Culture in Glasses.—It is of little consequence whether rain, river, or spring water be employed in this mode of culture, but it must be pure, and in the glasses it should nearly but not quite touch the bulbs. Store at once in a dark, cool place, to encourage the bulbs to send their roots down into the water before the leaves begin to grow. When the roots are developed, bring the glasses from the dark to the light, in order that leaves and flowers may be in perfect health. Let them have as much light as possible, with an equable temperature, and provide supports in good time. Hyacinths are often injured by being kept in rooms that are at times extremely cold and at others heated to excess. Those who wish to grow the bulbs to perfection in glasses should remove them occasionally as circumstances may require, to prevent the injury that must otherwise result from rapid and extreme alternations of temperature. It is not desirable to introduce to the water any stimulating substance, but the glasses must be kept nearly full of water by replenishing as it disappears. If the leaves become dusty, they may be cleansed with a soft brush or a sponge dipped in water, but particular care must be taken not to injure them in the process.
Culture in Moss-fibre.—While Hyacinths, differing from Daffodils and Tulips, are perhaps relatively better in pots of soil than in bowls of moss-fibre, they may still be grown successfully in bowls provided a fairly deep receptacle is chosen and care is taken to avoid making the fibre hard. With a shallow bowl and very firm fibre it may be found that the roots strike upward and the plant does not get that abundant supply of moisture which is essential to its welfare. For this method of culture preference should be given to the Roman, Giant Italian, Christmas Pink, Miniature and Grape Hyacinths, which look particularly charming in bowls and similar contrivances. Detailed directions are given on page 319.
Culture in Beds.—The Hyacinth will grow well in any ordinary garden soil, but that which suits it best is a light rich loam. The bed should be effectually drained, for though the plant loves moisture it cannot thrive in a bog during the winter. It is advisable to plant early, and to plant deep. If a rich effect is required, especially in beds near the windows of a residence, the bulbs should be six inches apart, but at a greater distance a good effect may be produced by planting nine inches apart. The time of blooming may be to some extent influenced by the time and manner of planting, but no strict rules can be given to suit particular instances. Late planting and deep planting both tend to defer the time of blooming, although there will not be a great difference in any case, and as a rule the late bloom is to be preferred, because less liable to injury from frost. The shallowest planting should insure a depth of three inches of earth above the crown of the bulb, but they will flower better, and only a few days later, if covered with full six inches of earth over the crowns. The Hyacinth is so hardy that protection need not be thought of, except in peculiar cases of unusual exposure, or on the occurrence of an excessively low temperature when they are growing freely. Under any circumstances, there is no protection so effectual as dry litter, but a thin coat of half-rotten manure spread over the bed is to be preferred in the event of danger being apprehended at any time before the growth has fairly pushed through.
The bulbs may be taken up as soon as the leaves acquire a yellow colour, so that the brilliant display of spring may be immediately followed by another, equally brilliant perhaps, but in character altogether different. When grown in beds, Hyacinths do not require water or sticks; all they need is to be planted properly, and they will take care of themselves.
Miniature Hyacinths.—These charming little sparkling gems are invaluable for baskets, bowls and other contrivances which are adapted for the choicest decorative purposes. In quality they are excellent, the spikes being symmetrical, the flowers well formed, and the colours brilliant. But they are true miniatures, growing about half the size of the other kinds, and requiring less soil to root in. They will flower well if planted in a mixture of moss-fibre and charcoal, kept constantly moist, and covered with the greenest moss, to give to the ornament containing them a finished appearance.
Feather and Grape Hyacinths will grow in any good garden soil, and are admirably adapted for borders that are shaded by trees. They should be planted in large clumps, and be allowed to remain several years undisturbed. Both classes are beautiful—the Feather Hyacinth emphatically so; indeed, numerous as beautiful flowers are, this, for delicacy of structure, has peculiar claims to our admiration, when presenting its feathery plumes a foot or more in length, all cut into curling threads of the most elegant tenuity. Grape Hyacinths make a charming ornament for the drawing-room when grown in bowls of moss-fibre.
Roman Hyacinth.—This flower is particularly welcome in the short, dark days of November, December, and January. For placing in glasses to decorate the drawing-room or dinner-table the spikes of bloom are largely grown; and the separate flowers, mounted on wire, form an important feature in winter bouquets, for which purpose their delicious perfume renders them especially valuable.
The bulbs can be grown with the utmost ease. Pot them immediately they can be obtained in August or September, and stand them in some spare corner in the open ground, where they can be covered with a few inches of leaf-mould. This will encourage the roots to start before there is any top growth. In October remove the covering, and transfer the pots to a pit or frame, or they may be placed under the greenhouse stage for a time, provided they will not be in the way of dripping water. A little later, room should be found for them upon the stage, or the foliage may become drawn. When the buds are visible, plunge the pots in a bottom heat of 65 deg. or 70 deg., and in a week the flowers will be fit for use. Like its more imposing prototype, the Roman Hyacinth may have its roots gently freed from soil for packing in bowls or vases filled with wet moss or sand; but they ought not to be subjected to a violent change of temperature. If wanted in glasses, they can be grown in water after the usual fashion, but the flower is scarcely adapted for this mode of treatment. They will, however, grow well in bowls filled with moss-fibre.
Italian Hyacinth.—Although rather later in flowering than the Roman variety, the Italian Hyacinth deserves to be grown as a pot plant, especially for its more lasting quality. The graceful flowers are carried on long stout stems which are most effective for the decoration of vases. The bulbs are perfectly hardy, and may be planted in clumps in the open border, where they will bloom in April and afford abundant sprays for cutting. The habit is less formal than that of the Dutch Hyacinth and the flowers exhale a sweet delicate perfume. As previously stated, the Italian Hyacinth is especially suitable for growing in moss-fibre.
An excellent companion to Delphiniums, Salvias, and perennial Lobelias in the mixed border. The stately spikes of this flower also associate well with shrubs, and help to enliven a bed of Rhododendrons at a period of the year when the latter is uninteresting. Roots may be planted in any soil from November to March; and, as they are perfectly hardy, they can be left in the open ground all the year without the least misgiving as to their safety. A strong root will produce a succession of flower-spikes, and this tendency will be assisted by cutting off each spike immediately it has ceased to be attractive.
The common varieties of Iris are well-known favourites of the border, and the whole family have claims on the attention of amateurs, on account of their excellent faculty of taking care of themselves if properly planted in the first instance. The tuberous or bulbous rooted kinds do not require a rich soil; a sandy loam suits them, and they thrive in peat. Such beautiful species as Reticulata, the Chalcedonian, and the Peacock are worth growing in pots placed in frames or in a cool greenhouse. The English, Dutch, and Spanish varieties should be planted in clumps in front of a shrubbery border, where they may be seen to advantage. The crown of the bulb must not be more than three inches below the surface. From September to December will answer for planting, and the roots may be taken up when the flowering period is over, or if the space is not wanted they can be allowed to remain for the following season. Bulbs of the English class should never be kept out of the ground longer than can be helped, but they ought not to be grown in one spot for more than three years; after that time the clumps must be divided and a fresh position found for them.
IXIA and SPARAXIS
These attractive Cape bulbs are hardy in favoured districts, and may be left out for years in a sheltered border. In places where none but the hardiest plants pass through the winter safely, they must be grown in the greenhouse or the frame, and any good sandy soil will suit them, whether peat or loam. They should be potted early in the autumn, and have plenty of air at all times when the weather is favourable, especially when they are growing freely in spring. If carefully managed, they may remain two seasons in the same pots. Use the 48-size, and plant four or five bulbs in each. A dry, deep, sandy border under a wall in any of the warmer western and southern districts might be furnished with such plants as Ixias, Sparaxis, Alstroemerias, Oxalis, Tritonias, Babianas, and the choicest of the smaller kinds of Iris. It would constitute a garden of the most interesting exotics.
For its delicious fragrance and exquisite beauty the Jonquil has long been considered one of the most valuable of the Narciss family for cultivation in pots, and it is also a first-rate border and woodland flower. When forced, the treatment should agree as nearly as possible with that prescribed for the Narcissus. Four or five bulbs may be planted in one pot.
An elegant plant which is not quite hardy enough to be trusted in the open ground; but it is the easiest matter possible to grow it well in the greenhouse. The bulbs should be potted as soon as they begin to grow in the autumn, and several bulbs may be put into each pot. There can be no better soil than turfy loam, without manure or sand. It is of the utmost importance that the plants should have abundance of water, when they will produce leaves two inches across, and spikes of flowers fully double the size of those commonly met with. An admirable use for these bulbs is to insert them all over the outside of hanging-baskets, which they will cover with the most graceful display of aerial vegetation imaginable, the flower-spikes turning upwards, and the leaves hanging down.
The Spring Snowflake (L. vernum) blooms as early as February or March, and the Summer Snowflake (L. aestivum) comes into flower in May and June. They closely resemble the Snowdrop, but are much larger than that well-known spring favourite. The bulbs are perfectly hardy, and will grow in any garden soil. Plant in clumps three inches deep, any time from the end of September until the middle of November.
Hardy border Lilies are among the most useful garden plants known. They are peculiarly hardy and robust, requiring no support from sticks or ties; several of them remain green all the winter, and are capable of resisting any amount of frost. If left alone, they increase rapidly, and become more valuable every year. We will say nothing of their beauty, for that is proverbial; but it may be useful to observe that many of the most lovely Lilies, usually regarded as only suitable for the greenhouse, and grown with great care under glass, are really as hardy as the old common white Lily, and may be grown with it in the same border. To grow Lilies well requires a deep, moist, rich loam. A stubborn clay may be improved for them by deep digging, and incorporating with the staple plenty of rotten manure and leaf-mould. They all thrive in peat, or rotten turf, or, indeed, in any soil containing an abundance of decomposing vegetable matter. The autumn is the proper time to plant Lilies, but they may be planted at any season, if they can be obtained in a dormant state or growing in pots. They should be planted deep for their size, say, never less than six inches. After they have stood some years it is necessary to lift and part the clumps, when the borders should be deeply dug and liberally manured before replanting. If the stems of Lilies become leafless and unsightly before the flowers are past, it is a sign that the roots are too dry, or that the soil is impoverished; and therefore, as soon as the stems die down, they should be lifted, and perhaps transferred to a more favourable spot.
Amaryllis.—These magnificent plants do not require the high temperature in which they are usually grown, nor should they be allowed to remain for a great length of time dust-dry, as we sometimes find them. It is important to remember that they have distinct seasons of activity and rest, but must not be forced into either condition by such drastic measures as are occasionally resorted to. The proper soil for them is turfy loam, enriched with rotten manure, and rendered moderately porous by an admixture of sand. The light soil in which many plants thrive will not suit them; the soil must be firm, and somewhat rough in texture. When first potted, give them very little water, and promote growth by means of a bottom heat of 65 deg.. Increase the supply of water as the plants progress, and shift them into 6-inch pots for flowering. While they are in flower they may be placed in the conservatory, or wherever else they may be required for decorative purposes. When the flowers have faded take them to the greenhouse to complete their growth, after which dry them off slowly, but with the clear understanding that they are never to be desiccated. They may be wintered in the greenhouse, and should certainly be placed where they will always be slightly moist, even if a few leaves remain green throughout the winter. Frequent disturbance of the roots is to be particularly avoided in the cultivation of Amaryllis, and therefore it is desirable to allow them to remain in the same pots two or three years; or if they are shifted on, it should be done in such a way that the roots are scarcely seen in the process. Top dressing and liquid manure will help them when they have been some time in the same pots.
Lilium auratum.—This magnificent Lily has proved to be as hardy as the white garden variety, and is now freely planted in borders and shrubberies where the noble heads of bloom always command admiration. But the splendour of the flower will continue to insure for it a high degree of favour as a decorative subject for the conservatory. When grown in a pot the best soil is sandy peat, but it will flower finely in a rich light mixture, such as Fuchsias require. It is advisable to begin with the smallest pot in which the bulb can be placed, and then to shift to larger and larger sizes as the plant progresses, taking care to have the bulb two inches below the soil when in their flowering pots, because roots are thrown out from the stem just above the bulb, and these roots need to be carefully fed, as they are the main support of the flowers that appear later. When the flower-buds are visible, there should, of course, be no further shifting. In respect of temperature, this is an accommodating Lily; but as a rule a cool house is better for the plant than one which is maintained at a high temperature. The supply of water should be plentiful during the period of growth and flowering, but afterwards it can be reduced.
Lilium Harrisii (The Bermuda, or Easter Lily) is of the longiflorum type, but the flowers are larger, and are produced with greater freedom than by the ordinary L. longiflorum. Moreover, the Bermuda Lily flowers almost continuously. Before one stem has finished blooming another shoots up. This perennial habit gives it a peculiar value for the greenhouse, and renders forcing possible at almost any season.
Immediately the bulbs are received they should be potted in rich fibrous loam—the more fibrous the better—and be placed in a cold frame. They need little water until growth has fairly commenced, after which more moisture will be necessary. So far as safety is concerned, they only require protection from frost; but for an early show of bloom artificial heat is imperative. The temperature should, however, be very moderate at first, and rise slowly. When the buds show, a top-dressing of fresh loam and decayed manure will be helpful, and to allow for this the soil must be two inches from the tops of the pots when the bulbs are first potted. After producing two or three flowering stems, it will be wise to place the pots out of doors and give less water, or the bulbs will be exhausted. But they must never be allowed to become quite dry, and after a partial rest of six weeks or two months they may be re-potted in fresh soil and started for another show of bloom.
We do not recommend the planting of this Lily in open borders during autumn, for growth will commence immediately, and a severe frost will cut it down; but if planted in spring, it succeeds admirably, and will produce a long succession of its handsome trumpet-shaped flowers. For the following winter it can be either protected, or lifted for storing in a frame.
Lilium lancifolium.—A graceful and highly perfumed Lily, which is perfectly hardy, and will grow in good loam, though peat is to be preferred for pot culture. To produce handsome specimens the same routine must be followed as directed for the cultivation of L. auratum. It scarcely need be added that, instead of growing the bulbs separately in pots, several may be grown in a large pot to produce a richer effect. But it is not advisable to place the bulbs in a large mass of earth in the first instance. It is better that they should commence their growth in small pots, and be shifted on as they require more room. Aphis is extremely partial to these Lilies, particularly if they are badly grown and allowed to suffer for the want of water. The simplest way to remove the pest is to dip the plants in pure water, taking care, of course, to prevent them from falling out of the pots in the operation.
Lily of the Valley.—The popular name of this native plant is a misnomer. Botanically it is known as Convallaria majalis, and structurally the roots differ from those which are characteristic of the whole tribe of Liliums. However, we have no quarrel with a charming name for a most dainty flower of fairy-like proportions. The sprays of pure white pendulous bells have captivated the popular fancy, and they are in public demand from the moment florists are able to place them on the market.
Whether for early or late spring forcing, or for planting in the open ground, the most vigorous strain should be chosen, and there is one which is incomparably superior to all others, producing finer spikes and larger individual flowers. As a rule these roots are obtainable in November, but, if necessary, it is far better to wait a week or two than attempt to force such as have been lifted prematurely.
The crowns may be potted, and where few are grown this is the usual course. The large growers pack them in boxes, with a little fine soil, and cover the tops with about four inches of cocoa-nut fibre. For the earliest supply a temperature of 90 deg. is necessary, accompanied with plenty of moisture. After the spikes of bloom show, slightly reduce the temperature, and remove the fibre to afford the leaves an opportunity of maturing. When sufficiently advanced transfer the plants to pots for the conservatory or the decoration of windows. Successive supplies can be brought forward with less heat.
In the open, Lily of the Valley require a partially shaded position. The soil must be freely manured, and a good proportion of leaf-mould worked in. Plant single crowns at a distance of six inches from each other, and supply them with liquid manure during the growing period. After four, or at most five years, they will become too crowded, when they should be lifted, and the largest and finest crowns be selected for the formation of a fresh bed.
Japanese Day Lily (Hemerocallis Kwanso fl. pl.).—Admirably adapted for pot culture to decorate the conservatory, the rich variegation of its graceful curling leaves affording an elegant display of colour in the early months of the year, and its fine double flowers being extremely showy during their short blooming season. As this variety is quite hardy, it may be planted in the select border with perfect safety, and, in common with other Day Lilies, it bears the shade of trees remarkably well. This is certainly one of the handsomest hardy plants in cultivation.
Of this useful autumn-flowering bulb there are several varieties, M. crocosmiflora probably being the most popular. In the warm and sheltered gardens of the South and in light well-drained soil the roots pass the winter safely. But where frost prevails some protection, such as a small mound of litter, must be provided; the covering to be removed immediately the danger of frost is past. The most favourable time for planting is the autumn, but during open weather the roots may be put in up to the end of March. It is usual to plant in clumps at a depth of about three inches, allowing a distance of six inches between the corms. As they may remain undisturbed for several years the spacing will permit them to spread and produce masses of their graceful flowers.
Narcissi and Daffodils differ from Hyacinths, Tulips, and some other bulbs in one particular which is important, because it furnishes the key to the management of these flowers. The rootlets do not perish during the season of rest, and this fact clearly indicates that the bulbs should not remain out of ground for a day longer than is necessary.
Culture in Pots.—All the Polyanthus class, and almost all the Garden varieties, thrive in pots, and can be forced with extreme ease. Pot them early in any rich, porous compost, and put them into the soil a little deeper than is usual for Hyacinths. For a few weeks keep them in a cool spot in the open ground under a thick covering of ashes to promote root-growth without prematurely starting the tops. With all bulbs this is an important point, especially for such as are intended to be brought forward in heat. When the pots are full of roots, leaf-growth will commence, and the covering should be removed. A cool pit is then the best place for them. The after-treatment will depend entirely on the date the flowers are wanted. A low temperature, long continued, means late flowering, so that within reasonable limits the grower can control the time of their appearance. For the earliest display select the Roman and Paper White, which are naturally early-blooming varieties. After a few days in a cool pit, transfer to the greenhouse, and about a week or ten days before they are needed in flower plunge them in a brisk bottom heat, and give plenty of water of the proper temperature. The forcing should not begin until the plants are sufficiently advanced, or it will injure the flowers in both size and colour. Weak manure water will be beneficial occasionally, but when the blossoms begin to open this must be discontinued, and at the same time the heat should be diminished.
A succession of Narcissi for indoor decoration can be secured by starting batches at intervals of two or three weeks; and by moderating the treatment as the season advances, the last lot will flower naturally without artificial stimulus. Large bulbs should be potted singly, but several roots of the smaller sorts may be put into one pot. Heavy heads of bloom will need support, and there is nothing neater than the wires which are made expressly for the purpose.
Culture in Moss-fibre.—The lightsome charm of Narcissi and Daffodils is never seen to greater advantage than when these are grown in bowls of fibre for the decoration of rooms. Well-filled bowls of Daffodils are as delightful indoors as are sturdy clumps nodding over grass or Polyanthuses in the open air. The cultural routine is clean, pleasant, and full of interest. The bowls are chosen with care, the fibre is well saturated by repeated turning and moistening (this is essential to success), enough crushed oyster shell is incorporated to make the compost glisten brightly through and through, the mixture is pressed into the bowl until it is firm without being hard, the bulbs are half embedded, a few pieces of charcoal are pushed in here and there, the bowls are put in a dark place for six weeks or so, and the rest is merely to see that the fibre never gets dry.
Culture in Water.—For growing in glasses no other bulbous flower is equal to the Narcissus. Darkness at the outset is not essential to it, and therefore the gradual development of the roots may be observed from the time they start; and contact with water will do no harm to the bulb. The glasses should, however, be kept in a low and fairly uniform temperature, to discourage the growth of foliage until the bulbs have fully formed their roots. Pure rain water is desirable, but it is not actually necessary; and for the sake of appearances, as well as on the score of health, it should be changed immediately it ceases to be quite transparent. Those who do not care to observe the growth in glasses, but like to have the plants in water during the blooming period, may grow the bulbs in pots in the usual way, and wash off the soil when wanted. In this case the roots will not be quite so regular as those which have been wholly grown in water. Perhaps we need scarcely say that it is possible to utilise this flower in many other ways—such, for instance, as in decorating epergnes, glass globes, and fancy vases. They may also be made to float on a small fountain or aquarium; indeed, it is surprising to what varied and effective purposes a little ingenuity will adapt them.
Culture in Open Ground.—For this purpose the Narcissus will always command attention for its graceful appearance; and this observation applies with as much force to the Polyanthus section, when thus used, as to the varieties which are specially recognised as Garden Narcissus. The latter class includes many old favourites, among which is the Pheasant's Eye—one of the most exquisite flowers grown in our gardens.
The Narcissus is often used for bedding with superb effect. The graceful habit, which is one of its principal charms, is very striking in large masses, and its elegant appearance in the positions for which it is naturally suited cannot fail to arrest attention. Beneath trees, by the side of a shady walk, in front of shrubberies, or in the mixed border, the Narcissus is thoroughly at home.
If possible, choose a position where the bulbs need not be disturbed for several years, and plant them early. When the spot they are to occupy happens to be full, pot the bulbs until the ground is vacant, and in due time turn them out. A southern or western aspect is desirable, but the nature of the soil is comparatively unimportant, provided it is dry when the bulbs are in their resting state. In sour land or in stagnant water they will certainly rot, but a touch of sea spray will not injure them. If the soil needs enriching, there is no better material than decayed cow-manure, which may be incorporated as the work goes on, or it can be applied as a top-dressing. Those which are evidently weak may be assisted with a few doses of manure water, not too strong.
In planting groups, put the smaller bulbs four or five inches, and the larger sorts from six to nine inches apart; depth, six to nine inches, according to size. Where exposed to a strong wind, it may be necessary to give the flowers some kind of support to save them from injury.
The Double and Single Daffodils are now in marked public favour and their bright colours make them extremely useful for beds and borders. For planting under and among trees they are invaluable, and a sufficient number should always be put in to produce an immediate effect. They thrive in damp, shady spots, and every three or four years it will be necessary to divide and replant them.
The Chinese Sacred Lily (Narcissus Tazetta).—The popular name of this flower is misleading. It is not a Lily, but a Narcissus of the Polyanthus type, and, like others of the same class, the bulbs may be successfully grown in soil or in water. But Narcissus Tazetta has proved to be singularly beautiful in water, and the management of it entails very little trouble. A wide bowl of Japanese pattern is appropriate for the purpose, and to obtain the best effect the bowl should be partially filled with a number of plain or ornamental stones, with a few pieces of charcoal to keep the water sweet. On the top, and so that they will be held by the stones, place one or more bulbs: pour in water until it covers the base of the bulbs. Store in a dark cool cellar until the roots have started and the leaves begin to appear; then remove to the room where the ornament is wanted. Occasionally the water must be replenished. The development of the flower-heads is surprisingly rapid, and a large bulb generally produces several clusters of sweetly scented flowers. But if the bulbs are forced too quickly the blossoms are sometimes crippled.
Star of Bethlehem
During the month of June O. arabicum produces heads of pure white fragrant flowers, each having a green centre. The roots are large and fleshy, and should be planted in the autumn six inches deep. A sheltered position, such as under a south wall, is desirable for them, and some protection in the form of dry litter, or a heap of light manure, will be necessary to carry the roots safely through severe winter weather. The bulbs are frequently potted for indoor decoration. Another variety, O. umbellatum, with pure white starry flowers, makes an attractive show in May, and is valuable for naturalising in clumps or masses in the border.
These frame plants are suitable for the cool greenhouse or for forcing, and they are adapted also for the open border in peculiarly favourable districts. They are particularly neat and cheerful, flowering abundantly, and requiring only the most ordinary treatment of frame plants. In winter they should be kept dry. The 48-sized pot is suitable, and about five bulbs may be planted in each, using light soil freely mixed with sand.
To maintain a collection of named Ranunculuses demands skill and patience, but a few of the most brilliant self-coloured, spotted and striped varieties may be easily grown, if a cool, deep, rich, moist soil can be provided for them. The best soil for the Ranunculus is a loam or clay in which the common field Buttercup grows freely and plentifully. The situation should be open, the bed well pulverised, and the soil effectively drained, both to promote a vigorous growth and, as far as possible, to save the plants from injury by wireworms, leather-jackets, and other ground vermin. Elaborate modes of manuring, such as mixing several sorts of manure together in mystical proportions, are altogether unnecessary, but a good dressing of rotten manure and leaf-mould should be dug in before planting, and if the soil is particularly heavy, sharp sand must be added. The roots may be planted in November and December in gardens where vegetation does not usually suffer from damp in winter; but where there is any reason to apprehend danger from damp, the planting should be deferred until February, and should be completed within the first twenty days of that month, if weather permit. Prepare a fine surface to plant on, and draw drills six inches apart and two inches deep, and place the tubers, claws downwards, in the drills, four inches apart, covering them with sifted soil before drawing the earth back to the drill. Rake the bed smooth, and the planting is completed. To keep free from weeds, and to give plentiful supplies of water in dry weather, are the two principal features of the summer cultivation. When the flowers are past, and the leaves begin to fade, take up the roots, dry them in a cool place, and store in peat or cocoa-nut fibre.
Turban Ranunculus.—This class is remarkably handsome, of hardier constitution and freer growth than the edged and spotted varieties. For the production of masses of colour, and to form showy clumps in the borders, the Turban varieties are of the utmost value. They require a good loam, well manured, and the general treatment advised for the named varieties; but as they are not so delicate they will thrive under less congenial conditions.
The Blue Squill may be grown in exactly the same manner as the Roman Hyacinth for indoor decoration, and it makes a charming companion to that flower. It is perfectly hardy, and for its deep, lovely blue should be largely grown in the open border, where it appears to especial advantage in conjunction with Snowdrops. It is also valuable for filling small beds, and for making marginal lines in the geometric garden.
The Scilla praecox, or sibirica, thrives on the mountains of North Italy, where masses of it may be seen growing close to the snow, and in this country it withstands wind and rain which would be the ruin of many another flower. Still we like to see it in a sheltered border, where it has a fair chance of displaying its beauty without much risk of injury. In such a position it will flower in February, and in the bleakest quarter it will open in March. It is not at all fastidious as to soil, but when planted will give no further trouble until the foliage withers, and it is time to lift the bulbs to make way for other occupants. If convenient, the roots may remain for years in one spot.
The Scilla campanulata deserves more attention than it has hitherto received. After almost all other spring-flowering bulbs are over, it makes a beautiful display, which lasts until nearly the end of May. It somewhat resembles the wild Blue-bell, but is much larger than that woodland flower.
Snowdrops are among the hardiest flowers known to our gardens, and are invaluable for their welcome snow-white bells in the earliest days of the opening spring. They should be planted in clumps, and left alone for years. The double-flowering variety is exquisitely beautiful: we might, indeed, speak of it as a bit of floral jewellery. The flowers are bell-shaped, closely packed with petals, like so many microscopic petticoats arranged for the 'tiring' of a fairy: they are snow-white and sometimes delicately tipped with light green. This variety is as hardy as the single, and the best for growing in baskets and pots. When employed in lines the planting ought to be very close together, and the line should be composed of several rows, making, in fact, a broad band. Such a ribbon when backed with Scilla sibirica is very beautiful. The best way of displaying the Snowdrop alone is in large groups densely crowded together. The effect is much more telling than when the same number of bulbs is spread over a larger area. Put the roots in drills, two inches deep, and if possible in a spot where they need not be disturbed for two or three years. Snowdrops may be grown in pots, and be gently forced for Christmas. But unless wanted very early, it will answer to lift clumps from the border in November and pot them.
See instructions under Ixia at page 338.
TIGRIDIA, or FERRARIA
The short-lived blossoms of the Tiger Flower are most gorgeously painted, and differ from everything else of the great family of Irids to which they belong. Much finer flowers are produced in the border than when grown in pots, and they present great variety, scarcely any two amongst hundreds showing flowers exactly alike. The usual time of planting outdoors is March or April, at a depth of three or four inches, and the flowers appear in June. Sandy loam and peaty soils are especially suitable. Although Tigridias are not quite hardy they will on a dry border pass the winter securely beneath a protection of litter. But where the soil is damp it is safer to lift them in October and store in the same manner as Gladioli. A bed of Tigridias makes an agreeable ornament in front of the window of a breakfast-room, as the flowers are in a brilliant state in the early hours of the day.
This little gem belongs to the spring garden, and should be the companion of the Dog's-tooth Violet, the Crocus, and the Snowdrop. It will grow in any soil, and will produce an abundance of its violet-tinted white flowers, which, when handled, emit a faint odour of garlic. As a pot plant for the Alpine house it is first-rate. In the open, plant in October two inches deep.
Tritonias are more showy than the Ixia or Sparaxis, but belong to the same group of South African Irids, and require the same treatment. They may be planted out in April, if prepared for that mode of cultivation by putting them in small pots in November or December. It is not advisable to tie them to sticks, for they are more elegant when allowed to fall over the edge of the pots, and suggest the 'negligence of Nature.'
T. tuberosum.—A few of the tuberous-rooted Tropaeolums are hardy, but it is not wise to leave them in the ground, for damp may destroy them, if they are proof against frost. They are all graceful trailing plants, adapted for covering wire trellises, and may be flowered at any season if required, though their natural season is the summer. The compost in which they thrive best is a light rich loam, containing a large proportion of sand. The stems are usually trained on wires, but they may be allowed to fall down from a pot or basket with excellent effect, to form a most attractive tracery of leafage dotted with dazzling flowers. The sunniest part of the greenhouse should be devoted to the Tropaeolums, and special care should be taken in potting them to secure ample drainage.
T. speciosum.—This showy variety is quite hardy, and is largely grown in Scotland where it may frequently be seen on cottage walls. The roots may be planted in either spring or autumn, and a moist, somewhat shaded position best suits the plant.
This bulb is extensively grown in the South of France for the delicious perfume obtainable from its numerous pure white flowers. In this country it is widely known, but considering the beauty and exceeding fragrance of the blossoms it is astonishing that a greater number are not planted every season. Perhaps the fact that the bulbs are valueless after the first year may in a measure account for the comparatively limited culture. They are easily flowered as pot plants in a mixture of loam and leaf-mould, plunged in a bottom heat ranging between 60 deg. and 70 deg.. The growth is rather tall, and unless kept near the glass the stems become unsightly in length.
Culture in Pots.—When grown in pots, Tulips are treated in precisely the same manner as the Hyacinth, but several bulbs, according to their size and the purpose they are intended for, are placed in a pot. When required to fill epergnes and baskets, and other elegant receptacles, it is a good plan to grow them in shallow boxes, as recommended for Crocuses, and transfer them when in flower to the vases and baskets. This mode of procedure insures exactitude of height and colouring, whereas, when the bulbs are grown from the first in the ornamental vessels, they may not flower with sufficient uniformity to produce a satisfactory display. In common with the Hyacinth and Crocus, Tulips may be taken out of the soil in which they have been grown, and after washing the roots clean, they can be inserted in glasses for decorating an apartment. Early Tulips are often employed in this way to light up festive gatherings at Christmas and the early months of the year. But the pot culture of Tulips need not be restricted to the early varieties. The Darwin and May-flowering classes are also admirable when grown in this way, but it is important they should not be hurried into bloom. If placed in moderate heat and allowed ample time to develop, beautiful long-stemmed flowers may be had in March which will make a charming decoration for the drawing-room or the dinner-table.
Culture in Moss-fibre.—No bulb excels the Tulip in adaptability for bowl culture, given the treatment suggested for Narcissi and Daffodils on page 345, and particularly with respect to moisture.
Culture in the Open Ground.—For general usefulness the early Tulips are the most valuable of all, because of their peculiarly accommodating nature, their many and brilliant colours, and their suitability for the formation of rich masses in the flower garden. Any good soil will suit them, and they may be planted in quantities under trees if the position enjoys some amount of sunshine, because they will have finished their growth before the leafage of the trees shades them injuriously. If it is necessary to prepare or improve the soil for them, the aim should be to render it rich and sandy, and sufficiently drained to avoid a boggy character in winter. Plant in October or November, four or five inches deep, and six inches apart. The roots require no water and no supports, and may all be taken up and stored away in good time for the usual summer display of bedding plants. For geometric planting it is important to select the varieties with care, but a most interesting border may be made by planting clumps of all the best sorts of the several classes. The result will be a long-continued and splendid display, beginning with the 'Van Thols' (which are as hardy as any), following with the early class in almost endless variety, and finishing with the noble Darwin and May-flowering sections. The last named include a very large number of extremely handsome flowers, and their lasting beauty is of especial value at a season of the year when spring blooms are over and summer plants have scarcely begun to make a show.
As cut flowers Tulips are worthy of special attention. With very little care they not only maintain their full beauty in vases for a fortnight, but some of them actually increase in brilliancy of colouring. The May-flowering classes are perhaps the most appreciated for cutting, because of their great length of stem and the enduring character of the flowers. They are extremely beautiful in tall vases.
This brilliant plant is nearly hardy in the Southern counties, and a cool greenhouse plant where it cannot be grown in the open border. To produce fine specimens a firm loamy soil is necessary, with abundance of water all the summer, and moderate supplies all the winter. The bulbs flower more freely when somewhat pot-bound. Therefore they should not be re-potted too often. Under these conditions feeding with clear liquid manure is necessary once a week from the time the flower-buds show until they begin to open. To dry off the bulb may weaken or kill it. Those who cannot cultivate the Amaryllis will find the Vallota an excellent substitute.
VIOLET, DOG'S-TOOTH—see page 327
The Winter Aconite is the very 'firstling' of the year, for it blooms in advance of the Snowdrop, covering the ground with gilt spangles in the bleakest days of February. Any soil or situation will suit it, and it should be planted in large patches where a winter's walk in the garden affords pleasure. It should also be grown in quantity within view from the windows, for the benefit of those who, in the dreary season, cannot get out. The bulbs may be left in the ground for several years, or they may be taken up and stored after the leaves have perished.
Flower of the West Wind
A dwarf white Crocus-like flower, with foliage resembling the common Rush on a small scale. Plant in clumps from November to March in borders, and it will commence blooming about the end of July, and continue in flower until frost cuts it down. Any soil will suit this plant, and it thrives for several years if left undisturbed.
FLOWERS ALL THE YEAR ROUND FROM SEEDS AND ROOTS
Before proceeding to the duties which need attention in successive months of the year, it may be worth while to consider some of the points which constitute the alphabet of flower culture. To grow any plant in a pot is an artificial proceeding, and the conditions for its sustenance and health have to be provided. Among these conditions are temperature and accommodation. It is useless to attempt to grow flowers which require heat unless that necessity can be met. And it is equally useless to pot more plants than the space will accommodate when they attain their full size. A limited number, well grown, will produce a greater wealth of bloom, of finer quality, than a larger number which become feeble from deficiency of space for development. Nevertheless, there are many varieties raised in heat in the early months of the year which can be grown and flowered in the most satisfactory manner, without any kind of artificial aid, from sowings made in the open ground during April or May. The flowering will be somewhat later than from plants brought forward under glass; but as they receive no check from the very commencement, they will not be greatly behind their nursed relations; and they may even excel them in robust beauty, if they are treated intelligently and with a generous hand.
Good Soil for pot plants is not always obtainable at a reasonable cost, and sometimes the materials at hand must be made to serve the purpose. None the less is it true, that in proportion to the skill and experience of the cultivator will be his desire to secure a supply of loam, peat, and leaf-mould. Those who are capable of turning poor soil to the best account are precisely the men who will be most anxious to obtain the materials which are known to promote the luxuriant growth of pot plants.
The top spit of an old pasture makes capital potting soil. If taken from light land, it need only be stacked for one year before use. A heavy loam should be kept for at least two seasons, and in any case the heap should be turned and re-made several times. A slight sprinkling of soot between the layers of soil will be beneficial, and help to make it distasteful to grubs, wireworms, and other vermin. The frequent turning of the heap will not be wasted labour, for it equalises the quality, and tends to sweeten the whole by exposing new surfaces to the atmosphere; and this is a great aid to healthy growth.
Many plants thrive in peat, or in soil of which peat is a constituent, and some flowers cannot be grown without it. The peat may have to be purchased from a distance, but there is no difficulty in obtaining it.
A constant supply of decayed leaf-mould may possibly be arranged on the spot by sweeping up leaves and making a fresh heap every fall. In due time these leaves will decay and make useful potting soil. If this is out of the question, the requisite quantity must be purchased.
The preparation of soil for pot plants is frequently postponed until the day on which it is actually required. This is a bad practice, and results too often in the use of an improper proportion of the materials, and perhaps in their defective admixture. In this, as in all other operations connected with horticulture, the men who make all requisite arrangements in advance will achieve the highest results. In no pursuit of life is it more necessary to forecast coming wants than in the culture of flowers. We will suppose that three or four weeks hence many pots are to be filled with Primulas. The man who grows this flower with any degree of enthusiasm will not defer the preparation of the soil until the day arrives for potting the plants. He will determine in advance the proportions of loam, leaf-mould, and sand, have the whole thoroughly incorporated, and possibly sifted to remove stones. With these may come away some undecayed fibres, which make excellent material for laying over the crocks at the bottom of each pot. Forethought of this kind is certain of an ample reward.
Potting soil should also be in the right condition as to moisture. This is not easy to describe, but it must handle freely, and yet there should be no necessity for the immediate application of water after sowing seeds or planting bulbs. In the event of the compost being too dry, give it a soaking and allow it to rest for one or more days, according to the time of year and the state of the atmosphere.
Pots, new or old, should be soaked in water before use. They are very porous, and by absorbing moisture from the soil they may at once make it too dry, although in exactly the right condition before being placed in the pots. And old pots ought never to be used until they have been scrubbed quite clean. These may appear to be trivial matters, unworthy of attention. They have, however, an influence on the health of plants, and experienced growers know that a few apparent trifles make all the difference between success and failure. Pots which are dirty, or covered with green moss, prevent access of air, and tend to bring about a sickly growth. Cleanliness in horticulture is valuable for its own sake, and for the orderly routine it necessitates on the part of the cultivator.
Pots are known both by number and by size. They are sold by the 'cast,' and a cast always consists of the distinguishing number. The following are the numbers and sizes:—
Number in Cast Inches
72 Inside diameter across top 2-1/2 Small 60 " " 2-3/4 Mid. 60 " " 3 Large 60 " " 3-1/2 Small 54 " " 4 Large 54 " " 4-1/4 Small 48 " " 4-3/4 Large 48 " " 5 40 " " 5-1/2 32 " " 6-1/4 28 " " 7 24 " " 7-1/2 16 " " 8-1/2 12 " " 9-1/2 8 " " 11 6 " " 12-1/2 4 " " 14 2 " " 15-1/2 1 " " 18
Watering is sometimes conducted on the principle that the usual time has arrived, and therefore the plants must have water. But do they need it? Press the fingers firmly on the surface; if particles of soil adhere it is too dry. Or tap the pots smartly with the knuckles or with a stick, when a clear and unmistakable answer will be obtained. Plants differ widely in their demand for water. Some are very thirsty, others require less frequent attention. The season of the year and the state of the atmosphere have also to be considered, as well as the fact that a heavy soil is more retentive of moisture than a lighter compost. A watchful eye and a willing hand will seldom err on this point. The water should always be of the same temperature as the house, otherwise the plants will be constantly checked. A tank in the greenhouse meets this requirement. In its absence, the watering-pots should be kept full under the stage, and they will be ready when wanted.
In the open ground, it is better to water a few plots thoroughly for two or three successive evenings, and then have an interval, rather than moisten the surface daily. The effect of constantly applying small quantities of water is to encourage the surface growth of roots. Then, if the sun shines fiercely on the soil, the first day of neglect results in immense mischief.
Drainage is easily managed. Into each pot put a crock almost the size of the bottom, with the convex side upwards. There need be no niggling to remove sharp angles, or to make the fragment shapely. Cover this with smaller crocks, and these with moss, or in some cases with small pieces of charcoal. If the compost has a proper admixture of sharp sand or grit, free drainage will be insured, and yet the soil cannot be washed through the pot. Silver sand is often employed, and there is nothing better for the purpose. But the sweepings from gravel walks, finely sifted, may be substituted. Road grit is often infested with weed seeds.
Ventilation is important, for a house full of plants cannot long be kept closed with impunity. The lights should be opened whenever the state of the weather may permit, and by doing this on the side opposite to the quarter whence the wind blows it is frequently safe to give air when it may be dangerous from other points of the compass; and it should be done early in the day, before the sun gets hot. Often the lights remain closed on a sunny morning until the atmosphere becomes stifling; and then perhaps plants which have been made sensitive by excess of heat are subjected to a killing draught.
In managing Temperature, there should be no violent alternations of heat and cold, for these bring speedy disaster; and, it is unwise to employ more heat than is actually necessary. Deviations from this rule are generally traceable to neglect. If the proper season for sowing seed of some important flower has been allowed to pass, an attempt is made to compensate for lost time by hurrying the growth in a forcing temperature. Every needless degree of heat will be harmful, and result in attenuated growth, poverty of colour, or in the attack of some insect plague which the weakly plant seldom invites in vain. It is wise always to employ the lowest temperature in which plants will flourish. This necessitates the proper time for their full development, and will result in a sturdy growth capable of yielding a bountiful display of bloom. Occasionally it is requisite to force some special subject, such as bulbs for Christmas festivities. Even then it is advisable to augment the temperature very gradually, and to defer the employment of its highest power until the latest possible moment.
Plants are frequently taken straight from the forcing pit into a cold room, to their utter ruin. A moment's reflection will show the folly of such a proceeding. They should be prepared for the change by gradual transfer through lower temperatures; and if only a few hours are occupied in the process it will help them to pass the ordeal with less injury.
It should be an established custom to examine the seed-pans at least once every day, and morning is the best time for the task. If work has to be done, there is the whole day to arrange for its accomplishment. Whereas, if the visit is not made until evening, there may not remain sufficient daylight to do what is necessary. Just as seedlings are starting, a few hours' neglect will render them weak and leggy.
When transferring plants from seed-pans, it is usual to put them round the edges of pots. This is no mere caprice, but is founded on the well-ascertained fact that seedlings establish their roots with greater readiness near the edge of the pot than away from it.
In the following monthly notes, our principal object is to offer a series of reminders which will insure the sowing of various flower seeds and the planting of bulbs at their proper periods, and thus save the disappointment of losing some important display for a whole season. Those who have command of large resources will sow certain seeds a month earlier than we recommend, and their intimate knowledge and abundant facilities justify their practice. But we have especially in view the possibilities for an amateur, and of gardens moderate in extent, where appliances may not be of the most perfect kind.
When seeds are once sown or bulbs potted, the work is before the cultivator, and appeals mutely for attention. Therefore it is not our purpose to give detailed and continuous instructions month by month for every flower. Our remarks are limited to hints at the time for sowing or planting, and to some few points which may subsequently appear to demand notice.
For convenience of reference, the subjects are presented alphabetically under each month.
In the open ground there is little or nothing of interest in the way of flowers, but the greenhouses and pits are full of promise. A constant watch must be kept on the barometer, and the materials for repelling frost or bleak winds should be at perfect command, so that there may be ample provision for saving plants from biting weather.
Achimenes are stove bulbs and cannot be grown without a sufficiency of heat. A warm greenhouse will answer for them, and some gardeners produce fair specimens in frames over hot-beds. The bulbs will lie dormant for a considerable time, so that it is easy to have a succession of flowers. A few should be started in January, employing sandy loam for the pots. Follow up with others at intervals.
Amaryllis may be sown in any month of the year, but the most satisfactory period is immediately after the seed is ripened, and it is advisable to put one seed only in each small pot. The slow and irregular germination of the finest new seed makes the separate system almost a necessity. A rich compost, well-drained pots, and a temperature of about 65 deg. suit these plants.
Anemone.—See remarks under October.
Antirrhinums raised in heat now will flower from July onwards. Prick off the seedlings, and gradually harden for planting out in May. There are dwarf, medium, and tall varieties, of many beautiful colours.
Begonia, Tuberous-rooted.—The grace and beauty of this plant have placed it in the front rank of popular favourites. For the foliage alone it is worth growing, and the flowers are unique in both form and colour. Raising plants from seed is not only the least expensive process, but it possesses all the charm arising from the hope of some novelty which shall eclipse previously known varieties. As a matter of fact, new attractions either in colour or in habit are introduced almost every year. From a sowing made now plants should flower in July and August.
The seed is small, and requires careful handling. It is also slow and capricious in germinating, and many growers have their own pet methods of starting it. Good results are obtained by insuring free drainage, and partly filling the pots with rather rough fibrous compost, covered with a layer of fine sandy loam made even for a seed-bed. This is sprinkled with water, and the seed is sown very thinly. Some experienced growers make a rather loose surface, press the seed gently into it, and do not finish with a covering of soil. The majority, however, will find it safer to give a slight sifting of fine earth over the seed. Then comes a trial of patience, and as the seedlings appear at intervals, the wisdom of thin sowing will be apparent, for each one can be lifted and potted as it becomes ready, without wasting the remainder. An even temperature of about 65 deg. is essential during germination.
Begonia bulbs which have been stored through the winter will need careful watching. Not until they start naturally should there be any attempt to induce growth, or in all probability it will result in the destruction of the bulb. Such as show signs of life should be potted in good soil, commencing with small pots, and shifting into larger sizes as the pots become full of roots. Until the final size is reached, remove all flowers. A warm humid atmosphere is favourable to them while growing, but when flowering begins moisture will be injurious.
Begonia, Fibrous-rooted, may also be sown at the end of this month or in February, and again early in March. Under similar treatment to that advised for Tuberous-rooted Begonias, the plants will be ready in June for transfer to beds or as an edging to borders.
Canna.—From the popular name of Indian Shot it will naturally be inferred that the seed is extremely hard and spherical. It needs soaking in water for about twenty-four hours before sowing. Even then it will probably be a considerable time in germinating, and there will also be variable intervals between the appearance of the seedlings. A high temperature is necessary to insure a start; but after the young plants are transferred to single pots, they should be kept steadily going in a more moderate heat until ready for the border or sub-tropical garden in June. Meanwhile they will need re-potting two or three times, and should have a rich and rather stiff compost.
Carnation.—Seed of the early-flowering class should be sown in heat during this month and again in February. With very little trouble, plants can be brought forward and transferred to the open ground, where they will give a splendid display in about six months from the date of sowing.
Chrysanthemums of the large-flowering perennial type can easily be raised from seed. If sown during this month or in February in a moderate heat, the plants will flower the first season. Pot the seedlings immediately they are ready, then harden, and put them out of doors as early as may be safe. This treatment will keep them dwarf and robust. Seedlings should not be stopped, but be allowed to grow quite naturally.
Cinerarias should have air whenever it is possible. Choose the middle of the day for watering, and do not slop the water about carelessly, or mildew may result. In houses which are not lighted all round, the plants should be turned regularly to prevent them from facing one way. Such specimens are worthless for the dinner-table, and will be diminished in value for decorating the drawing-room.
Cyclamens are still in the height of their beauty. The pots have become so full of roots that ordinary watering partially fails of its purpose. An occasional immersion of the pots for about half an hour will result in marked benefit to the plants. The flowers, when taken from the corm, should be lifted by a smart pull. If cut, the stems bleed and exhaust the root.
Where a succession of this flower is valued, a sowing should be made in this month. Dibble the seed, an inch apart and a quarter of an inch deep, in pots or pans firmly filled with rich porous soil; and place in heat of not less than 56 deg. and not exceeding 70 deg.; the less the temperature varies the better. Cyclamen seed is both slow and irregular in germinating, and sometimes proves a sore trial even to those who are blessed with patience. As the seedlings become ready transfer to small pots, and shift on as growth demands, always keeping the crown of the corm free from soil. The increasing power of the sun will render shading essential; yet a position near the glass is most advantageous to the plants.
Freesia.—This elegant and delicately perfumed flower is annually raised in large numbers from seed. From this month to March sowings may be made in heat, and as the roots are extremely brittle, re-potting is a delicate operation.
Gesnera.—Those who have once grown this handsome conservatory plant will not afterwards consent to be without it. The richly marked foliage contrasts admirably with the flowers. Sow in the manner advised for Gloxinia, and the two plants may be grown in the same house.
Gloxinia.—From two or three sowings, and by a little management, it is easy to have a supply of this magnificent flower in every month of the year. Sow thinly in new pots filled with a light porous compost, and see that the drainage is exceptionally good. Give the pots a warm moist position, and a light sprinkling of water daily will assist germination. The first seedlings that are ready should be lifted and pricked off without disturbing the remainder of the soil. Follow up the process until all are transferred. Although the leaves may rest on the surface, the hearts should never be covered. Pot off singly when large enough, and shift on until the 48-size is reached. For ordinary plants this is large enough, but extra fine specimens need more pot room, and so long as increased space is given the flowering will be deferred. Between the plants there must be a clear space or the leaves will decay through contact. While growing, a moist atmosphere, with a temperature of 60 deg. or 65 deg., will suit them; but immediately flowering commences, humidity is a source of mischief. The most forward plants from this month's sowing will, if well treated, begin to flower in June.
Grevillea robusta.—Seed of this exceedingly handsome shrub may be sown at any time of the year, and the pots containing it must be kept moist until the seedlings appear. How long it will be before they become visible we cannot tell. Germination may not occur until hope has died, and the pots have been contemptuously relegated to some obscure corner. But after the young plants are pricked off, they will give no trouble, except to re-pot them two or three times, and to take care that they do not perish for want of water.
Hollyhock.—This stately border flower is occasionally grown and flowered as an annual, and some gardeners succeed in producing satisfactory plants, carrying fine double blossoms, superb in colour and of noble proportions. Where this method is possible it is necessary to sow in the opening month of the year, and to use well-drained pots or seed-pans. Cover the seed with a sprinkling of fine soil, and place in a temperature of 65 deg. or 700. In about a fortnight the seedlings will be ready for pricking off round the edges of 4 1/2-inch pots. But as a rule the finest spikes are obtained from a sowing in July or August.
Petunia.—About the third week of this month a sowing should be made to produce plants for indoor decoration. Late in February or early in March will be soon enough to prepare for bedding stuff. Sow thinly in good porous soil, and give the pots or pans a temperature of about 60 deg.. They should have a little extra attention just as the seed is germinating, for that is a critical time with Petunias. Uniformity in temperature and moisture, with shade when necessary, and plenty of pot room, are the secrets of success in growing these plants.
Statice.—The Sea Lavenders make attractive border subjects, but the sprays of flowers are probably still more valued for cutting and, when dried, for the winter decoration of vases in association with Everlastings. Seed of the half-hardy varieties may be sown from January to March in gentle heat, transferring the plants to the open in due course.
Verbena.—This flower should be grown with as little artificial aid as possible. In fact, the more nearly it is treated as a hardy plant the more vigorous and free blooming will it be. A temperature of 60 deg. is sufficient to raise the seed at this period of the year; and after the plants are established in pots, heat may be gradually dispensed with. Sow in pans or boxes filled with rich, mellow, and very sweet soil. Transfer to thumb pots when large enough, and give one more shift as growth demands, until the plants are ready for bedding out in May. There is a choice of distinct colours, which come true from seed. Green fly is very partial to the Verbena, especially while in pots; it must be kept down, or the seedlings will make no progress.
A Considerable number of important flowers should be sown during this month. The precise dates depend on the district, the character of the season, and the resources of the cultivator. Should the month open with frost, or with rough, wet weather, it will be wise to exercise a little patience. Where there are insufficient means for battling with sudden variations of temperature, choose the end rather than the beginning of the month for starting tender subjects. Govern the work by intelligent observation, instead of following hard and fast rules. But in no case should fear of the weather form an excuse for the postponement of necessary work.
Annuals and Biennials, Hardy.—It is one of the merits of hardy annuals and biennials sown in late summer for blooming in the following spring that they need very little attention. Still, they ought not to be entirely neglected. They should be kept scrupulously free from weeds, and it may be evident that a mulch of decayed manure is necessary to protect and strengthen them for a rich display of colour in the spring. Such varieties as have to be transplanted should be watched, and the first suitable opportunity seized for transferring them to flowering positions.
Abutilon is a flowering greenhouse shrub which answers well under the treatment of an annual. It does not need a forcing temperature at any stage, nor is the plant fastidious as to soil. The seed, which is both slow and irregular in germinating, may be sown in pots. As the young plants become ready they should be pricked off and kept steadily growing. When leaves drop, it indicates mismanagement, perhaps starvation. A well-grown specimen, when the buds show, will be two feet high, and bear examination all round.
Anemone.—Against the practice of planting roots of this elegant flower we have not a word to say. On the contrary, there is much to be advanced in its favour. Arrangements of colour can be secured which are impossible of attainment from seedlings. Still, there can be no doubt that the supposed necessity of depending alone on bulbs has proved a barrier to the growth of Anemones in many gardens, and on a large scale. The culture from seed is of the simplest character, no appliances whatever beyond those at the command of the cottager being needed. The prime requisite is a rich moist soil. Where this does not exist naturally, a liberal dressing of mellow cow-manure, and, in dry weather, a diligent employment of the water-can, will render it possible to grow superb flowers of brilliant colour. The best way of making the seed-bed is to open a trench, putting a layer of decayed manure at the bottom, and mingling a further quantity with the soil when it is returned. The addition of some light compost or sand to the surface may or may not be necessary to prepare it for the seed. We prefer sowing in rows and lightly scratching the seed in. Some growers only sift a little sand over, and the practice answers well. Weeds must be removed with care until the seedlings appear, and these are a long time in coming. Thinning to six inches apart, and keeping the bed clean and moist, constitute the whole remainder of the work of growing Anemones.
Aquilegia sown this month in a frame will produce plants which may flower later in the year, provided the season is favourable; but they will certainly pay for this early sowing in the succeeding spring. The plant is quite hardy, therefore seed may be sown later on in the open for a display in the following year.
Asparagus (Greenhouse foliage varieties).—The finely feathered sprays of A. plumosus have become indispensable for bouquets, buttonholes, and general decorative purposes. A. decumbens and A. Sprengeri are most graceful plants in hanging-baskets. Seed of the three varieties should be sown in heat in either February or March.
Auricula.—The Show Auricula is one of the reigning beauties of the floral world, and, like the Rose, has its own special exhibitions. Although the flower merits all the admiration it receives, yet it must be confessed that some amateurs indulge in a great deal of needless coddling in the work of raising it. One quality there must be in the grower, and that is patience; for seed saved from a single plant in any given season, and sown at one time, will germinate in the most irregular manner. Months may elapse between the appearance of the first and the last plant. The lesson to sow thinly is obvious, so that the seedlings may be lifted as they become ready, without disturbing the surrounding soil. Both the Show and the Alpine varieties should be sown in pans filled with a mixture of sweet sandy loam and leaf-mould. They may be started in gentle heat, but this is quite optional. The Auricula is thoroughly hardy against cold, and glass is only employed as a protection against wind, heavy rain, and atmospheric deposits.
Begonia, Tuberous-rooted.—Seed may still be sown for a summer display. Transplant seedlings which are ready, and later on pot them singly.
Calceolaria, Shrubby.—Seeds sown in pans placed in a frame or a greenhouse of moderate temperature will insure plants for outdoor summer decoration. Transfer the seedlings to pots quite early.
Campanula.—By sowing seed in gentle heat during February many of the Campanulas will flower the same season. These hardy plants require but little heat, and they should be given as much light and air as possible. They may be grown on in pots for the decoration of rooms or the conservatory, or planted out on good ground in the open border. The half-hardy trailing variety, C. fragilis, is specially adapted for suspended baskets or large vases. Seed is generally sown in February or March; when ready the seedlings are transferred to pots.
Celosia plumosa.—Seed may be sown either now or in March, and the routine recommended for Cockscombs will develop splendid plumes. Re-pot in good time to prevent the roots from growing through the bottoms of the pots.
Cockscomb.—The ideal Cockscomb is a dwarf, well-furnished plant, with large, symmetrical, and intensely coloured combs. Seed of a first-class strain will produce a fair proportion of such plants in the hands of a man who understands their treatment. Sow in seed-pans filled with rich, sweet, friable loam, and place in a brisk temperature. Transfer the seedlings very early to small pots, and shift on until the size is reached in which they are to flower. Directly they become root-bound the combs will be formed.
Cosmea.—To prevent the disappointment which is sometimes experienced by growers of this attractive half-hardy annual, it is essential to sow a reliable early-flowering strain. Start the seed on a gentle hot-bed in February and plant out the seedlings in May or June when the danger from frost is past.
Dahlia.—Both the double and single classes can be grown and flowered from seed as half-hardy annuals. A sowing in this month will supply plants sufficiently forward to bloom at the usual time. Some growers begin in January, and provided they have room and the work can be followed up without risking a check at any stage, no objection can be raised to the practice. For most gardens, however, February is safer, and March will not be too late. Sow thinly in pots or pans filled with light rich soil, and finish with a very thin covering of fine leaf-mould. When the seedlings are about an inch high, pot them separately, taking special care of the weakly specimens, for these in point of colour may prove to be the gems of the collection. After transplanting, a little extra attention will help them to a fresh start.
Dianthus.—From sowings made this month or in January, all the varieties may be raised in about 55 deg. or 60 deg. of heat, but immediately the seed has germinated it is important to put the pots in a lower temperature, or the seedlings will become soft. They should also be transferred to seed-pans when large enough to handle.
Fuchsia.—It is now widely known that Fuchsias can be satisfactorily flowered from seed in six or seven months, and from a good strain there will be seedlings well worth growing. Sow thinly on a rich firm soil, and give the pots a temperature of about 70 deg.. While quite small transfer the plants to the edges of well-drained pots, and later on pot them singly into a compost consisting chiefly of leaf-mould until the flowering size is reached, when a proportion of decayed cow-manure should be added. The Fuchsia is a gross feeder, and must have abundance of food and water. Aphis and thrips are persistent enemies of this plant, and will need constant attention.
Geranium seed may be sown at any time of the year, but there are good reasons why the months of February and August should be chosen. Seedlings raised now will make fine plants by the end of June, and begin to flower in August. They are robust in habit, and from a reliable strain there will be a considerable proportion of handsome specimens. Sow in pans filled with soil somewhat rough in texture, and the surface need not be very smooth. Lightly cover the seed with fine loam. To have plants ready for flowering in the summer it will be necessary to give the seed-pans a temperature of 60 deg. or 70 deg., and follow the usual practice of pricking off and potting the seedlings.
Gladiolus.—It is not common to grow this noble flower from seed, but the task is simple, and seed good enough to be worth the experiment is obtainable. In large pots, well drained and filled with fibrous loam and leaf-mould, dibble the seeds separately an inch apart and half an inch deep. A temperature of 65 deg. or 70 deg. will bring them up, and when they reach an inch high the heat should be gradually reduced. The seedlings need not be transplanted, but may remain in the same pots until the grass dies down, and the corms are sifted out in September or October.
Gloxinia.—The directions under January are applicable, but it will be necessary to provide shade for the seedlings as the sun becomes hot, especially after they have been re-potted.
Kochia trichophylla.—A beautiful half-hardy ornamental annual shrub, symmetrical in form. From seed sown during this month or in March plants can easily be raised for indoor decoration or to furnish a supply for beds and borders. When well grown and allowed plenty of space from the beginning, each specimen forms a dense mass of bright green foliage which changes to russet-crimson in autumn.
Lobelias occupy a foremost place for bedding, and are sufficiently diversified to meet many requirements. Indeed, there is no other blue flower which can challenge its position. The compact class is specially adapted for edgings; the spreading varieties answer admirably in borders where a sharply defined line of colour is not essential; the gracilis strain has a charming effect in suspended baskets, window-boxes, and rustic work; and the ramosa section grows from nine to twelve inches high, producing large flowers. All these may be sown now as annuals, to produce plants for bedding out in May. Put the seed into sandy soil, and start the pans in a gentle heat.
Mimulus, if sown now and treated as a greenhouse annual, will flower in the first year. It is one of the thirstiest plants grown in this country, and must have unstinted supplies of water.
Nicotiana.—Where sub-tropical gardening is practised the Tobacco plant is indispensable. To develop its fine proportions there must be the utmost liberality of treatment from the commencement. Either in this month or early in March sow in rich soil, and place the pans in a warm house or pit. Put the seedlings early into small pots, and promote a rapid but sturdy growth, until the weather is warm enough for them in the open ground. The Nicotiana also makes an admirable pot plant for the conservatory or greenhouse, where it is especially valued for its delightful fragrance.
Pansy.—Although the Pansy will grow almost anywhere, a moist, rich soil, partially shaded from summer sun, is necessary to do the plant full justice. Many distinct colours are saved separately, and the quality of the seedlings is so good that propagation by cuttings is gradually declining. Sow thinly in pots or pans, and when the young plants have been pricked off, put them in a cool, safe corner until large enough for bedding out. The soil should be plentifully dressed with decayed cow-manure.
Pelargonium.—In raising seedling Pelargoniums, it is well to bear in mind that worthless seed takes just as much time and attention as does a first-class strain. The simplest greenhouse culture will suffice to bring the plants to perfection. A light sandy loam suits them, and the pots need not go beyond the 48-or at most the 32-size. Flowering will be deferred until re-potting ceases.
Petunia.—Towards the end of the month the seedlings raised in January for pot culture will be ready for transferring to seed-pans. It will also be time to sow for bedding plants, although the beginning of March is not too late.
Phlox Drummondii.—The attention devoted to this flower has made it one of the most varied and brilliant half-hardy annuals we possess. The grandiflora section includes numerous splendid bedding subjects which flower freely, and continue in bloom for a long period. These and others are also valuable as pot plants, and even in the greenhouse or conservatory they are conspicuous for their rich colours. All the varieties may be sown now in well-drained pans or shallow boxes. Press the seeds into good soil about an inch apart, and as a rule this will save transplanting; but if transplanting becomes necessary, take out alternate plants and put into other pans, or pot them separately. The remainder will then have room to grow until the time arrives for bedding out.
Polyanthus.—Either now or in March sow in pans filled with any fairly good potting soil, and do not be impatient about the germination of the seed. Many sowings of good seed have been thrown away because it was not known that the Polyanthus partakes of the slow and irregular characteristics of this class of plants. As the seedlings become ready, lift them carefully and transplant into pans or boxes, from which a little later they may be moved to any secluded corner of the border, until in September they are put into flowering quarters. While in the seed-pans they must be kept moist, although excessive watering is to be avoided. Should the summer prove dry, they will also need water when in the open ground.
Primroses of good colours are admirably adapted for indoor decoration, and there is no occasion to grow them in pots for the purpose. Lift the required number from the reserve border without exposing the roots; pot them, and place in a cool frame until established. Plenty of space, no more water than is absolutely essential, and progressive ventilation, comprise all the needful details of cultivation. Seed sown in this month or in March, in pans or boxes, will produce fine plants for flowering in the succeeding year.
Primula.—The elegant half-hardy varieties P. obconica grandiflora and P. malacoides may be sown any time from February to July, the earliest of which will commence flowering in the succeeding autumn and winter. The aim should be to keep the plants as hardy as possible, giving them air whenever conditions are favourable.
Ranunculus.—Although it is not usual to grow this flower from seed, it is both easy and interesting to do so. Sow in boxes containing from four to six inches of soil, and as there need be no transplanting, each seed should be put in separately, about an inch and a half apart. A cool greenhouse or frame will supply the requisite conditions for growing the seedlings. When the foliage has died down, sift out the roots, and store in dry peat or cocoa-nut fibre for the winter.
To secure an immediate display of Ranunculuses it is necessary to plant mature roots. The soil in which they especially thrive is an adhesive loam or clay. This happens to be unfavourable to their safety in the winter, and therefore it is wise to defer planting in such soils until this month. A very simple procedure will suffice to produce handsome, richly coloured flowers. If possible, choose for the bed a heavy soil in an open situation, and dress it liberally with decayed manure. Give the land a deep digging, and lay it up rough, that it may be benefited by frosts. In January and February fork it lightly over several times, with the double purpose of making it mellow and of enabling birds to clear it of vermin. Traps made of hollowed Potatoes will also assist the latter object. Not later than the third week of February the roots should be planted in drills drawn six inches apart and two inches deep. Put them at intervals of four inches in the rows, with the claws downwards, and cover with fine soil. Keep the bed free from weeds, and give abundant supplies of water in dry weather. When the foliage is dead, lift the roots and store for the next season.
The Turban Ranunculus is less delicate than the named varieties, and there need be less hesitation about autumn planting.
Ricinus.—The Castor-oil Plant is largely cultivated for its striking ornamental foliage, and under generous treatment it will attain from four to six feet in height. It is a half-hardy annual, and should be grown in the same manner as Nicotiana.
Salpiglossis merits its increasing popularity. A sowing at the end of this month or the beginning of March will insure plants in condition for the open ground in May. A moderate hot-bed is requisite now, but in April the seed may be sown on prepared borders for a summer display of the veined and pencilled flowers.
Solanum.—The varieties which are grown for winter decoration are much prized when laden with their bright-coloured berries. Sow the several kinds in heat, and transfer the seedlings straight to single pots filled with very rich soil.
Stock, Intermediate.—To form a succession to the Summer-flowering, or Ten-week, varieties in July and August, seed of the Intermediate Stocks should be sown in gentle heat during February or March. The treatment accorded to Ten-week Stocks, described on page 379, will suit the Intermediate varieties also.
Sweet Peas have in recent years become such an important ornament to the garden and the flowers are so highly prized for household use that no effort is spared to insure a long-continued display. With this object in view seeds are sown in pots and the seedlings transplanted, as soon as weather permits, to the ground specially prepared in the preceding autumn. Those who did not sow in September should do so in the latter part of January or during February. A forcing temperature is injurious, and the plants thrive best when given practically hardy treatment.
Vallota purpurea.—This handsome bulbous plant is not quite hardy, but in several of the Southern counties it may be grown in the open ground, with only the shelter of dry litter or a mat. In pots the bulbs should not be allowed to go dry through the winter; and when growth commences in spring, water must be given freely. Good loam suits the Vallota, and it is desirable to avoid re-potting until the flowering period has passed: when a transfer becomes necessary, disturb the roots as little as possible.
Verbena, if not sown last month, should be got in promptly, for it is important not to hurry the growth of this plant by excessive heat.
Wigandia is a half-hardy perennial, grown exclusively for its noble tropical foliage. If started now, it will attain a large size as an annual. It is impossible to grow this plant too well. A lavish employment of manure and water will secure stately specimens. The instructions given for Ricinus apply equally to the Wigandia.
The first duty is to ascertain that there are no arrears to make good or failures-to replace. If any sowing has gone wrong, do not waste time by repining over it, but sow again. Growing flowers under artificial conditions is a prolonged struggle with Nature, in which the most experienced and skilful gardener need not be ashamed of an occasional failure. But the cause of the failure should, if possible, be ascertained for future guidance. We say if possible, because the secret cannot always be discovered. There may have been every apparent condition of success, and yet, for some inexplicable reason, there has been disappointment. As a rule, however, the cause will be found by the man who is determined to make every failure the stepping-stone to future success.
The lengthening days and the growing power of the sun demand increased vigilance and activity. Danger of frost remains, and, worse still, there may come the withering influence of the north-east wind, which scorches delicate seedlings as with a breath of fire.
Annuals, Hardy, may be sown in the open from February to May. Perhaps a list of the principal flowers comprised under this denomination may aid the memory. Several of the following are not strictly hardy, but for practical ends they may be so regarded.