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Comfort have thou of thy merit,
Ill befal the yellow flowers,
Prophet of delight and mirth,
But to quote all this poet's praises of the Celandine is more than can be allowed to us. The reader is too well acquainted with his writings to be ignorant of his love for this little flower, or to refuse him the sympathy he requires :
“ Let, with bold advent'rous skill,
Others thrid the polar sea ;
Mrs. Charlotte Smith more than once alludes to the
early flowering of the Pilewort; particularly in the lines addressed to the early butterfly:
This plant has been also named Chironium ; both names being derived from the centaur Chiron; some say, because first discovered by him-others, from his having been cured by it of a wound in his foot, made by the fall of an arrow when he was entertaining Hercules.French, la centaurée; bluet; barbeau ; aubifoin.— Italian, centaurea.
This is a very extensive genus, greatly varying in beauty: some being mere ordinary weeds, others handsome and showy flowers. Many of them are cultivated in our gardens: the most common, perhaps, is the Sultanflower, or Sweet-sultan, a native of Persia, and commonly seen growing wild among the corn in the Levant. The colour is purple, flesh-coloured, or white. The scent is very powerful, and to some persons disagreeable.
There is a variety, called, from the colour of its flowers, Yellow Sweet-sultan*, of which the scent is unquestionably pleasant. The best time to sow Sweet-sultan is in the spring: they will begin to flower in July. One seed will suffice for a six-inch pot: water must be given sparingly, or the roots will be liable to rot. The yellow variety is raised in a hot-bed, and, when grown, requires more tender treatment than the rest of the family. They are annual plants.
The perennial kinds may be either increased by seed, as directed, or by parting the roots in autumn: always observing to place such as are newly planted in the shade until they have taken fresh root. These will require shelter in the winter. Centaury has a tendency to strike very deep root, which makes many of them altogether unfit for pots. Unfortunately, the Great Centaury is of this number: I say unfortunately, because this species, which grows naturally on the mountains of Italy, has been rendered classical by Virgil's mention of it in his Georgics, where it is recommended, among other flowers, as a medicine for bees when sick. I think Dryden also mentions it somewhere.
* The centaurea amberboi of the botanists. In French, le barbeau jaune ; fleur du grand seigneur; l amberboi.-Italian, ciano giallo Turchesco odoroso.
The origin of the name uncertain.---French, le cactier.
The Great-flowered Creeping Cereus, called in French le serpent, is a plant of extraordinary magnificence and beauty. Its blossoms open in the evening: they are large and sweet-scented, but of very short duration. They begin to open between seven and eight o'clock; are fully blown by eleven, and by three or four in the morning they fade, and hang down quite decayed. During their short-lived beauty, few flowers can compare with them. The calyx of the flower, when open, is nearly a foot in diameter; the inside of which, being of a splendid yellow, appears like the rays of a bright star: the outside is of a dark brown. The petals of the flower are of a pure and dazzling white; and a vast number of recurved stamens, surrounding the style in the centre, add to its beauty. The fine scent of this extraordinary flower perfumes the air to a considerable distance. It flowers in July; and upon large plants eight or ten flowers will open on the same night, and be succeeded by others for several nights together, making a most magnificent appearance by candlelight. This plant does not bear fruit in this country, and must be nursed in a stove, to enable it to produce flowers. It is, in fact, an intruder here; but it is to be hoped its beauty will obtain pardon for its intrusion: the more readily, as it introduces a very lovely relation, who has right of admission.
The Pink-flowered Creeping Cereus produces a greater number of flowers than the former. They open in May,
or, in warm seasons, yet earlier. They are of a fine pink colour, and keep open three or four days. This plant has very slender branches, which should be trained to a little trellis frame of sticks. - The flowers are so beautiful and so numerous, that it deserves some care to cherish it. It may be preserved through the winter in a warm inhabited room, and towards the end of May may be set abroad. Very little water must be given in summer, and scarcely any in the winter. About the middle of September it should again be removed into the house. If there be much rain or sharp winds in the summer season, this plant must be sheltered; and it must always be in a warm situation. It will flower better if it can conveniently be placed within the room even in summer, if near to an open window. It should not have a very large pot, or a rich soil. This plant is a native of Peru: the former species, of Jamaica.
The Six-angled Upright Cereus, or Torch-thistle-in French, le cactier de Surinum—was the first which became common in English hot-houses. This plant, if not cut down, will grow forty feet high; but wherever the stems are cut, they put out others from the angles immediately below the wounded part. The flowers are white, and as large as those of the hollyhock. It does not often flower; when it does, it is generally in July. It is a native of Surinam, and may be preserved in the same manner as directed for the Pink-flowered species. The cochineal insect feeds chiefly upon plants of this genus, and the Indians frequently propagate them for the sake of those insects; particularly that which is called the Cochineal Indian-Fig.