Gardeners Chronicle 3: 107 (January 28, 1888)

Raising New Varieties of Amaryllis
James Douglas

Since the remarks by me on Hippeastrum were published at p. 56, I have thought that something more might be added on hybridising and raising of seedlings that might be useful. In less than a month the first flowers will be open, and the interesting process of crossing may be commenced. I have stated that the attempt to cross Sprekelia with Hippeastrum was a failure; and as far as my experience extends with the best named varieties of the H. Leopoldii type, it is very difficult to obtain seeds from them. The variety John Heal is, perhaps, the grandest garden variety of this type, and one that might be expected to reproduce handsome progeny; but hitherto the difficulty has consisted in obtaining good seeds, and whether this variety is fertilised by its own or by some other pollen, the result is the same. The flowers will show that they have been fertilised, and the pods will swell rapidly up to a certain point, when they shrink up, and there are no results. Except in several special instances, it is not desirable to save seeds from flowers crossed with their own pollen only, as I proved when I tried the experiment with that handsome variety, Empress of India, when it was first introduced to cultivation, and raised 700 plants from one umbel of flowers. There were five pods of seeds only. The result of this experiment was a large number of plants not differing materially from the parent; a few of them were better, but by far the larger proportion were inferior. The best results are obtained by cross-breeding, and I would rather have fifty plants raised from seeds that had been obtained by a judicious selection of parents than 500 from self-fertilised flowers. It has been stated frequently by experimentalists, that pollen from a distinct species, applied to a garden variety, is more potent than if its own pollen were employed. This is so in some instances, but not invariably. I have sometimes found the reverse to be the case. Dean Herbert, writing in the Journal of the Horticultural Society, in 1847, "On Hybridisation amongst Vegetables," seems very positive in the affirmative. He says that "the observation of several years enables me now to say that this remarkable fact is almost invariable, and that although the hybrids in this genus (Hippeastrum) are capable of bearing seed by their own pollen, the admission of the pollen of another cross-bred plant of the same genus (however complicated the cross) to any one flower of the umbel, is almost sure to check the fructification of the others, so the excision of the anthers in such case is quite superfluous, the difficulty being to get the individuals to fertilise their own germens." Herbert, in his very interesting paper verifies this statement by instances which came under his own observation; but doubtless many growers could give instances of plants of this genus producing flowers on which their own pollen was more potent than that taken from flowers of another species or variety. In fact Herbert himself states that the original H. Johnsoni was in itself "capable of reproducing itself from seeds," and "A bulb of H. solandrifloro-Johnsoni, of which all the flowers now set by their own pollen, produced seed vigorously from all of them."

I would like to remark here that the species, H. solandriflorum, in two varieties (see Bot. Mag., t. 2573 and 3771), as they were grown by Herbert at Spofforth, are likely to make quite a new class. They are grown in the collection of Messrs. Veitch, at Chelsea, and have been crossed there with some of their best garden varieties. The produce has already flowered in their Chelsea nursery. It may be either used as a seed or pollen bearer, and long-tubed flowers of rich and varied colours may be produced. They would be quite different in character from the produce of H. pardinum and H. Leopoldi species which have scarcely any tube. It will not be difficult to cross any species or variety of Hippeastrum with each other. The anthers of the flower intended to produce seeds can easily be removed with the fingers before the pollen-cases burst; that is about two days before the flowers are fully open. The flower must then be left until the petals have reached their full expansion. The pollen can very easily be applied to the stigma with a small camel's-hair brush. I perform the operation once a day until the flower fades, as one cannot be sure that the pollen on the one hand and the stigma of the other flower may be productive on the day of the first application, besides the seedpods may start to swell, and give the cultivator the idea that they are likely to be full of seeds; but they may only reach a certain stage, and then suddenly collapse. The flowers ought not to be much shaded during the period of fructification, and a moderately dry, buoyant atmosphere ought to be maintained.

I sow the seed as soon as it is ripe, placing it in a hothouse with or without bottom-heat; but it will vegetate most freely with a bottom-heat of about 85°. The doubtful seeds, which may probably produce the best flowers, will vegetate in a bottom-heat, and might not do so without it. I prick out the plants in three weeks after they appear above ground—about a dozen in a 5-inch pot, where they grow freely up to mid-winter, when they are repotted and started with the others. J. Douglas.