Journal of Horticulture and
Cottage Gardener 24: 167-168 (Mar 3, 1892)
AMARYLLISES ALL THE YEAR ROUND
W. P. Wright
When the richly coloured blooms of the Amaryllis are observed giving warmth to glass structures in the cold and cheerless days of winter they naturally arrest attention. It is possible that there are many persons to whom the existence of a section of these plants amenable to treatment for an all the year round display, and which are, moreover, evergreen, is even yet unknown, although upwards of ten years have elapsed since the first of the race was honoured with a first class certificate by the Royal Horticultural Society. In few gardens, at all events, are any of the varieties found. Though the pioneer was admittedly beautiful and possessed of valuable distinctive characters, and although it was quickly followed by others of even greater charm, widespread attention was never won by the new group. It is probable enough that the lukewarmness of their welcome was largely a result of their being put into direct but unfair comparison with the magnificent hybrids of the Leopoldi race, and also, but in a minor measure, to the fact that due consideration was not accorded to their period and duration of flowering. The comparison with the larger section was unfair; firstly, because the first fruits of a new departure were contrasted with the choicest products of a long course of hybridisation and cross-breeding; secondly, and chiefly, because the character and uses of the smaller group were widely dissimilar to the older and more important ones. It is in every way desirable that the true position of a very beautiful and valuable class of flowers should be clearly recognised, and then it may be expected that they will at length enter on the career of usefulness and popularity which they so richly merit.
In Messrs. B. S. Williams & Son's nursery at Holloway there are no more beautiful objects at the present time than plants of the evergreen hybrid Amaryllis, Mrs. William Lee, bearing four to six beautiful rosy-pink flowers, supported by a vigorous stem rising from handsome striped foliage. The flowers, though somewhat smaller than the finest of the spring-flowering hybrids, are equal to the majority of the small and medium-sized forms in size, and the delicacy of colour, heightened by the soft reticulation, gives the bloom an appearance of singular charm. It would not be easy to over-estimate the value of a good stock of this noble variety in any garden, and it has associates equally attractive. For conspicuous positions in winter arrangements of plants, for relieving the sombre effect of flowerless occupants of conservatories and greenhouses during the dull season, for table and furnishing purposes, it and its co-varieties would be equally serviceable, imparting their unique features of rich yet well-modulated colouring and stately beauty. All that Amaryllises are in spring these may be in autumn and winter, and in saying this the necessity for further recapitulation of the various modes in which the plants would prove acceptable is obviated.
Mrs. William Lee was not the first arrival. The forerunner of the race was Mrs. Garfield, first exhibited in 1881. This variety marked the realisation of an object long striven for—namely, the production of hybrids in which the beautiful leaf-marking and evergreen character of Amaryllis reticulata were combined with the large flowers and brilliant colours of the other forms. The variety was the result of a cross between A. reticulata and A. Defiance. The certificate which it received was well deserved; the neglect into which it relapsed was not. The growth was sturdy and vigorous, the habit good, the flowers were freely borne, and the colour was eminently pleasing. It consisted of a delicate rose veining on a pure white ground, and the size of the blooms was a great advance upon A. reticulata.
Encouraged to further efforts, Messrs. Williams continued their work, and three years later Mrs. William Lee was distributed. In 1885 this was followed by another beautiful variety named Comte de Germany, remarkable for great richness of colour, large size, and vigorous growth. The flowers are very freely produced, and in colour may be described as rosy carmine veined with crimson, a white bar passing down the centre of each segment. The foliage, like the others, is reticulated and evergreen. This magnificent variety marked a great advance, and also received a first-class certificate. Subsequently they added to the list G. Firth and J. B. Pitcher. The former is distinguished by a broad stripe of white along the centre of each leaf, and by its bright reddish-crimson flowers. This is a markedly autumn-blooming variety, and is a vigorous grower of good habit. J. E. Pitcher has been recently brought out. It has rich crimson-carmine flowers, very distinct and beautiful. It is a strong grower and very floriferous, so that it may be expected to share an honoured place when the section to which it belongs receives due recognition. In addition to these varieties there are several other lovely seedlings at Holloway, while several beautiful varieties have been raised by Messrs. Veitch and Sons, and others on the Continent.
It is perhaps as a foliage plant that Amaryllis reticulata has been most prized, and certainly few are more remarkable for beauty of leafage. Its flowers, though most pleasing in colour, are too small to compare with those of the ennobled hybrids that are now so numerous. In the newer group, however, it is important to bear in mind that with the improvement in the flowers there is retained much attractiveness of foliage. In this there are clear traces of the reticulata parentage, and even when the plants are not in bloom they are by no means devoid of beauty, a point that is emphasised by their ever green and ever variegated character, for this feature at least they retain all the year round. Moreover, when a number of plants are grown flowers may be had practically during the whole of the year. In late spring, when the majority of their relatives are in bloom, special value cannot be claimed for them; but in autumn and winter a different tale may be told. There are few who would not appreciate well-flowered Amaryllis at Christmas, and both before and after that time they may be had in beauty. In them we are provided with a new evergreen for the festive season.
These Amaryllises are not, of course, dried off, like the spring bloomers, at any period of the year. The latter lose their foliage as winter approaches, and from that time until they come into flower are the reverse of beautiful objects, gorgeous though they are when in full bloom. The evergreens are best grown in a stove or warm structure throughout the year, and never totally deprived of water, although the supply should be diminished when the flowering is over. Practically they are in growth from January to December, and when in full vigour must have abundant supplies of water. They produce a mass of fleshy roots, which constitute a legion of thirsty throats, impatient of any approach to dryness. It is difficult to supply too much water when the pots are well filled with roots, and fertilisers or liquid manure in a weak state may be given with advantage when the growth is being matured prior to blooming. It is a very easy matter to insure a succession of flowers, being almost entirely a question of heat. Where several or many plants are grown some may be forwarded and others kept back, and in due course they may be thus got into a regular way of flowering at different periods. They will bloom when the growth is matured, which will be at different seasons under the treatment indicated, and thus may be had in bloom all the year round.
The plants may be repotted in spring, not necessarily every season, but in this case special care must be taken to supply them with a rich store of food. Sound turfy loam, with a sixth of decayed manure and a good dash of sand will suit them well; or their wants would be equally, perhaps better, met, by substituting a sprinkling of half-inch bones and crushed charcoal for the manure, and using these in association with the loam. Good drainage is necessary, and a few lumps of charcoal may be placed over a thin layer of crocks to provide it.
Amateurs whose glass conveniences are limited could practise a simpler method of culture by placing the plants in a warm position out of doors during the summer, shading the pots from the fierce heat of the sun and giving abundance of water, two or three times a day if necessary, as drought would be ruinous. The plants could be brought in again in autumn, and provided they had made satisfactory progress as a result of unremitting attention, they would bloom well in due course, the exact period depending upon the amount of heat accorded. The points are to insure steady uninterrupted growth and its subsequent maturation, avoiding drying-off at any stage.
At whatever period they may bloom these evergreen Amaryllises will be welcomed by gardeners and amateurs alike. Their beauty is great and their uses many. It is sincerely to be hoped that the time is not far distant when both these facts will have wide recognition.