CAMELLIA AND ITS CULTURE.—No. 4.
Jas. Anderson, Meadow Bank, Uddingstone.
TEMPERATURE.—It is really wonderful, so to speak, how accommodating Camellias are. In some places you will find them growing and flowering in delightful profusion among a miscellaneous collection of plants—such, for instance, as those possessed by your fair correspondent "A.Z.," who, with praiseworthy zeal, has managed for a number of years to have many choice flowers to please the eye, while at the same time and in the same house she has been able to obtain flue fruit to regale the appetite. Here is a fertility of expedient, and a practical exemplar of what can be done by those ladies who take a lively interest, as this lady has done, in the doings and success of cottage garden societies. In order to set ourselves right, however, with your fair correspondent, while applauding her efforts and success, we beg to remind her that now-a-days it requires oil the efforts of first-class gardeners, with first-class accommodation, to produce first-class samples of either fruit or flowers in return.
There can be no better place, then, for cultivating Camellias to the highest state of perfection than a house specially set apart for their use. Comparatively, few private places in the country can boast of such a structure, and yet there are not many species of plants under cultivation that offer a better speculation with the same amount of care. The demand is almost unlimited, from the positive large to the superlative largest, from the two-shilling up to the twenty-guinea plant, and why? because the plant in the three-feet or four-feet tub is just as healthy and as likely to be so for half a century to come, as the plant in the 6-inoh pot. Those that have houses of the above description will have the very important advantage of letting the plants have the temperature best suited to their wants. There will also be less manual labour required; for, as is well known, where the accommodation is limited and the demands for space from other subjects entitled to your distinguished consideration equally pressing, it is then absolutely necessary to be fertile in expedients—moving this section here pro tempore, and that section there, and mayhap baffled to meet your requirements in such a way as you would wish. Such is no exaggerated picture of the majority of garden establishments from March till May.
But observe, that if there is a demand for a succession of bloom for a period of eight or nine months in the year, one house will not be sufficient. Ono uniform temperature for the entire collection throughout the season will not be effective in its results. You may select early-flowering sections and late-flowering sections, and after bud-formation keep some of the earlier in-doors, and some of the later out-doors, and by this method occasionally secure a six-months succession, which, in many cases, will bo all that is requisite. Much, indeed, depends upon climate. In this cold, northern locality upon the banks of the fresh-water Clyde, where we have a long winter and short summer, and all the evils concomitant with an excessive rainfall, it is highly injudicious to place Camellias out of doors; for even with the best drainage and most careful attention they will get so saturated that you cannot depend upon them retaining their buds. I agree with your very able correspondent "D., Deal," that this is one of the prime causes of failure. I may add I am very much pleased—indeed, it would be the merest affectation to conceal it that some of my remarks have met with the approbation of a gentleman of his philological and practical knowledge. It was our practice for a number of years to place them out of doors as soon as their buds were properly developed; but we never could count upon that success which has uniformly attended our efforts since we kept them at all times under glass; not that it is absolutely necessary to do so where climate is favourable and rainfall moderate. It is our opinion, that at that particular period of annual development they require all the solar light possible, without, recollect, being subjected to the direct rays of the sun; so that, if all other things were equal, a shaded, sheltered situation out of doors would undoubtedly be preferable.
In order to insure a lengthened period of bloom, it is necessary to divide them into three sections—the early, the ordinary, and the late. Some may be inclined to combat this point, and lead respectable proof of certain results with less systematic appliances. If you wish to make certainty secure, we always think it is wisdom to work on ft preconceived plan; to adopt that which experience proves effectual, and to modify or discord altogether that which may not be suited to localities, circumstances, and such like. Our plan, then, is to select a batch of those which have a tendency to bloom early and to bloom successfully; for if you attempt to get Duchesse d'Orleans, Teutonia, Valteverado, and some others before Christmas, they will not expand to the very centre of their bud; at all events you cannot depend upon them (some of the varieties even with the very best treatment, flowering at the most suitable tune, have a tendency in this direction), whereas Fimbriata, Alba plena, Imbricata, Lady Hume's Blush, Saccoi nova, Henri Favre, and some others will bloom well at any time they ore called upon and prepared for. We have a batch of the above that bloom from the end of September up to Christmas. These arc what we call the "early section," and this the prescribed time. They are cleared out of the conservatory as they are done blooming, and transferred to a cool vinery. The vinery in question, we begin to force never earlier than the third week in January, and never later than the first week in February. This batch has a clear month's rest, some of them move at a minimum temperature of not less than 34", and not more than 45". The wood-buds begin to be pretty prominent just us the house is prepared for forcing, and they come away at a gradual rise of temperature suited to the progress of the Vines. I may here state that this section scarcely, if ever, drops a bud. Many of them, on the contrary, have freely to be disbudded; and I can, with the greatest confidence, rely on them if they are in proper condition at the root.
I now redeem the pledge I gave in one of my contributions to THE JOURNAL OF HORTICULTURE with reference to variegation in flowers. I mentioned that I had hit upon a plan for insuring every individual bloom of Camellia Imbricata to come blotched, and not only does Imbricata come so, but all those which have the least disposition to variation. In the course of experience, I observed the flowers that had a tendency to sport were very much superior as sports if they happened to be in bloom during December and the early part of January. I noted the fact particularly, and further observed those that unfolded their petals in March and April had very much less inclination to sport; many of the plants showing a large majority of self flowers, and those that were blotched only very partially so. I resolved definitely to test the value of the hypothesis formed within my own mind, and selected three or four plants of Imbricata that had done blooming in the beginning of March. These were placed at once into a temperature ranging between 50° and 60° during night, and 10° or more higher during the day; they were subjected to strong heat, and proportionate abundance of moisture until they had formed their flower-buds, and were then transferred to a house where they had abundance of air during the day, and a moderately warm temperature, caused by early shutting-up the ventilators during the night. This treatment continued to the end of August, after which they had free ventilation both night and day. They succeeded quite as satisfactorily as their congeners, showing abundance of bloom, and some of them opened their first flower early in October, continuing to bloom until new year's day. I need only add that every individual bloom was all that could be desired for sportiveness, and gave the most unqualified satisfaction. Poverty at the root, in general, is one of the best means for promoting variegation in leaves. The plants that produced these flowers were as liberally treated as the most robust samples in the collection, and the foliage was rich in chlorophyll; on the contrary, one or two tiny examples of the same variety produced small flowers with no disposition to variation. Several authorities in chemistry aver that plants give off oxygen by decomposing carbonic acid during the day, and absorb the latter again at night; whereas flowers perform a somewhat different function, by absorbing oxygen at all times and emitting carbonic acid. It is true, nevertheless, that flower-buds do not differ essentially from leaf-buds, and in many instances, the apportioning of them is within the control of the cultivator. Such is an epitome of our practice with reference to those classed under the "early section," which includes all the varieties that we wish, and can trust being speckled and spotted.
Those classed under the "ordinary section" are placed in the vinery mentioned above, as soon as they are blooming in the conservatory. The last flowers, especially during March and April, are not quite expanded when the leaf-buds burst and the young leaves are in process of elongation. By this time the Vines have made considerable progress, and afford by their leaves sufficient shade to the tender shootlets from a scorching midday sun.
Those classed under the "late section," require to be retarded as much as possible consistent with success in blooming them. A sprinkling of Camellias in bloom during the month of May is certainly, as they always are, a nice feature in a mixed collection of plants. The length of the day, however, and the great call upon the physical energies of the plant render the blooms comparatively short-lived. It is absolutely necessary, in the first place, in selecting a batch for flowering at this period to fix upon bona fide late bloomers. As I suggested in a former communication, Bealii is one of the best for this sort of work, along with which might be named Candidissima, General Zucchii, Princess Bacchiochi, Duchess of Buccleuch, Cup of Beauty, Archiduchesse Augusta, Rubini, Cavendishii, and Feastii. They should be wintered in a temperature at a minimum of 34° and 40°. On one occasion, I retarded Bealii in a house where the temperature occasionally fell to the freezing-point, until the second week in June, some stray blooms remaining ten days longer. I opine that most people know, that as the Camellia will stand as much heat with superabundant moisture as any plant under cultivation, so will it also live and thrive in some way when subjected to rigorous cold. I have known Camellia-stocks to live over a severe winter out of doors uninjured, when the young shoots of the Portugal Laurel were nipped. It is not advisable, albeit, for those who wish to grow them as decorative plants, to subject them to a temperature under the freezing-point. From March till the time of flower-buds expanding, this batch ought to be kept as cool as possible, with rather an over than an under proportion of moisture in the atmosphere. An exact counterpart of an atmosphere that is required to winter successfully soft-wooded greenhouse plants. It is almost unnecessary to mention, that that part of the house where they are located should be shaded from midday suns to modify the temperature. By following up this method with two years' preparation, you may calculate upon being in a high degree successful. The stated period of retardation, and the sequent process, mark you, is after their buds are properly formed. There must be no " hungering " them of temperature at the proper time. They require when done blooming as high a temperature as any of the other batches, as many of them will not bloom annually otherwise, and some of them cannot be coaxed by any means.
It remains for me only to state, that the temperature for their successful cultivation throughout the year, should not be a sudden transition from a low to a high, and vice versa. It is necessary that this should be thoroughly understood, for inattention to small matters, and this among the number, at a certain stage, is also one of the causes of bud-dropping. A low temperature during the development of the young shoots, as well as during the greater part of the process of consolidation—at all events until the foundation of the structure so rapidly called into being exhibits some degree of strength and flexibility—is inimical to bud-formation. You may err as much as you please on the side of heat, with corresponding moisture and proper shading, with desirable results; but by all means try to place them in an atmosphere between 55° as a minimum for night, and 90° as a maximum for day temperature, and if you are right in all other respects you will have flower-buds in abundance.—Jas. Anderson, Meadow Bank, Uddingstone.