It will help to harden and establish the plants if they are placed in the open air during August and September. A north border under the shelter of a wall or building is the most suitable spot, but avoid a hedge of any kind. Clear away suckers, and if many buds are presented, every third one may be removed when very fine blooms are wanted. From the first appearance of the buds, manure water can be given with advantage once or twice a week until the flowers show colour, and then it should be discontinued.
Although Cinerarias are thrifty plants, they are fastidious about trifles. If possible give them new pots, or see that old ones are made scrupulously clean. Even hard water will retard free growth, oftentimes to the perplexity of the cultivator.
A host of enemies attack Cinerarias; indeed, there is scarcely a pest known to the greenhouse but finds a congenial home upon this plant. Mildew is more common in some seasons than in others. As a rule, it appears during July and August, especially after insufficient ventilation, or when the plants have been left too long in one place or too near to each other. Obviously weakness invites attack, and the necessity of robust and vigorous growth is thus effectually taught. On the first appearance of a curled leaf, dust the foliage and soil with sulphur, and give no water overhead until a cure has been effected. The aphis is easily killed by fumigation carried out on a quiet evening. Some gardeners prefer to give an hour or two once a week to the removal of the pest by means of a soft brush. From three to four dozen plants are easily cleansed by hand in the time named.
Star Cinerarias (C. stellata) are grown under precisely the same conditions as the Florists' or Show Cinerarias, and this type of flower is highly valued for its singular gracefulness and beautiful decorative effect. In the conservatory and on the table it is an indispensable plant. The sprays admit of most charming arrangements in vases with any kind of ornamental foliage, and maintain their beauty for a long time in water.
Intermediate Cinerarias.—These new types of Cineraria, which in habit are intermediate between the Large-flowered and Stellata classes, make admirable subjects for table decoration, as well as for the adornment of the conservatory or greenhouse. In this class the Feltham Beauty strain undoubtedly has a great future before it. Originated at the Feltham Nurseries, this strain has attracted considerable attention at the numerous horticultural meetings where it has been exhibited, and since it passed into our hands a few years ago some very beautiful colours not to be found among the ordinary Stellata varieties have been added to it. The distinctive feature of the flowers is the white centre, which greatly enhances the vividness of the colouring of the petals. For the Intermediate section the same methods of culture as advised for the other classes of Cineraria will apply.
C. elegans. C. pulchella. Hardy annuals
The two distinct classes of Clarkia named above include several varieties that have long been freely grown in gardens as summer annuals. But the very beautiful recent introductions in the Elegans class have lifted these flowers to a higher plane of usefulness for producing brilliant sheets of colour in beds, borders, shrubberies, and beside carriage drives. Although all the Clarkias bloom profusely in ordinary garden soil they well repay liberal treatment. Seed may be sown from March to May, or in September if an early display is wanted. In good ground each plant of the Pulchella varieties should be allowed a space of eight or ten inches, but rather more room must be given to the Elegans class to do the plants justice.
The Elegans varieties are of special value when treated as pot plants for conservatory decoration in May and June. From seed sown in August or early in September the plants can be slowly grown into magnificent specimens four feet high and almost as much in diameter. Our own practice is to sow thinly in clean well-drained 48-size pots. These are placed in a temperature of from 50 deg. to 55 deg., and when the seedlings are large enough to handle they are pricked off into shallow boxes about three inches apart, the base of the boxes being freely perforated to insure ample drainage. The most suitable soil is composed of equal parts of sound loam and leaf-mould, with the addition of a gallon of coarse sand to each bushel of the mixed soil. After the plants are well established, ventilate freely to secure robust growth. When three inches high pinch out the points, and a little later transfer separately to small pots, keeping them close for a few days and as near the glass as possible. As the roots develop, transfer again to larger pots, and then the second and final stopping of the shoots must be done. Should very large plants be wanted they can be flowered in 16-size pots, using a compost slightly heavier than that advised at a younger stage of growth. The night temperature during winter should be about 45, giving air freely by day whenever possible to do so with safety. As the branches need support, sticks of a suitable length must be provided, and the stems tied out in good time to prevent them from breaking off.
A very handsome erect shrub, which is extensively grown in tropical gardens. In this country it attains a height of about two feet, and is easily raised from seed in a warm greenhouse or conservatory, where it proves to be a really beautiful and striking plant.
Sow in pots or pans in March or April and transfer to single pots while small. From the commencement a very rich soil is necessary to insure robust growth and intense colour in the panicles of brilliant scarlet flowers. The plants bloom in August or September of the same year. When the leaves fall, if the intention be to store through winter, remove to a temperature of 55 deg.; but raising plants annually is more satisfactory and entails less trouble than storing.
Like many other tropical plants, Clerodendron fallax is subject to attack by mealy bug, and this pest may be dealt with by hand picking or by washing the leaves with insecticide two evenings in succession. Aphis are also troublesome and should be cleared by fumigation.
Celosia cristata. Tender annual
This fine old-fashioned flower has won renewed popularity of late years, probably as the result of a number of well-grown plants exhibited at horticultural shows. Those who can produce handsome Cinerarias, Balsams, and Calceolarias, will be likely to turn out grand Cockscombs, strongly coloured and on dwarf, leafy plants. Liberal culture is essential, and the first start should be made in a compost consisting mainly of rich light friable loam. Sow the seeds on a rather brisk heat in February or March, a newly-made but sweet hot-bed being the best place for the seed-pans. Prick out early into very small pots, and shift on so as to encourage growth without a check, and keep the plants on the hot-bed until the combs are formed. It is well not to shift beyond the 8-1/2-inch size; then, by allowing the roots to become pot-bound, the combs are soon produced. It matters not how select the seed, or how careful the culture, a certain proportion of unsymmetrical combs will appear; but these, if richly coloured, will be useful for decorative purposes, and should have all the attention needed to keep their leaves fresh and the combs pure in colour.
There is so much difficulty in carrying Coleus through the winter in vigorous health that the modern plan of treating it as an annual is advantageous for the saving of trouble and fire-heat in winter, and also because it offers the charm of constant diversity. The fact is that our winter days are too short and gloomy to maintain the splendour of colouring which makes Coleus so attractive and valuable; and seed from a good strain may be relied on to produce plants which will delight the eye all through the summer and autumn. Some experienced men sow in February and succeed, but the majority of cultivators will show prudence by waiting until March, when increased daylight favours the rapid growth of the plants. Flowerpots are better than pans, as the greater depth affords opportunity of securing effectual drainage. The pots should be nearly half-filled with crocks, covered with a layer of moss to prevent the soil from being washed away. Fill them with light turfy loam, mingled with almost an equal bulk of sharp sand. Make an even surface, on which sow thinly, and shake over the seed a slight covering of fine soil. Place the pots in a temperature of not less than 65 deg.. Watering needs particular care, because of the peculiar liability of the young plants to damp off, especially in dull weather. The strongest seedlings are pretty certain to be those in which green and black predominate, and they may without scruple be removed to make way for the slower-growing but better-coloured specimens. These should be transplanted round the edges of pots while quite small; and such as show delicate tints, especially those having pink markings on a golden ground, are worth nursing through the early stage with extra care. The pots must be shaded from direct sunshine, but should be kept near the glass. In May the plants will be large enough for 48-sized pots, beyond which there is no occasion to go. When the pots become full of roots the foliage increases in brilliancy, whereas larger pots encourage free growth to the detriment of colour. A dry atmosphere is particularly injurious, while an occasional dose of manure water will maintain the plants in health.
Cosmos. Half-hardy annual
Cosmeas make a striking show in the mixed border, and the flowers are also in large request for indoor decoration. Disappointment is often caused, however, through the plants failing to bloom until late in the season, and therefore it is important to grow an early-flowering strain in order to insure a long-continued display. The most successful method of raising plants is to sow the seed in pots during February, pricking off the plants as soon as large enough. When the first flowers appear in May, transplant to positions in the open immediately danger from frost is past.
Gardeners of experience will remember the time when the predominant colours of Cyclamen were purple and magenta, and it was impossible for the most friendly critic to feel enthusiastic concerning these flowers. But the new colours—Salmon Pink, Salmon Scarlet, the intense Vulcan, Rose Queen and Cherry Red, together with Giant White and White Butterfly—are now regarded as the brightest and most beautiful decorative subjects for the long period of dark winter days of which Christmas is the centre. As cut flowers for the dinner-table Cyclamens have no rival at that period of the year, and as specimen plants in the home they are delightful for their free-flowering habit, compact form, and elegant foliage.
Seed may be sown at any time during autumn or the early part of the year, and the plants will not only flower within twelve months, but if properly grown will produce more bloom than can be obtained from old bulbs. We do not advise more than three sowings, the first and most important of which should be made in August or the beginning of September. To obtain a succession of plants, sow again in October and for the last time early in the new year. Those who have not hitherto grown Cyclamen for midwinter blooming will be well pleased with the result. It is quite as easy to flower them in the winter as in the longer days, and this is more than can be said about most plants.
The best soil for Cyclamen is a rich, sound loam, with a liberal admixture of leaf-mould, and sufficient silver sand to insure free drainage. Press this mixture firmly into pots or seed-pans, and dibble the seed about an inch apart and not more than a quarter of an inch deep. Cover the surface with a thin layer of leaves or fibrous material to check rapid evaporation, and later on keep the soil free from moss. The autumn sowings may at first be placed in a frame having a temperature of not less than 45 deg.. At the end of a fortnight transfer the pans to any warm and moist position in the greenhouse or propagating house.
Although the Cyclamen is a tender plant, it does not need a strong heat, and will not endure extremes of any kind. Sudden changes are always fatal to its growth. In winter the temperature should not be allowed to fall below 56 deg., or to rise above 70 deg. at any time. The more evenly the heat can be maintained the better, and it is desirable to give all the light possible. In summer, however, although a warm and humid atmosphere is still necessary, the light may with advantage be somewhat subdued, but shading must not be overdone, or the constitution of the plant will suffer.
Cyclamen seed not only germinates slowly, but it also grows in the most capricious manner; sometimes a few plants come up long after others have made a good start. Do not be impatient of their appearance, but when some seedlings are large enough for removal transfer to thumb pots, taking care not to insert them too deeply. As the plants develop, shift into larger pots, ending finally in the 48-size. In the later stages mix less sand with the soil, and when potting always leave the crown of the corm clear. Keep the plants near the glass, and as the sun becomes powerful it will be necessary to provide shade and prevent excess of heat. Never allow the seedlings to suffer from want of water, or to become a prey to aphis. To avoid the latter, occasional, or it may be frequent, fumigations must be resorted to. About the end of May should find the most forward plants ready for shifting into 60-pots. Give all the air possible to promote a sturdy growth. In doing this, however, avoid draughts of cold air. From the end of June to the middle of July the finest plants should be ready for their final shift into 48-pots, in which they will flower admirably. The growth during August and September will be very free, and then occasional assistance with weak manure water will add to the size and colour of the flowers. As the evenings shorten, save the plants from chills, which result in deformed blossoms.
The whole secret of successful Cyclamen culture may be summed up in a few words: constant and unvarying heat, a moist atmosphere, and abundant supplies of water without stagnation; free circulation of air, avoiding cold draughts; light in winter, and shade in summer, with freedom from insect pests. These conditions will keep the plants in vigorous growth from first to last, and the result will be so bountiful a bloom as to prove the soundness of the rapid system of cultivation. This routine may be varied by the experienced cultivator, but the principles will remain the same in all cases, because the natural constitution of the plant gives the key to its management.
Both the double and the single classes of Dahlia are increasingly grown as annuals from seed, and this practice has the great advantage of being economical in time and in the saving of space during winter. The seedlings grow freely and quickly, and will flower quite as early as those grown by the more lengthy and troublesome method from tubers. Even those who possess a stock of named sorts may with advantage raise a supply from seed, especially as there is a probability of securing some charming novelty, which is in itself no small incentive.
Although the Dahlia is a tender plant, it is easily managed in a greenhouse, or in a frame resting on a hot-bed. The seed may be sown as early as January, but unless sufficient space is at command to keep the plants stocky as they develop, it will be wise to wait until February. A sowing in the month last named will produce plants forward enough to bloom at the usual time. Even March will not be too late; but whatever time may be chosen, when the start has been made it must be followed up with diligence, so as to avoid giving any check from first to last. Sow thinly in pots or pans filled with ordinary light rich compost, and cover the seed with a mere sprinkling of fine earth. When the first pair of leaves attain the height of an inch, pot off each plant singly close up to the base of the leaves. It is not advisable to throw the weakly seedlings away; these are the very plants which are most likely to display new shades of colour and they are worth some additional trouble. Although weak at the outset, they may, by judicious treatment, be developed into a thriving and healthy condition.
When potted, place the plants in heat, giving a little extra care until growth is fairly started. In due time shift into larger sizes as may be necessary, and then it will be wise to consider whether there is space to grow the whole stock well. If not, do not hesitate to sacrifice the surplus, and in doing so reject the rankest-growing specimens, for these are least likely to produce a fine display of bloom. It is mistaken practice to take out the top shoot, as this checks the plant for no good end; but when about six inches high, each one will need the support of a stick. Give water freely, and air on all suitable occasions. The least tendency to curled leaves indicates something amiss, and demands immediate attention. A cold blast may have stricken the plants, or the soil may be poor; lack of sufficient water will produce the mischief, or it may arise from the presence of aphis. If the last-named assumption prove correct, fumigate on the first quiet evening, and omit watering on that day. The mere mention of the other points will be sufficient to show the remedy for them.
As the time for transfer to the open air approaches, all that is possible should be done to harden the plants for the change. They may be placed for a few days under the shelter of a wall or hedge, but on the least sign of frost be prepared to protect with hurdles or mats. Full exposure during genial showers and fair weather is advisable, and an occasional examination of the plants will prevent their rooting through the pots into the soil.
The border for Dahlias can scarcely be made too rich, for they are hungry and thirsty subjects, and will amply repay in a profusion of bloom the manure that may be lavished upon them. Slugs and snails are unfortunately too partial to newly planted Dahlias, but the vermin soon cease to care about them; therefore it is advisable to plant Lettuces plentifully at the same time, or previously, on the same ground, and to dust around the Dahlias with lime. Insert at least one stake, about a yard long, near each plant, to give support, and two or three others will have to be given before the branches spread far. Secure the first shoot when planting is completed, and follow up the tying as growth demands.
Dahlias bloom continuously for a long time, and appear to be especially at home in the shrubbery border, or in the centre of a bed. They are also valuable for training against buildings having a southern aspect, and here the flowering period is much prolonged, for an early frost will scarcely reach them. A light wall is an admirable background for deep-coloured varieties, and the white or yellow flowers are displayed to advantage against a dark building. Dahlias may be used either alone or in company with the climbing plants which are usual in such positions.
The flowers possess a special value for indoor decoration, and any odd corner of the garden can be utilised for producing a supply for this purpose. Cutting should invariably be done in the early morning, while yet the dew is upon them. They will then retain their beauty for a longer period than those taken at a later hour from the same plants. This remark is true of all flowers, but it applies with especial force to the Dahlia.
Bellis perennis fl. pl. Hardy perennial
The remarkable development of the Double Daisy in recent years has raised this simple garden subject to the foremost rank of spring bedding plants. So pronounced has been the improvement achieved in the size and form of the flowers, that plants raised from a reliable strain of seed will now produce blooms which may well be mistaken for specimens of finely shaped Asters. When massed in a large bed the flowers present one of the most striking sights to be seen anywhere in the spring garden. But apart from their use in formal beds and borders, Double Daisies make a pleasing break among Wallflowers, and are particularly attractive when grown as an edging to bulbous flowers and other spring-blooming subjects such as Polyanthus, Myosotis, &c. Plants from a sowing made in pans in April and put out when large enough, may be flowered in the autumn of the same year. But the method more generally practised is to sow on prepared beds in the open during June or July, and to transfer the seedlings when sufficiently developed to positions for blooming in the following season.
Nearly all the perennial varieties may be raised from seed, and where large numbers are required this is the best method of obtaining them. They make handsome border flowers, and are extremely valuable during the early months of summer. Sow in May, June or July, in the open ground, and transplant in autumn. If mixed seed has been sown, it will not be wise to thin out all the weakly plants, or it may happen that some of the choicest shades may be lost. The first flowers will be over by midsummer, but if the stalks are promptly cut down instead of being allowed to seed, there will be a second display later in the year.
Three varieties, Queen of Blues, Dwarf Porcelain Blue, and Blue Butterfly, may be flowered as annuals, by sowing in pans in March and transplanting to the open as soon as the seedlings are ready. They also make particularly charming pot plants, for which purpose it is advisable to sow seeds in March.
The scarlet variety (D. nudicaule) is rather more delicate than the others, and it is wise to raise the plants in well-drained seed-pans, and to take care of them through the first winter in a cold frame; indeed, in a heavy soil there is a risk of losing them in any winter which is both cold and wet. It is not necessary to employ pots, but immediately after flowering take them up and store in peat until the following April, when they can be returned to the open ground.
D. sulphureum. The seed takes a very long time to germinate, and severely taxes the patience of the sower. But otherwise there is no difficulty in raising plants, and the long spikes of beautiful clear sulphur-yellow flowers are well worth the extra time the seedlings need. The best plan is to sow in autumn in the open ground, cover with a frame, and avoid disturbing the soil, except for weeding, until the next autumn, when the plants should be put into position for flowering in the following summer.
As slugs are exceedingly partial to Delphiniums, the crowns should be examined in spring, and the seed-beds may be dressed with soot and surrounded with ashes to save the seedlings from injury.
The annual Delphiniums are dealt with under Larkspur, page 274.
Pink. Biennials, hardy and half-hardy
Many varieties of Dianthus claim attention for their elegant forms and splendour of colouring. They have been so wonderfully improved by scientific growers that they almost supersede the old garden Pinks, and have the great advantage of coming true from seed. D. Heddewigii (Japan Pink) and its varieties, D. chinensis (Indian Pink) and D. imperialis, make interesting and sumptuous beds, and may all be flowered the first year from sowings made in heat in January or February. Immediately the seedlings are through the soil it is important to shift them to a rather lower temperature than is necessary for insuring germination, or the plants become soft and worthless. Be very sparing with water, especially if the soil is at all retentive. When two leaves are formed, transfer to pans, allowing about an inch between each plant, and place in a sheltered position. Gradually introduce to cool treatment, and when ready prick off again, allowing each plant more space. They will thus have a much better start, when planted out in May, than if taken from the seed-pans direct. Dianthus make a most attractive display in pots, and a number of seedlings should be potted on for flowering in this manner.
Where there are no facilities for raising Dianthus in heat, it is quite easy to grow plants in an open spot from a sowing in June or July, and they will flower freely in the following year. Prepare drills about six inches apart and line them with sifted soil; sow thinly, and carefully cover the seed with fine soil. Shade must be given during germination, but it should be gradually withdrawn when the seedlings are up. Transfer to final positions in August. Should this be impossible, prick the plants out, and shift them again a little later. It will only do harm to leave them crowded in the seed-bed, and the second move will better enable them to withstand winter frosts. The Dianthus thrives in a sandy or loamy soil, with full exposure to sunshine, and the plants scarcely need water or any attention the whole season through.
Foxglove. Hardy biennial
Besides the native Purple Foxglove, largely grown in gardens, there are several very handsome varieties that are valuable for adorning borders, shrubberies and woodland walks. Specially worthy of attention are Giant Primrose, a beautiful variety with rich cream or buff flowers; the Giant Spotted, which produces handsome flowers, rich and varied in colour; and the white variety with its abundance of charming ivory-white bells, which are occasionally slightly spotted.
Any deep rich soil suits Digitalis, and seed sown in May, June, or July will produce seedlings which, with very little attention, will yield a fine display of flowers in the following summer. Sow in the open in pans, or on a prepared border, and put the young plants into permanent positions, choosing showery weather in August or September.
The Dimorphotheca, also called the Star of the Veldt, was introduced into this country from South Africa and, like the Nemesia, also a native of that Dominion, it has become one of the most valuable of our summer annuals. Under favourable conditions plants may be flowered in six weeks from time of sowing and they will continue to bloom in profusion until cut down by frost. In addition to the striking orange flower, D. aurantiaca (Orange Daisy), a wide range of colours, including many delicate tints, has been evolved by careful hybridisation.
Those who wish to obtain forward plants should sow during March or April in pans of light soil placed in a cold frame, and the seedlings will be ready for transfer to open quarters in May. Or seed may safely be sown in the open ground in May and June. As suggested by its native habitat, the Dimorphotheca loves a warm sunny position and grows to the greatest perfection in a light soil or a well-drained loam.
The practice of flowering half-hardy annuals in pots is rapidly increasing, and among this class of plants the Dimorphotheca has few rivals as a decorative subject for the conservatory. It is more effective to grow three or four plants in a pot than one only, and the best specimens are obtained by sowing direct into the pots and thinning the seedlings to the required number. Use a light rich compost containing a fair proportion of silver sand, and do not let the plants suffer for the lack of water.
A decade or so ago the predominant colours found in Eschscholtzias were yellow and orange, but in recent years a number of new and very attractive shades have been introduced, with the result that this plant is now regarded as indispensable for summer bedding and for borders. The modern practice is to grow Eschscholtzias as annuals, sowing in the open during March and April. As the seedlings do not readily transplant, the seed should be put in where the flowers are wanted. Thin out in due course, allowing each plant ample space for development. Sowings may also be made during September, from which the plants will bloom in advance of those raised in spring.
The Freesia is another of the bulbous flowers easily raised from seed, and it may be had in bloom within six months from date of sowing. Use a rich compost, and sow under glass in January, February, or March, as may best suit convenience. Seed should be sown again in August, to supply flowers in spring or summer of the following year. The brittleness of the roots makes re-potting a hazardous operation. It is therefore wise to sow in 48-pots and thin to four or five plants in each, thus avoiding the need for shifting until after flowering has taken place. When re-potting becomes imperative, it must be done with a gentle hand, and the bulbs ought to be carefully matched for each pot. The position chosen for Freesias should be light and freely ventilated in mild weather, but they will not endure a cutting draught. For further cultural notes see page 328.
To raise Fuchsias from seed will be new practice to many; but it is both interesting and inexpensive, and every year it secures an increasing number of adherents. Seed may be sown at almost any time of the year; if a start be made in January or February, the plants will bloom in July or August. Soil for the seed-pots should be somewhat firm in texture, but a light rich compost ought to be employed when the plants come to be potted off, and the final shift should be into a mixture containing nearly one-third of decayed cow-manure. For the early sowing we have named, a rather strong heat will be necessary to bring up the seed. When large enough to handle, prick off the seedlings round the edges of 60-pots, putting about six plants into each pot. Shade and moisture are requisite to give them a start after each transfer. Subsequently they must be potted on as growth demands, until the final size is reached; and flowering will not commence so long as increased pot-room is given. The growth must not be hurried, and the plants should at all times be kept free from vermin. Seedlings having narrow pointed leaves may be consigned to the waste heap without scruple; but plants with short rounded foliage, especially if dark in colour, are almost certain to prove of high quality.
All the Gaillardias are most conveniently grown as annuals from seed. The plants remain in bloom for a long period, and for their gorgeous colouring the flowers are as highly prized for arranging in bowls and vases as for garden decoration. The best month in which to sow seed is March, and the plants will then be ready for putting out in May. Any good compost will answer, and only a moderate temperature is necessary to bring up the seedlings. The usual course of procedure in pricking off must be adopted to keep them short and stout.
Pelargonium. Half-hardy perennial
Geraniums of all kinds are most valuable if treated as annuals. In their seedling state the plants are peculiarly robust and charmingly fresh in leafage and flowers, even if amongst them there does not happen to be one that is welcome as a novel florist's flower. When grown from first-class seed, however, a large proportion of fine varieties and a few real novelties may be expected. The seed may be sown on any day throughout the year, but February and August are especially suitable. Sow in pans filled with a good mixture, in a somewhat rough state. Cover with a fair sixteenth of an inch of fine soil. Put the seed-pans in a temperature of 60 deg. to 70 deg. if sown in February, but heat will not be necessary at all unless it is desired to bring the plants into flower early in the ensuing summer. We are accustomed to place the seed-pans on a sunny shelf in a cool greenhouse, and have fine plants by the end of June, many of which begin to flower in August.
The Gerbera, also known as the Barberton or Transvaal Daisy, is a native of South Africa. Under cool greenhouse treatment it may be grown to perfection in pots, and a charming display of bloom can also be obtained in the open border from plants put out in a well-drained sunny position and given slight protection in winter. The flowers somewhat resemble a Marguerite in form, having a number of long pointed petals radiating from a small centre. In addition to the brilliant G. Jamesonii, sometimes called the Scarlet Daisy of the Cape, many hybrid flowers having a wide range of delightful colours are also available. Although seed is often sown in spring, the best results are probably obtained from an August sowing, in pans placed in a gentle heat. Prick off the seedlings when large enough, and if required for the greenhouse or conservatory transfer to pots, or gradually harden off for planting in the open as soon as weather permits in the following spring.
Naegelia. Tender perennial
An extremely beautiful ornament for stove or conservatory. The new hybrids freely produce spikes of bright pendulous flowers of many charming colours. Although the Gesnera is a perennial, it is sound practice to treat the plant as an annual. Seedlings from a January sowing will commence flowering in about nine months. Very rich soil, a warm and even temperature, and plenty of water, are requisite to promote luxuriant growth. The culture advised for Gloxinias will exactly suit the Gesnera also.
The introduction of the well-known double variety, Mrs. Bradshaw, which may easily be flowered from seed in the first season, has brought the Geum into prominence in recent years. Seed of the above-named variety should be sown in pans in March or April and the seedlings pricked off into boxes of rich soil when large enough. Put out in May or June and do not let the plants suffer for want of water. Geums may also be raised from sowings made in June or July, and transplanting in due course to permanent quarters, in the manner usual with hardy perennials.
Corn Flag. Half-hardy perennial
Formerly the Gladiolus was seldom raised from seed, probably because the seed obtainable was not worth sowing. Now it is saved with so much care that it will give a splendid display of flowers, a large proportion of which will be equal to named sorts, and some may show a decided advance.
The use of large pots—the 32-size will answer—is advantageous for many reasons, and they should be either new or scrupulously clean, for they will have to remain unchanged for many months, so that a fair start is the more necessary. For the same reason special care should be taken to insure free drainage. Over the usual crocks place a layer of dry moss, and fill with a compost of fibrous loam and leaf-mould in equal parts, with sufficient sharp sand added to make it thoroughly porous. Press the soil firmly into the pots, making the surface quite even, and in February dibble the seeds separately about an inch apart, and half an inch deep. This will render it needless to disturb the seedlings during the first season. Put the seed-pots in a steady temperature not exceeding 65 deg. or 70 deg.. After watering, it will help to retain the moisture if the top of each pot is covered with a layer of old moss, until the plants show. When the seedlings are about an inch high remove to a lower temperature, and begin to harden off by giving air on suitable occasions. Take care, however, that in the process no check is given to growth. Soon after the middle of May the seedlings should be able to bear full exposure, and it will then be time to renew the surface soil. Gently remove the upper layer, and replace it with rotten cow-manure, or some other rich dressing. Water must be given regularly until about midsummer, when the pots may be plunged to the rim in a shady border, and this will keep them tolerably moist until, in September, the seedlings begin to ripen off, which they must be allowed to do. When the leaves have died down, shake out the bulbs and place them on a shelf to dry. A mixture of equal parts of peat and pine sawdust, placed in a box or seed-pan, will make the best possible store for them; the box or seed-pan to be kept in any spot which is safe from heat and frost. After about six weeks, each bulb should be examined, and decayed specimens removed. If any of them have commenced growing, pot them and place in a pit or greenhouse. In March take the bulbs out of store, pot each one singly, and prepare for planting out. The transfer to the open must not be made until the danger of frost is past, even though it be necessary to wait until the first week of June.
Further remarks on Gladiolus will be found at page 329, under 'The Culture of Flowering Bulbs.'
Gloxinias can now be flowered in the most satisfactory manner within six months from the date of sowing seed. Hence there is no longer the least temptation to propagate these plants by the lengthy and troublesome method formerly in vogue, especially as seedlings raised from a first-class strain produce flowers of the finest quality, both as to form and style of growth. One great advantage to be obtained from seedlings is an almost endless variety of colour, for the careful hybridisation of the choicest flowers not only perpetuates those colours, but yields other fine shades also. Those who have never seen a large and well-grown collection of seedling Gloxinias have yet to witness one of the most striking displays of floral beauty.
Quite as much has been done for the foliage of the Gloxinia as for its flower, and the best strains now produce grand leaves which are reflexed in such a manner as almost to hide the pot, so that the foliage presents an extremely ornamental appearance.
By successive sowings and judicious management it is possible to flower Gloxinias almost the year through. The most important months for sowing seed are January, February, and March, and to secure an early display in the following spring some growers sow again in June or July.
The soil most suited to Gloxinias is a light porous compost of fibrous loam. If this is not obtainable, leaf-mould will answer, mixed with peat and silver sand in about equal parts. New pots are advisable, or old ones must be thoroughly cleansed, and free drainage is essential to success. Fill the pots to within half an inch of the top. Sow thinly, and slightly cover the seed with very fine soil. Place the pots in a warm, moist position, carefully shading from the sun. A light sprinkling of water daily will be necessary. Immediately some plants are large enough for shifting, lift them tenderly from the seed-pot, so as scarcely to disturb the rest, and prick off into large 60-pots in which the soil has a convex surface. Follow this process as plants become ready until all the seedlings have been transferred. When potting on allow the leaves to rest on the soil, but avoid covering the hearts. On the first warm day give air on the leeward side of the house, briefly at first, and increase the time as the plants become established. A clear space between the plants is necessary to prevent the leaves of neighbours from meeting. The final shift should be into 48-pots, unless extra fine specimens are required, and then one or two sizes larger may be used. An occasional dose of weak manure water will prove beneficial, taking care that the foliage is not wetted. A moist atmosphere, with the temperature at about 60 deg. to 65 deg., greatly facilitates the growth of Gloxinias. With care, however, they may be well grown in greenhouses and pits heated by hot water. Although the plants love a humid atmosphere while growing, this ceases to be an advantage, and, in fact, becomes injurious when the flowers begin to expand. At that time, also, the manure water should be discontinued.
Under 'The Culture of Flowering Bulbs,' page 331, further instructions are given.
So far as the culture of Godetias is concerned, the usual spring sowing and the regular treatment of hardy annuals will satisfy those who are content with a display entailing the least possible trouble. But the Godetia is no ordinary annual. The plants flower with such amazing profusion, and the colours are so magnificent, that those who wish to produce striking effects in beds or borders in July and August will find Godetias of the highest value. All the varieties come perfectly true to colour and admit of numerous contrasts and harmonies. As an example, we suggest the following combination for a long border, or beside a carriage drive. Sow two rows of Alyssum minimum, allowing twelve inches between the rows; one row of Dwarf Pink Godetia fifteen inches from the Alyssum; two rows of G. Dwarf Duchess of Albany eighteen inches apart; one row of G. Scarlet Queen eighteen inches from the preceding variety, and one row of Double Rose at the back. The result will astonish those who have not previously seen a really fine exposition of this flower. Many other combinations will occur to those who carefully study colour schemes.
There are few annuals more greatly valued for cutting than the taller varieties of Godetia. These mainly produce double flowers in sprays two feet or more in length which develop into full beauty after being placed in water.
March and April are the months for sowing seed in the open for a summer display, and September for spring flowering. Good effects, however, are obtained by raising a sufficient number of plants in boxes and pricking off in readiness for putting out after bulbs and spring bedders have been cleared away. Under this practice there need not be a blank or a defective specimen.
Dwarf Godetias make exceedingly symmetrical and attractive pot plants. For this purpose sow seed in October in pans and place them in a temperature of 55 deg. until the seedlings appear, then remove to a cooler place. As soon as possible prick off three in each 48-pot and when established grow on during winter in cold frames, giving air daily except in frosty weather, when the frames must remain closed and can be protected with whatever covering may be at hand. Here it may be well to point out that even when touched by frost the plants will recover if they are shaded from the sun's rays until the pots are quite clear of frost. Godetias flowered in pots make bright groups in conservatories, and occasionally do good service where failures occur in beds.
Australian Oak. Greenhouse shrub
In its native country, New South Wales, this is a stately tree. Here it is grown as a pot plant, and the finely cut, drooping, fern-like foliage produces one of the most graceful decorative subjects we possess. Its value is enhanced by the fact that it withstands the baneful influences of gas, dust, and changes of temperature better than the majority of table plants.
Seedlings are easily raised by those who can exercise patience; and afterwards the simplest cool culture will suffice to grow handsome specimens. But we do not know any seed—not even the Auricula—which takes more time and is so capricious in germinating. In all cases where seed is sown in fairly rich soil, which has to be kept constantly moist and undisturbed for a long period, there is a tendency to sourness, especially on the surface. Free drainage will do something towards preventing this. Another aid in the same direction is to cover the seed with a layer of sand, and the sand with a thin coating of ordinary potting soil. When the surface becomes covered with moss, the coating of soil can be gently removed down to the sand, and be replaced with fresh earth, without detriment to the seeds.
Sow at any time of the year, in 48-sized pots filled with rather firm soil; and as the seedlings straggle through and show two pairs of leaves, pot them off singly, and give the shelter of a close pit or frame until they become established. They must not be allowed to suffer for lack of water, but there is no necessity to give them manure water at any stage of growth. An occasional re-potting is the only other attention they will require until they reach the final size, and the pots need not then be large.
Althaea rosea. Hardy perennial
Generations of unnatural treatment had so debilitated the Hollyhock that disease threatened to banish it from our gardens. Just at the critical time it was discovered that the plant could be grown and satisfactorily flowered from seed. Florists at once turned their attention to the production of seed worth growing, and with marked success. The best strains may now be relied on to produce a large proportion of perfectly formed double flowers, imposing in size, colour, and substance. The seedlings also possess a constitution capable of withstanding the deadly Puccinia malvacearum, and there is no longer a danger that this stately plant will become merely one of the pleasures of memory.
In growing the Hollyhock it is necessary to remember that a large amount of vegetable tissue has to be produced within a brief period, so that the treatment throughout its career should be exceptionally liberal. Some gardeners are successful in flowering Hollyhocks as annuals. Where this course is adopted it is usual to sow in January in well-drained pots or seed-pans filled with rich soil freely mixed with sand, covering the seed with a slight dusting of fine earth. A temperature of 65 deg. or 70 deg. is necessary, and in about a fortnight the plants should attain a height of one inch, when they will be ready for pricking off round the edges of 4-1/2-inch pots, filled with a good porous compost. Put the seedlings in so that the first leaves just touch the surface. At the beginning of March transfer singly to thumb pots, and immediately the roots take hold remove to pits or frames, where they can be exposed to genial showers and be gradually hardened. Defer the planting out until the weather is quite warm and settled.
The shrubbery border is the natural position for the Hollyhock, but the regular occupants keep the soil poor, and for such a rapid-growing plant as we are now considering there is obviously all the greater need for deep digging and liberal manuring. If put out during dry weather, complete the operation with a soaking of water, and repeat this twice a week until rain falls. Give each plant a clear space of three or four feet to afford easy access for staking and watering. By midsummer offshoots will begin to push through the soil. The removal of these will throw all the strength of the plant into one stem. To insure its safety a strong stake will be required, which should be firmly driven into the ground, and rise six or seven feet above it. In case of an accident at any time to the central stem the hope of flowers for that year is gone, and it is therefore worth some pains to prevent a mishap. The tying must be done with judgment, and as the plants increase in size an occasional inspection will save the stems from being cut. Several inches of half-decayed cow-manure placed round the stems, with a saucer-like hollow in the centre to retain water, will be helpful to the roots, and if the flowers are intended for exhibition, the treatment can scarcely be too generous.
It is, however, easy to grow and flower Hollyhocks without the aid of artificial heat. On a south border in June prepare drills about two inches deep and a foot apart. Place an inch of rich sifted soil in each drill, and upon this sow the seed very thinly, covering it about a quarter of an inch. If the weather be dry, give a gentle soaking of water, and finish with a dusting of soot to prevent vermin from eating the seedlings. Thin the plants to six inches apart, and they may remain in the seed-rows until the end of September. Whether they are then transplanted straight to blooming quarters, or put into a cold frame for the winter, depends on soil and climate. In the southern counties, and on light land, it will generally be safe to winter Hollyhocks in the open, with merely a shelter of dry fern or litter. But in heavy loam or clay the risk is too great, and the cold frame must be resorted to. In this they will be secure, and can be ventilated as weather permits. As the season advances give more air, until they are planted out in May. Seed may also be sown in pans in July or August, the seedlings being transferred in due course to pots for the winter. The protection of a frame will suffice, provided that frost is kept away, and the plants may be put out in spring as already advised.
Sultan's Balsam. Tender perennial
Early sowing should be avoided for two reasons. The seed germinates but slowly in dull weather, and the seedlings when raised are almost certain to damp off. We do not advise a start before March, and not until April unless a steady heat of 60 deg. or 65 deg. can be maintained. Sow in well-drained pots, filled with soil composed of two parts of turfy loam and one part of leaf-soil, with very little sand added. The seedlings are exceedingly brittle at the outset, and re-potting should not be attempted until they are about an inch high. Even then they need delicate handling, and after the task is accomplished they should be promptly placed in a warm frame or propagating pit for a few days. In June or July the plants should reach 48-sized pots, but they must not be transferred to the conservatory without careful hardening, or the whole of the flowers will fall. I. Holstii also succeeds well when bedded out in summer in the same manner as Begonias.
This remarkable variety of K. scoparia is a miniature annual shrub, which is also known as Summer Cypress, or Belvidere. It is singularly attractive, of rapid growth and graceful habit. In a very brief time the finely cut foliage forms a compact cylindrical plant, beautifully domed at the top, and the tender green changes to a rich russet-crimson in autumn.
Seed may be sown in slight heat during February or March to provide early plants for pots, or for setting out in the open immediately the bedding season commences. It is important not to crowd the seedlings, and every precaution should be taken to prevent them from becoming thin, leggy, or wanting in symmetry. Each plant must be allowed sufficient space to develop equally all round. An April sowing can be made in the open where the plants are intended to remain, and beyond regular thinning they will give very little trouble.
As a conspicuous dot plant in beds this Kochia is extremely useful, or it can be massed in borders, and it also forms an admirable dividing line in the flower garden. For the decoration of conservatories a number should be specially reserved. Specimens may be employed with striking effect on flights of steps, in halls, and many other positions where a plant of perfect outline will serve as an ornament. Height, 2 to 3 feet.
The cultivation of the annual Delphiniums, more familiarly known as Larkspurs, is so simple in character that it calls for little comment. But these handsome subjects are so widely grown, and so greatly appreciated, that they are fully deserving of special mention here. The taller varieties, of which the Stock-flowered strain is the most popular, are best grown in large beds, borders and shrubberies, and the dwarfer kinds in small beds. Apart from their usefulness in the garden, however, the taller sorts of Larkspur are much in request for providing cut material, particularly for the decoration of the dinner-table, and a number of plants should always be grown in reserve for this purpose. It is usual to put in the seed where the plants are intended to stand, and March and April are the best months for sowing. Thin out the seedlings promptly, and give each plant ample room for development, especially when grown on good ground.
Larkspurs may also be sown in September for producing an earlier display in the following year than is possible from spring-sown seed.
Mallow. Hardy annual and hardy perennial
Countryside gardens owe not a little of their floral brightness to the Mallows. The modern varieties of Lavatera, however, far surpass in effectiveness the flowers commonly met with and are regarded as among the finest subjects for creating an imposing display in tall borders and large beds. For this purpose the annual varieties, Loveliness, Rosea splendens, and Alba splendens, are the most popular. As transplanting is not to be depended upon, seed should be sown thinly in March, April or May where the plants are wanted to flower. If the ground has been generously prepared fine specimens will result, and each plant should be allowed a spacing of at least two feet for development.
The perennial variety, L. Olbia, makes a bold subject for herbaceous borders and shrubberies. Seed may be sown in pans any time from March to August, putting out the plants when large enough for flowering in the following season. Small plants of this variety may with advantage be potted for conservatory decoration.
Annual and perennial; half-hardy
There are several distinct classes of Lobelia, differing materially in height and habit. For dwarf beds or edgings the compact varieties should alone be used. These grow from four to six inches high, and form dense balls of flowers. The spreading or gracilis class, including L. speciosa and L. Paxtoniana, is in deserved repute for positions which do not demand an exact limit to the line of colouring. The plants also show to advantage in suspended baskets, window boxes, rustic work, vases, and any position where an appearance of graceful negligence is aimed at. The ramosa section grows from nine to twelve inches high, and produces much larger flowers than the classes previously named.
All the foregoing can be treated as annuals; and from sowings, made in February or March plants may be raised in good time for bedding out in May. Use sandy soil, and place the seed-pans in a temperature of about 60 deg., taking care to keep them moist. By the end of March or beginning of April the seedlings will be ready for transferring to pots, pans, or boxes. The last named are very serviceable for this flower, for they afford opportunity of giving the seedlings sufficient space to produce a tufty habit of growth. A gentle heat will start them, and they will give no trouble afterwards, except on one point, which happens to be of considerable importance. It is that the plants should never be allowed to produce a flower while in pots or boxes. Pick off every bud until they are in final positions, and then, having taken hold of the soil, they will bloom profusely until the end of the season.
Lobelias make elegant pot plants, yet, with the exception of the ramosa varieties which are excellent for the purpose, they cannot be grown satisfactorily in pots. The difficulty is easily surmounted by putting them out a foot apart in a good open position, and if possible in a rather stiff soil. When they have developed into fine clumps lift them with care and place them in pots, avoiding injury to the roots. This method will produce a display of colour which cannot be attained by exclusive pot culture.
From the best strains of seed it is possible that a few plants may revert to long-lost characters. Florists are striving to obviate this, but it will require time. Meanwhile there are two ways of dealing with the difficulty. Some growers prefer to raise plants from seed, and take cuttings from approved specimens for the next season. This plan insures exactitude in height and colour, with almost the robust growth and free-flowering qualities of seedlings. But it necessitates holding a stock through the winter, and this may be a serious matter to many. The simpler proceeding, and one which answers well in practice, is to raise seedlings annually and to remove from the pans or boxes any plants which show the least deviation from the true type. A few kept as a reserve will replace faulty specimens which may be detected after planting out.
The handsome perennial section of Lobelias obtains less attention than it deserves, especially as the most ordinary routine culture will suffice for these plants. They are partial to moisture, and also to a deep rich loam. A sowing on moderate heat in February or March will secure plants fit for bedding out in May. They may also be grown entirely without the aid of artificial heat from sowings in June or July. Employ pots or seed-pans, and pot off singly immediately the plants are large enough to handle. The protection of a cold frame or hand-light is all that is necessary during winter, and the planting out may be done in May. These Lobelias reach two feet in height, and make excellent companions to such flowers as Anemone japonica alba and Hyacinthus candicans. The dark metallic foliage and dazzling scarlet flowers also have an imposing effect as the back row of a ribbon border.
Lupine. Hardy annual and hardy perennial
Both the annual and the perennial Lupines are extremely valuable for garden decoration and for supplying an abundance of cut blooms. Each class includes a number of charming colours and many of the flowers are delightfully scented. Not the least of their merits is the fact that Lupines are not particular as to soil; indeed, the annual sorts will often thrive on ground that is too poor for other and more fastidious subjects.
The annual varieties should be sown where intended to flower, as they do not transplant well. Sow the seed in March, April, or May, and subsequently allow each specimen a space of about eighteen inches for development.
L. polyphyllus is a valuable race of perennial Lupines which, from a sowing made in March or April and treated as annuals, will produce a fine show in the following autumn. In order to insure a display earlier in the season, however, many growers of these flowers prefer to sow in June and July of the preceding year. Two varieties of L. arboreus form large bushes which are distinctly ornamental when in full bloom. The seed should be sown in June or July and the seedlings transplanted to flowering positions before they become very large.
Tagetes. Half-hardy annual
Marigolds of several classes are valued for the profuse display of their golden flowers in the later summer months. The choicest are the so-called French, or Tagetes patula, which have richly coloured flowers, and some of the varieties are beautifully striped. For their high quality these Marigolds are judged by the florists' standards. The African, or Tagetes erecta, make large bushy plants with flowers 'piled high' in the centre; the colours are intense orange and yellow. in various shades. The bedding section is represented by the dwarf varieties of Tagetes patula, or Dwarf French Marigolds; also by Tagetes signata, a very neat plant with fine foliage and rather small orange-coloured flowers, produced in great abundance. In hot seasons and on dry soils this proves an admirable substitute for the Calceolaria, which does not thrive when short of food, whereas the Tagetes bears drought, the shade of trees, and a poor soil with patience, and up to a certain point with advantage. Sow all these in March in a moderate heat, and prick the plants out in the usual way, taking care finally to allot them sunny positions. Seed may also be sown in the open ground at the end of April or early in May.
The section of Pot Marigolds, Calendula officinalis, includes two remarkably handsome varieties, Orange King and Lemon Queen; the flowers of both are large, double, perfectly formed, and are worth a place in the choicest garden. These may be sown on the open border in March, April, and May, and the best place for them is in the full sun on a rather dry poor soil, but they are not particular, provided they are not much shaded.
MARVEL OF PERU
Mirabilis Jalapa. Half-hardy perennial
This flower may be treated either as an annual or as a biennial. As an annual the plants are very compact and effective, the leaves and flowers forming round glittering masses in the late summer and autumn months. When the roots are saved through the winter and planted out in April larger plants are obtained, but there is no advance in quality over the very neat and sparkling specimens raised from seed in spring. Sow in heat in March and April, and treat in the same manner as Balsams until the time arrives for planting out. A rich sandy loam suits them, and they like full exposure to sunshine.
Reseda odorata. Hardy annual
Mignonette is so much prized that we must devote to it a paragraph, although there is little to be said. In many gardens plants appear year after year from self-sown seeds, and it will therefore be evident that Mignonette may be grown with the utmost simplicity. As a border plant we have but to sow where it is to remain, at different times from March to midsummer; the one important point is to make the bed very firm; in fact the soil should be trodden hard. It is imperative to thin early and severely, for any one plant left alone will soon be a foot in diameter, and in some circumstances cover a much larger area. Where bees are kept and space can be afforded, seed should be sown in quantity, for Mignonette honey is of the finest quality in flavour and fragrance. In pot culture it should be remembered that Mignonette does not transplant well; therefore, having sown, say, a dozen seeds in each of a batch of 48-or 32-sized pots, firmly filled with rich porous soil to which a little lime or mortar rubble has been added, the young plants must be thinned down to five, or even three, in each pot, as soon as they begin to grow freely. If small plants are wanted early, leave five in a pot; if larger specimens are wanted later, leave only three, or even only one. For winter and spring, sow in August and September and keep them as hardy as possible until it becomes necessary to put them under glass for the winter. A further sowing for succession may be made in January or February. Several strains of different tints are now at the command of cultivators of this favourite flower.
Monkey Flower. Hardy perennial
This flower will grow in almost any soil, although a moist retentive loam and a shady situation are best adapted for it. There are many varieties, differing in height, and all are worth growing, both in pots and borders. If sown in February or March, and treated as greenhouse annuals, they will flower in the first year. It is easy to raise a large number of plants in a cold frame, and they make a rich display in borders and beds later in the year. Sowings in the open ground during summer will supply plants for blooming in the following season, but the most satisfactory course is to grow them as annuals, and at the end of the summer consign them to the waste heap. The Mimulus is quite hardy, and the most ordinary care will suffice for it. Water in plenty it must have, or the flowering period will be curtailed.
The well-known Musk is a Mimulus (M. moschatus), and is as easily grown from seed as other varieties. It makes a valuable pot plant.
Forget-me-not. Perennials, hardy and half-hardy
AT one time an impression prevailed that all the varieties of Myosotis were semi-aquatic, and could only be grown satisfactorily in very damp shady places. And it is quite true that most of them bloom for a longer period in a moist than in a dry soil. Still, they all flower freely, and last a considerable time in any garden border.
The only half-hardy variety that need be referred to is Sutton's Pot Myosotis, which is a delightful subject for flowering indoors at Christmas time; and as Forget-me-nots are everywhere welcome, the practice of growing plants in pots is rapidly increasing. Seed should be sown in a cold frame in June, and the seedlings can be potted on as required, taking care from the commencement to avoid crowding as a precaution against mildew, to which the plants are very liable. The strain referred to produces fine free-growing specimen plants, and a batch should always be in reserve for cutting. For table decoration in winter Forget-me-nots are very telling.
All the hardy varieties may be sown from May to July for a brilliant display in the following spring. The seed should be put into a prepared seed-bed under the shelter of a wall or hedge; and in autumn the plants must be transferred to blooming quarters at the earliest opportunity.
Myosotis make an extremely effective groundwork for spring bulbs, for which purpose M. dissitiflora is the most valuable.
NEMESIA STRUMOSA SUTTONI
THIS beautiful South African annual is remarkable for its floriferous character, long duration of bloom, and diversity of colour. Since we introduced it to this country in 1888 it has attained great popularity as a pot plant for table decoration, and some of the most resplendent bedding effects in public parks and gardens have been secured with this flower.
For an early show of bloom sow in pots or pans in March under glass, using a compost consisting largely of good fibrous loam, with the addition of a small proportion of wood ashes. No more heat than necessary should be used, and when the seedlings are large enough to handle prick them off and gradually harden for planting out in May. Other sowings may be made in May and June, and at this period of the year the seed germinates most quickly in boxes placed in a cool shady spot out of doors. In early summer seed may also be sown in the open border, and by thinning to a distance of six or eight inches sturdy plants will be secured, which will remain in bloom until quite late in autumn.
For winter and early spring flowering in pots seed should be sown in August or September. There must be no attempt at forcing, or attenuated worthless plants will result. A further sowing may be made in January for blooming in the later spring months.
Like the seed of Verbena, Furze, and some other subjects, the germination of Nemesia under artificial conditions is somewhat capricious, but no difficulty will be experienced with open-air sowings.
Tobacco. Half-hardy annual
The delicious fragrance of the Tobacco plant, especially during the morning and evening, has made it a great favourite in the greenhouse and conservatory, as well as in beds and borders near frequented paths.
As a pot plant too, the Nicotiana is exceedingly useful, the large sweet-scented white, soft pink, and rich red coloured flowers being very attractive. A group of plants placed in the porch will, in the earlier and later hours of the day, as the door is opened, fill the house with their delightful perfume. Seed may be sown from January to June, and a continuance of bloom may thus be secured during nearly nine months of the year. Prick off the seedlings as soon as they are fit to handle, for if sown too thickly they are liable to damp off rapidly. Gradually harden off if required for planting out in May or June. In some places, more especially in the South of England, Tobacco seed sown on an open sunny border early in May will produce fine plants that will flower freely in August.
Viola tricolor. Hardy perennial
The popularity of this flower has been greatly extended and the culture simplified since it became the practice to raise the required number of plants every year from seed. For all ordinary purposes the trouble of striking cuttings and keeping stocks in pots through the winter is mere waste of labour and pit-room. The Pansy is a little fastidious, but not severely so. It thrives in a cool climate, with partial shade in high summer, and in a rich, moist, sandy soil. Notwithstanding all this, the Pansy will grow almost anywhere and anyhow; but as fine flowers of this old favourite are highly prized, the plant should be treated with reasonable care to do justice to its great merits.
A thick sowing is very liable to damp off: therefore sow thinly, either in pots or boxes, in February and March. The thin sowing, moreover, renders it possible to take out the forward plants without disturbing the remainder. In due course transplant into pans or boxes of good soil, and place in some cool spot where the plants may gradually harden off. When they have become stocky, remove to beds or borders, with balls of earth attached to the roots. Should the surrounding soil become set by heavy rain or by watering, a slight stirring of the surface will prove beneficial.
Seed sown in the open ground during the summer months will readily germinate, and the seedlings need no attention beyond thinning to about six inches apart until they are ready for transferring to their proper positions, where they will produce a mass of bloom in the following spring.
The Pansy puts forth its buds very early in the year. Whether they are particularly tasty, or the scarcity of young vegetable growth gives them undue prominence, we know not, but certain it is that sparrows show a marked partiality for them. And having once acquired a taste for the buds, these impudent marauders will not leave them alone; they evidently regard Pansies as the perfection of a winter salad. Their depredations can be prevented by an application of water flavoured with quassia or paraffin oil, which must be repeated after rain.
All kinds of Pelargonium may be raised from seed with the certainty of giving satisfaction if the work be well done. An amateur, who contributed to the production of symmetrical flowers in the Zonal section, found that under ordinary treatment Zonals began to bloom in one hundred days from the date of sowing the seed, and some of those that flowered earliest proved to be the finest. The cultivator will soon discover that one rule is important, and that is to sow seed saved from really good strains. The simplest greenhouse culture suffices to raise Pelargoniums from seed. Some growers sow in July or August; others in January or February. The summer sowing necessitates careful winter keeping, and the flowers appear earlier than those from spring-sown seed. But the spring sowing is the easier to manage, and is recommended to all beginners. Any light, sandy loam will serve for these plants, and it is well to flower the principal bulk of them in 48-and 32-sized pots, for if grown to a great size the date of flowering is deferred without any corresponding advantage.
Penstemons when grown as half-hardy annuals are a valuable addition to beds and borders, where they produce a brilliant effect in summer. In borders it is not advisable to plant singly, but they should be employed in groups of not less than one dozen. It is also important to sow a strain consisting principally of scarlet and pink shades with white markings, as well as white flowers; under fair conditions there will be a profusion of richly coloured blooms on stately spikes about two feet high. Sow in heat during February or March and plant out in genial weather. It is not necessary to keep them after flowering has finished, although seedling Pentstemons on comparatively dry soil in favourable districts scarcely feel the winter. Seed may also be sown in June, in the manner usual with hardy perennials, and the plants will bloom in advance of those which are spring-sown.
The Petunia affords another example of the immense strides accomplished in the art of seed-saving. Formerly the colours were few, and the blossoms comparatively insignificant. Now the single strains produce large flowers, beautiful in form, including self colours and others which are striped, blotched, and veined, in almost endless diversity. Some are plain-edged, others elegantly fringed. The double varieties also come so nearly true to their types that there is little necessity for keeping a stock through the winter. Plants raised from seed of the large-flowered strain embrace a wide range of resplendent colours, and the doubles are perfect rosettes, exquisitely finished in form and marking.
The only way of obtaining double seedlings is to save seed from the finest single blooms fertilised with pollen of good double flowers. Plants raised from such seed may be relied on to produce a fair proportion of double flowers of great beauty, and those which come single will be of the large-flowered type.
The dwarf varieties attain the height of five to eight inches only, and make admirable edging and bedding plants. The taller strains range from one to two feet, and are handsome subjects for border and shrubbery work. Both dwarf and tall sections are sufficiently brilliant and free-flowering to produce a beautiful display as pot plants in the greenhouse and conservatory.
For indoor decoration, the third week in January will be early enough to commence operations. Two parts of leaf-mould, one of loam, and one of sharp sand, make an excellent soil for them. Fill the pots or seed-pans within half an inch of the rim, and press the soil firmly down. Sow thinly on an even surface, and cover the seed with almost pure sand. Keep the pots or pans uniformly moist with a fine rose and a light hand, and in a temperature of about 60 deg.. Greater heat will render the seedlings weak and straggling. From this condition it will take some skill and much time to redeem them; indeed, they may not produce a good display of flowers until the season is well-nigh over. Just as the seed is germinating is a critical time for Petunias, and a little extra watchfulness then will be fully repaid.
In February the sun has not sufficient power to do mischief, so that shading is generally unnecessary. An even temperature and freedom from draughts should insure seedlings strong enough to prick off by the end of that month. Put the plants into seed-pans about an inch apart, so that the first leaves just touch the soil, still using a light compost.
In April they should be ready for transferring to small 60-pots. Subsequently they must be potted on as growth demands, until they reach the 48-or even the 32-size. After re-potting place the plants in a sheltered part of the house or frame, where shade can, if necessary, be given until the roots are established. Frequent sprinklings of water, and a temperature of 60 deg. or 65 deg., will give them a vigorous start. The lights ought to be put down in good time in the evening, but this must be done with judgment, or the plants will lose their healthy colour and assume a yellowish tinge. Insufficient drainage has a precisely similar effect. In about ten days air may be given more freely, and then no suitable opportunity of exposure should be lost.
In raising Petunias for bedding, the same conditions are applicable; but as it is useless to put them into the open ground until the weather is warm and settled, the sowing need not be made until the end of February or the beginning of March. And for bedding there is no occasion to put the plants into larger pots than the 60-size. It will be necessary to give these seedlings shade in their young state, after they have been pricked off or potted.
The beds or borders intended for Petunias will be better without recent manure, for this tends to the excessive production of foliage and defers the flowering until late in the season. Do not be tempted by the first sunny day to put them out, but wait for settled weather. A cutting east wind, such as we sometimes have in May, will ruin them irretrievably. Each plant of the tall class will occupy a space of two feet, and the dwarfs may be one foot apart.
In potting Petunias, those which are weakly among the singles will probably produce the most valued colours, and from seed sown for doubles it may be accepted as a rule that from the feebler seedlings the finest rosette-shaped flowers may be expected.
All Petunias are impatient of being pot-bound, and this applies especially to the double varieties. They will, if treated generously, do ample justice to the 8-or even the 10-inch size. The growth should not be hurried at any stage, and if the foliage has a dark, healthy, green colour, free from blight, there will be magnificent flowers four or five inches across. The final shift should be into a sound compost, consisting, if possible, of good loam and leaf-mould in equal parts, with sufficient sand added to insure drainage. About a fortnight later commence giving weak manure water once a week instead of the ordinary watering, and as the buds appear it may be increased in strength, and be administered twice a week until the flowers expand.
Petunias are accommodating in their growth, and may be trained into various forms. The pyramid and fan-shape are most common, and the least objectionable. We confess, however, to a feeling of antipathy to fanciful shapes in plants, no matter what they may be. It is a necessity of our artificial conditions of culture that many of them should be trained and tied to produce shapely specimens, but the more nearly the gardener's art approaches Nature, the greater pleasure we derive from his labours.
Those who are acquainted with the older forms of this annual might fail to recognise a friend under its new and improved appearance. There are now several beautiful types, each possessing characteristics of its own, and all producing flowers that are perfect in form and brilliant in colour. The large-flowered section produces splendid bedding plants, but the dwarf compact varieties are also highly prized for effective massing and general usefulness. The latter attain a height seldom exceeding six inches, and are therefore eminently suitable for edgings and borders, as well as for bedding. They bloom profusely for a long period, not only in the open ground, but also as pot plants in the greenhouse or conservatory, where they are conspicuous for the richness of their display.
For early flowering sow seed of all the varieties in February or March in well-drained pans or shallow boxes. Any good sifted soil, made firm, will suit them, and every seed should be separately pressed in, allowing about an inch between each; then cover with fine soil. This will generally give sufficient space between the plants to save pricking off; but if the growth becomes so strong as to render a transfer necessary, lift every alternate plant, fill the vacant spots with soil, and those left will have room to develop. Pot the plants that are taken out, give them a start in a frame, and shade from direct sunshine. Phloxes should not be coddled; the best results are always obtained from sturdy plants which have been hardened as far as possible by free access of air from their earliest stage of growth. This does not imply that they are to be rudely transferred from protection to the open air. The change can easily be managed gradually until some genial evening makes it perfectly safe to expose them fully. A space of about two feet each way is required for each plant of the large-flowered class, but a more modest allowance of nine or twelve inches will suffice for the dwarf varieties. Before they are put out the plants must be free from aphis; if not, fumigation should be resorted to once or twice until there is a clearance of the pest. Seed of the annual Phlox may also be sown in the open ground during the latter part of May, and the plants will flower abundantly from mid-August until frost destroys them.
The employment of Phlox as pot plants has already been alluded to, but special mention must be made of Purity, which is by far the most valuable of all the varieties for blooming indoors. The pure white flowers, which are sweetly scented, may be produced at almost any period of the year. They are, perhaps, more highly appreciated at Easter than at any other time, and to insure a display at that season seed should be sown in September or October. The plants will do well if grown on in a cold frame, the final shift being into pots of the 48-size. When grown under glass, Phlox should be given treatment as nearly hardy as possible, all that is necessary in regulating temperature being the exclusion of frost from the greenhouse or frame.
The seed of perennial Phlox is very slow and erratic in germinating, and from a sowing made in September the seedlings may not appear until the following spring. Seed may also be sown in the first week of March in shallow boxes, and put into moderate heat. In due time prick out into boxes filled with light rich soil, and having hardened them in the usual way, plant out a foot apart in a good bed, and help, if needful, with an occasional watering.
Dianthus Caryophyllus fl. pi. Hardy perennial
Seedling Picotees are extremely robust and free-flowering, and seed saved from the best types will produce handsome specimens. The instructions for growing Carnation—sowing in pans from April to August and transplanting when large enough—are equally applicable to the Picotee.
Dianthus plumarius. Hardy perennial
This old English flower is valued in every garden. Both the double and single varieties are easily raised from seed and the plants bloom with the greatest freedom. Seed may be sown any time from April to August. Treat the seedlings in the manner advised for Carnations, and in due course transfer to open quarters. The foliage maintains its colour during the severest winter, and is therefore worth consideration for furnishing the border, to say nothing of the abundant display of perfumed flowers which the plants afford in early summer.
Primula (veris) elatior. Hardy perennial
A sowing in February or March in pans will produce strong specimens for flowering in the following year. Or seed may be sown from May to July on a shady border. Prick off the seedlings when large enough to handle. The plants should never flag for want of water, and green fly must be kept down by syringing. Some good solution will be necessary against red spider if through starvation in a dry situation it has been permitted to gain a footing. All the varieties can be grown in a bed with a cool shaded aspect. They do not require a rich soil; a strong and fibrous loam with a little leaf-mould is sufficient. On passing out of flower the plants will split up into several heads, when they may be separated and potted singly. Exquisite colour effects can be created by planting Polyanthus in association with beds of Tulips for flowering in April.
Papaver. Hardy annual and hardy perennial
The recent developments of this flower have brought it into great and deserved popularity, and it may be safely affirmed that few other subjects in our gardens afford a more imposing display of brilliant colouring during the blooming period. The delicate beauty of the Shirley Poppies is alone sufficient to create a reputation for the entire class, and the huge flowers of the double varieties make a gorgeous show. All the varieties are eminently adapted for enlivening shrubbery borders and the sides of carriage-drives.
Seeds of Annual Poppies should be sown where the plants are intended to flower, because it is difficult to transplant with any measure of success. During March or April sow in lines or groups, and thin to about a foot apart. Large clumps of some of the bolder colours should be sown in spots that are visible from a distance, and they will present glowing masses of flowers.
By sowing seeds of Perennial Poppies in pans in March, and putting out the seedlings when large enough, the plants will flower the same year. The more general practice, however, is to sow very thinly on a well-prepared border any time from May to August. Keep the seedlings free from weeds, and thin out if necessary. The plants may be transferred to permanent quarters early in autumn or in the spring months.
Purslane. Half-hardy annual
This is a splendid subject when the weather favours it. In a dry hot season, and on a sandy soil, Portulacas can be grown as easily as Cress. Sowings are sometimes made early in the year in greenhouses or frames; but as a rule it is a vain attempt. Wait until May or June, when the weather appears settled; then put the seed into the open border, and the lighter the soil, and the hotter the season, the more brilliant will be the display of flowers. Sow on raised beds, in rows six or nine inches apart, and cover the seed with sand or fine earth. If the plants appear to be injuriously close they must be thinned. Should a period of rain ensue, the raised beds have a distinct advantage over a flat surface, and rows afford opportunity for stirring the soil and keeping down weeds.
Primula vulgaris. Hardy perennial
The mere name of this flower is sufficient to recall visions of spring and perhaps of happy visits to its haunts in days gone by. But many ardent lovers of the Primrose may not know that the strains which are now in favour embrace a wide range of colour, from pure white to deep crimson or maroon, various shades of yellow and orange, and rich blue. In fact, in a batch of seedlings nearly every plant may differ from its companions. They all agree, however, in possessing the delicate perfume which is characteristic of the hardy woodland favourite. Fancy Primroses are prized as pot and border flowers, and they fully reward florists for all the care which has been devoted to their improvement. They will bloom satisfactorily in any shady spot; but to grow them to perfection requires a stiff moist loam, on the north side of some hedge or shrubbery, where glimpses of sunshine occasionally play upon them. Here large flowers, intense in colour, will be abundantly produced far into the spring.
The finest plants are generally obtained from a February or March sowing made in pans or boxes. Seed may also be sown from May to July in carefully prepared ground in the open. If inclined to take some pains in raising the plants—and they are certainly worth it—make the summer sowings in seed-pans in ordinary potting soil; sprinkle a little sand over the seed, and as a finish press firmly down. Sheets of glass laid over the pans and turned daily will prevent rapid evaporation and help to keep the soil uniformly moist. The seedlings either may be potted once, and then be planted out, or, if strong enough, they may be transferred straight to flowering positions. Should this mode of procedure be considered too troublesome, prepare a shady patch of ground by deep digging; make it firm and level, and on this sow in shallow drills, covering the seed very lightly. A dressing of soot over the surface, and a cordon of ashes round it, will keep off slugs. Thin if necessary, and when the plants are strong enough, remove to their proper quarters. In February the buds will begin to show, and those intended for pots should be allowed to reveal their colours before they are taken up, so that a variety may be obtained. From a retentive soil each plant with its surrounding earth may be taken out almost exactly of the size required, and it should be rather smaller than the pot which has to accommodate it. A light soil must be watered the day before the operation, or the roots will be injuriously exposed. When potted, place the plants in a shaded cold frame or greenhouse, allowing them plenty of space, and withhold water until it is absolutely necessary. At first they should be kept close, but as the roots become established gradually give air more and more freely. Cool, slow treatment is all that is required. Any attempt to hurry the growth will only weaken the plants and ruin the colour of the flowers. Just before the buds open, one or two applications of manure water will be beneficial. When the display in pots is over, if the plants are put out in a shady border, they may flower again late in the season.
Chinese Primrose. Greenhouse annual
The history of the Chinese Primula since it first reached this country has an almost romantic interest. As originally received the flower was, and now is, insignificant in size and miserably poor in colour. But florists at once perceived in it immense possibilities. The result of their labours, extending over many years, may be seen in the magnificent Single, Double, and Star Primulas which now adorn conservatories, greenhouses, and homes. From so small a beginning the range of colours is amazing; there are snowy-white flowers in several beautiful forms, a pure Cambridge blue, rich violet-blue, many shades of rose, pink, scarlet, and gorgeous crimson. Almost equally striking is the improvement in the foliage, especially the introduction of the fern-leaf, with its diverse shades of green and richly toned under-surface.
To enjoy the bloom for a long period make successive sowings in May and June. A further sowing may be made in July if necessary. Use new pots which have been soaked in water; but if these are not at hand, scrub some old pots clean, for Primulas are fastidious from the outset, and it is by apparent trifles that some growers produce plants so immensely superior to others treated with less care. Provide free drainage, and place a little dry moss over the crocks. Any fairly good rich soil will be suitable, but a mixture of equal parts of sound fibrous loam and leaf-mould, with a small addition of silver sand, is best. Press this compost firmly into the pots to within half an inch of the top. Water before sowing, and sprinkle sufficient sand over the surface to cover the soil. On this sand sow evenly and thinly, for it is well known that the finest new Primula seed comes up irregularly, and a thin sowing admits of the removal of plants that may be ready, without disturbing the remainder. Cover the seed with just enough fine soil to hide the sand, and gently press the surface. Place the pots in a sheltered part of the greenhouse, protected from draughts and direct sunlight; a small glazed frame will be useful for this purpose. While the seed is germinating the temperature should not rise above 70 deg., or fall below 50 deg.. Immediately the plants are large enough, prick off round the rim of small pots, and if convenient place them in a propagating box. Water with care, and shade if necessary. When established give air, which should be daily increased until the plants will bear placing on the greenhouse stage. Transfer singly to thumb pots, and subsequently shift into larger sizes as may be requisite, but never do this until the pots are filled with roots, and always put the plants in firmly up to the collar. During July, August, and up to the middle of September expose freely to the air in any convenient position where shelter can be given in unfavourable weather.
Where there is no greenhouse, but only a hot-bed, it is still possible to grow good Primulas, with care and patience. The instructions given for treatment in the greenhouse may easily be adapted to the pit or frame, only there must be a little more watchfulness in affording shade on sunny days to prevent overheating.
Endeavour to give the plants a robust constitution from the first, for weak, rickety things cannot produce a satisfactory bloom. Primulas need a long period of growth before they flower; hence they should never be subjected to a forcing temperature. Sufficient heat must be provided to raise the plants, but afterwards the aim should be to render Primulas as nearly hardy as possible before cold weather sets in. There must, however, be ample protection against frost, damp, and cutting winds.
Primula stellata (Star Primula).—This elegant strain of Primula, introduced by us in 1895, has attained a high position in popular favour. Although it is not intended to supersede or compete with the splendid strains of P. sinensis, it is a most valuable addition to the conservatory, and will be found indispensable for general decorative work. The plants are unusually floriferous and continue in bloom for a long time. When cut, the sprays travel well and remain fresh in water many days. For table adornment Star Primulas are unsurpassed by any other greenhouse flower at their own period of the year. The culture is precisely the same as for P. sinensis.
Half-hardy Primula.—This section, which embraces a number of very charming species, includes the well-known P. obconica grandiflora, which is almost perpetual-blooming under glass. Seed of this Primula may be sown from February to July, from the earliest of which the plants will flower in autumn and continue to bloom throughout the winter. In the early stages the seedlings may be managed as already directed for P. sinensis, bearing in mind that excessive watering should be avoided. Cool greenhouse treatment will suit the plants well.
Another half-hardy variety which has recently attained wide popularity is P. malacoides. The dainty flowers are produced tier upon tier to a height of about two feet and are very sweetly perfumed. For a winter display sow in February, and successional sowings may be made until July. P. malacoides especially resents a forcing temperature. Therefore the culture should be as nearly hardy as possible, and even in the seedling stage the plants must have free access of air on all suitable occasions, or they are very liable to damp off.
Hardy Primula.—A number of very elegant garden Primulas are worthy of attention. The majority answer well when grown in borders, but they are especially at home in rock or Alpine gardens. The family is now so large and so variable in time of blooming that it is possible to have the different species in flower during almost every month of the year. As a rule, it is advisable to raise the seedlings in pots or pans placed in a frame or greenhouse, and to transfer them to the open ground when thoroughly hardened off.
The Ranunculus can be grown either from seed or from roots. The seed is thinly sown from January to March, in boxes four to six inches deep, filled with good soil. A cool greenhouse or frame is the proper place for the boxes until the spring is somewhat advanced. A little extra care is requisite to insure free growth and a hardy constitution, and the roots should not be turned out of the boxes until they have ceased growing and are quite ripe; then they may be stored for planting in November or February. For particulars on the treatment of roots, see page 348.
Castor-oil Plant. Half-hardy annual
Although this plant flowers freely, it is grown in the sub-tropical garden principally for its noble ornamental foliage, and also in the shrubbery border, either alone or in conjunction with other fine subjects, such as Canna, Solanum, Nicotiana, and Wigandia. Plants of the dwarfer varieties may also be used with very decorative effect in conservatories and greenhouses during the summer and autumn months.
To have plants ready for making a show in early summer they must be raised as half-hardy annuals in February or March. From the commencement a rich soil and abundant supplies of water are necessary for the production of stately specimens. The seed is large, and may be put singly into pots, or three or four in each, and the latter is the usual practice. A temperature of about 60 deg. will bring them up. If several plants are grown in a pot, they must be separated while quite young, and put into small pots filled with very rich soil. It is almost impossible to have the compost too rich, so long as drainage is quite safe. When the pot is full of roots, shift to a larger size, and commence the process of hardening, in readiness for planting out in June. This is worth some care, for if the plant receives a check when put out, it may take a long time to recover, and then part of the brief growing season will be wasted. Many gardeners never raise Ricinus in heat, but trust entirely to a sowing in the open on the first day of May. The seeds are put in three inches deep, in groups of three or four, and finally the plants are thinned to one at each station.
Prepare the soil in advance by deep digging and the incorporation of an abundant supply of manure. The most effectual way of doing it is to take out the earth to a depth of eighteen inches or two feet, and fill in with decayed manure and loam, chiefly the former. Upon this put out the plant, or sow seed as may be determined. If this is too great a tax on resources, or the near presence of shrubs renders the proceeding impossible, drive a bar into the soil, which, if light, can be readily worked into a fair-sized hole. Fill this with rich stuff nearly to the top, and over it either put the plant or sow seed. A heavy top-dressing round each stem is also desirable, and the application of copious supplies of water will carry the nourishment down to the roots. Sub-tropical plants are only a source of disappointment under niggardly treatment, but they amply repay all the care and generosity which a liberal hand may lavish upon them. The plants will need the support of stakes to save them from injury in a high wind.
A very remarkable perennial, only four inches high, obtained from eastern tropical Africa. The plant has fleshy leaves, and the flowers, which are produced in clusters, somewhat resemble the Violet, but are much larger. Saintpaulia makes a beautiful table ornament, and a row of pot plants in full bloom forms a charming margin in conservatories, either for a stage or on the ground. The seedlings flower freely in about six months from date of sowing, and continue in bloom through the winter. Sowings may be made from January to March, in well-drained pots placed in a temperature of 60 deg. to 65 deg.. On no account should the soil be allowed to become dry. Subsequently the plants may be treated as recommended for Gloxinias.