With the exceptions named, this family belongs to Madagascar. It has a charming distinction, shared by no other genus which I recall, save, in less degree, Cattleya—every member is attractive. But I must concentrate myself on the most striking—that which fascinated Darwin. In the first place it should be pointed out that savants call this plant AEranthus sesquipedalis, not Angraecum—a fact useful to know, but unimportant to ordinary mortals. It was discovered by the Rev. Mr. Ellis, and sent home alive, nearly thirty years ago; but civilized mankind has not yet done wondering at it. The stately growth, the magnificent green-white flowers, command admiration at a glance, but the "tail," or spur, offers a problem of which the thoughtful never tire. It is commonly ten inches long, sometimes fourteen inches, and at home, I have been told, even longer; about the thickness of a goose-quill, hollow, of course, the last inch and a half filled with nectar. Studying this appendage by the light of the principles he had laid down, Darwin ventured on a prophecy which roused special mirth among the unbelievers. Not only the abnormal length of the nectary had to be considered; there was, besides, the fact that all its honey lay at the base, a foot or more from the orifice. Accepting it as a postulate that every detail of the apparatus must be equally essential for the purpose it had to serve, he made a series of experiments which demonstrated that some insect of Madagascar—doubtless a moth—must be equipped with a proboscis long enough to reach the nectar, and at the same time thick enough at the base to withdraw the pollinia—thus fertilizing the bloom. For, if the nectar had lain so close to the orifice that moths with a proboscis of reasonable length and thickness could get at it, they would drain the cup without touching the pollinia. Darwin never proved his special genius more admirably than in this case. He created an insect beyond belief, as one may say, by the force of logic; and such absolute confidence had he in his own syllogism that he declared, "If such great moths were to become extinct in Madagascar, assuredly this Angraecum would become extinct." I am not aware that Darwin's fine argument has yet been clinched by the discovery of that insect. But cavil has ceased. Long before his death a sphinx moth arrived from South Brazil which shows a proboscis between ten and eleven inches long—very nearly equal, therefore, to the task of probing the nectary of Angraecum sesquipidale. And we know enough of orchids at this time to be absolutely certain that the Madagascar species must exist.
[Footnote 4: Vide "The Lost Orchid," infra, p. 173.]
[Footnote 5: I have learned by a doleful experience that this fly, commonly called "the weavil," is quite at home on Loelia purpurata; in fact, it will prey on any Cattleya.]
In former chapters I have done my best to show that orchid culture is no mystery. The laws which govern it are strict and simple, easy to define in books, easily understood, and subject to few exceptions. It is not with Odontoglossums and Dendrobes as with roses—an intelligent man or woman needs no long apprenticeship to master their treatment. Stove orchids are not so readily dealt with; but then, persons who own a stove usually keep a gardener. Coming from the hot lowlands of either hemisphere, they show much greater variety than those of the temperate and sub-tropic zones; there are more genera, though not so many species, and more exceptions to every rule. These, therefore, are not to be recommended to all householders. Not everyone indeed is anxious to grow plants which need a minimum night heat of 60 deg. in winter, 70 deg. in summer, and cannot dispense with fire the whole year round.
The hottest of all orchids probably is Peristeria elata, the famous "Spirito Santo," flower of the Holy Ghost. The dullest soul who observes that white dove rising with wings half spread, as in the very act of taking flight, can understand the frenzy of the Spaniards when they came upon it. Rumours of Peruvian magnificence had just reached them at Panama—on the same day, perhaps—when this miraculous sign from heaven encouraged them to advance. The empire of the Incas did not fall a prey to that particular band of ruffians, nevertheless. Peristeria elata is so well known that I would not dwell upon it, but an odd little tale rises to my mind. The great collector Roezl was travelling homeward, in 1868, by Panama. The railway fare to Colon was sixty dollars at that time, and he grudged the money. Setting his wits to work, Roezl discovered that the company issued tickets from station to station at a very low price for the convenience of its employes. Taking advantage of this system, he crossed the isthmus for five dollars—such an advantage it is in travelling to be an old campaigner! At one of the intermediate stations he had to wait for his train, and rushed into the jungle of course. Peristeria abounded in that steaming swamp, but the collector was on holiday. To his amazement, however, he found, side by side with it, a Masdevallia—that genus most impatient of sunshine among all orchids, flourishing here in the hottest blaze! Snatching up half a dozen of the tender plants with a practised hand, he brought them safe to England. On the day they were put up to auction news of Livingstone's death arrived, and in a flash of inspiration Roezl christened his novelty M. Livingstoniana. Few, indeed, even among authorities, know where that rarest of Masdevallias has its home; none have reached Europe since. A pretty flower it is—white, rosy tipped, with yellow "tails." And it dwells by the station of Culebras, on the Panama railway.
Of genera, however, doubtless the Vandas are hottest; and among these, V. Sanderiana stands first. It was found in Mindanao, the most southerly of the Philippines, by Mr. Roebelin when he went thither in search of the red Phaloenopsis, as will be told presently. Vanda Sanderiana is a plant to be described as majestic rather than lovely, if we may distinguish among these glorious things. Its blooms are five inches across, pale lilac in their ground colour, suffused with brownish yellow, and covered with a network of crimson brown. Twelve or more of such striking flowers to a spike, and four or five spikes upon a plant make a wonder indeed. But, to view matters prosaically, Vanda Sanderiana is "bad business." It is not common, and it grows on the very top of the highest trees, which must be felled to secure the treasure; and of those gathered but a small proportion survive. In the first place, the agent must employ natives, who are paid so much per plant, no matter what the size—a bad system, but they will allow no change. It is evidently their interest to divide any "specimen" that will bear cutting up; if the fragments bleed to death, they have got their money meantime. Then, the Manilla steamers call at Mindanao only once a month. Three months are needed to get together plants enough to yield a fair profit. At the end of that time a large proportion of those first gathered will certainly be doomed—Vandas have no pseudo-bulbs to sustain their strength. Steamers run from Manilla to Singapore every fortnight. If the collector be fortunate he may light upon a captain willing to receive his packages; in that case he builds structures of bamboo on deck, and spends the next fortnight in watering, shading, and ventilating his precious trouvailles, alternately. But captains willing to receive such freight must be waited for too often. At Singapore it is necessary to make a final overhauling of the plants—to their woeful diminution. This done, troubles recommence. Seldom will the captain of a mail steamer accept that miscellaneous cargo. Happily, the time of year is, or ought to be, that season when tea-ships arrive at Singapore. The collector may reasonably hope to secure a passage in one of these, which will carry him to England in thirty-five days or so. If this state of things be pondered, even without allowance for accident, it will not seem surprising that V. Sanderiana is a costly species. The largest piece yet secured was bought by Sir Trevor Lawrence at auction for ninety guineas. It had eight stems, the tallest four feet high. No consignment has yet returned a profit, however.
The favoured home of Vandas is Java. They are noble plants even when at rest, if perfect—that is, clothed in their glossy, dark green leaves from base to crown. If there be any age or any height at which the lower leaves fall of necessity, I have not been able to identify it. In Mr. Sander's collection, for instance, there is a giant plant of Vanda suavis, eleven growths, a small thicket, established in 1847. The tallest stem measures fifteen feet, and every one of its leaves remain. They fall off easily under bad treatment, but the mischief is reparable at a certain sacrifice. The stem may be cut through and the crown replanted, with leaves perfect; but it will be so much shorter, of course. The finest specimen I ever heard of is the V. Lowii at Ferrieres, seat of Baron Alphonse de Rothschild, near Paris. It fills the upper part of a large greenhouse, and year by year its twelve stems produce an indefinite number of spikes, eight to ten feet long, covered with thousands of yellow and brown blooms. Vandas inhabit all the Malayan Archipelago; some are found even in India. The superb V. teres comes from Sylhet; from Burmah also. This might be called the floral cognizance of the house of Rothschild. At Frankfort, Vienna, Ferrieres, and Gunnersbury little meadows of it are grown—that is, the plants flourish at their own sweet will, uncumbered with pots, in houses devoted to them. Rising from a carpet of palms and maidenhair, each crowned with its drooping garland of rose and crimson and cinnamon-brown, they make a glorious show indeed. A pretty little coincidence was remarked when the Queen paid a visit to Waddesdon the other day. V. teres first bloomed in Europe at Syon House, and a small spray was sent to the young Princess, unmarried then and uncrowned. The incident recurred to memory when Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild chose this same flower for the bouquet presented to Her Majesty; he adorned the luncheon table therewith besides. This story bears a moral. The plant of which one spray was a royal gift less than sixty years ago has become so far common that it may be used in masses to decorate a room. Thousands of unconsidered subjects of Her Majesty enjoy the pleasure which one great duke monopolized before her reign began. There is matter for an essay here. I hasten back to my theme.
V. teres is not such a common object that description would be superfluous. It belongs to the small class of climbing orchids, delighting to sun itself upon the rafters of the hottest stove. If this habit be duly regarded, it is not difficult to flower by any means, though gardeners who do not keep pace with their age still pronounce it a hopeless rebel. Sir Hugh Low tells me that he clothed all the trees round Government House at Pahang with Vanda teres, planting its near relative, V. Hookeri, more exquisite still, if that were possible, in a swampy hollow. His servants might gather a basket of these flowers daily in the season. So the memory of the first President for Pahang will be kept green. A plant rarely seen is V. limbata from the island of Timor—dusky yellow, the tip purple, outlined with white, formed like a shovel.
I may cite a personal reminiscence here, in the hope that some reader may be able to supply what is wanting. In years so far back that they seem to belong to a "previous existence," I travelled in Borneo, and paid a visit to the antimony-mines of Bidi. The manager, Mr. Bentley, showed me a grand tapong-tree at his door from which he had lately gathered a "blue orchid,"—we were desperately vague about names in the jungle at that day, or in England for that matter. In a note published on my return, I said, "As Mr. Bentley described it, the blossoms hung in an azure garland from the bough, more gracefully than art could design." This specimen is, I believe, the only one at present known, and both Malays and Dyaks are quite ignorant of such a flower! What was this? There is no question of the facts. Mr. Bentley sent the plant, a large mass to the chairman of the Company, and it reached home in fair condition. I saw the warm letter, enclosing cheque for 100l., in which Mr. Templar acknowledged receipt. But further record I have not been able to discover. One inclines to assume that a blue orchid which puts forth a "garland" of bloom must be a Vanda. The description might be applied to V. coerulea, but that species is a native of the Khasya hills; more appropriately, as I recall Mr. Bentley's words, to V. coerulescens, which, however, is Burmese. Furthermore, neither of these would be looked for on the branch of a great tree. Possibly someone who reads this may know what became of Mr. Templar's specimen.
Both the species of Renanthera need great heat. Among "facts not generally known" to orchid-growers, but decidedly interesting for them, is the commercial habitat, as one may say, of R. coccinea. The books state correctly that it is a native of Cochin China. Orchids coming from such a distance must needs be withered on arrival. Accordingly, the most experienced horticulturist who is not up to a little secret feels assured that all is well when he beholds at the auction-room or at one of the small dealer's a plant full of sap, with glossy leaves and unshrivelled roots. It must have been in cultivation for a year at the very least, and he buys with confidence. Too often, however, a disastrous change sets in from the very moment his purchase reaches home. Instead of growing it falls back and back, until in a very few weeks it has all the appearance of a newly-imported piece. The explanation is curious. At some time, not distant, a quantity of R. coccinea must have found its way to the neighbourhood of Rio. There it flourishes as a weed, with a vigour quite unparalleled in its native soil. Unscrupulous persons take advantage of this extraordinary accident. From a country so near and so readily accessible they can get plants home, pot them up, and sell them, before the withering process sets in. May this revelation confound such knavish tricks! The moral is old—buy your orchids from one of the great dealers, if you do not care to "establish" them yourself.
R. coccinea is another of the climbing species, and it demands, even more urgently than V. teres, to reach the top of the house, where sunshine is fiercest, before blooming. Under the best conditions, indeed, it is slow to produce its noble wreaths of flower—deep red, crimson, and orange. Upon the other hand, the plant itself is ornamental, and it grows very fast. The Duke of Devonshire has some at Chatsworth which never fail to make a gorgeous show in their season; but they stand twenty feet high, twisted round birch-trees, and they have occupied their present quarters for half a century or near it. There is but one more species in the genus, so far as the unlearned know, but this, generally recognized as Vanda Lowii, as has been already mentioned, ranks among the grand curiosities of botanic science. Like some of the Catasetums and Cycnoches, it bears two distinct types of flower on each spike, but the instance of R. Lowii is even more perplexing. In those other cases the differing forms represent male and female sex, but the microscope has not yet discovered any sort of reason for the like eccentricity of this Renanthera. Its proper inflorescence, as one may put it, is greenish yellow, blotched with brown, three inches in diameter, clothing a spike sometimes twelve feet long. The first two flowers to open, however—those at the base—present a strong contrast in all respects—smaller, of different shape, tawny yellow in colour, dotted with crimson. It would be a pleasing task for ingenious youth with a bent towards science to seek the utility of this arrangement.
Orchids are spreading fast over the world in these days, and we may expect to hear of other instances where a species has taken root in alien climes like R. coccinea in Brazil. I cannot cite a parallel at present. But Mr. Sander informs me that there is a growing demand for these plants in realms which have their own native orchids. We have an example in the letter which has been already quoted. Among customers who write to him direct are magnates of China and Siam, an Indian and a Javanese rajah. Orders are received—not unimportant, nor infrequent—from merchants at Calcutta, Singapore, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, and smaller places, of course. It is vastly droll to hear that some of these gentlemen import species at a great expense which an intelligent coolie could gather for them in any quantity within a few furlongs of their go-down! But for the most part they demand foreigners.
The plants thus distributed will be grown in the open air; naturally they will seed; at least, we may hope so. Even Angraecum sesquipedale, of which I wrote in the preceding chapter, would find a moth able to impregnate it in South Brazil. Such species as recognize the conditions necessary for their existence will establish themselves. It is fairly safe to credit that in some future time, not distant, Cattleyas may flourish in the jungles of India, Dendrobiums on the Amazons, Phaloenopsis in the coast lands of Central America. Those who wish well to their kind would like to hasten that day.
Mr. Burbidge suggested at the Orchid Conference that gentlemen who have plantations in a country suitable should establish a "farm," or rather a market-garden, and grow the precious things for exportation. It is an excellent idea, and when tea, coffee, sugar-cane, all the regular crops of the East and West Indies, are so depreciated by competition, one would think that some planters might adopt it. Perhaps some have; it is too early yet for results. Upon inquiry I hear of a case, but it is not encouraging. One of Mr. Sander's collectors, marrying when on service in the United States of Colombia, resolved to follow Mr. Burbidge's advice. He set up his "farm" and began "hybridizing" freely. No man living is better qualified as a collector, for the hero of this little tale is Mr. Kerbach, a name familiar among those who take interest in such matters; but I am not aware that he had any experience in growing orchids. To start with hybridizing seems very ambitious—too much of a short cut to fortune. However, in less than eighteen months Mr. Kerbach found it did not answer, for reasons unexplained, and he begged to be reinstated in Mr. Sander's service. It is clear, indeed, that the orchid-farmer of the future, in whose success I firmly believe, will be wise to begin modestly, cultivating the species he finds in his neighbourhood. It is not in our greenhouses alone that these plants sometimes show likes and dislikes beyond explanation. For example, many gentlemen in Costa Rica—a wealthy land, and comparatively civilized—have tried to cultivate the glorious Cattleya Dowiana. For business purposes also the attempt has been made. But never with success. In those tropical lands a variation of climate or circumstances, small perhaps, but such as plants that subsist mostly upon air can recognize, will be found in a very narrow circuit. We say that Trichopilias have their home at Bogota. As a matter of fact, however, they will not live in the immediate vicinity of that town, though the woods, fifteen miles away, are stocked with them. The orchid-farmer will have to begin cautiously, propagating what he finds at hand, and he must not be hasty in sending his crop to market. It is a general rule of experience that plants brought from the forest and "established" before shipment do less well than those shipped direct in good condition, though the public, naturally, is slow to admit a conclusion opposed by a priori reasoning. The cause may be that they exhaust their strength in that first effort, and suffer more severely on the voyage.
I hear of one gentleman, however, who appears to be cultivating orchids with success. This is Mr. Rand, dwelling on the Rio Negro, in Brazil, where he has established a plantation of Hevia Brazilienses, a new caoutchouc of the highest quality, indigenous to those parts. Some years ago Mr. Rand wrote to Mr. Godseff, at St. Albans, begging plants of Vanda Sanderiana and other Oriental species, which were duly forwarded. In return he despatched some pieces of a new Epidendrum, named in his honour E. Randii, a noble flower, with brown sepals and petals, the lip crimson, betwixt two large white wings. This and others native to the Rio Negro Mr. Rand is propagating on a large scale in shreds of bamboo, especially a white Cattleya superba which he himself discovered. It is pleasing to add that by latest reports all the Oriental species were thriving to perfection on the other side of the Atlantic.
Vandas, indeed, should flourish where Cattleya superba is at home, or anything else that loves the atmosphere of a kitchen on washing-day at midsummer. Though all the Cattleyas, or very nearly all, will "do" in an intermediate house, several prefer the stove. Of two among them, C. Dowiana and C. aurea, I spoke in the preceding chapter with an enthusiasm that does not bear repetition. Cattleya guttata Leopoldi grows upon rocks in the little island of Sta. Catarina, Brazil, in company with Loelia elegans and L. purpurata. There the four dwelt in such numbers only twenty years ago that the supply was thought inexhaustible. It has come to an end already, and collectors no longer visit the spot. Cliffs and ravines which men still young can recollect ablaze with colour, are as bare now as a stone-quarry. Nature had done much to protect her treasures; they flourished mostly in places which the human foot cannot reach—Loelia elegans and Cattleya g. Leopoldi inextricably entwined, clinging to the face of lofty rocks. The blooms of the former are white and mauve, of the latter chocolate-brown, spotted with dark red, the lip purple. A wondrous sight that must have been in the time of flowering. It is lost now, probably for ever. Natives went down, suspended on a rope, and swept the whole circuit of the island, year by year. A few specimens remain in nooks absolutely inaccessible, but those happy mortals who possess a bit of L. elegans should treasure it, for more are very seldom forthcoming. Loelia elegans Statteriana is the finest variety perhaps; the crimson velvet tip of its labellum is as clearly and sharply-defined upon the snow-white surface as pencil could draw; it looks like painting by the steadiest of hands in angelic colour. C. g. Leopoldi has been found elsewhere. It is deliciously scented. I observed a plant at St. Albans lately with three spikes, each bearing over twenty flowers; many strong perfumes there were in the house, but that overpowered them all. The Loelia purpurata of Sta. Catarina, to which the finest varieties in cultivation belong, has shared the same fate. It occupied boulders jutting out above the swamps in the full glare of tropic sunshine. Many gardeners give it too much shade. This species grows also on the mainland, but of inferior quality in all respects; curiously enough it dwells upon trees there, even though rocks be at hand, while the island variety, I believe, was never found on timber.
Another hot Cattleya of the highest class is C. Acklandiae It belongs to the dwarf section of the genus, and inexperienced persons are vastly surprised to see such a little plant bearing two flowers on a spike, each larger than itself. They are four inches in diameter, petals and sepals chocolate-brown, barred with yellow, lip large, of colour varying from rose to purple. C. Acklandiae is found at Bahia, where it grows side by side with C. amethystoglossa, also a charming species, very tall, leafless to the tip of its pseudo-bulbs. Thus the dwarf beneath is seen in all its beauty. As they cling together in great masses the pair must make a flower-bed to themselves—above, the clustered spikes of C. amethystoglossa, dusky-lilac, purple-spotted, with a lip of amethyst; upon the ground the rich chocolate and rose of C. Acklandiae.
Cattleya superba, as has been said, dwells also on the Rio Negro in Brazil; it has a wide range, for specimens have been sent from the Rio Meta in Colombia. This species is not loved by gardeners, who find it difficult to cultivate and almost impossible to flower, probably because they cannot give it sunshine enough. I have heard that Baron Hruby, a Hungarian enthusiast in our science, has no sort of trouble; wonders, indeed, are reported of that admirable collection, where all the hot orchids thrive like weeds. The Briton may find comfort in assuming that cool species are happier beneath his cloudy skies; if he be prudent, he will not seek to verify the assumption. The Assistant Curator of Kew assures us, in his excellent little work, "Orchids," that the late Mr. Spyers grew C. superba well, and he details his method. I myself have never seen the bloom. Mr. Watson describes it as five inches across, "bright rosy-purple suffused with white, very fragrant, lip with acute side lobes folding over the column,"—making a funnel, in short—"the front lobe spreading, kidney-shaped, crimson-purple, with a blotch of white and yellow in front."
In the same districts with Cattleya superba grows Galleandra Devoniana under circumstances rather unusual. It clings to the very tip of a slender palm, in swamps which the Indians themselves regard with dread as the chosen home of fever and mosquitoes. It was discovered by Sir Robert Schomburgk, who compared the flower to a foxglove, referring especially, perhaps, to the graceful bend of its long pseudo-bulbs, which is almost lost under cultivation. The tube-like flowers are purple, contrasting exquisitely with a snow-white lip, striped with lilac in the throat.
Phaloenopsis, of course, are hot. This is one of our oldest genera which still rank in the first class. It was drawn and described so early as 1750, and a plant reached Messrs. Rollisson in 1838; they sold it to the Duke of Devonshire for a hundred guineas. Many persons regard Phaloenopsis as the loveliest of all, and there is no question of their supreme beauty, though not everyone may rank them first. They come mostly from the Philippines, but Java, Borneo, Cochin China, Burmah, even Assam contribute some species. Colonel Berkeley found Ph. tetraspis, snow-white, and Ph. speciosa, purple, in the Andamans, when he was Governor of that settlement, clinging to low bushes along the mangrove creeks. So far as I know, all the species dwell within breath of the sea, as it may be put, where the atmosphere is laden with salt; this gives a hint to the thoughtful. Mr. Partington, of Cheshunt, who was the most renowned cultivator of the genus in his time, used to lay down salt upon the paths and beneath the stages of his Phaloenopsis house. Lady Howard de Walden stands first, perhaps, at the present day, and her gardener follows the same system. These plants, indeed, are affected, for good or ill, by influences too subtle for our perception as yet. Experiment alone will decide whether a certain house, or a certain neighbourhood even, is agreeable to their taste. It is a waste of money in general to make alterations; if they do not like the place they won't live there, and that's flat! It is probable that Maidstone, where Lady Howard de Walden resides, may be specially suited to their needs, but her ladyship's gardener knows how to turn a lucky chance to the best account. Some of his plants have ten leaves!—the uninitiated may think that fact grotesquely undeserving of a note of exclamation, but to explain would be too technical. It may be observed that the famous Swan orchid, Cycnoches chlorochilon, flourishes at Maidstone as nowhere else perhaps in England.
Phaloenopsis were first introduced by Messrs. Rollisson, of Tooting, a firm that vanished years ago, but will live in the annals of horticulture as the earliest of the great importers. In 1836 they got home a living specimen of Ph. amabilis, which had been described, and even figured, eighty years before. A few months later the Duke of Devonshire secured Ph. Schilleriana. The late Mr. B.S. Williams told me a very curious incident relating to this species. It comes from the Philippines, and exacts a very hot, close atmosphere of course. Once upon a time, however, a little piece was left in the cool house at Holloway, and remained there some months unnoticed by the authorities. When at length the oversight was remarked, to their amaze this stranger from the tropics, abandoned in the temperate zone, proved to be thriving more vigorously than any of his fellows who enjoyed their proper climate!—so he was left in peace and cherished as a "phenomenon." Four seasons had passed when I beheld the marvel, and it was a picture of health and strength, flowering freely; but the reader is not advised to introduce a few Phaloenopsis to his Odontoglossums—not by any means. Mr. Williams himself never repeated the experiment. It was one of those delightfully perplexing vagaries which the orchid-grower notes from time to time.
There are rare species of this genus which will not be found in the dealers' catalogues, and amateurs who like a novelty may be pleased to hear some names. Ph. Manni, christened in honour of Mr. Mann, Director of the Indian Forest Department, is yellow and red; Ph. cornucervi, yellow and brown; Ph. Portei, a natural hybrid, of Ph. rosea and Ph. Aphrodite, white, the lip amethyst. It is found very, very rarely in the woods near Manilla. Above all, Ph. Sanderiana, to which hangs a little tale.
So soon as the natives of the Philippines began to understand that their white and lilac weeds were cherished in Europe, they talked of a scarlet variety, which thrilled listening collectors with joy; but the precious thing never came to hand, and, on closer inquiry, no responsible witness could be found who had seen it. Years passed by and the scarlet Phaloenopsis became a jest among orchidaceans. The natives persisted, however, and Mr. Sander found the belief so general, if shadowy, that when a service of coasting steamers was established, he sent Mr. Roebelin to make a thorough investigation. His enterprise and sagacity were rewarded, as usual. After floating round for twenty-five years amidst derision, the rumour proved true in part. Ph. Sanderiana is not scarlet but purplish rose, a very handsome and distinct species.
To the same collector we owe the noblest of Aerides, A. Lawrenciae, waxy white tipped with purple, and deep purple lip. Besides the lovely colouring it is the largest by far of that genus. Mr. Roebelin sent two plants from the Far East; he had not seen the flower, nor received any description from the natives. Mr. Sander grew them in equal ignorance for three years, and sent one to auction in blossom; it fell to Sir Trevor Lawrence's bid for 235 guineas.
Many of the Coelogenes classed as cool, which, indeed, rub along with Odontoglossums, do better in the stove while growing. Coel. cristata itself comes from Nepaul, where the summer sun is terrible, and it covers the rocks most exposed. But I will only name a few of those recognized as hot. Amongst the most striking of flowers, exquisitely pretty also, is Coel. pandurata, from Borneo. Its spike has been described by a person of fine fancy as resembling a row of glossy pea-green frogs with black tongues, each three inches in diameter. The whole bloom is brilliantly green, but several ridges clothed with hairs as black and soft as velvet run down the lip, seeming to issue from a mouth. It is strange to see that a plant so curious, so beautiful, and so sweet should be so rarely cultivated; I own, however, that it is very unwilling to make itself at home with us. Coel. Dayana, also a native of Borneo, one of our newest discoveries, is named after Mr. Day, of Tottenham. I may interpolate a remark here for the encouragement of poor but enthusiastic members of our fraternity. When Mr. Day sold his collection lately, an American "Syndicate" paid 12,000l. down, and the remaining plants fetched 12,000l. at auction; so, at least, the uncontradicted report goes. Coel. Dayana is rare, of course, and dear, but Mr. Sander has lately imported a large quantity. The spike is three feet long sometimes, a pendant wreath of buff-yellow flowers broadly striped with chocolate. Coel. Massangeana, from Assam, resembles this, but the lip is deep crimson-brown, with lines of yellow, and a white edge. Newest of all the Coelogenes, and supremely beautiful, is Coel. Sanderiana, imported by the gentleman whose name it bears. He has been called "The Orchid King." This superb species has only flowered once in Europe as yet; Baron Ferdinand Rothschild is the happy man. Its snow-white blooms, six on a spike generally, each three inches across, have very dark brown stripes on the lip. It was discovered in Borneo by Mr. Forstermann, the same collector who happed upon the wondrous scarlet Dendrobe, mentioned in a former chapter. There I stated that Baron Schroeder had three pieces; this was a mistake unfortunately. Mr. Forstermann only secured three, of which two died on the journey. Baron Schroeder bought the third, but it has perished. No more can be found as yet.
Of Oncidiums there are many that demand stove treatment. The story of Onc. splendidum is curious. It first turned up in France some thirty years ago. A ship's captain sailing from St. Lazare brought half a dozen pieces, which he gave to his "owner," M. Herman. The latter handed them to MM. Thibaut and Ketteler, of Sceaux, who split them up and distributed them. Two of the original plants found their way to England, and they also appear to have been cut up. A legend of the King Street Auction Room recalls how perfervid competitors ran up a bit of Onc. splendidum, that had only one leaf, to thirty guineas. The whole stock vanished presently, which is not surprising if it had all been divided in the same ruthless manner. From that day the species was lost until Mr. Sander turned his attention to it. There was no record of its habitat. The name of the vessel, or even of the captain, might have furnished a clue had it been recorded, for the shipping intelligence of the day would have shown what ports he was frequenting about that time. I could tell of mysterious orchids traced home upon indications less distinct. But there was absolutely nothing. Mr. Sander, however, had scrutinized the plant carefully, while specimens were still extant, and from the structure of the leaf he formed a strong conclusion that it must belong to the Central American flora; furthermore, that it must inhabit a very warm locality. In 1882 he directed one of his collectors, Mr. Oversluys, to look for the precious thing in Costa Rica. Year after year the search proceeded, until Mr. Oversluys declared with some warmth that Onc. splendidum might grow in heaven or in the other place, but it was not to be found in Costa Rica. But theorists are stubborn, and year after year he was sent back. At length, in 1882, riding through a district often explored, the collector found himself in a grassy plain, dotted with pale yellow flowers. He had beheld the same many times, but his business was orchids. On this occasion, however, he chanced to approach one of the masses, and recognized the object of his quest. It was the familiar case of a man who overlooks the thing he has to find, because it is too near and too conspicuous. But Mr. Oversluys had excuse enough. Who could have expected to see an Oncidium buried in long grass, exposed to the full power of a tropic sun?
Oncidium Lanceanum is, perhaps, the hottest of its genus. Those happy mortals who can grow it declare they have no trouble, but unless perfectly strong and healthy it gets "the spot," and promptly goes to wreck. In the houses of the "New Plant and Bulb Company," at Colchester—now extinct—Onc. Lanceanum flourished with a vigour almost embarrassing, putting forth such enormous leaves, as it hung close to the glass, as made blinds quite superfluous at midsummer. But this was an extraordinary case. Certainly it is a glorious spectacle in flower—yellow, barred with brown; the lip violet. The spikes last a month in full beauty—sometimes two.
An Oncidium which always commands attention from the public and grateful regard from the devotee is Onc. papilio. Its strange form fascinated the Duke of Devonshire, grandfather to the present, who was almost the first of our lordly amateurs, and tempted him to undertake the explorations which introduced so many fine plants to Europe.
The "Butterfly orchid" is so familiar that I do not pause to describe it. But imagine that most interesting flower all blue, instead of gold and brown! I have never been able to learn what was the foundation of the old belief in such a marvel. But the great Lindley went to his grave in unshaken confidence that a blue papilio exists. Once he thought he had a specimen; but it flowered, and his triumph had to be postponed. I myself heard of it two years back, and tried to cherish a belief that the news was true. A friend from Natal assured me that he had seen one on the table of the Director of the Gardens at Durban; but it proved to be one of those terrestrial orchids, so lovely and so tantalizing to us, with which South Africa abounds. Very slowly do we lengthen the catalogue of them in our houses. There are gardeners, such as Mr. Cook at Loughborough, who grow Disa grandiflora like a weed. Mr. Watson of Kew demonstrated that Disa racemosa will flourish under conditions easily secured. I had the good fortune to do as much for Disa Cooperi, though not by my own skill. One supreme little triumph is mine, however. In very early days, when animated with the courage of utter ignorance, I bought eight bulbs of Disa discolor, and flowered them, every one! No mortal in Europe had done it before, nor has any tried since, I charitably hope, for a more rubbishing bloom does not exist. But there it was—Ego feci! And the specimen in the Herbarium at Kew bears my name.
But legends should not be disregarded when it is certain that they reach us from a native source. Some of the most striking finds had been announced long since by observant savages. I have told the story of Phaloenopsis Sanderiana. It was a Zulu who put the discoverer of the new yellow Calla on the track. The blue Utricularia had been heard of and discredited long before it was found—Utricularias are not orchids indeed, but only botanists regard the distinction. The natives of Assam persistently assert that a bright yellow Cymbidium grows there, of supremest beauty, and we expect it to turn up one day; the Malagasy describe a scarlet one. But I am digressing.
Epidendrums mostly will bear as much heat as can be given them while growing; all demand more sunshine than they can get in our climate. Amateurs do not seem to be so well acquainted with the grand things of this genus as they should be. They distrust all imported Epidendrums. Many worthless species, indeed, bear a perplexing resemblance to the finest; so much so, that the most observant of authorities would not think of buying at the auction-room unless he had confidence enough in the seller's honesty to accept his description of a "lot." Gloriously beautiful, however, are some of those rarely met with; easy to cultivate also, in a sunny place, and not dear. Epid. rhizophorum has been lately rechristened Epid. radicans—a name which might be confined to the Mexican variety. For the plant recurs in Brazil, practically the same, but with a certain difference. The former grows on shrubs, a true epiphyte; the latter has its bottom roots in the soil, at foot of the tallest trees, and runs up to the very summit, perhaps a hundred and fifty feet. The flowers also show a distinction, but in effect they are brilliant orange-red, the lip yellow, edged with scarlet. Forty or fifty of them hanging in a cluster from the top of the raceme make a show to remember. Mr. Watson "saw a plant a few years ago, that bore eighty-six heads of flowers!" They last for three months. Epid. prismatocarpum, also, is a lovely thing, with narrow dagger-like sepals and petals, creamy-yellow, spotted black, lip mauve or violet, edged with pale yellow.
Of the many hot Dendrobiums, Australia supplies a good proportion. There is D. bigibbum, of course, too well known for description; it dwells on the small islands in Torres Straits. This species flowered at Kew so early as 1824, but the plant died. Messrs. Loddiges, of Hackney, re-introduced it thirty years later. D. Johannis, from Queensland, brown and yellow, streaked with orange, the flowers curiously twisted. D. superbiens, from Torres Straits, rosy purple, edged with white, lip crimson. Handsomest of all by far is D. phaloenopsis. It throws out a long, slender spike from the tip of the pseudo-bulb, bearing six or more flowers, three inches across. The sepals are lance-shaped, and the petals, twice as broad, rosy-lilac, with veins of darker tint; the lip, arched over by its side lobes, crimson-lake in the throat, paler and striped at the mouth. It was first sent home by Mr. Forbes, of Kew Gardens, from Timor Lauet, in 1880. But Mr. Fitzgerald had made drawings of a species substantially the same, some years before, from a plant he discovered on the property of Captain Bloomfield, Balmain, in Queensland, nearly a thousand miles south of Timor. Mr. Sander caused search to be made, and he has introduced Mr. Fitzgerald's variety under the name of D. ph. Statterianum. It is smaller than the type, and crimson instead of lilac.
Bulbophyllums rank among the marvels of nature. It is a point comparatively trivial that this genus includes the largest of orchids and, perhaps, the smallest.
B. Beccarii has leaves two feet long, eighteen inches broad. It encircles the biggest tree in one clasp of its rhizomes, which travellers mistake for the coil of a boa constrictor. Furthermore, this species emits the vilest stench known to scientific persons, which is a great saying. But these points are insignificant. The charm of Bulbophyllums lies in their machinery for trapping insects. Those who attended the Temple show last year saw something of it, if they could penetrate the crush around B. barbigerum on Sir Trevor Lawrence's stand. This tiny but amazing plant comes from Sierra Leone. The long yellow lip is attached to the column by the slenderest possible joint, so that it rocks without an instant's pause. At the tip is set a brush of silky hairs, which wave backwards and forwards with the precision of machinery. No wonder that the natives believe it a living thing. The purpose of these arrangements is to catch flies, which other species effect with equal ingenuity if less elaboration. Very pretty too are some of them, as B. Lobbii. Its clear, clean, orange-creamy hue is delightful to behold. The lip, so delicately balanced, quivers at every breath. If the slender stem be bent back, as by a fly alighting on the column, that quivering cap turns and hangs imminent; another tiny shake, as though the fly approached the nectary, and it falls plump, head over heels, like a shot, imprisoning the insect. Thus the flower is impregnated. If we wished to excite a thoughtful child's interest in botany—not regardless of the sense of beauty either—we should make an investment in Bulbophyllum Lobbii. Bulbophyllum Dearei also is pretty—golden ochre spotted red, with a wide dorsal sepal, very narrow petals flying behind, lower sepals broadly striped with red, and a yellow lip, upon a hinge, of course; but the gymnastic performances of this species are not so impressive as in most of its kin.
A new Bulbophyllum, B. Godseffianum, has lately been brought from the Philippines, contrived on the same principle, but even more charming. The flowers, two inches broad, have the colour of "old gold," with stripes of crimson on the petals, and the dorsal sepal shows membranes almost transparent, which have the effect of silver embroidery.
Until B. Beccarii was introduced, from Borneo, in 1867, the Grammatophyllums were regarded as monsters incomparable. Mr. Arthur Keyser, Resident Magistrate at Selangor, in the Straits Settlement, tells of one which he gathered on a Durian tree, seven feet two inches high, thirteen feet six inches across, bearing seven spikes of flower, the longest eight feet six inches—a weight which fifteen men could only just carry. Mr. F.W. Burbidge heard a tree fall in the jungle one night when he was four miles away, and on visiting the spot, he found, "right in the collar of the trunk, a Grammatophyllum big enough to fill a Pickford's van, just opening its golden-brown spotted flowers, on stout spikes two yards long." It is not to be hoped that we shall ever see monsters like these in Europe. The genus, indeed, is unruly. G. speciosum has been grown to six feet high, I believe, which is big enough to satisfy the modest amateur, especially when it develops leaves two feet long. The flowers are—that is, they ought to be—six inches in diameter, rich yellow, blotched with reddish purple. They have some giants at Kew now, of which fine things are expected. G. Measureseanum, named after Mr. Measures, a leading amateur, is pale buff, speckled with chocolate, the ends of the sepals and petals charmingly tipped with the same hue. Within the last few months Mr. Sander has obtained G. multiflorum from the Philippines, which seems to be not only the most beautiful, but the easiest to cultivate of those yet introduced. Its flowers droop in a garland of pale green and yellow, splashed with brown, not loosely set, as is the rule, but scarcely half an inch apart. The effect is said to be lovely beyond description. We may hope to judge for ourselves in no long time, for Mr. Sander has presented a wondrous specimen to the Royal Gardens, Kew. This is assuredly the biggest orchid ever brought to Europe. Its snakey pseudo-bulbs measure nine feet, and the old flower spikes stood eighteen feet high. It will be found in the Victoria Regia house, growing strongly.
[Footnote 6: Vanda Lowii is properly called Renanthera Lowii.]
[Footnote 7: Vide page 100.]
THE LOST ORCHID.
Not a few orchids are "lost"—have been described that is, and named, even linger in some great collection, but, bearing no history, cannot now be found. Such, for instance, are Cattleya Jongheana, Cymbidium Hookerianum, Cypripedium Fairianum. But there is one to which the definite article might have been applied a very few days ago. This is Cattleya labiata vera. It was the first to bear the name of Cattleya, though not absolutely the first of that genus discovered. C. Loddigesii preceded it by a few years, but was called an Epidendrum. Curious it is to note how science has returned in this latter day to the views of a pre-scientific era. Professor Reichenbach was only restrained from abolishing the genus Cattleya, and merging all its species into Epidendrum, by regard for the weakness of human nature. Cattleya labiata vera was sent from Brazil to Dr. Lindley by Mr. W. Swainson, and reached Liverpool in 1818. So much is certain, for Lindley makes the statement in his Collectanea Botanica. But legends and myths encircle that great event. It is commonly told in books that Sir W. Jackson Hooker, Regius Professor of Botany at Glasgow, begged Mr. Swainson—who was collecting specimens in natural history—to send him some lichens. He did so, and with the cases arrived a quantity of orchids which had been used to pack them. Less suitable material for "dunnage" could not be found, unless we suppose that it was thrust between the boxes to keep them steady. Paxton is the authority for this detail, which has its importance. The orchid arriving in such humble fashion proved to be Cattleya labiata; Lindley gave it that name—there was no need to add vera then. He established a new genus for it, and thus preserved for all time the memory of Mr. Cattley, a great horticulturist dwelling at Barnet. There was no ground in supposing the species rare. A few years afterwards, in fact, Mr. Gardner, travelling in pursuit of butterflies and birds, sent home quantities of a Cattleya which he found on the precipitous sides of the Pedro Bonita range, and also on the Gavea, which our sailors call "Topsail" Mountain, or "Lord Hood's Nose." These orchids passed as C. labiata for a while. Paxton congratulated himself and the world in his Flower Garden that the stock was so greatly increased. Those were the coaching days, when botanists had not much opportunity for comparison. It is to be observed, also, that Gardner's Cattleya was the nearest relative of Swainson's;—it is known at present as C. labiata Warneri. The true species, however, has points unmistakable. Some of its kinsfolk show a double flower-sheath;—very, very rarely, under exceptional circumstances. But Cattleya labiata vera never fails, and an interesting question it is to resolve why this alone should be so carefully protected. One may cautiously surmise that its habitat is even damper than others'. In the next place, some plants have their leaves red underneath, others green, and the flower-sheath always corresponds; this peculiarity is shared by C. l. Warneri alone. Thirdly—and there is the grand distinction, the one which gives such extreme value to the species—it flowers in the late autumn, and thus fills a gap. Those who possess a plant may have Cattleyas in bloom the whole year round—and they alone. Accordingly, it makes a section by itself in the classification of Reichenbachia, as the single species that flowers from the current year's growth, after resting. Section II. contains the species that flower from the current year's growth before resting. Section III., those that flower from last year's growth after resting. All these are many, but C. l. vera stands alone.
We have no need to dwell upon the contest that arose at the introduction of Cattleya Mossiae in 1840, which grew more and more bitter as others of the class came in, and has not yet ceased. It is enough to say that Lindley declined to recognize C. Mossiae as a species, though he stood almost solitary against "the trade," backed by a host of enthusiastic amateurs. The great botanist declared that he could see nothing in the beautiful new Cattleya to distinguish it as a species from the one already named, C. labiata, except that most variable of characteristics, colour. Modes of growth and times of flowering do not concern science. The structure of the plants is identical, and to admit C. Mossiae as a sub-species of the same was the utmost concession Lindley would make. This was in 1840. Fifteen years later came C. Warscewiczi, now called gigas; then, next year, C. Trianae; C. Dowiana in 1866; C. Mendellii in 1870—all labiatas, strictly speaking. At each arrival the controversy was renewed; it is not over yet. But Sir Joseph Hooker succeeded Lindley and Reichenbach succeeded Hooker as the supreme authority, and each of them stood firm. There are, of course, many Cattleyas recognized as species, but Lindley's rule has been maintained. We may return to the lost orchid.
As time went on, and the merits of C. labiata vera were understood, the few specimens extant—proceeding from Mr. Swainson's importation—fetched larger and larger prices. Those merits, indeed, were conspicuous. Besides the season of flowering, this proved to be the strongest and most easily grown of Cattleyas. Its normal type was at least as charming as any, and it showed an extraordinary readiness to vary. Few, as has been said, were the plants in cultivation, but they gave three distinct varieties. Van Houtte shows us two in his admirable Flore des Serres; C. l. candida, from Syon House, pure white excepting the ochrous throat—which is invariable—and C. l. picta, deep red, from the collection of J.J. Blandy, Esq., Reading. The third was C. l. Pescatorei, white, with a deep red blotch upon the lip, formerly owned by Messrs. Rouget-Chauvier, of Paris, now by the Duc de Massa.
Under such circumstances the dealers began to stir in earnest. From the first, indeed, the more enterprising had made efforts to import a plant which, as they supposed, must be a common weed at Rio, since men used it to "pack" boxes. But that this was an error they soon perceived. Taking the town as a centre, collectors pushed out on all sides. Probably there is not one of the large dealers, in England or the Continent, dead or living, who has not spent money—a large sum, too—in searching for C. l. vera. Probably, also, not one has lost by the speculation, though never a sign nor a hint, scarcely a rumour, of the thing sought rewarded them. For all secured new orchids, new bulbs—Eucharis in especial—Dipladenias, Bromeliaceae, Calladiums, Marantas, Aristolochias, and what not. In this manner the lost orchid has done immense service to botany and to mankind. One may say that the hunt lasted seventy years, and led collectors to strike a path through almost every province of Brazil—almost, for there are still vast regions unexplored. A man might start, for example, at Para, and travel to Bogota, two thousand miles or so, with a stretch of six hundred miles on either hand which is untouched. It may well be asked what Mr. Swainson was doing, if alive, while his discovery thus agitated the world. Alive he was, in New Zealand, until the year 1855, but he offered no assistance. It is scarcely to be doubted that he had none to give. The orchids fell in his way by accident—possibly collected in distant parts by some poor fellow who died at Rio. Swainson picked them up, and used them to stow his lichens.
Not least extraordinary, however, in this extraordinary tale is the fact that various bits of C. l. vera turned up during this time. Lord Home has a noble specimen at Bothwell Castle, which did not come from Swainson's consignment. His gardener told the story five years ago. "I am quite sure," he wrote, "that my nephew told me the small bit I had from him"—forty years before—"was off a newly-imported plant, and I understood it had been brought by one of Messrs. Horsfall's ships." Lord Fitzwilliam seems to have got one in the same way, from another ship. But the most astonishing case is recent. About seven years ago two plants made their appearance in the Zoological Gardens at Regent's Park—in the conservatory behind Mr. Bartlett's house. How they got there is an eternal mystery. Mr. Bartlett sold them for a large sum; but an equal sum offered him for any scrap of information showing how they came into his hands he was sorrowfully obliged to refuse—or, rather, found himself unable to earn. They certainly arrived in company with some monkeys; but when, from what district of South America, the closest search of his papers failed to show. In 1885, Dr. Regel, Director of the Imperial Gardens at St. Petersburg, received a few plants. It may be worth while to name those gentlemen who recently possessed examples of C. l. vera, so far as our knowledge goes. They were Sir Trevor Lawrence, Lord Rothschild, Duke of Marlborough, Lord Home, Messrs. J. Chamberlain, T. Statten, J.J. Blandy, and G. Hardy, in England; in America, Mr. F.L. Ames, two, and Mr. H.H. Hunnewell; in France, Comte de Germiny, Duc de Massa, Baron Alphonse and Baron Adolf de Rothschild, M. Treyeran of Bordeaux. There were two, as is believed, in Italy.
And now the horticultural papers inform us that the lost orchid is found, by Mr. Sander of St. Albans. Assuredly he deserves his luck—if the result of twenty years' labour should be so described. It was about 1870, we believe, that Mr. Sander sent out Arnold, who passed five years in exploring Venezuela. He had made up his mind that the treasure must not be looked for in Brazil. Turning next to Colombia, in successive years, Chesterton, Bartholomeus, Kerbach, and the brothers Klaboch overran that country. Returning to Brazil, his collectors, Oversluys, Smith, Bestwood, went over every foot of the ground which Swainson seems, by his books, to have traversed. At the same time Clarke followed Gardner's track through the Pedro Bonita and Topsail Mountains. Then Osmers traced the whole coast-line of the Brazils from north to south, employing five years in the work. Finally, Digance undertook the search, and died this year. To these men we owe grand discoveries beyond counting. To name but the grandest, Arnold found Cattleya Percevaliana; from Colombia were brought Odont. vex. rubellum, Bollea coelestis, Pescatorea Klabochorum; Smith sent Cattleya O'Brieniana; Clarke the dwarf Cattleyas, pumila and praestans; Lawrenceson Cattleya Schroederae; Chesterton Cattleya Sanderiana; Digance Cattleya Diganceana, which received a Botanical certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society on September 8th, 1890. But they heard not a whisper of the lost orchid.
In 1889 a collector employed by M. Moreau, of Paris, to explore Central and North Brazil in search of insects, sent home fifty plants—for M. Moreau is an enthusiast in orchidology also. He had no object in keeping the secret of its habitat, and when Mr. Sander, chancing to call, recognized the treasure so long lost, he gave every assistance. Meanwhile, the International Horticultural Society of Brussels had secured a quantity, but they regarded it as new, and gave it the name of Catt. Warocqueana; in which error they persisted until Messrs. Sander flooded the market.
AN ORCHID FARM.
My articles brought upon me a flood of questions almost as embarrassing as flattering to a busy journalist. The burden of them was curiously like. Three ladies or gentlemen in four wrote thus: "I love orchids. I had not the least suspicion that they may be cultivated so easily and so cheaply. I am going to begin. Will you please inform me"—here diversity set in with a vengeance! From temperature to flower-pots, from the selection of species to the selection of peat, from the architecture of a greenhouse to the capabilities of window-gardening, with excursions between, my advice was solicited. I replied as best I could. It must be feared, however, that the most careful questioning and the most elaborate replies by post will not furnish that ground-work of knowledge, the ABC of the science, which is needed by a person utterly unskilled; nor will he find it readily in the hand-books. Written by men familiar with the alphabet of orchidology from their youth up, though they seem to begin at the beginning, ignorant enthusiasts who study them find woeful gaps. It is little I can do in this matter; yet, believing that the culture of these plants will be as general shortly as the culture of pelargoniums under glass—and firmly convinced that he who hastens that day is a real benefactor to his kind—I am most anxious to do what lies in my power. Considering the means by which this end may be won, it appears necessary above all to avoid boring the student. He should be led to feel how charming is the business in hand even while engaged with prosaic details; and it seems to me, after some thought, that the sketch of a grand orchid nursery will best serve our purpose for the moment. There I can show at once processes and results, passing at a step as it were from the granary into the harvest-field, from the workshop to the finished and glorious production.
"An orchid farm" is no extravagant description of the establishment at St. Albans. There alone in Europe, so far as I know, three acres of ground are occupied by orchids exclusively. It is possible that larger houses might be found—everything is possible; but such are devoted more or less to a variety of plants, and the departments are not all gathered beneath one roof. I confess, for my own part, a hatred of references. They interrupt the writer, and they distract the reader. At the place I have chosen to illustrate our theme, one has but to cross a corridor from any of the working quarters to reach the showroom. We may start upon our critical survey from the very dwelling-house. Pundits of agricultural science explore the sheds, I believe, the barns, stables, machine-rooms, and so forth, before inspecting the crops. We may follow the same course, but our road offers an unusual distraction.
It passes from the farmer's hall beneath a high glazed arch. Some thirty feet beyond, the path is stopped by a wall of tufa and stalactite which rises to the lofty roof, and compels the traveller to turn right or left. Water pours down it and falls trickling into a narrow pool beneath. Its rough front is studded with orchids from crest to base. Coelogenes have lost those pendant wreaths of bloom which lately tipped the rock as with snow. But there are Cymbidiums arching long sprays of green and chocolate; thickets of Dendrobe set with flowers beyond counting—ivory and rose and purple and orange; scarlet Anthuriums: huge clumps of Phajus and evergreen Calanthe, with a score of spikes rising from their broad leaves; Cypripediums of quaint form and striking half-tones of colour; Oncidiums which droop their slender garlands a yard long, golden yellow and spotted, purple and white—a hundred tints. The crown of the rock bristles all along with Cattleyas, a dark-green glossy little wood against the sky. The Trianaes are almost over, but here and there a belated beauty pushes through, white or rosy, with a lip of crimson velvet. Mossiaes have replaced them generally, and from beds three feet in diameter their great blooms start by the score, in every shade of pink and crimson and rosy purple. There is Loelia elegans, exterminated in its native home, of such bulk and such luxuriance of growth that the islanders left forlorn might almost find consolation in regarding it here. Over all, climbing up the spandrils of the roof in full blaze of sunshine, is Vanda teres, round as a pencil both leaves and stalk, which will drape those bare iron rods presently with crimson and pink and gold. The way to our farmyard is not like others. It traverses a corner of fairyland.
We find a door masked by such a rock as that faintly and vaguely pictured, which opens on a broad corridor. Through all its length, four hundred feet, it is ceilinged with baskets of Mexican orchid, as close as they will fit. Upon the left hand lie a series of glass structures; upon the right, below the level of the corridor, the workshops; at the end—why, to be frank, the end is blocked by a ponderous screen of matting just now. But this dingy barrier is significant of a work in hand which will not be the least curious nor the least charming of the strange sights here. The farmer has already a "siding" of course, for the removal of his produce; he finds it necessary to have a station of his own also for the convenience of clients. Beyond the screen at present lies an area of mud and ruin, traversed by broken walls and rows of hot-water piping swathed in felt to exclude the chill air. A few weeks since, this little wilderness was covered with glass, but the ends of the long "houses" have been cut off to make room for a structure into which visitors will step direct from the train. The platform is already finished, neat and trim; so are the vast boilers and furnaces, newly rebuilt, which would drive a cotton factory.
A busy scene that is which we survey, looking down through openings in the wall of the corridor. Here is the composing-room, where that magnificent record of orchidology in three languages, the "Reichenbachia," slowly advances from year to year. There is the printing-room, with no steam presses or labour-saving machinery, but the most skilful craftsmen to be found, the finest paper, the most deliberate and costly processes, to rival the great works of the past in illustrating modern science. These departments, however, we need not visit, nor the chambers, lower still, where mechanical offices are performed.
The "Importing Room" first demands notice. Here cases are received by fifties and hundreds, week by week, from every quarter of the orchid world, unpacked, and their contents stored until space is made for them up above. It is a long apartment, broad and low, with tables against the wall and down the middle, heaped with things which to the uninitiated seem, for the most part, dry sticks and dead bulbs. Orchids everywhere! They hang in dense bunches from the roof. They lie a foot thick upon every board, and two feet thick below. They are suspended on the walls. Men pass incessantly along the gangways, carrying a load that would fill a barrow. And all the while fresh stores are accumulating under the hands of that little group in the middle, bent and busy at cases just arrived. They belong to a lot of eighty that came in from Burmah last night—and while we look on, a boy brings a telegram announcing fifty more from Mexico, that will reach Waterloo at 2.30 p.m. Great is the wrath and great the anxiety at this news, for some one has blundered; the warning should have been despatched three hours before. Orchids must not arrive at unknown stations unless there be somebody of discretion and experience to meet them, and the next train does not leave St. Albans until 2.44 p.m. Dreadful is the sense of responsibility, alarming the suggestions of disaster, that arise from this incident.
The Burmese cases in hand just now are filled with Dendrobiums, crassinode and Wardianum, stowed in layers as close as possible, with D. Falconerii for packing material. A royal way of doing things indeed to substitute an orchid of value for shavings or moss, but mighty convenient and profitable. For that packing will be sent to the auction-rooms presently, and will be sold for no small proportion of the sum which its more delicate charge attains. We remark that the experienced persons who remove these precious sticks, layer by layer, perform their office gingerly. There is not much danger or unpleasantness in unpacking Dendrobes, compared with other genera, but ship-rats spring out occasionally and give an ugly bite; scorpions and centipedes have been known to harbour in the close roots of D. Falconerii; stinging ants are by no means improbable, nor huge spiders; while cockroaches of giant size, which should be killed, may be looked for with certainty. But men learn a habit of caution by experience of cargoes much more perilous. In those masses of Arundina bambusaefolia beneath the table yonder doubtless there are centipedes lurking, perhaps even scorpions, which have escaped the first inspection. Happily, these pests are dull, half-stupefied with the cold, when discovered, and no man here has been stung, circumspect as they are; but ants arrive as alert and as vicious as in their native realm. Distinctly they are no joke. To handle a consignment of Epidendrum bicornutum demands some nerve. A very ugly species loves its hollow bulbs, which, when disturbed, shoots out with lightning swiftness and nips the arm or hand so quickly that it can seldom be avoided. But the most awkward cases to deal with are those which contain Schomburghkia tibicinis. This superb orchid is so difficult to bloom that very few will attempt it; I have seen its flower but twice. Packers strongly approve the reluctance of the public to buy, since it restricts importation. The foreman has been laid up again and again. But they find pleasing curiosities also, tropic beetles, and insects, and cocoons. Dendrobiums in especial are favoured by moths; D. Wardianum is loaded with their webs, empty as a rule. Hitherto the men have preserved no chrysalids, but at this moment they have a few, of unknown species.
The farmer gets strange bits of advice sometimes, and strange offers of assistance. Talking of insects reminds him of a letter received last week. Here it is:—
SIRS,—I have heard that you are large growers of orchids; am I right in supposing that in their growth or production you are much troubled with some insect or caterpillar which retards or hinders their arrival at maturity, and that these insects or caterpillars can be destroyed by small snakes? I have tracts of land under my occupation, and if these small snakes can be of use in your culture of orchids you might write, as I could get you some on knowing what these might be worth to you.
Yours truly ——
Thence we mount to the potting-rooms, where a dozen skilled workmen try to keep pace with the growth of the imported plants; taking up, day by day, those which thrust out roots so fast that postponement is injurious. The broad middle tables are heaped with peat and moss and leaf-mould and white sand. At counters on either side unskilled labourers are sifting and mixing, while boys come and go, laden with pots and baskets of teak-wood and crocks and charcoal. These things are piled in heaps against the walls; they are stacked on frames overhead; they fill the semi-subterranean chambers of which we get a glimpse in passing. Our farm resembles a factory in this department.
Ascending to the upper earth again, and crossing the corridor, we may visit number one of those glass-houses opposite. I cannot imagine, much more describe, how that spectacle would strike one to whom it was wholly unfamiliar. These buildings—there are twelve of them, side by side—measure one hundred and eighty feet in length, and the narrowest has thirty-two feet breadth. This which we enter is devoted to Odontoglossum crispum, with a few Masdevallias. There were twenty-two thousand pots in it the other day; several thousand have been sold, several thousand have been brought in, and the number at this moment cannot be computed. Our farmer has no time for speculative arithmetic; he deals in produce wholesale. Telegraph an order for a thousand crispums and you cause no stir in the establishment. You take it for granted that a large dealer only could propose such a transaction. But it does not follow at all. Nobody would credit, unless he had talked with one of the great farmers, on what enormous scale orchids are cultivated up and down by private persons. Our friend has a client who keeps his stock of O. crispum alone at ten thousand; but others, less methodical, may have more.
Opposite the door is a high staging, mounted by steps, with a gangway down the middle and shelves descending on either hand. Those shelves are crowded with fine plants of the glorious O. crispum, each bearing one or two spikes of flower, which trail down, interlace, arch upward. Not all are in bloom; that amazing sight may be witnessed for a month to come—for two months, with such small traces of decay as the casual visitor would not notice. So long and dense are the wreaths, so broad the flowers, that the structure seems to be festooned from top to bottom with snowy garlands. But there is more. Overhead hang rows of baskets, lessening in perspective, with pendent sprays of bloom. And broad tables which edge the walls beneath that staging display some thousands still, smaller but not less beautiful. A sight which words could not portray. I yield in despair.
The tillage of the farm is our business, and there are many points here which the amateur should note. Observe the bricks beneath your feet. They have a hollow pattern which retains the water, though your boots keep dry. Each side of the pathway lie shallow troughs, always full. Beneath that staging mentioned is a bed of leaves, interrupted by a tank here, by a group of ferns there, vividly green. Slender iron pipes run through the house from end to end, so perforated that on turning a tap they soak these beds, fill the little troughs and hollow bricks, play in all directions down below, but never touch a plant. Under such constant drenching the leaf-beds decay, throwing up those gases and vapours in which the orchid delights at home. Thus the amateur should arrange his greenhouse, so far as he may. But I would not have it understood that these elaborate contrivances are essential. If you would beat Nature, as here, making invariably such bulbs and flowers as she produces only under rare conditions, you must follow this system. But orchids are not exacting.
The house opens, at its further end, in a magnificent structure designed especially to exhibit plants of warm species in bloom. It is three hundred feet long, twenty-six wide, eighteen high—the piping laid end to end, would measure as nearly as possible one mile: we see a practical illustration of the resources of the establishment, when it is expected to furnish such a show. Here are stored the huge specimens of Cymbidium Lowianum, nine of which astounded the good people of Berlin with a display of one hundred and fifty flower spikes, all open at once. We observe at least a score as well furnished, and hundreds which a royal gardener would survey with pride. They rise one above another in a great bank, crowned and brightened by garlands of pale green and chocolate. Other Cymbidiums are here, but not the beautiful C. eburneum. Its large white flowers, erect on a short spike, not drooping like these, will be found in a cool house—smelt with delight before they are found.
Further on we have a bank of Dendrobiums, so densely clothed in bloom that the leaves are unnoticed. Lovely beyond all to my taste, if, indeed, one may make a comparison, is D. luteolum, with flowers of palest, tenderest primrose, rarely seen unhappily, for it will not reconcile itself to our treatment. Then again a bank of Cattleyas, of Vandas, of miscellaneous genera. The pathway is hedged on one side with Begonia coralina, an unimproved species too straggling of growth and too small of flower to be worth its room under ordinary conditions; but a glorious thing here, climbing to the roof, festooned at every season of the year with countless rosy sprays.
Beyond this show-house lie the small structures devoted to "hybridization," but I deal with them in another chapter. Here also are the Phaloenopsis, the very hot Vandas, Bolleas, Pescatoreas, Anaectochili, and such dainty but capricious beauties.
We enter the second of the range of greenhouses, also devoted to Odontoglossums, Masdevallias, and "cool" genera, as crowded as the last; pass down it to the corridor, and return through number three, which is occupied by Cattleyas and such. There is a lofty mass of rock in front, with a pool below, and a pleasant sound of splashing water. Many orchids of the largest size are planted out here—Cypripedium, Cattleya, Sobralia, Phajus, Loelia, Zygopetalum, and a hundred more, "specimens," as the phrase runs—that is to say, they have ten, twenty, fifty, flower spikes. I attempt no more descriptions; to one who knows, the plain statement of fact is enough, one who does not is unable to conceive that sight by the aid of words. But the Sobralias demand attention. They stand here in clumps two feet thick, bearing a wilderness of loveliest bloom—like Irises magnified and glorified by heavenly enchantment. Nature designed a practical joke perhaps when she granted these noble flowers but one day's existence each, while dingy Epidendrums last six months, or nine. I imagine that for stateliness and delicacy combined there are no plants that excel the Sobralia. At any single point they may be surpassed—among orchids, be it understood, by nothing else in Nature's realm—but their magnificence and grace together cannot be outshone.
I must not dwell upon the marvels here, in front, on either side, and above—a hint is enough. There are baskets of Loelia anceps three feet across, lifted bodily from the tree in their native forest where they had grown perhaps for centuries. One of them—the white variety, too, which aesthetic infidels might adore, though they believed in nothing—opened a hundred spikes at Christmas time; we do not concern ourselves with minute reckonings here. But an enthusiastic novice counted the flowers blooming one day on that huge mass of Loelia albida yonder, and they numbered two hundred and eleven—unless, as some say, this was the quantity of "spikes," in which case one must have to multiply by two or three. Such incidents maybe taken for granted at the farm.
But we must not pass a new orchid, quite distinct and supremely beautiful, for which Professor Reichenbach has not yet found a name sufficiently appreciative. Only eight pieces were discovered, whence we must suspect that it is very rare at home; I do not know where the home is, and I should not tell if I did. Such information is more valuable than the surest tip for the Derby, or most secrets of State. This new orchid is a Cyrrhopetalun, of very small size, but, like so many others, its flower is bigger than itself. The spike inclines almost at a right angle, and the pendent half is hung with golden bells, nearly two inches in length. Beneath it stands the very rare scarlet Utricularia, growing in the axils of its native Vriesia, as in a cup always full; but as yet the flower has been seen in Europe only by the eyes of faith. It may be news to some that Utricularias do not belong to the orchid family—have, in fact, not the slightest kinship, though associated with it by growers to the degree that Mr. Sander admits them to his farm. A little story hangs to the exquisite U. Campbelli. All importers are haunted by the spectral image of Cattleya labiata, which, in its true form, had been brought to Europe only once, seventy years ago, when this book was written. Some time since, Mr. Sander was looking through the drawings of Sir Robert Schomburgk, in the British Museum, among which is a most eccentric Cattleya named—for reasons beyond comprehension—a variety of C. Mossiae. He jumped at the conclusion that this must be the long-lost C. labiata. So strong indeed was his confidence that he despatched a man post-haste over the Atlantic to explore the Roraima mountain; and, further, gave him strict injunctions to collect nothing but this precious species. For eight months the traveller wandered up and down among the Indians, searching forest and glade, the wooded banks of streams, the rocks and clefts, but he found neither C. labiata nor that curious plant which Sir Robert Schomburgk described. Upon the other hand, he came across the lovely Utricularia Campbelli, and in defiance of instructions brought it down. But very few reached England alive. For six weeks they travelled on men's backs, from their mountain home to the River Essequibo; thence, six weeks in canoe to Georgetown, with twenty portages; and, so aboard ship. The single chance of success lies in bringing them down, undisturbed, in the great clumps of moss which are their habitat, as is the Vriesia of other species.
I will allow myself a very short digression here. It may seem unaccountable that a plant of large growth, distinct flower, and characteristic appearance, should elude the eye of persons trained to such pursuits, and encouraged to spend money on the slightest prospect of success, for half a century and more. But if we recall the circumstances it ceases to astonish. I myself spent many months in the forests of Borneo, Central America, and the West African coast. After that experience I scarcely understand how such a quest, for a given object, can ever be successful unless by mere fortune. To look for a needle in a bottle of hay is a promising enterprise compared with the search for an orchid clinging to some branch high up in that green world of leaves. As a matter of fact, collectors seldom discover what they are specially charged to seek, if the district be untravelled—the natives, therefore, untrained to grasp and assist their purpose. This remark does not apply to orchids alone; not by any means. Few besides the scientific, probably, are aware that the common Eucharis amasonica has been found only once; that is to say, but one consignment has ever been received in Europe, from which all our millions in cultivation have descended. Where it exists in the native state is unknown, but assuredly this ignorance is nobody's fault. For a generation at least skilled explorers have been hunting. Mr. Sander has had his turn, and has enjoyed the satisfaction of discovering species closely allied, as Eucharis Mastersii and Eucharis Sanderiana; but the old-fashioned bulb is still to seek.
In this third greenhouse is a large importation of Cattleya Trianae, which arrived so late last year that their sheaths have opened contemporaneously with C. Mossiae. I should fear to hazard a guess how many thousand flowers of each are blooming now. As the Odontoglossums cover their stage with snow wreaths, so this is decked with upright plumes of Cattleya Trianae, white and rose and purple in endless variety of tint, with many a streak of other hue between.
Suddenly our guide becomes excited, staring at a basket overhead beyond reach. It contains a smooth-looking object, very green and fat, which must surely be good to eat—but this observation is alike irrelevant and disrespectful. Why, yes! Beyond all possibility of doubt that is a spike issuing from the axil of its fleshy leaf! Three inches long it is already, thick as a pencil, with a big knob of bud at the tip. Such pleasing surprises befall the orchidacean! This plant came from Borneo so many years ago that the record is lost; but the oldest servant of the farm remembers it, as a poor cripple, hanging between life and death, season after season. Cheerful as interesting is the discussion that arises. More like a Vanda than anything else, the authorities resolve, but not a Vanda! Commending it to the special care of those responsible, we pass on.
Here is the largest mass of Catasetum ever found, or even rumoured, lying in ponderous bulk upon the stage, much as it lay in a Guatemalan forest. It is engaged in the process of "plumping up." Orchids shrivel in their long journey, and it is the importer's first care to renew that smooth and wholesome rotundity which indicates a conscience untroubled, a good digestion, and an assurance of capacity to fulfil any reasonable demand. Beneath the staging you may see myriads of withered sticks, clumps of shrunken and furrowed bulbs by the thousand, hung above those leaf-beds mentioned; they are "plumping" in the damp shade. The larger pile of Catasetum—there are two—may be four feet long, three wide, and eighteen inches thick; how many hundreds of flowers it will bear passes computation. I remarked that when broken up into handsome pots it would fill a greenhouse of respectable dimensions; but it appears that there is not the least intention of dividing it. The farmer has several clients who will snap at this natural curiosity, when, in due time, it is put on the market.
At the far end of the house stands another piece of rockwork, another little cascade, and more marvels than I can touch upon. In fact, there are several which would demand all the space at my disposition, but, happily, one reigns supreme. This is a Cattleya Mossiae, the pendant of the Catasetum, by very far the largest orchid of any kind that was ever brought to Europe. For some years Mr. Sander, so to speak, hovered round it, employing his shrewdest and most diplomatic agents. For this was not a forest specimen. It grew upon a high tree beside an Indian's hut, near Caraccas, and belonged to him as absolutely as the fruit in his compound. His great-grandfather, indeed, had "planted" it, so he declared, but this is highly improbable. The giant has embraced two stems of the tree, and covers them both so thickly that the bare ends of wood at top alone betray its secret; for it was sawn off, of course, above and below. I took the dimensions as accurately as may be, with an object so irregular and prickly. It measures—the solid bulk of it, leaves not counted—as nearly as possible five feet in height and four thick—one plant, observe, pulsating through its thousand limbs from one heart; at least, I mark no spot where the circulation has been checked by accident or disease, and the pseudo-bulbs beyond have been obliged to start an independent existence.
In speaking of Loelia elegans, I said that those Brazilian islanders who have lost it might find solace could they see its happiness in exile. The gentle reader thought this an extravagant figure of speech, no doubt, but it is not wholly fanciful. Indians of Tropical America cherish a fine orchid to the degree that in many cases no sum, and no offer of valuables, will tempt them to part with it. Ownership is distinctly recognized when the specimen grows near a village. The root of this feeling, whether superstition or taste, sense of beauty, rivalry in magnificence of church displays, I have not been able to trace. It runs very strong in Costa Rica, where the influence of the aborigines is scarcely perceptible, and there, at least, the latter motive is sufficient explanation. Glorious beyond all our fancy can conceive, must be the show in those lonely forest churches, which no European visits save the "collector," on a feast day. Mr. Roezl, whose name is so familiar to botanists, left a description of the scene that time he first beheld the Flor de Majo. The church was hung with garlands of it, he says, and such emotions seized him at the view that he choked. The statement is quite credible. Those who see that wonder now, prepared for its transcendent glory, find no words to express their feeling: imagine an enthusiast beholding it for the first time, unwarned, unsuspecting that earth can show such a sample of the flowers that bloomed in Eden! And not a single branch, but garlands of it! Mr. Roezl proceeds to speak of bouquets of Masdevallia Harryana three feet across, and so forth. The natives showed him "gardens" devoted to this species, for the ornament of their church; it was not cultivated, of course, but evidently planted. They were acres in extent.
The Indian to whom this Cattleya Mossiae belonged refused to part with it at any price for years; he was overcome by a rifle of peculiar fascination, added to the previous offers. A magic-lantern has very great influence in such cases, and the collector provides himself with one or more nowadays as part of his outfit. Under that charm, with 47l. in cash, Mr. Sander secured his first C. Mossiae alba, but it has failed hitherto in another instance, though backed by 100l., in "trade" or dollars, at the Indian's option.
Thence we pass to a wide and lofty house which was designed for growing Victoria Regia and other tropic water-lilies. It fulfilled its purpose for a time, and I never beheld those plants under circumstances so well fitted to display their beauty. But they generate a small black fly in myriads beyond belief, and so the culture of Nymphaea was dropped. A few remain, in manageable quantities, just enough to adorn the tank with blue and rosy stars; but it is arched over now with baskets as thick as they will hang—Dendrobium, Coelogene, Oncidium, Spathoglottis, and those species which love to dwell in the neighbourhood of steaming water. My vocabulary is used up by this time. The wonders here must go unchronicled.
We have viewed but four houses out of twelve, a most cursory glance at that! The next also is intermediate, filled with Cattleyas, warm Oncidiums, Lycastes, Cypripediums—the inventory of names alone would occupy all my space remaining. At every step I mark some object worth a note, something that recalls, or suggests, or demands a word. But we must get along. The sixth house is cool again—Odontoglossums and such; the seventh is given to Dendrobes. But facing us as we enter stands a Lycaste Skinneri, which illustrates in a manner almost startling the infinite variety of the orchid. I positively dislike this species, obtrusive, pretentious, vague in colour, and stiff in form. But what a royal glorification of it we have here!—what exquisite veining and edging of purple or rose; what a velvet lip of crimson darkening to claret! It is merely a sport of Nature, but she allows herself such glorious freaks in no other realm of her domain. And here is a new Brassia just named by the pontiff of orchidology, Professor Reichenbach. Those who know the tribe of Brassias will understand why I make no effort to describe it. This wonderful thing is yet more "all over the shop" than its kindred. Its dorsal sepal measures three inches in length, its "tail," five inches, with an enormous lip between. They term it the Squid Flower, or Octopus, in Mexico; and a good name too. But in place of the rather weakly colouring habitual it has a grand decision of character, though the tones are like—pale yellow and greenish; its raised spots, red and deep green, are distinct as points of velvet upon muslin.
In the eighth house we return to Odontoglossums and cool genera. Here are a number of Hybrids of the "natural class," upon which I should have a good deal to say if inexorable fate permitted; "natural hybrids" are plants which seem species, but, upon thoughtful examination and study, are suspected to be the offspring of kindred and neighbours. Interesting questions arise in surveying fine specimens side by side, in flower, all attributed to a cross between Odontoglossum Lindleyanum and Odontoglossum crispum Alexandrae, and all quite different. But we must get on to the ninth house, from which the tenth branches.
Here is the stove, and twilight reigns over that portion where a variety of super-tropic genera are "plumping up," making roots, and generally reconciling themselves to a new start in life. Such dainty, delicate souls may well object to the apprenticeship. It must seem very degrading to find themselves laid out upon a bed of cinders and moss, hung up by the heels above it, and even planted therein; but if they have as much good sense as some believe, they may be aware that it is all for their good. At the end, in full sunshine, stands a little copse of Vanda teres, set as closely as their stiff branches will allow. Still we must get on. There are bits of wood hanging here so rotten that they scarcely hold together; faintest dots of green upon them assure the experienced that presently they will be draped with pendant leaves, and presently again, we hope, with blue and white and scarlet flowers of Utricularia.
From the stove opens a very long, narrow house, where cool genera are "plumping," laid out on moss and potsherds; many of them have burst into strong growth. Pleiones are flowering freely as they lie. This farmer's crops come to harvest faster than he can attend to them. Things beautiful and rare and costly are measured here by the yard—so many feet of this piled up on the stage, so many of the other, from all quarters of the world, waiting the leisure of these busy agriculturists. Nor can we spare them more than a glance. The next house is filled with Odontoglossums, planted out like "bedding stuff" in a nursery, awaiting their turn to be potted. They make a carpet so close, so green, that flowers are not required to charm the eye as it surveys the long perspective. The rest are occupied just now with cargoes of imported plants.
My pages are filled—to what poor purpose, seeing how they might have been used for such a theme, no one could be so conscious as I.
[Footnote 8: I was too sanguine. Vanda teres refused to thrive.]
ORCHIDS AND HYBRIDIZING.
In the very first place, I declare that this is no scientific chapter. It is addressed to the thousands of men and women in the realm who tend a little group of orchids lovingly, and mark the wonders of their structure with as much bewilderment as interest. They read of hybridization, they see the result in costly specimens, they get books, they study papers on the subject. But the deeper their research commonly, the more they become convinced that these mysteries lie beyond their attainment. I am not aware of any treatise which makes a serious effort to teach the uninitiated. Putting technical expressions on one side—though that obstacle is grave enough—every one of those which have come under my notice takes the mechanical preliminaries for granted. All are written by experts for experts. My purpose is contrary. I wish to show how it is done so clearly that a child or the dullest gardener may be able to perform the operations—so very easy when you know how to set to work.
After a single lesson, in the genus Cypripedium alone, a young lady of my household amused herself by concerting the most incredible alliances—Dendrobium with Odontoglossum, Epidendrum with Oncidium, Oncidium with Odontoglossum, and so forth. It is unnecessary to tell the experienced that in every case the seed vessel swelled; that matter will be referred to presently. I mention the incident only to show how simple are these processes if the key be grasped.
Amateur hybridizers of an audacious class are wanted because, hitherto, operators have kept so much to the beaten paths. The names of Veitch and Dominy and Seden will endure when those of great savants are forgotten; but business men have been obliged to concentrate their zeal upon experiments that pay. Fantastic crosses mean, in all probability, a waste of time, space, and labour; in fact, it is not until recent years that such attempts could be regarded as serious. So much the more creditable, therefore, are Messrs. Veitch's exertions in that line.
But it seems likely to me that when hybridizing becomes a common pursuit with those who grow orchids—and the time approaches fast—a very strange revolution may follow. It will appear, as I think, that the enormous list of pure species—even genera—recognized at this date may be thinned in a surprising fashion. I believe—timidly, as becomes the unscientific—that many distinctions which anatomy recognizes at present as essential to a true species will be proved, in the future, to result from promiscuous hybridization through aeons of time. "Proved," perhaps, is the word too strong, since human life is short; but such a mass of evidence will be collected that reasonable men can entertain no doubt. Of course the species will be retained, but we shall know it to be a hybrid—the offspring, perhaps, of hybrids innumerable.
I incline more and more to think that even genera may be disturbed in a surprising fashion, and I know that some great authorities agree with me outright, though they are unprepared to commit themselves at present. A very few years ago this suggestion would have been absurd, in the sense that it wanted facts in support. As our ancestors made it an article of faith that to fertilize an orchid was impossible for man, so we imagined until lately that genera would not mingle. But this belief grows unsteady. Though bi-generic crosses have not been much favoured, as offering little prospect of success, such results have been obtained already that the field of speculation lies open to irresponsible persons like myself. When Cattleya has been allied with Sophronitis, Sophronitis with Epidendrum, Odontoglossum with Zygopetalum, Coelogene with Calanthe, one may credit almost anything. What should be stated on the other side will appear presently.
How many hybrids have we now, established, and passing from hand to hand as freely as natural species? There is no convenient record; but in the trade list of a French dealer those he is prepared to supply are set apart with Gallic precision. They number 416; but imagination and commercial enterprise are not less characteristic of the Gaul than precision.