Calceolaria hybrida. Greenhouse biennial The present magnificent race of Herbaceous Calceolarias, both as to constitution and the beauty of its flowers, is the result of much cross-fertilisation of the finest types, so that the best strains are capable of affording ever-new surprise and delight.

The superb collections exhibited in recent years, which have made lasting impressions on the public by their form and brilliancy of colour, have invariably been raised from seeds of selected varieties, saved on scientific principles that insure vigour, variety, and splendour in the progeny. Calceolarias thrive under intelligent cool-house culture, but it must be clearly understood that in every stage of growth they are quick in resenting neglect or careless treatment. The work must be carried out with scrupulous attention, and the result will more than justify the labour. Extreme conditions of temperature are distinctly injurious, and the plants are especially susceptible to a parched, dry atmosphere. May is early enough to commence operations, and July is the limit for sowing. As a rule, the June sowing will produce the quickest, strongest, and most robust plants. The soil, whatever its composition, should be rich, firm, and, above all, porous. Press it well into the pots or pans, and make the surface slightly convex and quite smooth. A compost that has been properly prepared will not need water; but should water become needful, it must be given by partially submerging the pans. The seed is as fine as snuff, and requires delicate handling. It is easily lost or blown away, and therefore it is wise not to open the packet until perfectly ready to sow. Distribute the seed evenly and sift over it a mere dusting of fine earth. Place a sheet of glass upon each pot or pan, and the glass must be either turned or wiped daily. This not only checks rapid evaporation, but prevents the attacks of vermin. Germination is always slower on an open than on a close stage. Perhaps the best possible position is a moist shady part of a vinery, if care be taken when syringing the vines to prevent the spray from falling upon the seed-pans. Under favourable circumstances, from seven to nine days will suffice to bring the seedlings up in force, and very few will appear afterwards. When they are through the soil remove the sheet of glass, and give them prompt attention, or they will rapidly damp off. Immediately the second leaf appears, tiny as the plants may be and difficult to handle, commence pricking them off into other pots prepared to receive them, for it is unsafe to wait until they become strong. Allow about two inches between the plants. The occupants of each pan may generally be pricked off in about three operations, and there should be only the shortest possible intervals between. With many subjects it is a safe rule to use the robust seedlings and throw the weakly ones away. This practice will not do in the case of Calceolarias, or some of the most charming colours that can grace the conservatory or greenhouse will be lost. The strongest seedlings generally produce flowers in which yellow largely predominates, a fact that can easily be verified by keeping the plants under different numbers. But it must not be inferred that because the remainder are somewhat weaker at the outset they will not eventually make robust plants. Freely mix silver sand with the potting mould, and raise the surface higher in the centre than at the edge of the pot. From the first appearance of the seedlings shading is of the utmost importance, for even a brief period of direct sunshine will certainly prove destructive. Do not allow the plants to become dry for a moment, but give frequent gentle sprinklings of water, and rain-water is preferable. As the soil hardens, stir the surface with a pointed stick, not too deep, and give water a few hours after. About a month of this treatment should find each plant in the possession of four or five leaves. Then prepare thumb pots with small crocks, cover the crocks with clean moss and fill with rich porous soil. To these transfer the plants with extreme care, lifting each one with as much soil adhering to the roots as a skilful hand can make them carry. Place them in a frame, or in the sheltered part of a greenhouse, quite free from dripping water. Always give air on suitable days, and on the leeward side of the house. Keep a sharp look-out for aphis, to the attacks of which Calceolarias are peculiarly liable. Fumigation is the best remedy, and it should be undertaken in the evening; a still atmosphere renders the operation more certain. Water carefully on the following morning, and shade from the sun. By September the plants should be in large 60-pots, and it is then quite time to begin the preparation for wintering. Some growers put them in heat, and are successful, but the heat must be very moderate, and even then we regard the practice as dangerous. Place the plants near the glass, and at one end of the house where they will obtain plenty of side light, as well as light from above. During severe frosts it may be well to draw them back or remove them to a shelf lower down and towards the centre of the house, but they must be restored as soon as possible to the fullest light obtainable, as they have to do all their growth under glass. The more air that can safely be given, the better, and dispense with fire-heat if a temperature of 45 deg. to 55 deg. can be maintained without it. When growth commences in spring, which will generally be early in March, give each plant its final shift into eight-or ten-inch pots. This must be done before the buds push up, or there will be more foliage than flowers. The following is the compost we advise: one bushel good yellow loam, half-bushel leaf-soil, one gallon silver sand, a pound of Sutton's A 1 Garden Manure, and a pint of soot, well mixed at least ten days before use. Any sourness in the soil will be fatal to flowering. The compost must be carefully 'firmed' into the pots, but no severe pressure should be employed, or the roots will not run freely. Neglect as to temperature or humidity will have to be paid for in long joints, green fly, red spider, or in some other way. But there are no plants of high quality that grow more thriftily if protected from cold winds and kept perfectly clean. A light airy greenhouse is their proper place, and they must have ample headroom. After the pots are filled with roots, not before, manure water may be administered until the flower-heads begin to show colour, when pure soft water only should be used. About a fortnight in advance of the full display the branches must be tied to supports. If skilfully managed the supports will not be visible. It may be that a few large specimens are required. If so, shift the most promising plants into 6-size pots. These large Calceolarias will need regular supplies of liquid manure until the bloom is well up, and if the pots are efficiently drained and the plants in a thriving condition, a rather strong beverage will suit them. For all ordinary purposes, however, plants may be allowed to flower in eight-or ten-inch pots, and for these one shift after the winter is sufficient. New Types of Calceolaria.--There are now available a number of hybrid half-hardy perennial varieties, of which C. profusa (Clibrani) is the most popular, that bear the same relation to the Large-flowered Calceolaria as the Star Cineraria does to the Florist's Cineraria. In point of size the blooms produced by these new types are smaller than those of the Large-flowered section, but the tall graceful sprays are extremely beautiful and of the greatest decorative value. Except that seed should be sown earlier (February and March are the proper months), the plants should receive precisely the same treatment as that already described for Herbaceous Calceolaria.


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