Horticultural Exhibitions in London

by W. Goldring

1888

At a late meeting of the floral committee of the Royal Horticultural Society at South Kensington among many novelties was a group of seedling bulbous Calanthes from the garden of Sir Trevor Lawrence, who has devoted much attention to these plants and has raised some interesting hybrids. About twenty kinds were shown, ranging in color from pure white to deep crimson. The only one selected for a first-class certificate was C. sanguinaria, with flowers similar in size and shape to those of C. Veitchii, but of an intensely deep crimson. It is the finest yet raised, surpassing C. Sedeni, hitherto unequaled for richness of color. The pick of all these seedlings would be C. sanguinaria, C. Veitchii splendens, C. lactea, C. nivea, and C. porphyrea. The adjectives well describe the different tints of each, and they will be universally popular when once they find their way into commerce.

Cypripedium Leeanum maculatum, also shown by Sir Trevor Lawrence, is a novelty of sterling merit. The original C. Leeanum, which is a cross between C. Spicerianum and C. insigne Maulei, is very handsome, but this variety eclipses it, the dorsal sepal of the flower being quite two and one-half inches broad, almost entirely white, heavily and copiously spotted with purple. It surpasses also C. Leeanum superbum, which commands such high prices. I saw a small plant sold at auction lately for fifteen guineas and the nursery price is much higher.

Lælia anceps Schrœderæ, is the latest addition to the now very numerous list of varieties of the popular L. anceps. This new form, to which the committee with one accord gave a first class certificate, surpasses in my opinion all the colored varieties, with the possible exception of the true old Barkeri. The flowers are of the average size and ordinary form. The sepals are rose pink, the broad sepals very light, almost white in fact, while the labellum is of the deepest and richest velvety crimson imaginable. The golden tipped crest is a veritable beauty spot, and the pale petals act like a foil to show off the splendor of the lip.

Two new Ferns of much promise received first class certificates. One named Pteris Claphamensis is a chance seedling and was found growing among a lot of other sporelings in the garden of a London amateur. As it partakes of the characters of both P. tremula and P. serrulata, old and well known ferns, it is supposed to be a natural cross between these. The new plant is of tufted growth, with a dense mass of fronds about six inches long, elegantly cut and gracefully recurved on all sides of the pot. It is looked upon by specialists as just the sort of plant that will take in the market. The other certificated fern, Adiantum Reginæ, is a good deal like A. Victoriæ and is supposed to be a sport from it. But A. Reginæ, while it has broad pinnæ of a rich emerald green like A. Victoriæ, has fronds from nine to twelve inches long, giving it a lighter and more elegant appearance. I don’t know that the Victoria Maidenhair is grown in America yet, but I am sure those who do floral decorating will welcome it as well as the newer A. Reginæ. A third Maidenhair of a similar character is A. rhodophyllum and these form a trio that will become the standard kinds for decorating. The young fronds of all three are of a beautiful coppery red tint, the contrast of which with the emerald green of the mature fronds is quite charming. They are warm green-house ferns and of easy culture, and are supposed to be hybrid forms of the old A. scutum.

Nerine Mansellii, a new variety of the Guernsey Lily, was one of the loveliest flowers at the show. From the common Guernsey Lily it differs only in color of the flowers. These have crimpled-edged petals of clear rose tints; and the umbel of flowers is fully six inches across, borne on a stalk eighteen inches high. These Guernsey Lilies have of recent years come into prominence in English gardens since so many beautiful varieties have been raised, and as they flower from September onward to Christmas they are found to be indispensable for the green-house, and indoor decoration. The old N. Fothergillii major, with vivid scarlet-crimson flowers and crystalline cells in the petals which sparkle in the sunlight like myriads of tiny rubies, remains a favorite among amateurs. Baron Schroeder, who has the finest collection in Europe, grows this one only in quantity. An entire house is filled with them, and when hundreds of spikes are in bloom at once, the display is singularly brilliant.

A New Vegetable, a Japanese plant called Choro-Gi, belonging to the Sage family, was exhibited. Its botanical name is Stachys tuberifera and it was introduced first to Europe by the Vilmorins of Paris under the name of Crosnes du Japon. The edible part of the plant is the tubers, which are produced in abundance on the tips of the wiry fibrous roots. These are one and a half inches long, pointed at both ends, and have prominent raised rings. When washed they are as white as celery and when eaten raw taste somewhat like Jerusalem artichokes, but when cooked are quite soft and possess the distinct flavor of boiled chestnuts. A dish of these tubers when cooked look like a mass of large caterpillars, but the Committee pronounced them excellent, and no doubt this vegetable will now receive attention from some of our enterprising seedsmen and may become a fashionable vegetable because new and unlike any common kind. The tubers were shown now for the first time in this country by Sir Henry Thompson, the eminent surgeon. The plant is herbaceous, dying down annually leaving the tubers, which multiply very rapidly. They can be dug at any time of the year, which is an advantage. The plant is perfectly hardy here and would no doubt be so in the United States, as it remains underground in winter. [A figure of this plant with the tubers appeared in the Gardener’s Chronicle, January 7th, 1888.—Ed.]

Phalænopsis F. L. Ames, a hybrid moth orchid, the result of intercrossing P. grandiflora of Lindley with P. intermedia Portei (itself a natural hybrid between the little P. rosea and P. amabilis), was shown at a later exhibition. The new hybrid is very beautiful. It has the same purplish green leaves as P. amabalis, but much narrower. The flower spikes are produced in the same way as those of P. grandiflora, and the flowers in form and size resemble those of that species, but the coloring of the labellum is more like that of its other parent. The sepals and petals are pure white, the latter being broadest at the lips. The labellum resembles that of P. intermedia, being three-lobed, the lateral lobes are erect, magenta purple in color and freckled. The middle or triangular lobe is of the same color as the lateral lobes, but pencilled with longitudinal lines of crimson, flushed with orange, and with the terminal cirrhi of a clear magenta. The column is pink, and the crest is adorned with rosy speckles. The Floral Committee unanimously awarded a first-class certificate of merit to the plant.

A New Lælia named L. Gouldiana has had an eventful history. The representative of Messrs. Sander, of St. Albans, the great orchid importers, while traveling in America saw it blooming in New York, in the collection of Messrs. Siebrecht & Wadley, and noting its distinctness and beauty bought the stock of it. The same week another new Lælia flowered in England and was sent up to one of the London auction rooms for sale. As it so answered the description of the American novelty which Messrs. Sander had just secured it was bought for the St. Albans collection, and now it turns out that the English novelty and the American novelty are one and the same thing, and a comparison of dates shows that they flowered on the same day, although in different hemispheres. As, however, it was first discovered in the United States, it is intended to call it an American orchid, and that is why Mr. Jay Gould has his name attached to it, In bulb and leaf the novelty closely resembles L. albida, and in flower both L. anceps and L. autumnalis. The flowers are as large as those of an average form of L. anceps, the sepals are rather narrow, the petals as broad as those of L.  anceps Dawsoni, and both petals and sepals are of a deep rose pink, intensified at the tips as if the color had collected there and was dripping out. The tip is in form between that of L. anceps and L. autumnalis and has the prominent ridges of the latter, while the color is a rich purple crimson. The black viscid pubescence, always seen on the ovary of L. autumnalis, is present on that of L. Gouldiana. The plants I saw in the orchid nursery at St. Albans lately, bore several spikes, some having three or four flowers. Those who have seen it are puzzled about its origin, some considering it a hybrid between L. anceps and L. autumnalis, others consider it a distinct species and to the latter opinion I am inclined. Whatever its origin may be, it is certain we have a charming addition to midwinter flowering orchids.

W. Goldring

London, February 1st.