opened on the wedding-day of our present King and Queen, and the Squire, as he was generally called by his people, immediately named it Princess Alexandra, and bore it off to the mansion to take the place of honour at the dinner-table. It was a grand flower, and similar ones in the collection to-day still hold their own. The raising of Hippeastrums at Westonbirt is systematically carried out, well defined types being followed up, with the result that the collection boasts of great variety, and does not merge into one large class, and thus create monotony. The two extremes are the pure white without any colour at all, and the dark velvety crimson-scarlet with a scarcely perceptible green base, from which springs an intensely dark reddish-maroon flush to the middle of each segment. Of these the pure white is the least grateful subject to increase or improve, although already a very fine form has been secured. The dark shades of scarlet and the crimsons are more prolific, but as each marked improvement sets the standard of excellence higher, the work in this as in other classes is not light. Breadth and equality in width of petal and expansion are the principal points aimed at. Even in the best strains the lower middle segment is defective in regard to size, but in some of them it is now equal to the other segments. To evolve new sections is another object, and in this direction the charming variety known as Apple Blossom takes the lead. Its flowers are fine in form, white with a tinge of red on the margins, and a profusion of minute red spots evenly distributed over the surface of the flower, suggesting descent from the always rare, and now probably extinct, Hippeastrum pardinum Dombrainae, or "salmon-spotted," as it was called.
Looking over the dense mass of magnificent flowers, it is difficult to select; but beyond those mentioned, Mrs. Albert Grey, a fine scarlet and white; Autocrat, scarlet with white star; Cardinal Richelieu, large cherry-red; Lord Dalhouaie, scarlet with white star; Monarch, crimson; James O'Brien, dark blood-red; and Wildfire, rich scarlet, showed up prominently. There were, too, among the new and yet unnamed bulbs some finer flowers.
|See also Bonavia (1904)|
Strange crosses are also attempted, and now about to flower is one of special interest, between the Hippeastrum and Clivea miniata. At least, Mr. Chapman, the head gardener, can answer for the cross being made with exceptional care, so as to obviate any risk of disappointment; and although there is at present little to indicate a change from Hippeastrum, there seem to be traces of difference in the form and veining of the leaves, and the flowers, when expanded, may disclose others.
In a cold greenhouse were noticed a number of fine large bulbs sending up flower-spikes. In the matter of cultivation, Mr. Chapman stated that he does not repot all of the bulbs annually, although when the time for overhauling them arrives a large proportion are repotted. In the New Year the house is prepared, and the materials of which the plunging-bed consists is got in readiness for the plants. In February the bulbs are taken from their cool, dry, resting quarters, and those to be repotted are shakes out of the soil, and repotted in a compost consisting chiefly of good turfy-loam two-thirds, leaf-soil, old stable-manure, and 1/2-inch bones one-third. The plants not repotted are top-dressed, and all that are intended for the chief display plunged in a bed having a gentle bottom-heat, and carefully and sparingly afforded water till the flower-spike leaves appear, at which time water is more freely applied. But in the matter of affording water, some sections differ from others; the descendents of the almost evergreen Hippeastrum aulicum platypetalum, which was one of the stock-breeders years ago, suffering from the severe drying-off, that is found suitable for the race which partakes more of the deciduous character of H. vittatum. The introduction of fresh blood into the old stock has chiefly been effected by the use of Hippeastrum pardinum, H. Empress of India, and one or two others of Messrs. Veitch's strain.
On glancing at the display presented at Westonbirt, it is difficult to imagine any other class of plants which could make such a gorgeous display, some faint idea of which may be gained by those who saw the Gold Medal group shown by Captain Holford at the Royal Horticultural Society, or our illustration in the Gardeners' Chronicle, May 13, 1899, p. 299.
Gardeners' Chronicle p. 150 (Aug 30, 1902)
(Continued from p. 131.)
The Plant Houses are in a walled-in block, the long ranges of vineries and fruithouses being situated chiefly under the wall. In the middle, the span-roofed houses are used for growing such flowering and ornamental plants as Codiseums, Dracaenas, Perns, and florist's flowers, among which Hippeastrums take the lead. Their flowering and the quality of their flowers has often been remarked on in the Gardeners' Chronicle, and their condition at the time of our visit in the spring, when the bulbs were in flower, was noted in our issue of April 5, p. 230. At present the extraordinary vigour of their foliage strikes the beholder. Many of the bulbs have eight to twelve leaves, many of them being 3 feet 6 inches long, and very thick. Mr. Chapman is now experimenting with wide crosses, and one batch between Hippeastrum and Clivia has been secured, and another between Hippeastrum and Agapanthus umbellatus, which would be still more interesting as being between plants of different orders. If the flowers of these do not show the desired change of characters it is intended to cross them again, for the foliage seems to say that the first crossing was effected.
CLIVIA CROSSED WITH HIPPEASTRUM: T.P. The flowers you send are specially fine in colour, and seem to show variation in this respect as described by you. It would be very interesting to try to cross them again as you suggest.
Walter Hunnewell (T. D. Hatfield, gardener) ... showed a plant in bloom, the result of a cross between Amaryllis Johnsoni and Clivia miniatum. We did not recognize any trace of the Amaryllis and the plant would pass for one of the named Clivias.