Journal of Horticulture 13(333):423-424 (Nov. 11.1888)


THE spring and summer months afford us a wealth of Amaryllis flowers rich, brilliant, and varied in colour, but later in the season we have hitherto had few representatives of the genus. At a time when indoor flowers are not too plentiful additions of any kind are most acceptable, and for this reason the autumn-flowering Amaryllises, now steadily increasing in numbers, are particularly worthy of attention. The species from which these have chiefly originated is Amaryllis reticulata, an old and well-known stove plant, but one that has never been regarded as of great horticultural value; nor until quite recently has its capacity for development been recognised. There is now, however, every reason to suppose that a distinct and beautiful race of varieties and hybrids will be formed that should command as much favour as the spring-flowering type now so popular.

According to the first edition of Aiton's "Hortus Kewensis," published in 1789, Amaryllis reticulata was then grown in the Royal Gardens, having been introduced in 1777 by Dr. Edward Whitaker Gray. In Andrews' "Botanists' Repository," vol. 8, plate 179, which was not issued until more than ten years after the first-named work, the species is well illustrated in a coloured plate, and it is said that the plant was first cultivated in 1772 at the Hammersmith Nursery, the bulbs having been received from Portugal by Edward Whitaker Gray, M.D., of the British Museum, and were by him communicated to Messrs. Lee & Kennedy. If the latter account be correct it would seem that the plant was introduced from Brazil to Europe by some traveller, and that it passed from Portugal to England. In Andrews' illustration the white midrib of the leaf is not shown, the flowers being suffused with rose and reticulated with a darker shade. Some variations differing slightly in depth of colour have appeared from time to time, but over 100 years elapsed before any very distinct departure from the ordinary character was obtained, and it seems strange that, although other Amaryllises received so much attention from hybridisers, this species should have been comparatively neglected for so long.

It is probable that experiments with the object of securing hybrids between A. reticulata and some of the ordinary scarlet varieties were commenced about the same time both at Chelsea and Upper Holloway, but the first recorded success was gained by Mr. B. S. Williams. At one of the meetings of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1881 this raiser exhibited a plant of a hybrid between A. reticulata and the scarlet variety Defiance, which was named Mrs. Garfield, and at once honoured with a certificate. It was recognised as a distinct advance upon the ordinary type, the flowers larger, well formed in good heads, most delicately but clearly veined, with bright soft rose on a pure white ground. The strength of habit and floriferousness had evidently been greatly improved by the cross. Following this in 1882 came Autumn Beauty, this time from Messrs. J. Veitch & Sons' Nursery, and all that has been said in favour of Mrs. Garfield might be repeated of this. It was the result of a cross between A. reticulata and a scarlet variety, and the former type seemed to have profited in an exactly similar manner. In both these the reticulata parentage predominated in the foliage, which retained the white midrib and in the venation of the flowers, but a tendency towards successional or periodical flowering during a great portion of the year was also developed that has been still further improved in subsequent acquisitions of a similar kind, but especially in the direction of autumn and winter flowering.

According to Flore des Serres, Amaryllis reticulata vittata was raised from a hybrid Amaryllis pollinated by A. reticulata striatifolia

About the same time as the two hybrids named made their appearance another hybrid was produced on the continent and figured in the Flore des Serres as A. reticulata vittata, the veining of the flowers being rather bolder and darker than in the others. Then in 1884 followed Mrs. W. Lee from Mr. B. S. Williams, which was certificated by the Royal Horticultural Society at South Kensington and the Royal Botanic Society at Regent's Park. This was a lovely addition to the list, and amply merited the honours it secured. The flowers have the rose colours partly suffusing the lobes of the corolla, but the "reticulation" is still seen, and in the centre of each lobe is a well-defined white band. The strength of habit was still further increased, and the floriferousness became still more marked, the scapes bearing five and six good blooms each, and the plant can be fairly described as perpetual flowering.

Two more varieties or hybrids were introduced to public notice in 1885—namely, Autumn Charm from Messrs. J. Veitch & Sons, and Comte de Germiny from Mr. B. S. Williams, both being certificated at South Kensington. Autumn Charm has large beautifully formed flowers, pure white, veined with bright rosy red, a distinct tint and well marked. Comte de Germiny was a seedling from Mrs. Garfield crossed with a scarlet Amaryllis, and has flowers of good size richly veined with crimson, and barred with white in the centre of the lobes. It is a bold, handsome variety, and affords a pleasing contrast with the other lighter tinted forms. This season a handsome variety of the same type has been introduced from the continent, named Perloti, which is perhaps one of the most distinct of these hitherto obtained. The flowers are very heavily veined with intensely dark rose crimson on a white ground, the rich colouring showing still more strikingly in contrast with the white central bar in each lobe of the corollas. One of the last to be described is Pioneer, which flowered in Mr. B. S. Williams' nursery last month, and is said to be the result of a cross between Crimson King and Mrs. Garfield. In this the veining of the petals is quite lost, the colour being a soft scarlet, and it will probably prove the progenitor of a race of scarlet-flowering autumn Amaryllises.

To these must be added another hybrid that was certificated at South Kensington last Tuesday, November 9th, and which is entitled to rank amongst the best that have yet been raised. This was appropriately named Lady Mayoress, and came from Messrs. J. Veitch and Sons' nursery, having resulted from a cross between Amaryllis reticulata and a variety of A. Leopoldi. The last-named parent has influenced the size of the flower considerably, and the colour is deeper than in most of the other forms—a rosy red bearing reticulation on a lighter ground, but with the colour more or less suffusing the whole of the flower. We next may expect that someone will be fortunate enough to raise a pure white-flowered seedling, and then we shall have a charming series of variations.

A few others have been raised and named, but those mentioned have the best marked characters, and present sufficient diversity amongst themselves to merit including in any collection. One advantage they all possess which must not be omitted—namely, they are evergreen, and their leaves are sufficiently ornamental to render them worthy of cultivation on that account alone, and in some stoves this has been the chief recommendation the old Amaryllis reticulata has. The increased freedom of flowering of the hybrid and varieties now in collections is a valuable quality, and from this time until past Christmas a constant supply of flowers will be yielded by those enumerated.

These Amaryllises are not difficult of culture, but they need a little different treatment from the Leopoldi hybrids, though similar soil suits them well. A compost of sandy loam and leaf soil, with a very small proportion of old manure, is what they require, with a stove or intermediate temperature during the greater portion of the year. Where conservatories are kept somewhat above the greenhouse temperature to accommodate such plants when in flower, the autumn Amaryllises can be safely employed. They do not have a marked season of rest like the others, and the "drying off" system must therefore be especially avoided, for growth continues throughout the year.

In the illustration (fig. 62, page 433), three of these Amaryllises are depicted—viz., 1, Mrs. W. Lee; 2, Perloti; 3, G. Firth, indicating the characteristics of the race.