Thursday, April 2, 2015

1880s - Mr. Rupp and His Chinese Primroses


In 1886 Henry S. Rupp brought his two sons into the florist and nursery business.  
(An earlier catalog at the end of this post, featuring fruits, was before that association.  I included it for the fruit names, something I enjoy reading and thinking about, as I doubt there will be another Rupp post.)

Among the best known specialists in the breeding and production of the finest types of Chinese primroses in the United States is John F. Rupp, of Shiremanstown, Pa. He has named his place "The Home of Primroses." Henry S. Rupp, the father of the present head of the business, began the culture of this plant as a specialty at Shiremanstown as early as 1876, and continued it until his death a few years ago, when his son, John F. Rupp, himself a student and artist in this work, continued the business.
The establishment at Shiremanstown consists of six long greenhouses notable not so much for elegance, although they are neat, as for simplicity of construction, and their ability to produce the condition of light and heat necessary to give the best results in primrose culture. The sides are of wood, the roof is of the plain sash bar type, the benches have cement bottoms, and the walks are of concrete. Absolute cleanliness is insisted upon, and no dead leaves or rubbish of any kind is allowed in the houses. All insect pests are kept down by the careful use of cyanide gas. Hot water is the heating medium. Here, under the glass of these six large houses, all the work is done. Thousands of plants are annually grown and sold from 2-inch pots, many hundreds more are brought into perfect bloom and then sold, and still hundreds of others are selected and used in seed production.
The yearly period of seed sowing is from April to the middle of August, and some seed is sown each week in shallow flats containing the ordinary fibrous greenhouse soil to which a little ground bone has been added. In about three weeks after sowing the young plants are 

pricked off into 2-inch pots and in six weeks more these are ready either for sale or for transplanting to the larger pots on the same benches. Some few plants are allowed to mature in the 2inch pots. Fig. 1 shows a fine collection of dwarf plants in full bloom produced in this way. They are contrasted with a standard size specimen growing in a 6-inch pot and placed among them. The three or four flowers on the little dwarfs are nearly as large as those on the standard plants while the few leaves in the picture are very much smaller.
As the plants in 2-inch pots reach salable size, and as the orders come in, they are knocked out of the pots and each, with the ball of earth about the roots, is wrapped in paper. They are then boxed and expressed. Nearly 1,000 packages of these were forwarded last year to all parts of the United States and Canada.
When the orders for small plants have been filled, about double the number required for mature plants and for seed production are then taken. A few weeks' difference in time of seed sowing does not appear to make much difference in the time of blossoming; the-plants will all flower about January. Fig. 2 shows one of the six houses with the plants in full bloom. Some of the varieties Mr. Rupp thinks most of are Delicate Rose, Best Double White, Single Crimson, Double Cristata, and Single Blue. Fig. 3 shows three good specimen plants in full bloom. Best Double White was produced by the late Henry S. Rupp, and won first prize at the Chicago world's fair. Owing to the care in breeding it is still maintained in all its original splendor. Delicate Rose was produced by the present John F. Rupp. Single Crimson is one of the best dark varieties and is an excellent seller.
For the production of seed many thousands of plants are kept to allow for the most rigid selection. Hundreds are from time to time discarded and are not allowed to propagate themselves for faults which the untrained eye can scarcely detect Wrongly tinged or ill shaped petals or petioles, foliage too light or too dark, and lack of vigor are a few of the many points which disqualify a plant for seed production. As the plants are flowered under glass in January, hand pollination is necessary. The ordinary camel's hair brush is used and on the average from 30 to 40 flowers are pollinated per minute. This necessity for artificial pollination permits of the choice of parents in the production of new varieties, and of the employment of the highest skill in plant breeding. A pair of fine plants producing seed are shown in Fig. 4.
Five very important points for which to breed, as stated by Mr. Rupp, are as follows: To get and maintain large size of flowers; to get the flowers thrown up into spikes above the foliage, so as to make a good display; to get the petals well overlapping each other (the best are lapped half the petal or more); to have the edges of the petals perfectly fringed, and, to breed sturdiness and health into the plants.
The general requirements of the Chinese primrose are also given by Mr. Rupp, as follows:
Sunlight.—Not too strong sunlight should be given for foliage and flowers, but for seed development much sunlight is required.
Moisture.—Plants should be kept rather moist except in cloudy weather.
Temperature.—From 55° to 60° F. is best, but the plants will stand much lower temperatures without serious injury.
Soil.—Any good greenhouse soil will do. W. H. W.

 - Gardening, Volumes 15-16 - 1907 

While you may have to be primrose-centric to enjoy reading the following, there is a charm in the delight Mr. Hill takes in describing the display!

Chinese Primroses at the Columbian Fair.
To the Editor of GARDEN AND FOREST:
Sin—The principal midwinter attraction in the horticultural department of the World's Fair has been the Chinese Primroses. About five thousand specimens were shown, filling two greenhouses, each one hundred feet long by twenty-two wide. They have since been placed in the Horticultural Building, and are more accessible to the public. Though awards have been made, the names of those receiving them are not yet given to the public. Seventeen houses competed, six from this country, five from England, four from Germany, one each from France and Italy. The largest lots from America were those of Peter Henderson & Co., New York, R. & J. Farquhar & Co., Boston, and Henry S. Rupp 8:Sons, Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania. The exhibits from England were also large. Those from Germany were from Erturt and Quedlinburg. Four hundred varieties, so called, were said to be shown, but many of these differed more in name than in fact. and half the names would apparently designate the real differences. There was, however, a great variety in the plants as a whole, both in the color and size of the flowers, and in the foliage and general appearance. All were labeled Prim ula Sinensis fimbriata, and flowers without fimbriate margins were exceptional, the greatest number of these being on plants with crisped leaves. As the plants were started from seed sown about the middle of April last, and cultivated under the same conditions, they came into flower essentially at the same time. It was a brilliant display of colors, mostly of the red, white and blue series and their combinations, and caused many exclamations of delight from visitors.
From so much that was excellent it is not easy to choose. The plants from R. H. Cannel & Sons, of Swanley, Kent, were remarkably thrifty, with large flowers and well-developed trusses. Cannel's Pink impressed one as the finest of the lot. It resembled the Queen, with flowers about as large on the average, but of a more decided pink. The leaves are of medium size, arranged so as to set oil‘ the flower-cluster well. The stems were very strong at the base of the cluster of leaves, with no tendency to fall to one side when the pot was tilted. The scapes are not tall nor the flowers umerous, but they rise far enough above the leaves to show e ectively, and offer a charming mass of delicate pink, though the petals are a little multiplied ; they lie so nearly in a plane as to give the flowers the simplicity which is liked by most persons in the blossoms of the Primrose, for those much doubled by the crown of leaves at the throat looked somewhat disheveled even when at their best. Some flowers of the Queen, in‘ the same collection, were the largest noticed in the whole exhibit, measuring fully two and a quarter inches across. Fine flowers of the Queen were also shown by james Carter & Co., High Holborn, London, and by other exhibitors. Other good plants from Swanley, were Swanley Giant, a large rose-colored varietv, White Perfection, Princess Mary, :1 large white with leaves of extraordinary size, Lilacina, exquisitely variable in color, with
delicate tints of lilac-blue. This and White Perfection were of the long-leaved kind.
The purest white seen was in the exhibit of Vilmorin Andrieux et Cie., Paris. It was appropriately named Purity, being perfect in its tone of white. The flowers were of good size, though not of the largest, the truss well placed amid green leaves on purple stems. Many flowers of Mont Blanc, in the same lot, were nearly of as pure a white, but some were faintly blushed with pink, as were some good ones of this name in the exhibit of William Bull, Chelsea, England. The Avalanche, from Mr. Bull, was a large and beautiful white, one of the best. Another good white, Filicina alba, was in the exhibit of Henry Metle, Qiiedlinburg. The plants were tall and strong, abundant bloomers, flowers of fair size, and fern leaved foliage. Other good strains in the sets from Paris were Grand Rose and Grand Blanc Carne, both large-flowered, the pale corolla of the latter with a flush of pink. In the exhibit of Mr. Bull may also be mentioned Pink Beauty, a very handsome pink, with flowers of medium size, those on the lower branches too much covered by leaves for the best effect; Comet, a showy red ; Fulgens, a bright red, with the margins of the petals a little dotted with white,and slightly of the punctate order.
In the exhibit of John Laing & Sons, Forest Hill, London, were a number of good double-flowered kinds. Macros alba plena showed pinkish white flowers and long leaves. Marmorata plena was a double reddish white, the flowers prettily splashed and colored with red or dark pink. The best red in this collection, Chiswick Red, carried very large flowers of a rich dark red, inclining to purple, the greenish eye encircled with a narrow band of white. They were fine, thrifty plants, with large leaves and prolific umbels. The same strain in the lot of Farquhar & Co. was about as good. Crimson, sent by Kelway & Son, Langport, England, was another very bright red, and Vermilion, from Carter & Co., red, and a little punctate. 
The Dark Red of Rupp & Son showed well. There were several reds of the Kerrnesina sort, some quite coppery, and with slight metallic reflections. These, with the salmon reds, carmines, scarlets, purples and other shades, showed the multiplicity of tints into which the color of the original stock had been varied. Dainty flowers of the punctate kind were frequent, with two or three rows of white dots quite regularly placed near their margins, but occasionally scattered. The flowers were generally small, but abundant.
There were blues and lavenders in most of the exhibits which attracted much attention. It isbarely ten years since the blue race of Chinese Primroses with fringed corollas was established, but the display here made shows that the color is fixed, and comes true from seed. Carter & Co. showed two excellent kinds, London Blue and Porcelain Blue, both large flowered. Haase & Schmidt, of Erfurt, had fine ones labeled Coerulea. Another was the Blue of Vilmorin-Andrieux & Cie., with purple foliage.
A few sets were seen of a different character, the flaked or striated. They were mainly white-flowered, with lines and spots of various shades of red, in form and size varying from dots and lines to spots covering a petal or even half of the corolla. The colors were mostly too irregularly placed to be harmonious and pleasing, but may point the way to some striking variegated forms. Some plants in the exhibit showed possibilities of yellow flowers by enlarging the yellow of the throat. One in particular was noticed, Oculata lutea (Laing & Son), a singular form of this character, having a large yellow spot enclosed by a border of white or white tinged with red. Even the foliage had a yellow cast.
The most peculiar exhibit was that of Hillebrand & Bredemeier, Italy. They were very distinct in foliage, with leaves remarkably crisped, their lobules having the parenchyma very full, so as to be formed into a frill or ruffle. To some extent this characterizes the calyx also. The leaves are symmetrical in form, from oval to oblonge in some cases, their color varying from pale green to dark purple. They are beautiful-leaved plants, as handsome and decorative in their way as are the fine-flowered kinds. The flowers are generally single, mostly small, and often without the fimbriated margin. One of the most crisped was Candidissima, white-flowered and with purple foliage. Carnea has flesh colored corollas, the yellow eye enlarged and star-shaped, and the foliage green. A view of these plants led one to think that the perfect Primrose would be one combining the crisped leaves of the Italian growers with the fine flowers seen in the collections from northern Europe.
Too much praise can hardly be given to Mr. John Thorpe for the cultural skill which has brought forward this immense collection in such uniform health and vigor. 
E. J. Hill, Englewood, Chicago, Ill. (1893)