The staging must be arranged according to the width of the house. Narrow houses may be provided with a stage on each side and a path through the centre. Other structures of sufficient width should be furnished with a side stage measuring 4 feet to 4 feet 6 inches in width, and a central stage on a somewhat higher level, and rising in steps to the middle and highest point.
[Illustration: PLATE II MILTONIA VEXILLARIA “EMPRESS AUGUSTA VICTORIA” (This specimen, cultivated from a single growth, bore 126 flowers.)]
Iron frame-work is the best, because it is clean and almost indestructible. The uprights resting on the floor should be fixed in metal saucers, which, if kept filled with water, offer great obstacles to insects ascending from the floor. The open wood-work resting on the iron frames, and on which the plants are to stand, should be of teak or pitch-pine, and arranged trellis-like. For some years past it has been the practice to have a close, moisture-holding stage of slate, or tiles, beneath the upper and open wood-work stage. It was an invention of my own when adapting an ordinary plant-house with a slate stage to receive one of the earliest importations of Odontoglossum crispum.
The existing slate stage was made water-tight at the joints, and a fillet of cement was run along the back; the surface was then covered with clean shingle, and home-made trellises, raised on bricks in three levels, were placed along the close staging to receive the plants. It proved a great success, and in the same house the small, bottom ventilators, the first of their kind, but which have now become general, were an equally good innovation. At that time, and for many years afterwards, the flooring of Orchid houses was sealed by concrete or hard tiles, and the moisture-holding lower stage was necessary to give a reasonable amount of evaporating surface. More recently it has occurred to many of us that a moisture-giving surface might be obtained from the natural earth, if the earth was left either in its natural state or was given a coating of coke-breeze or similar porous material, and trellises used for the paths.
In a similar way provision had to be made for the second object of the close stage, namely, the checking of the direct upward heat from the hot-water pipes. This has been done very effectively in some gardens by arranging a much less elaborate and costly means than the full, close staging generally in use. An iron frame is placed midway between the hot-water pipes and the staging on which the plants rest; a shelf of corrugated iron, slate, or tiles, extends from the back to about half the width of the side staging, its inner edge being about midway in the space beneath the staging, and an inch or so of space is left between the back of the shelf and the wall of the house to allow some of the heat from the pipes to pass that way, the greater part being diverted towards the middle of the house by the intervention of the shelf which is covered with turf or some other moisture-holding material. This is kept continually moist by frequent syringings during the warm season, when plenty of moisture in the air is required.
In arranging new houses having the natural earth for a floor, this plan is less expensive and altogether preferable to the formal, close staging of full width, which, however, should still be retained in adapting ordinary plant-houses already provided with a tiled or cemented base, unless it is convenient to remove the tiles and restore the natural earth surface. In arranging the staging, one essential object has to be kept in view, rows to suffer neglect.