MAKING NEW FLOWERS.
FASCINATION OF CROSS-FERTIUZATION.
Peter Fisher of Ellis, a Part of Norwood, a Most Successful Cultivator of the “Divine” Carnation, Says Even a Blue Variety is Only a Question of Time—Under an Acre of Glass He Grows Thousands of Plants.
The hybridization of flowers is the flower grower’s fad. It is the fun. the relaxation from the daily drudge and routine of his business. It fills his life with hope.
The anticipation, the expectancy of producing some grand improvement over existing varieties, the element of chance so attractive to all humanity; everything about it tends to lend a fascination well nigh irresistible, once the acute mind has entered the vast field of cross-fertilization.
It is a science as well, and when carried to its highest plane produces its geniuses, who in their turn bring forth the wonders, the marvels of the floricultural world.
Luck may favor the chance artist, who. without any particular thought or reason, crosses two flowers, “just for fun,” but it is to the careful, thoughtful, painstaking hybridist that we owe the present high standard of the excellence of nearly all of our so-called florists’ flowers.
The operation in itself is very simple, consisting in transferring the pollen generally by means of a camel-hair brush., from the male parent, and placing it on the stigmatic surface of the flower of the female or seed bearer, but the art, the forerunner of success, lies in the selection of the varieties to be crossed, possessing separately the qualities it is desired to combine and perpetuate.
For example, a flower of good form, but defective in color, is perhaps, crossed with another which is faulty in shape, but of a novel and desirable shade; a weakly growing variety of good habit may be used with effect in combination with a stronger grower lacking the particular qualities present in the former.
Greater Boston claims as a resident one of the most successful hybridists of the day in Peter Fisher of Ellis, a part of the town of Norwood, who for many years has been a must successful cultivator of the “divine” carnation, as the pinks of a few years ago are now designated, and who has reached the highest pinnacle of success, both as a grower and hybridist of this most popular flower.
Mr Fisher has been known for many years among the growers and retailers of cut flowers in this vicinity as a producer of the highest grade of carnations, his specialty, and the originator of some valuable acquisitions to existing varieties, but it was not until four or five years ago, through the production and dissemination of the beautiful Mrs Thomas W. Lawson variety that his name became famous throughout the county. This variety, owing to its sensational advertising, as well as its previously unequaled degree of excellence. created intense interest outside as well as inside of the profession.
Thar was by no means the first or the last of Mr Fisher’s grand accomplishments in his chosen field.
His establishment is located in the center of the town of Ellis, and consists of eight greenhouses, containing 40,000 square feet, or very nearly an acre of glass, devoted entirely to carnations and almost exclusively to varieties which he has himself originated.
These houses, as well as their contents. are models of perfection in the horticultural art, and are as clean and neat as a drawing room, the healthy condition of the plants and high state of perfection of the crop evidencing the perfect surroundings with which they are associated.
The proprietor is a very busy man.
His days are spent working in his greenhouses, directing his numerous assistants, gathering, sorting and packing the flowers, entertaining carnation specialists from all points of the United States and Canada, and attending to the many details incident to the business. His evenings are devoted to his correspondence, which is large.
“Yes.” he said recently to a Globe writer, “the carnation has made wonderful strides in recent years, both in the quality and size of flower as well as in the estimation of the public. Yet we are only beginning and bigger surprises are in store to be opened up to the world in the next few years than have been seen in the past.
“There seems no limit to what can be done by hybridizing, either as to the size of the bloom or its coloring. Even the blue carnation is only a question of, time. Here, for example, is a seedling showing blue variegations and we have had two true blue seedlings, but both were weak and died in the field. But it is sure to come.
“The standard of perfection is annually being raised by the introduction of improvements, and varieties measuring four and one-half inches in diameter are well established facts, the standard for size having doubled within a few years. Even larger flowering sorts have been produced, but were disqualified by some imperfection, such as a weak stem, bursting of the calyx, or a meager production of blossom which make them unprofitable.
“There are hundreds or thousands of named varieties of carnations, but the of superior quality may be counted a the fingers of both hands, while but on hand would be necessary to enumerate those of the highest quality, and they are liable to be superseded at any time thus being forced into the second class.
“We are constantly experimenting. Here are thousands of little plants just coming out of the ground from seed produced by what we consider good crosses, that is, crosses of two varieties combining points which are liable to show improvements on existing varieties. These will bloom in the field next summer or later in the houses, and the inferior ones are immediately called out as their characteristics appear. This season we have bloomed and are blooming three thousand new varieties which have, never flowered before. After the customary elimination we shall probably save a dozen, considered worthy of a farther test. There may be 100. as it is surrounded by chance, but a dozen is the more likely number.
“It is a mystery where all the carnations go to. We grow annually about 30.000 plants, which will average to produce 20 to 25. and with some varieties more, high-grade flowers during the season. These are all shipped to Boston, and our output is but a drop in the bucket.
“We propagate each spring about 250,000 carnations and ship the rooted cuttings to growers in other sections who desire to obtain the new varieties.
Mr Fisher came to America from Scotland about 36 years ago and has since resided in the vicinity of Boston, to which city he is much attached. Though always having been in the greenhouse business it was not until about 12 years ago that he turned his thoughts to cross-fertilization.
A few years ago there was organized the American carnation society, an auxiliary branch of the society of American florists and ornamental horticulturists. which, as its name implies, is devoted to the interests and advancement of the carnation. This society includes in its membership all the principal carnation experts of the country. and holds an annual meeting in cone of the floricultural centers. In January the meeting for 1905 was held in Chicago, at which Mr Fisher was elected President of the organization for the ensuing year and Boston selected as the meeting place for 1906.