A highly ornamental half-hardy annual. The finest strains have large, open flowers, exhibiting extraordinary combinations of colours which range from the palest sulphur-white to orange, scarlet, and purple-violet, all being more or less pencilled and veined with some strong contrasting colour.
If an early display is wanted, a start should be made at the end of February or beginning of March, by sowing on a moderate hot-bed. In May the plants will be ready for flowering quarters. Or sow in April in the open ground where the plants are to remain, taking care to thin severely, and the thinnings will be useful for dibbling in out-of-the-way comers, where they will furnish acceptable material for table decoration, for which purpose this striking flower is well adapted.
Salpiglossis make charming pot plants for the greenhouse and conservatory. For this purpose seed should be sown in August or September, and under cool-house treatment the plants will bloom profusely in the following spring.
Hardy annual and half-hardy perennial
From a genus including 450 species a small number of Salvias have won deserved popularity for beds and borders. In summer and early autumn the long spikes of brilliant flowers produced by Fireball and Scarlet Queen make an extremely attractive display, and S. patens is one of the most superb pure blue flowers seen in gardens. As a bedding plant S. argentea is extensively grown for its silvery-white foliage, which completely covers the ground. These and other perennial varieties may be sown in pans during February and March for transfer to the open in May, and the plants need the usual treatment of half-hardy perennials.
A favourite annual variety is Blue Beard, growing eighteen inches high and presenting long spikes of bright purple bracts. The annual Salvias should also be sown in pans in February or March and transplanted in May; or seed may be sown in the open border during April.
The Butterfly Flower. Half-hardy annual
At many leading horticultural displays in recent years masses of Schizanthus of extraordinary beauty have been exhibited with striking success. In conservatories, greenhouses, and on dinner-tables the plants form conspicuous ornaments and they should be freely grown for general decorative purposes. On special occasions the pots may be plunged to create a brilliant show of bloom as temporary beds and they are also extremely attractive in hanging-baskets.
The usual time for sowing seed to insure fine specimens is the end of August or early in September. Either well-drained pots or shallow boxes, filled with a good potting compost, will answer for raising the seedlings. Sow thinly, on a smooth surface, and cover the seeds with finely sifted soil. When the young plants appear place the pots or boxes near the glass where they can have abundance of light and air, so that from the start the plants may be short and healthy. Seedlings that are thin and drawn are never worth the space they occupy. Immediately they are large enough to handle, transfer to shallow boxes, allowing a space of three inches to each plant. The compost to consist of sound loam and leaf-soil in equal proportions, with the addition of sufficient coarse sand to render the mixture porous. For two or three days keep the boxes in a frame, which must remain closed and be shaded from sunshine until the seedlings are established, but remove the shading whenever possible; then give air freely, and on attaining a height of three inches the first stopping may be done. A fortnight later the plants will be ready for pots of the 60-size. Treat them as nearly hardy as weather may permit. Stop the shoots a second time when about six inches high, with the object of forming bushy plants capable of yielding a bountiful bloom. When the 60-pots are filled with roots transfer to the 48-size, and in due time the final shift should be into pots of the 24-size. Larger pots may, of course, be employed for very fine specimens. The compost for this final shift ought to consist of two parts of rich loam, one part of leaf-soil, and one part of thoroughly decayed manure; the addition of sharp sand will be necessary. The stems to be tied out to stakes in good time to prevent injury. Just before the flowering period and while the plants are actually in bloom, weak liquid manure, instead of water, once or twice a week will be beneficial. A high temperature is not required, even in the winter months, to maintain Schizanthus in healthy condition. From 35 deg. to 40 deg. is all the heat they need; in fact, it is only requisite to keep frost at bay, and this near approach to hardy treatment will result in fine robust plants.
The Schizanthus may also be sown during March and April in pans placed in gentle heat, the seedlings being potted on for flowering in the conservatory or they may be put out in the open border. Towards the end of April or in May seed may be sown out of doors.
One point in the successful culture of Schizanthus should never be forgotten. The roots must not be allowed to become pot-bound. Where this is permitted at any stage of growth it is fatal to the development of a handsome show of bloom.
Jacobea. Hardy annual
Among the double varieties, the crimson, purple, rose and white Senecios take the lead for beauty and usefulness. They are remarkably accommodating plants, adapted for beds or the greenhouse. Sow early in pans or boxes, give the seedlings liberal treatment, and when bedded out the plants will produce myriads of bright flowers, until frost puts a stop to them. Any good soil which does not become pasty will suit, and full exposure to sunshine is essential to the production of a rich display of colour. In March or April seed may safely be sown in the open ground.
The Tall Single Bright Rose Jacobea is invaluable as a cut flower for table decoration under artificial light. It rivals the Star Cineraria in form and, being a hardy annual, it may be grown with the utmost ease.
Catchfly. Hardy annual
Not one of the hardy annuals has established a better claim to be sown in autumn than the Silenes. Alone, they make a very attractive display, and they can be used with especial effect in beds planted with Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Tulips. While the Daffodils are in full beauty the Silenes clothe the ground with a carpet of green, and after the foliage of the bulbs has been cut off or pinned down the Silenes furnish a fresh display of floral beauty in advance of the summer bedders.
Silenes do not thrive on heavy damp soils, but the difficulty can be surmounted by keeping the plants in pans or boxes under a cold frame until growing weather sets in. The plants do very well in loam, and best of all in a dry sandy soil. The spring sowing should be made in March or April; the autumn sowing in August or early in September.
Annual and perennial; half-hardy
Solanums are of importance, some as greenhouse plants, and others as sub-tropical bedders. They are somewhat tender in constitution, and must have good cultivation in a light rich soil. A sharp look-out for red spider is necessary, for this pest is very partial to Solanums. March is early enough to sow the seed, but for ordinary purposes April is to be preferred. By the middle of June the plants should be strong enough to put out, and with genial weather will make rapid progress. Those grown for their berries may be sown from February onwards, as it is important to secure bushy plants before they begin to flower, and an early start insures an early ripening of the bright, handsome fruit.
Sea Lavender. Hardy and half-hardy annuals and hardy perennial
It would be difficult to decide whether the Sea Lavenders are more highly valued as border flowers or as cut material for use indoors. Certain it is that the light and graceful sprays of delicately coloured flowers are indispensable for house decoration, either when freshly cut or when dried for mixing with Helichrysums and other everlastings in winter. Yet Statice are very attractive when growing in the border, the varieties of branching habit giving a long-continued display of beautiful flowers.
The half-hardy varieties should be sown from January to March in pans placed on bottom heat. When large enough prick off the seedlings into boxes of good light soil, and gradually harden off in readiness for planting out in May. The hardy annual kinds also answer best when started in pans during March or April and transferred to the open in due course. Seed of the hardy perennial varieties should be sown in a nice light compost any time from April to July. Put out the plants into flowering positions when they have attained a suitable size.
When grown on in pots, the half-hardy sorts make exceedingly pretty subjects for house or conservatory decoration.
Mathiola. Annual and biennial half-hardy
From the botanical standpoint Stocks comprise two main classes—the Annual and the Biennial. So accommodating as to treatment is this extensive family, however, that by selecting suitable sorts and sowing at appropriate periods, it is not difficult to obtain a succession of these delightful flowers the year through. With this object in view, our notes are divided into four sections covering the cycle of the seasons, as follows: Summer-flowering, or Ten-week; Intermediate varieties, for autumn-flowering; Winter-flowering; and Spring-flowering.
Summer-flowering, or Ten-week Stocks.—These annual varieties include a wonderful range of colours, as well as considerable diversity in the habit of growth. For their brightness, durability, and fragrance they are deservedly popular. It is usual to sow the seed under glass from the middle to the end of March. Pans or shallow boxes, filled with sweet sandy soil, make the best of seed-beds, and it may be well to say at once that no plants pay better for care and attention than the subjects now under consideration. Sow thinly, that the plants may have room to become stout while yet in the seed-bed, and from the very outset endeavour to impart a hardy constitution by giving air freely whenever the weather is suitable. This does not mean that they are to be subjected to some cutting blast that will cripple the plants beyond redemption, but that no opportunity should be lost of partial or entire exposure whenever the atmosphere is sufficiently genial to benefit them. If a cold frame on a spent hot-bed can be spared, it may be utilised by pricking off the seedlings into it, or the pans and boxes may simply be placed under its protection. The nearer the seedlings can be kept to the glass, the less will be the disposition to become leggy. In transplanting to the open ground, it is worth some trouble to induce each plant to carry a nice ball of soil attached to its roots.
On light, friable land, Ten-week Stocks can be successfully grown from sowings made in the open about the end of April. The character of the season must be some guide to the time chosen, and the sowing in this case should be rather thicker than in the seed-pans. Should the seed germinate well, severe thinning will have to be practised as growth demands. This method of culture entirely prevents loss by mildew, which so often proves fatal to young transplanted seedlings. It is difficult to make the soil too good for them, and there is no comparison between Stocks grown on a poor border and those grown in luxuriance. Some growers make a little trench for each row of seed, and this affords a certain degree of protection from cutting winds, and also forms a channel for water when there is a necessity for administering it. In a showery season, the plants will appear in about twelve days, but in dry weather it will be longer, and one or more gentle morning waterings may be necessary to bring them up. The distance between the rows must be determined by the variety. Nine inches is sufficient for the dwarf sorts; twelve or fifteen inches will not be too much for medium and tall kinds.
Slugs may be kept off by a dusting of soot or wood-ashes, and some precaution must also be adopted to prevent birds from disturbing the seed-bed.
Here it may be well to mention a fact which is not always remembered, although the knowledge of it is generally assumed. Seed can only be saved from single flowers, but those who have made a study of the business find little difficulty in selecting plants, and treating them in such a manner that seed obtained from them will produce a large percentage of double blossoms in the following generation. But the experience of the most skilled growers has not enabled them to save seed which will result entirely in double-flowering plants; and this is scarcely to be regretted, for the perpetuation of the race is dependent on single flowers. In keeping the various colours true there is one very awkward fact. Certain sorts invariably produce a difference in colour between the double and single flowers.
Intermediate Stocks form a valuable succession to the Summer-flowering, or Ten-week varieties. From seed sown in gentle heat in February or March, the plants usually commence flowering when the earlier varieties are beginning to fade, and will continue to bloom until winter sets in. It is also easy to grow the Intermediate section in pots for spring decoration, if the protection of a house or pit can be given during the winter to preserve them from frost. A simple plan is to sow in August or early in September five or six seeds in 48-sized pots. Thin to three plants in each, and of course a larger pot with more plants can be used when desirable. Give air whenever possible, and water regularly. There is no need for artificial heat; indeed, it is not well to hurry the plants in any way. A good top-dressing of rich soil is advisable before flowering, and as the buds appear, manure water, weak at first, but gradually increased in strength, may be given once a week until in full bloom.
Winter-flowering Stocks.—During the winter months Stocks afford an immense amount of pleasure. They are particularly welcome at Christmas, and to insure flowering plants at that season of the year suitable varieties, such as Christmas Pink or Beauty of Nice, should be selected, and a start made in June. As soon as the first leaf is attained, prick off three seedlings in a three-inch pot; place in a cool frame under a north wall, keeping the light off all day until they are ready for another shift into six-inch pots. Use three parts of good yellow loam and one part of leaf-soil—no sand. Pot firmly and restore to the frame until the plants start growing, when they may be removed to the greenhouse. Manure water, not too strong, once a week is beneficial, and pure water should be given sparingly. Keep near the glass and ventilate freely. Further sowings made in July and August will extend the supply of flowers.
Spring-flowering Stocks, which include the popular Brompton strain, come into flower in spring and early summer. Although in some seasons it may answer to sow where the plants are required to bloom, the practice is too precarious to be risked generally. A safer method is to sow in seed-pans in June or July. Place these under shelter until the plants are an inch high, then stand them in the open for a week before transplanting. Have ready a piece of freshly-dug soil, and on a dull day put them out at eight to twelve inches apart. If the growth is too rapid during September, it may be advisable to lift them and plant again, for the winter must not find them soft and succulent. There should be hard stems and sturdy growth to carry them through the cold weather. In districts that are specially unfavourable it may be necessary to pot each plant singly in the 60-size, and plunge these in ashes in a cold frame, or under the shelter of a south wall, until severe weather is past, and they can then be turned out into the borders.
Cape Primrose. Tender perennial
The hybrids are a very striking race, invaluable for greenhouse and conservatory decoration, producing a continuous succession of large trumpet-shaped flowers, embracing colours ranging from pure white, through lavender, purple, violet, rose, and red, to rich rosy-purple. Sow very thinly from January to March in well-drained pots, and a dusting of fine soil will sufficiently cover the seed. Place the pots in a temperature of 60 deg. to 65 deg., and take care that the soil is not allowed to become dry. Prick off the seedlings when large enough to handle, keeping them in the temperature named until the final potting. When established they thrive with ordinary attention in a greenhouse, and they winter well in a temperature ranging between 40 deg. and 50 deg.. Seed sown in January and February will produce plants which will come into bloom during the following June and July.
Streptocarpus Wendlandii is a singularly interesting variety. Only one immense leaf is produced, which frequently attains a width of two feet, with a proportionate length. This leaf is reflexed, completely hiding the pot on one side, and from its midrib scapes of elegant violet-blue flowers with white throat are thrown up to a height of eighteen inches. The seeds should be sown in a warm greenhouse early in the year. The plants will begin to flower in the winter and continue in bloom for about six months. The temperature which is suitable for Gloxinias will answer for this plant also.
Helianthus annuus. Hardy annual
The utility of the Sunflower has been alluded to in a former page. Here we have only to regard the plant in its ornamental character, as an occupant of the shrubbery or flower border.
In addition to the common species, there are several strains which are adapted for special purposes. The dwarf varieties grow about three to four feet high, and produce fine heads of bloom. The 'giant' attains the enormous height of eight or ten feet in a favourable season, and the flowers are of immense size. The double strain generally reaches six feet in height, and is valuable for its fine show of colour and enduring quality. There is no difficulty, therefore, in making a selection to suit the requirements of any border. The Sunflower can also be employed in one or more rows to make a boundary or to hide an unsightly fence, and some growers use it as a screen for flowers which will not bear full sunshine.
Seed may be sown very early in the season, and the plants can be brought forward in the manner usual with half-hardy annuals, but there is no necessity for this mode of growing them. Sow in April or May where the plants are to flower, on soil which has been abundantly manured to a depth of eighteen inches, and they will bloom in good time. To maintain the rapid growth, water must not be stinted in dry weather.
Lathyrus odoratus. Hardy climbing annual
The history of the Sweet Pea can be traced back for more than two hundred years; and it is almost as fascinating as an exhibition of the flowers. Recent improvements in this highly popular subject include an amazing diversity of colours, a marked increase in the number of flowers on each stem, and an extraordinary enlargement in their size. A modern list may run into hundreds, but those who grow every known variety find that there are many close resemblances, arising no doubt from simultaneous introductions by hybridists who have experimented on similar lines. Enthusiastic growers of Sweet Peas are no longer content with a limited number of named varieties, for it is obvious that in competitions where fifty or a hundred bunches have to be staged for certain prizes, a large and representative collection must be grown. For general garden decoration, however, and to provide sprays for the adornment of homes, the Giant-flowered class, offered under colours only, will continue to be extremely popular.
The change in character and the increased usefulness of Sweet Peas have necessitated a revolution in the methods of culture. The freer growth and more robust habit demand greater space than was formerly allowed. Instead of crowded rows of attenuated plants, producing a meagre return of small flowers, poor in colour, it is now the practice to prepare the ground by deep trenching and liberal manuring, and to give every plant ample space for full development both in rows and in clumps. In the ensuing paragraphs we outline the cultural routine which should be followed as nearly as possible by those who desire to insure a long-continued supply of the very finest flowers. But where circumstances do not permit of these recommendations being adopted in full, the details may be modified according to the materials at command and the requirements of the cultivator.
It is usual to commence the preparation of the ground in autumn. Trenching is of paramount importance, for the roots of the Sweet Pea require a considerable depth of good soil in which to ramify for the support of robust healthy plants capable of producing handsome flowers over a long season. Where the surface soil is shallow, care must be exercised to avoid bringing uncultivated subsoil to the top, and it is well worth incurring a little extra trouble to provide a sufficient depth of fertile material for full root development. Therefore dig out a wide trench and place the good top soil on one side. Then remove and discard the subsoil to a depth of twelve inches and, after breaking up the bottom of the trench with a fork or pickaxe, replace with an equal quantity of decayed manure, leaves, old potting soil or any other suitable stuff that may be on hand. Finally return the top soil to its original position.
The use of manure needs discrimination, and in fixing the quantity, as well as in selecting the most suitable kinds, due consideration must be given to the character of the soil. For light land, four barrow-loads of well-rotted farmyard manure per square pole will make an excellent dressing, but a rather smaller amount will suffice for heavy ground. In place of farmyard manure an unlimited quantity of leaf-soil, if obtainable, may be used, and it is also a good plan to dig in any available green refuse. Garden ground which for some years previously has been kept in a state of high cultivation by the liberal use of natural manure will not, as a rule, need further help in this direction, but it should receive a good dressing of lime. Indeed, any soil in which Sweet Peas are to be grown should contain not less than two per cent. of lime. The employment of artificial, as well as organic, manures is essential in any first-class scheme of cultivation. But here a word of warning is necessary. Nitrogenous manures in any form are harmful to the plant when applied in large quantities, and are liable to predispose it to disease, except on extreme types of sandy soil. Heavy ground should be dressed with seven pounds of basic slag in autumn and two pounds of sulphate of potash in spring. On light soils apply in spring four pounds of superphosphate of lime and two pounds of sulphate of potash. The quantities stated in each case are sufficient for a square pole of ground. Wood ashes (in a dry state) are also of great value, and these should be raked in a little in advance of planting out.
The special preparation of the soil just described entails the raising of plants in pots or boxes in readiness for transfer to the open as early as weather permits in spring. The finest flowers are undoubtedly obtained from an autumn sowing, and about the middle of September may be regarded as the best period for putting in the seed. This early commencement possesses the advantage of allowing ample time for the development of sturdy, well-rooted plants, which will not only bloom in advance of those sown in spring but will remain in flower for an unusually long period. Sow in light porous soil, and either three-inch pots, pans or boxes may be used. Place in a cold frame and keep the lights down until the seeds have germinated, but afterwards the frame should never be closed except during severe weather. There must be no misunderstanding on the question of air-giving. The Sweet Pea is almost hardy, and robust healthy seedlings, grown as nearly as possible under natural conditions, are wanted. Therefore to subject the plant to artificial heat will only defeat the object in view. A current of air should be admitted to the frame day and night, and the lights may be entirely removed on all favourable occasions. But the seedlings will need protection from excessive moisture, for if too wet at the roots they are liable to injury from frost. When four pairs of leaves are formed, stop each plant once, and after a little further progress has been made transplant singly into three-inch pots. Keep the pots in the frame, giving only such protection from hard weather as may be absolutely necessary, and plant out on the first suitable opportunity. In the South transplanting may be possible late in February or at the opening of March, but a month later will be safer in districts north of the Trent.
Those who for any reason do not find it convenient to sow in autumn may start the seed early in the year—from mid-January onwards, according to the district. The general principles described in the preceding paragraph apply equally to spring sowings, but it may be well to say that there must be no attempt to hasten growth by the application of a high temperature. A frame will afford all the protection necessary, and even a box covered with glass and placed in a sheltered spot will be found serviceable for raising seedlings.
Before planting out, the top soil of the ground prepared in autumn must be well worked and made friable. The disposition of the plants, and the method adopted for staking them, will, to a great extent, depend on the precise purpose for which the flowers are required. For garden decoration single rows answer well, and the plants should be spaced one foot apart. Or, if preferred, put out in clumps of three to five plants, allowing a diameter of from nine to fifteen inches. Carefully remove the plants from the pots or boxes in which they were raised, disentangle the roots and shake them quite free from soil. Make a hole of the necessary depth, and allow the roots to descend into the ground to their full extent, which may be as much as two feet in the case of well-grown specimens from autumn-sown seed. Give support immediately with well-branched twigs, and it is important that the plants be kept perfectly upright. Finally stake with bushy hazel sticks eight to ten feet in height, or taller still where the ground has been generously prepared.
Long-stemmed flowers free from blemish are essential for show work and for the highest forms of house decoration, and to insure an adequate supply over an extended period the following method, which is adopted by some of the most successful exhibitors, is strongly to be recommended. The plants are put out in double rows one foot apart, and spaced a foot apart in the lines. Each plant should carry two shoots only, both of which must be provided with a rod of bamboo, ash, or hazel, ten to twelve feet in length. For this double cordon system the rods will stand six inches apart in the rows, and it is desirable to make them secure against damage from high winds. Insert a stout pole at each end of the row, and about seven feet from the ground-level fix to each pole a substantial wooden crosspiece a little more than a foot in length. From these cross-pieces tightly stretch strands of wire, to which securely tie the rods. As growth develops commence disbudding promptly, regularly remove all laterals and tendrils, and tie each cordon to its supporting rod with raffia as often as may be necessary.
After transfer to the open ground the plants must never be allowed to become dry at the roots. Keep the hoe going between the rows, especially after the soil has been beaten down by rain.
The blooming period can be prolonged by the simple expedient of daily removing the dead or faded flowers. The ripening of only a few seed-pods speedily puts a stop to flowering.
In the open ground seed may be sown in spring from February to May, and successional sowings at intervals of a fortnight will extend the supply of flowers far into autumnal days. Even where a few clumps only can be grown it is unwise to depend on a single sowing. Autumn sowings outdoors are often made in September or October where a warm soil and favourable situation can be insured.
Sweet Peas have two principal foes, the slug and the sparrow. Against the former the usual precautions, such as ashes, old soot, lime, and various traps, are available; and the latter must by some means be prevented from doing mischief. After the buds show through the soil, it is generally too late for the adoption of remedies. Nearly all the heads will be found nipped off and laid ready for inspection. One could almost forgive the marauders were food the object, but the birds appear to commit havoc from pure wantonness, and whole rows are sometimes destroyed in a single morning.
Early sprays are so much prized that the practice of flowering Sweet Peas in pots under glass is yearly increasing, and for this purpose seed must be sown in August or September; the plants to be kept slowly moving during the dark days. In February the growth will be more rapid, but it is important to give the plants the hardiest possible treatment. In April, if properly managed, there will be a brilliant display.
The winter-flowering race blooms freely at a still earlier period, although the plants are less vigorous than other varieties.
Dianthus barbatus. Hardy biennial
Sweet William belongs to the same genus as the Pink. The finest strains produce superb heads of flowers, some of them intensely rich in colour, while others have a contrasting edge. The new varieties are so marked an advance on older colours that they have created a fresh interest in this favourite garden flower.
In several instances we have advised that biennials and perennials should be treated as annuals, both on the ground of economy and for the excellent results obtained by this practice. But the Sweet William is not amenable to any treatment which reduces the natural period of growth.
Seed may be sown in May, June or July for transplanting in autumn, and the numerous colours afford opportunity of obtaining a great diversity of splendid effects in beds and borders.
Sow in a warm temperature in March or April. Prick off while small into pots, and subsequently pot the seedlings singly. Any fairly good compost will suit them. The branches need support, and the plants must be kept free from green fly. The Torenias make very elegant pot plants, and they are also well adapted for hanging baskets and other ornamental contrivances.
Nasturtium, or Indian Cress. Hardy and half-hardy annuals
The Tropaeolum tuberosum is treated under the 'Culture of Flowering Bulbs,' so that here we have only to consider the varieties that are grown from seed. There are two distinct classes, both widely cultivated, for the seed is inexpensive, and the plants extremely showy durable, and easily raised.
Tropaeolum majus is the climbing Nasturtium, or great Indian Cress. The flower as originally obtained from Peru was a rich orange, marked with deep reddish-brown, but it has been developed into various shades of yellow and red, culminating in a tint which is almost black. The leaves are nearly circular, and are attached to the long footstalks by the centre instead of at the margin. Loudon fancifully compares the leaf to a buckler, and the flower to a helmet. The Lobbianum section is close in habit, with smaller foliage borne on somewhat woolly stems. All the varieties bloom freely, and constitute a brilliant class of climbers of great value for brightening the backs of borders or hiding unsightly objects. After the seeds have been dibbled about an inch deep in either April or May, the only attention the plants require is to nip out a straggling shoot occasionally, or prevent a stray branch from reaching over and smothering some plant which will not endure its embraces.
The well-known Canary Creeper (T. canariense) is a perfectly distinct variety, and as a half-hardy annual should be raised under protection and planted out in May, although sowings in the open ground in April and May often prove satisfactory. Unlike the others, it needs a rich soil to insure vigorous growth. When liberally treated the entire plant will be covered with its bright fairy-like flowers, until frost ends its career.
Tropaeolum majus nanum.—The Tom Thumb, or Dwarf varieties, make excellent bedding plants, blooming far on into the autumn after many of the regular bedders have faded and become shabby. There is an extensive choice of colours in reds, yellows, and browns, which come perfectly true from seed, and all possess the merit of flowering freely on very poor soil. They grow luxuriantly on rich land, but then the foliage becomes a mere mask under which the flowers are concealed. There is not one of the Tom Thumb class that may not be treated as a hardy annual, and all afford opportunity of making a gorgeous show of colour at a cost ridiculously disproportionate to the effect obtained. They are also admirably adapted for pot culture, making shapely plants covered with bloom for a long period.
Many of the later introductions in Nasturtium are notable for their refined and delicate colouring, and are extremely desirable subjects for the decoration of the dinner-table and small vases in the drawing-room.
As the flavour of the flowers and leaves somewhat resembles that of common Cress, they are frequently used in salads, and are accounted an excellent anti-scorbutic. The flowers are legitimately employed in decorating the salad-bowl, because they are not only ornamental but strictly edible.
In a green state the seeds of both tall and dwarf varieties make an excellent pickle which is occasionally used as a substitute for capers.
Hardy and half-hardy perennials
VERBENAS raised from the best strains of seed come true to colour and the plants are models of health and vigour, and make resplendent beds. It is of the utmost importance to remember that the Verbena requires very little of the artificial heat to which it is commonly subjected, and which fully accounts for the frequency of disease among plants propagated from cuttings. Seed may be sown in boxes in January, February, and March, the earlier sowings naturally requiring more heat than the later ones. As the seedlings become large enough, they should be potted on and planted out in May, when they will flower throughout the summer, and far into the autumn.
Verbenas may also be sown in March or April in boxes, put into a frame, and if kept moist a lot of plants will appear in about a month. When large enough these must be carefully lifted and potted. A rich, mellow, and very sweet soil is needed by the Verbena. Many of the failures that occur in its cultivation are not only traceable to the coddling of the plant under glass, but also to the careless way in which it is often planted on poor worn-out soil that has been cropped for years without manure, or even the sweetening effects of a good digging. Raising Verbenas from seed has restored this plant to the list of easily grown and thoroughly useful flowers for the parterre.
The hardy perennial V. venosa also comes perfectly true and uniform from seed.
Tufted Pansy. Hardy perennial
This plant well merits its popularity for use in beds and borders. It is perfectly hardy, the habit is good, and it continues in bloom for several months in the year. The treatment prescribed for Pansy is also suitable for Viola.
Cheiranthus Cheiri. Hardy biennial
Wallflowers are often sown too late. As a result the growth is not thoroughly matured, and the plants present but a feeble show of bloom. They should in their season be little mounds of fire and gold, exhaling a perfume that few flowers can equal in its peculiar freshness. Sow the seed in May or June, in a sunny place, on rather poor, but sweet and well-prepared soil favourable to free rooting. When the plants are two inches high, transplant into rows six inches asunder, allowing three inches apart in the row, and as soon as the plants overlap transplant again, six or nine inches apart every way, aiding with water when needful to help them to new growth. Or lift every other row and every other plant, leaving the remainder untouched to supply flowers for cutting. When the beds are cleared of their summer occupants, they may be filled with the best plants of Wallflower, to afford cheerful green leafage all through the winter and a grand show of bloom in the spring, as frost will not hurt the single varieties; but the doubles will not always endure the rigours of a severe winter.
Early-flowering Varieties.—By selection and cross-fertilisation an early-flowering race of Wallflowers has been obtained, and it is now possible to enjoy for many months of the year a fragrance which has hitherto been associated exclusively with spring. From a sowing made in May or June the plants commence flowering in autumn and continue throughout the winter, unless checked by frost. With the advent of spring weather, however, they burst into full bloom, making a delightful display in advance of the ordinary varieties.
This plant is grown for its foliage, and is extensively used in sub-tropical gardening. The instructions given for raising Ricinus in heat apply equally to this subject; but it is not wise to rely on an open-air sowing for a supply of Wigandias.
Zinnia elegans. Half-hardy annual
THE double varieties of Zinnia have entirely eclipsed the single form of this flower. They grow to an immense size and are extremely valuable for beds and borders, the plants remaining in bloom for a considerable period. Double Zinnias are so varied in colour and beautiful in form that they deserve to take high rank as exhibition flowers.
The Zinnia is delicate, and should not be sown too soon. March is quite early enough to commence operations, and the first week in April will be none too late for sowing. A compost that suits Asters will answer admirably for Zinnias. Sow in 4-1/2 inch pots, which should have very free drainage, and cover the seed thinly with fine soil. Plunge the pots at once in a temperature of about 60 deg., when the seed will germinate quickly, and the plants on attaining one inch in height can be potted off separately. Place them in a close frame, shade from sunshine, and when well established, gradually give air and harden off. It will not be safe to transfer to the open until the first week in June, unless the position is exceptionally sheltered and the soil very dry. A shrubbery border is a suitable spot, and the more scorching the season the finer will be the flowers. There must, however, be shelter from the wind, for the stems of Zinnias are hollow, and easily damaged by a storm.
A satisfactory display of this flower may be obtained without the aid of heat by sowing in the open ground about the middle of May. Select a sunny sloping border or bed for sowing, enrich the soil, and make it fine. Press this down rather firmly, then drop three or four seeds at intervals of from fifteen to eighteen inches between each group, and lightly cover them. In due time thin to one plant at each station. If they thrive the branches will not only meet but overlap, and produce a grand display. In the event of very dry weather at sowing time the ground may be watered before the seed is put in, and then be covered with dry fine soil.
Zinnias do not transplant well, except as small seedlings. When it is necessary to undertake the task, choose, if possible, a showery day, and shade each plant with an inverted flower-pot for a few days, but take off the pots in the evening.
Zinnias intended for exhibition must be treated in a more generous fashion than plants that are grown for border decoration, or for the sake of yielding cut flowers. The seed may be raised in heat as already directed, but the border will need to be prepared with special care and liberality. Should the soil be heavy, it must be reduced to a friable state during winter. Before the plants are put in, raise the land into ridges about four or five inches high. Plant on the top of the ridge, and then an application of soot or lime (not too near to inflict injury) may be used as a precaution against slugs. In a wet season the plants will stand a better chance than if put on the flat, and if a scorching summer comes they will be none the worse for it. As the flowering time approaches mulch the ground with well-decayed manure.
The plants must be carefully staked and tied out. It is not merely necessary to secure the main stem, but the branches should also be supported, or when weighted with flowers they will be very liable to give way under a moderate wind. Superfluous branches may be removed, but not so severely as to start new growth to the detriment of the flowers. Disbudding also will have to be practised for the highest class of flowers. Only one bloom should be allowed to develop on each branch at a time, and this must be protected from sun and rain after it is about half grown.
SPRING FLOWERS FROM SEEDS
It is the spring flowers that perhaps give the greatest charm and interest to the English garden. Commencing with the flowering trees, the Almond, Double Peach, Prunus Pissardi, and many others, we soon have the Daffodils, Wallflowers, and Pansies, making the ground bright and gay after the long dreary winter. It may promote economy in the production of these brilliant and charming displays if we offer a few remarks on the employment of spring-flowering plants which can easily be raised for the purpose from seeds. It will, of course, occur to the reader that a considerable proportion of the annuals that are usually sown in autumn are particularly adapted for producing rich and varied displays in spring. A type of this class is found in the well-known Erysimum, Orange Gem, one of the cheapest, hardiest, and most resplendent plants of the kind, cheap enough for the humblest amateur to employ freely in his borders and beds, and at the same time so effective in its colouring as to be adapted for the most complex and highly finished examples of geometric work. Another striking subject is the Siberian Wallflower (Cheiranthus Allionii), so nearly allied to the Erysimum, Orange Gem, the gorgeous orange flowers adding a fresh colour to the many new shades given us in recent years by the old English Wallflower. Among the annuals are several valuable spring flowers—such as, for example, Nemophila insignis, well known for its lovely blue blossoms, and the white variety, alba, of the same; Saponaria calabrica, exquisite rosy pink; Silene, rose, dwarf rose, and dwarf white; Virginian Stock, of which the distinct varieties are remarkably well adapted to form bands and masses of red, white, and yellow, and also to make a delightful groundwork for enhancing the splendour of late Tulips; and clumps of Aubrietia, Yellow Alyssum, and other of the more distinctive plants that are employed in high colouring in first-class geometric gardening. A list of such plants will at once indicate that there is a field of enterprise for the practitioner of spring flower gardening; and while cheap and effective materials are thus brought into the service, there is no interference with the later summer bedding, because, if the annuals are well managed, they will give their plentiful bloom when the garden is most in need of colour, and may be cleared off in time to make way for the plants that are generally employed in the summer display and which are known as ' bedding plants' par excellence.
In the management of annuals for an early bloom, it is of great importance to sow them at a proper time, so that they will be strong enough to perform what is required of them, and yet not so forward (or 'winter proud') as to suffer from the severity of the weather. In the North the middle of August is none too early for a general sowing in beds, and in the South the middle of September is none too late. In some few sheltered spots in the extreme South-West seed may be got in at the middle of October. As a rule, however, the sowing should be made as late as those familiar with the soil and climate of the place may deem safe, the main point being to have the seedlings in a short-jointed condition, close to the ground, in which state they are least likely to be injured by frosts. We prefer sowing in drills on a rather poor soil well broken up to a kindly state, and if the weather happens to be dry, the drills should be freely watered before the seed is sown, and there will be no more watering needed. The after-management is extremely simple: the plants must be kept clear of weeds, and be slightly thinned out if much crowded, for a few sturdy specimens are of more value than any number that have run up weak and wiry through overcrowding.
In sheltered gardens, having dry chalk or sandy soils, the greater part, or perhaps the whole stock, might be transplanted from the seed-beds to the flower-beds and borders as soon as sufficient growth has been made; but on heavy soils and in exposed places it will be advisable to delay the removal until March. This part of the work must be nicely done, the plants being lifted in clumps and no attempt made to single them, and they must be carefully pressed in and aided with water, if necessary, to promote a quick 'taking hold' of their new quarters. Those planted out in October on a dry soil will not only bloom early and gaily, but will be beautiful in their different tints of green all the winter through.
But we are not restricted to annuals in seeking for spring flowers from seeds. With very few exceptions, all the favourite plants of the spring garden may be grown from seeds at a cost almost infinitesimal as compared with the raising of named varieties from cuttings and divisions. Daisies, some of them now almost as large as Asters, are not only suited to the ribbon border, but make an amazingly brilliant show when the white, pink, and crimson are planted in masses or in separate beds. Seedlings flower with far greater freedom and produce much larger blooms than divided plants, and even after the first few weeks, when the later flowers become smaller and less perfect in form, a brilliant display is maintained till late in the summer if the beds are not wanted for other things. Pansies, which are still unsurpassed for beds and borders, are easily raised from seed. What is more interesting than a long row of plants of Perfection Pansy beside the pathway? every step brings one to a flower of perfect charm, quite different in marking or colour from any other. The several species and varieties of Arabis, Alyssum, Aubrietia, Viola, Polyanthus, Iberis, and Forget-me-not also come quite true from seed. The precision of style and colouring that results from raising these from cuttings is, of course, admitted; but in forming masses and ribbon lines, minute individual characters are of less consequence than a good general effect, and this may be insured by raising the plants from seed in a manner so cheap and expeditious that we feel assured spring bedding would be more often seen in its proper freshness and fulness were the system we now recommend adopted in place of the tedious one of multiplication by offsets and cuttings.
Wallflowers cannot be grown in too great numbers in any garden, for either their delightful perfume or charming colour effect. The striking displays to be seen in some of our public parks and on seaside fronts have done much to popularise this old favourite flower. Since the first edition of this book was issued, many new and remarkable colours in Wallflowers have been introduced, among the last, but by no means least, being the Fire King and Orange Bedder. It is by the blending of the colours that the most telling effects can be produced. Probably Blood Red, a very inadequate name, and Cloth of Gold will always be the most favourite combination, and when planted together one sets off the other to a degree little thought of when these varieties are grown separately. Purple and the other yellows (Faerie Queene and Monarch) also make a pleasing bed. Fire King and Orange Bedder should be grown in masses, separately or together, and when seen in the late afternoon or early evening their vivid and gorgeous colouring is almost unsurpassed by any other flower. The early-flowering Wallflowers will, in mild winters, bloom from January till April, or even as early as Christmas.
It should not be forgotten that these biennial and perennial plants require more time to prepare themselves for flowering than do the annuals. If sown in August they may not bloom at all the next season, or the bloom may be late and insignificant. But if sown in May and June they have a long season of growth before winter sets in, and at the turn of spring the plants will be matured and strongly set for bloom.
The sowing of biennial and perennial plants for a display of spring flowers must be carefully done. The ground should be moderately rich and quite mellow through being well broken up; in other words, a good seed-bed must be prepared. If the weather is dry, the drills should be watered before the seed is sown; and in the event of a drought, the young plants must have the aid of water to keep them going through the summer. The seed should be sown thinly, and, as soon as the plants are large enough, they should be thinned out if at all crowded, and the thinnings can be planted in rows and shaded for a while. As a rule, the whole of the work will be comprised in sowing, thinning, and weeding. In average seasons they will not require watering, and in this matter alone will be seen the advantage of raising from seeds instead of cuttings.
Ordinary care, with such plants as we have named, will insure a splendid display of spring flowers; and they are worth whatever attention may be necessary to promote complete and early development. It may happen that plants from early sowings will show a few flowers in autumn if neglected. This is easily prevented, to the great advantage of the plants, by the simple process of 'stopping' or nipping out the points of the leading shoots to cause the production of side shoots. If a sturdy growth is thus secured, and the plants are transferred to the flower-beds in October, the result will justify the labour.
Practical gardeners will not need to be informed that the system we now propose is capable of many applications and expansions; but it may be suggested to amateurs who lament the dreary aspect of their beds and borders in the month of May and early part of June, that the plants we recommend for the formation of masses in the geometric garden are equally well adapted to form beautiful clumps and sheets on borders, banks, and rockeries, as well as in many instances to serve as a groundwork to Hyacinths, Tulips, Narcissi, and other splendid hardy spring flowers.
Sweet Peas deserve to be considered separately. These flowers are now so varied and exquisitely beautiful that they never appear in the garden too early. From autumn sowings not only are the most forward blooms obtained, but for size and intensity of colour the flowers are unsurpassed by the later displays from spring sowings.
THE CULTURE OF FLOWERING BULBS
Our popular flowering bulbs are obtained from many lands; they are exceedingly diversified in character, and they bloom at different periods of the year. Each variety has a value of its own, and answers to some special requirement in its proper season under glass or in the open ground. In the darkest winter days we prize the glow of Tulips and Hyacinths for brightening our homes. And bleak days are not all past when Aconites and Snowdrops sparkle in beds and borders. The Anemones follow in March, and during the lengthening days of spring there are sumptuous beds of Hyacinths, Narcissi, and Tulips. When high summer begins to decline we have stately groups of Gladioli and many beautiful Lilies in the shrubbery borders.
Not least among the merits of Dutch Bulbs is the ease with which they can be forced into flower at a period of the year when bright blossoms are particularly precious, and they are equally available for the grandest conservatory or the humblest cottage window. They are attractive singly in pots or vases, or they can be arranged in splendid banks and groups for the highest decorative purposes. Another advantage is that bulbs endure treatment which would be fatal to many other flowers. They can be grown in small pots, or be almost packed together in boxes or seed-pans; and when near perfection they may be shaken out and have the roots washed for glasses, ferneries, and small aquaria; or they can be replanted close together in sand, and covered with green moss. Their hardiness, too, permits of their being grown and successfully flowered without the least aid from artificial heat. Small beds and borders may be made brilliant with these flowers, and the number of bulbs that can be planted in a very limited space is somewhat astonishing to a novice. Unlike many other subjects, bulbs may be rather crowded without injury to individual specimens.
For the decoration of windows no other flowers can compare with Dutch Bulbs in variety and brilliancy of colour. Some of them are not particularly long-lived, and this need occasion no regret, for it affords opportunity of making constant changes in the character and colour of the miniature exhibition, which may easily be extended over many weeks. And a really beautiful display is within reach of those who have not a scrap of garden in which to bring an ordinary plant to perfection. Unused attics and lead flats can, with a little skill and attention in the case of bulbs, be made to answer the purpose which pits and greenhouses serve for many of our showy plants. Some of the most attractive flowering plants cannot be successfully grown in large centres of population, but bulbs will produce handsome blossoms even in smoky towns.
We do not recommend the attempt to grow bulbs in the actual window-boxes. It is seldom entirely satisfactory. They should be treated in the manner advised under the several varieties in the following pages, and just as the colours are becoming visible, a selection can be made from pots or boxes for crowding closely in the ornamental arrangements for the window. When the first occupants show signs of fading, others can be brought forward to fill their places, and this process may be repeated until the stock is exhausted. Winter Aconites, Snowdrops, Squills, and Glory of the Snow furnish the earliest display; these to be followed by Crocuses, Tulips, Hyacinths, and the many forms of the great Narciss family, until spring is far advanced.
The secret of their accommodating nature lies in the fact that within the Hyacinth or Tulip every petal of the coming flower is already stored. During the five or six years of its progressive life the capacities of the bulb have been steadily conserved, and we have but to unfold its beauty, aiming at short stout growth and intensity of colour. Of course there is an immense difference in the quality of bulbs, and they necessarily vary according to the character of the season. The most successful growers cannot insure uniformity in any one variety year after year, because the seasons are beyond human control. But those who regularly visit the bulb farms can obtain the finest roots of the year, although it may be necessary to select from many sources.
Such bulbs as Lilies, Iris, Montbretia, Hyacinthus, and Alstroemeria suffer no deterioration after the first year's flowering. Indeed, it will be the cultivator's fault if they do not increase in number and carry finer heads of bloom in succeeding years. As outdoor subjects some of them are not yet appreciated at their full value. Magnificent as Lilium auratum and L. lancifolium must ever be in conservatories, they exhibit their imposing proportions to greater advantage, and their wealth of perfume is far more acceptable, when grown among handsome shrubs in the border. Very little attention is needed to bring them up year after year in ever-increasing loveliness.
Growing Bulbs in Moss-fibre.—A most interesting method of growing bulbs is to place them in bowls and jardinieres filled with prepared moss-fibre, and far better results for home decoration may be obtained in this way than by using ordinary potting soil in vases, &c. For this system of culture no drainage is necessary, and the bowls and vases which are specially made for the purpose are not pierced with the usual holes for the escape of water. The receptacles are non-porous and may be placed on tables and columns, or they can be employed in halls and corridors without the slightest risk of injury. The fibre is perfectly clean to handle, odourless, and remains sweet for an indefinite period.
Vases of any kind may be used, provided they are non-porous, but the bulbs to be planted in them should be of a suitable size. For quite small jardinieres, white and purple Crocuses, Scillas, Snowdrops, and Grape Hyacinths are available, also the smaller varieties of Narcissi. Larger vases will accommodate Hyacinths, Narcissi, Tulips, &c. It is better not to mix different kinds of bulbs in one bowl unless simultaneous flowering can be insured. The specially prepared fibre needs only to be moistened before use. Having selected suitable receptacles for the bulbs to be grown, place a few pieces of charcoal at the bottom of each bowl. Then cover the charcoal with one to three inches of moistened fibre according to the depth of the bowl, placing the bulbs in positions so that their tips reach to within half-inch of the rim. The spaces between and around the bulbs to be filled with moistened fibre, carefully firmed in by hand. The bulbs will require practically no attention for the first few weeks and may be stood in a warm, airy position, but on no account must they be shut up in a close cupboard. If the fibre has been properly moistened there will be no need to give water until the shoots are an inch or so long, but the fibre must not be allowed to go dry, or the flower-buds become 'blind.' The surface of the fibre should always look moist, but if too much water has been given the bowl may be held carefully on its side so that the surplus water can drain away. As the growth increases more water will be required and all the light possible must be given to insure sturdy foliage. This fibre also answers admirably instead of water for Hyacinths grown in glasses, but care should be taken to fill the glasses as lightly as possible with the compost; if crammed in tightly the root growth is liable to lift the bulbs out of position.
Showy stove bulbs remarkable for their beauty. Given a sufficiency of heat, the cultivation is of the easiest nature, for they grow rapidly and flower freely, if potted in sandy peat, and kept in a warm greenhouse or the coolest part of a stove, in a somewhat humid atmosphere. It needs only the simplest management to have these plants in bloom at almost any season of the year, for the bulbs may be kept dormant for a considerable length of time without injury, and may be started into growth as required to keep up a long succession of flowers. They are occasionally well grown in common frames over hot-beds. For suspended baskets Achimenes are invaluable.
In favoured districts on the South coast this noble plant succeeds admirably if planted out between September and March in a rich, deep, moist loam, either in full sun or in partial shade. When grown in pots it requires a strong loamy soil, with plenty of manure, and throughout the summer the pots should be allowed to stand in pans of water. As the Agapanthus is a gross-feeding plant, it should be re-potted annually in autumn, and be wintered in a cool pit or frame. In transferring to new pots a little care must be taken to avoid injuring the mass of fleshy roots.
The Allium neapolitanum is the finest white-flowered variety, and is exceedingly valuable for bouquets and vase decoration. The large umbels of blossoms are of the purest white. It is one of the earliest spring-flowering bulbs, and, although quite hardy, it comes forward quickly and easily in a cool house.
An elegant plant which belongs to the nearly hardy group referred to in the notice of Ixia. In autumn it may be safely planted out in almost any part of the United Kingdom, provided it is planted nine inches deep, and can have a sunny position on a dry soil, for damp is more hurtful to it than frost. As a pot plant it is comparatively useless, but if allowed to remain several years in a dry border, a large clump of any of the varieties presents a brilliant appearance when in flower.
See remarks under Lilies at page 340.
Our observations on this flower will be limited to the tuberous varieties; but even with this restriction, the range of form and colour is exceedingly wide. The Anemone is an accommodating plant, and can be successfully flowered either in pots or in beds, at the option of the cultivator.
The most natural place for it is near shady woodland walks, where it can be seen to the greatest advantage. But it is also a splendid subject for masses in the mixed border, or in front of shrubberies; and alone in beds it makes a brilliant and lasting show. For all the purposes of garden decoration to which the Crocus, Hyacinth, and Tulip are applied, the Windflower is equally well adapted. We do not advise planting singly, but the Anemone answers admirably in lines, groups, or beds, and the colours admit of numberless harmonies and contrasts.
The commoner Anemones need only to be planted about three inches deep, with the eyes upwards, at any time between September and March, and they will require little or no attention afterwards. Under trees, instead of planting in a formal pattern, it is worth while to put them in with some attempt at natural grouping, and not too close together—say from six inches to a foot apart. In such positions they may be left undisturbed for years; and if the soil happens to be a good sandy loam, they will thrive and increase. In masses or beds within the garden, however, a richer effect is wanted, and the distance between the roots should not exceed from four to six inches.
A choice collection of roots is worth more care, and florists are accustomed to prepare the beds for their reception with fastidious exactness. The soil, if not considered suitable, is taken out to the depth of two feet, and is replaced by a rich and specially prepared compost. Although the individual flowers produced by this method are generally very fine, and the total effect of the bed is exceedingly beautiful, yet the truth must be confessed that for ordinary gardening the system is extravagant and unnecessary. As a hobby, it is, of course, justifiable enough; but Anemones of high quality can be grown by a much simpler mode of procedure. One deep digging there certainly should be, and a layer of manure at the bottom of each trench is sound treatment, for it supplies the roots with food and a cool subsoil. Poor land should also be enriched by incorporating a dressing of decayed manure as the work proceeds. Subsequently one or two light surface forkings will help to make the bed mellow. A rough plan, showing the name and position of every root, will be a safer record than labelling in the usual way, and it also prevents the disfigurement of the bed. There should be a distance of six inches between the roots; and they may be put in singly by means of the trowel, or in drills drawn three inches deep. The former method is generally adopted for groups; but to insure regularity in flowering the planting must be uniform in depth. For beds, drills are more reliable, and they are speedily made.
The time of planting determines to a considerable extent the date of flowering; and, as the roots may be put in during autumn, winter, and early spring, it is easy to secure a succession of Anemones from January until May. But this flower is of so much more value early in the year than at a later period, when many other subjects brighten the garden, that it is scarcely worth while to plant so late as March.
The Anemone is well worth growing in pots, both for its foliage and flowers. It does not resent forcing to the same extent as the Ranunculus; nevertheless, cool treatment is almost essential to do it full justice. The potting should be done in batches to insure a succession of flowers, and the first lot may be put in at the end of August, or beginning of September. They should have the benefit of really good soil; a mixture of leaf-mould and loam, with the addition of a little powdered charcoal, will suit them exactly. In preparing the pots, place a layer of light manure above the crocks, which will assist the drainage and benefit the plants. Then fill with compost to within two inches of the top, and lay in the roots; add soil to a level with the rim, and press lightly down. The strongest roots should, of course, be selected for potting, and it will need more than a hasty glance to put them in with the eyes upwards. One or more roots may be planted in each pot, according to the size of the latter.
The early plantings can be placed in any warm position out of doors, such as under a south wall; but after the middle of October remove to a cold pit, or on to the greenhouse stage. Watering is all the attention they will require, and of this there must be no stint, especially during the blooming period. A high temperature at any stage is needless, and if they are just kept out of the reach of frost they will take excellent care of themselves.
Anemones are adapted for many decorative purposes; they make capital window plants, and their sharply cut foliage is very ornamental in the drawing-room or on the dinner-table.
Babianas are delicately constituted, but extremely elegant plants when well grown. Though far from showy, they appeal to the educated eye for appreciation of their blue and purple oculate flowers. The culture is the same as for the Ixia, and we incline strongly to the practice of keeping the bulbs at least two seasons in the same pots.
Few flowers have a greater claim on the attention of horticulturists than the Tuberous-rooted Begonia, either for the ease with which it can be grown, or for the many valuable purposes to which the plant may be applied. It can be flowered at any time from February until October, and is available for all kinds of indoor decoration, and also for growing in the open ground during the summer months.
Instead of allowing the plants to be rudely dried off, it is worth a little trouble to reduce them slowly to the dormant state by gradually withholding water. They should still be retained in pots, which may be stored under a thick layer of ashes or dry peat in any cellar, frame, or shed where the thermometer stands pretty uniformly at about 50 deg.. The store should also be dry, for damp is quite as injurious to these roots as cold. Generally speaking, it may be said that any store which is safe for Dahlias will also preserve Tuberous-rooted Begonias.
After the winter's rest the bulbs are invariably saucer-shaped, and in the event of their being watered before growth has commenced, sufficient water will remain in the hollow to destroy the bulb. This peculiarity makes it dangerous to start the plant before activity is evident. In January or February, as the bulbs show signs of life, pot them almost on the surface of a rich loamy soil, and employ the smallest pots possible. Nurse them with a little care in a warm place for about ten days, and they should then be very gradually hardened. A regular system of potting on will be necessary until the final size is reached; and at each operation the plants should be inserted rather deeper than before. If re-potting is deferred too long, the foliage will turn yellow—a sure sign that the plant is starving. No flowers should be allowed in the early stages of growth, and this rule is imperative if fine specimens are wanted; but when the plants are transferred just as the pots are full of roots, there will be little disposition to bloom prematurely. While growing, the Tuberous Begonia delights in a humid atmosphere, but this should be avoided after flowering has commenced. When sticks are inserted for tying out the flowers, the bulbs must not be wounded.
The erect-growing varieties are valuable for low conservatory stages, and they form splendid groups in corners of drawing-rooms. The drooping kinds are seen to advantage on brackets, shelves, and in suspended baskets; and the short-jointed plants of the drooping class are specially adapted for rockeries and beds. They must not be put into the open until the danger of a nipping east wind is past. The early part of June is generally about the right time.
In the autumn it is usual to lift and pot the plants, although in mild districts, and in a light soil, they may safely be left out all the winter under the shelter of a heap of ashes or decayed manure. In beds this plan is scarcely worth adoption, because it leaves the ground bare for several months; but where Begonias are grown in the reserve border to furnish a supply of flowers for cutting, it may be a considerable advantage to leave them until the following year.
A word is necessary as to soil. The Begonia is a gross feeder, and to develop its fine qualities there must be a liberal employment of manure. As a matter of fact, it is scarcely possible to make the soil too rich for this flower.
Glory of the Snow
The varied blue tints of the Chionodoxa, its more open blossoms, and larger size, distinguish this flower from its older and justly prized rival, the Scilla. Indeed, the Chionodoxa is exquisitely beautiful, and of great value for pot culture, beds, or borders. Five bulbs may be grown in a 48-sized pot, and in the border not less than half a dozen should be planted in a group. Employed as a single or double line, it also produces a striking bit of colouring. The bulbs should be planted in autumn four inches deep, the distance between being not more than three inches. Any ordinary garden soil will grow this flower, and it is advisable to allow the bulbs to remain undisturbed for several years, as the effect will be the greater in each succeeding spring.
This brilliant harbinger of spring will thrive in any soil or situation, but to be brought to the highest possible perfection it should be grown in an open bed or border of deep, rich, dry sandy loam. The bulbs should be planted during September, October, and November. If kept out of the ground after the end of the year they will be seriously damaged, and however carefully planted, will not flower in a satisfactory manner. Plant three inches deep in lines, clumps, or masses, as taste may suggest, putting the bulbs two inches apart. If convenient, let them remain undisturbed two or three years, and then take them up and plant again in well-prepared and liberally manured soil. A bed of mixed Crocuses has a pleasing appearance, but in selecting bulbs for the geometric garden it is more effective to employ distinct colours, reserving the yellow for the exterior parts of the design to define its boundaries, and using the blue and the white in masses and bands within. In districts where sparrows attack the flowers, they may be deterred from doing mischief by stretching over the beds a few strands of black thread, which will not interfere with the beauty of the display, and will terrify the sparrows for a sufficient period to save the flowers.
The named varieties are invaluable for pot and frame culture, and to force for decorative purposes; for though the individual flowers are short-lived, the finest bulbs yield a long succession of bloom, and in character Crocuses are quite distinct from all other flowers of the same early season. When grown in pots and baskets, the bulbs should be placed close together to produce a striking effect. A light, rich soil is desirable, but they may be flowered in a mixture of charcoal and moss, or in fibre, or moss alone. When required in quantity for ornamental baskets and similar receptacles, it is wise to plant them in shallow boxes filled with rotten manure and leaf-mould, and to lift them out separately, and pack them when in flower in the ornamental baskets. A perfect display of flowers in precisely the same stage of development can thus be secured, and successional displays may follow as long as supplies remain in the boxes.
A noble plant which needs a deep, rich, moist soil, and an open situation, to insure the full degree of stateliness, but it will make a very good figure in any border where it can enjoy a glimmer of sunshine. There are several distinct varieties, the flowers of which range in colour from palest yellow to the deepest shade of orange and reddish buff, and there are others which have variegated leaves. They should be planted in autumn eighteen inches apart, allowing from four to six inches of soil above the crowns.
Although it is advisable to raise Cyclamens from seed every year, occasions arise when it is necessary to store the bulbs for a second season, and the best method of treating them during the period of rest must be considered. As the production of seed weakens the corms, preference should be given to those which have not been subjected to this tax on their energies.
At the close of the flowering season the bulbs should be gradually reduced to a resting state by withholding moisture. When the foliage turns yellow the pots may be laid on their sides in a cold frame, if available, or in any other convenient place where they will not be forgotten, until about the middle of July. They should then be placed upright, and have a supply of water. After fresh growth has fairly commenced, shake the bulbs out of the pots, remove most of the old soil, and re-pot in a compost consisting of mellow turfy loam and leaf-mould, with a sufficient admixture of silver sand to insure drainage. The corm should be so placed in the pot as to bring the crown about level with the rim, and every care must be taken to avoid injuring the young roots. Place the pots in a close frame for a few days, after which ample ventilation should be given to maintain a robust condition. The lights may remain constantly open until there is danger from autumn frosts. Specimens that show a great number of flower-buds should be assisted occasionally with weak manure water.
C. Coum and C. europaeum are rarely well grown, for although quite hardy, the climate of this country does not suit them in their season of flowering, which is the early spring. The cool greenhouse is the safest place for them, except in sheltered spots, where they may be planted out on a border of peat, or amongst ferns in a rockery. When grown in pots, light turfy loam and peat in equal quantities, with a fourth part of cow-manure and a liberal addition of sand, will form an excellent compost for them. The pots should never be exposed to the drying action of the sun or wind, but should be plunged to the rim in coal-ashes. The best time for potting or planting them is September or October.
Instructions on raising Cyclamens from seed will be found at page 256.
DAFFODIL—see NARCISSUS, page 344
The red and white varieties are as hardy as any plant in our gardens, and by their neat habit and elegant leaves and flowers they are admirably adapted to plant in quantities in the front of a rockery, in either peat or sandy loam and leaf-mould. They are equally suitable for edging small beds in gardens where spring flowers are systematically grown; in fact, they are true 'spring bedders.' Autumn is the proper time to plant the bulbs. But Dog's-tooth Violets are also worth growing in pots, especially where an unheated 'Alpine house' is kept for plants of this class. Several bulbs may be put in a pot of the 48-size.
FERRARIA—see TIGRIDIA, page 350
The singularly graceful form, wide range of beautiful colours, and delicious perfume of this flower have made it an immense favourite; and happily there is no Cape bulb which can be grown with greater ease in the frame or cool greenhouse. One characteristic is very marked, and it is the disproportion between the small bulb and the fine flowers produced from it.
Procure the bulbs as early in the autumn as possible, and lose no time in potting them. Any light rich soil will answer, but that which suits them best is composed of two parts of loam, one of leaf-mould, and one of peat, with enough sand or grit added to insure drainage. Commence with pots of the right size, for the roots are extremely brittle, and there must be no risk of injuring them by re-potting. The 48-size will accommodate several bulbs. Place under a south wall, and cover with leaf-mould until top growth commences, and then remove the covering.
At the end of September transfer the pots to a cold frame, and when the plants attain a height of four inches, support them with neat sticks, which should not be inserted too near the bulbs. Watering will require judgment, for too much moisture turns the foliage yellow. When the pots are full of roots, liquid manure twice a week will be helpful.
After the blooming season has passed, encourage the foliage to wither by withholding water. The roots may be stored away in their own pots until the following August.
Fritillarias produce bell-shaped flowers, varying in colour, but generally of a purplish tint, and beautifully spotted. They thrive in a good deep loam, but may be grown in almost any soil, and do well under the shade of trees. They are quite hardy, and, like most other bulbs, should be planted in autumn. Fritillarias are occasionally grown in pots kept in a cold frame, but they will not endure forcing in the least degree, and the mixed border is the best position for them. These flowers make a charming ornament when grown in bowls filled with moss-fibre.
The Gladiolus is adapted for many important uses and it associates admirably with Dahlias, Hollyhocks, Pyrethrums, and Phloxes in the furnishing of clumps on the lawn and in the mixed border. It is perfectly in harmony with surroundings when planted in American beds or in the shrubbery. For supplying cut flowers it is invaluable, as they retain their freshness in a vase for many days, and a plentiful supply should be grown in reserved spots expressly for this purpose.
Culture in Pots.—The early-flowering varieties are of especial value for decorating greenhouses and conservatories during spring and early summer. The corms of these Gladioli are small, and a 32-sized pot will accommodate several. The soil should be decidedly rich, and it must be porous, because water has to be given freely when the plants are in full growth. Pot the corms in autumn, and cover with leaf-mould until the roots are developed, when successive batches can be brought forward and gently forced for a continuous supply of elegant flowers during April and May. A mild temperature of about 55 deg. is quite sufficient for them.
Culture in the Open Ground.—The autumn-flowering Gladioli are grown in the open ground, and preparations should begin well in advance of planting time. Almost any soil can be made to answer, but that which suits them best is a good medium, friable loam with a cool rich subsoil, and each grower must decide for himself how far this is within reach naturally, or can be secured by resources at command. Thus, a light soil may be made suitable by placing a thick layer of rotten cow-manure a foot below the surface, and a heavy, retentive loam can be reduced to the proper state by the admixture of lighter material. On the surface spread a liberal quantity of manure and dig it in, leaving the soil in a rough state to be disintegrated by frosts. Before the planting time arrives it is worth some trouble to free the ground from wire worms, or they will play havoc with the growth just as it is appearing above ground. Potatoes serve admirably as traps for these pests.
Gladioli are peculiarly liable to injury from wind, so that a sheltered, but not a shaded, position should, if possible, be chosen for them. The time of planting depends partly on the district, partly on the season; but the soil must be in suitable condition and fine weather is necessary. From the middle of March to the middle of April should afford some suitable opportunity of getting the bulbs in satisfactorily. Give the land a light forking, not deep enough to bring up the manure, and make the surface level. The rows may be twelve or eighteen inches apart; we prefer the greater distance, because of the convenience it affords in attending to the plants when growing; nine inches is sufficient space in the rows.
There are two methods of putting in the bulbs, each of which has advocates among practised growers. One is to take out the soil with a trowel to the depth of six or seven inches for each corm, then insert about two inches of mixed sand and powdered charcoal or wood ashes; lay the root upon it, and carefully cover with fine soil. If that process is considered too tedious, draw a deep drill with a hoe, and at the bottom put the light mixture already named; place the roots at regular distances upon it, and lightly return the top soil. The operation should be so performed as to leave the crown of the corm four inches below the surface. When planting is completed, give the bed a finishing touch with the rake.
An eminent grower strips off the outer coat or skin of each bulb before planting to ascertain that there is no disease; and this cannot otherwise be discovered. No doubt the procedure prevents the bed from showing blanks, but that object can be more safely attained by growing a reserve in pots. There is, however, another practice which possesses very decided advantages, and it is to break the skin at the crown of the bulb to allow the foliage free exit. The skin is so tough that it is frequently the means of distorting the plant in its attempt to force an opening.
The bed for a time needs little attention, except to keep it free from weeds, and this is best done by hand. When the shoots reach about a foot high, tying must be resorted to in earnest. The most effectual plan, of course, is to put a separate stake to each plant, and for exhibition specimens this is certainly advisable. But rows can be secured by a stake at each end, with two or three strands of strong material carried across, to which each flower must be tied. Whatever method is adopted, care should be taken to avoid cutting the plant, while holding it secure from damage in a high wind. Let the material which is placed round the flowering-stem be soft and wide, such as list, which answers admirably.
Water must be freely and regularly given during dry weather, either in the morning or in the evening; and a mulch of old manure spread over the bed will prevent evaporation, and save the ground from caking hard.
Another important matter is shading. For ordinary purposes this is not essential; but as it very much lengthens the duration of the flower, it is worth attention on that ground alone, and for exhibition it is indispensable. Whether shading is provided by separate protectors made expressly for the purpose, or by home-made contrivances of canvas or wood, the point to be quite certain about is security, or an accident may wreck well-grounded hopes.
The lifting and storing of the corms affect the quality of the next year's flowers so much that it is important to accomplish lifting at the most suitable time, and the storing in the best manner. By the middle or end of October, on some fine day, take up the roots, even if the foliage be still green; tie a label to each variety, and hang them in some airy place until they can be cleared of soil and leaves. Remove each stem with a sharp knife, and lay out the bulbs to dry for another fortnight. They can then be stored in paper bags or in boxes on any dry shelf which is safe from vermin and frost.
An article on the culture of the Gladiolus from seed will be found on page 267.
Gloxinias may be had in bloom almost all the year by judicious management. When required for early flowering, those that start first should be selected and carefully shifted into other pots, and be kept near the glass, as they depend much on light for rapid and luxuriant growth. A moist atmosphere, with the temperature about 60 deg. to 65 deg., greatly facilitates the growth of Gloxinias, but they may be grown well in greenhouses or in pits heated by hot water. The most suitable soil is a light fibrous loam, combined with a little peat and silver sand. Manure water during the growing period twice a week is helpful, but it should be discontinued when the flowers show colour. The plants love shade, and at no time should suffer from drought. Storing Gloxinias for their season of rest, i.e. the winter, must be carefully attended to, as losses frequently occur during this stage. It is also important that the plants should not be 'dried off' too quickly; place them in a light, airy position, and by a gradual reduction of moisture the leaves will fall off naturally. The bulbs may then be stored away on a shelf, in an even temperature of about 50 deg., each bulb being closely surrounded by cocoa-nut fibre and peat in equal parts to prevent excessive dryness, which, like too much damp, often causes the loss of the bulb.
Besides growing the same plants from year to year, it is always desirable to have a fresh stock coming on, as the old bulbs may deteriorate after two or three years. This can easily be managed by successive sowings of seed, as advised at page 268.
HEMEROCALLIS—see under LILIES, page 343
One of the most valuable characteristics of the Hyacinth is the ease with which it can be flowered in a variety of ways by very simple modes of treatment. It may be employed as a hardy, rough-weather plant for the garden border, or as a grand exhibition and conservatory flower. The bulbs may be planted at any time from September to the middle of December, with the certainty of their blooming well, if properly cared for; but the prudent cultivator will plant them as early as possible in the autumn, and so manage them afterwards as to secure the longest period of growth previous to their flowering. They can be forced to flower at Christmas, but the more slowly the flowers are developed the finer in the end will they be. To obtain good bulbs is a matter of the utmost importance, and it may be useful here to remark that the mere size of a Hyacinth bulb is no criterion of its value—nor, indeed, is its neatness of form or brightness of appearance. The two most important qualities are soundness and density. If the bulbs are hard and heavy in proportion to their size, they may be depended on to produce good flowers of their kind. The bulbs of some sorts are never large or handsome, while, on the other hand, many others partake of both these qualities in a marked degree.
One other matter in general relating to the treatment of Hyacinths needs to be referred to. Harm has often been done by the practice of massing the flowers, whether in pot groups or in garden beds, without consideration of colour harmonies. Yet no other bulbous flower offers such a wide choice of delightful colours, or is so eminently adapted to artistic blending, as the Hyacinth. By eschewing the dull blues and allied shades and by bringing into association exquisite tones of mauve, pink, apricot, salmon, pale yellow, rich lilac, bright red, &c., it is easy to demonstrate that there are possibilities in Hyacinths which may never have been suspected before. The following are a few of the charming blends which may be made, and will especially appeal to those who grow Hyacinths indoors: (i) Apricot, cream, and pale blue; (2) cream, pale pink, and rose-pink; (3) bright pink and pale blue; (4) bright red, rich blue, and pure white; (5) rose-pink and rich blue; (6) pale yellow and rich blue; (7) deep mauve and pale mauve; (8) cream and pale blue; (9) bright blue shades (dull, washy, and nondescript blue, purple, and violet tints must be avoided); (10) blush pink and rose-pink; (11) apricot and cream; (12) pale lavender, cream, and apricot. These examples will show that charming effects can be secured either with two or with three varieties. Colour-grouping may also be carried out in the garden, but in this case great care must be exercised to get varieties of clear, bright hues which flower at the same time, such as Inimitable Bedding Hyacinths. Modern taste further dictates that the bare soil shall be hidden, and this end is best served by providing a groundwork of dwarf plants, such as Daisies, Forget-me-nots, double white Arabis, and mauve Aubrietia. Another course is to mix Hyacinths with Daffodils of the Chalice or Star section; there is no better variety than Sir Watkin, but others may be used.
Culture in Pots.—It is not necessary to use large pots, or pots of a peculiar shape, for Hyacinths. There is nothing better than common flower-pots, and in those of 60-size single bulbs may be flowered in a most satisfactory manner. The pots usually employed are the 48-and 32-sizes, the last-named being required only for selected bulbs grown for exhibition. We advise the use of small pots where Hyacinths are grown in pits and frames for decorative purposes, because they can be conveniently placed in ornamental stands, or packed close together in baskets of moss, when required for the embellishment of the drawing-room. As the use of new pots for Hyacinths is often the cause of failure, they should not be employed if well-cleansed old pots are available. The tender roots of the bulbs frequently become too dry owing to the absorbent nature of the new pots. A rich, light soil is indispensable, and it should consist chiefly of turfy loam, with leaf-mould and a liberal allowance of sharp sand. The mixture ought to be in a moderately moist condition when ready for use. In small pots one hollow crock must suffice, but the 48-and 32-sized pots can be prepared in the usual way, with one large hollow crock, and a little heap of smaller potsherds or nodules of charcoal over it. Fill the pots quite full of soil, and then press the bulb into it, and press the soil round the bulb to finish the operation. If potted loosely, they will not thrive; if potted too firmly, they will rise up as soon as the roots begin to grow, and be one-sided. In large pots the bulbs should be nearly covered with soil, but in small pots they must be only half covered, in order to afford them the largest possible amount of root-room. When potted, a cool place must be found for them, and unless they go absolutely dry, they should not have a drop of water until they begin to grow freely and are in the enjoyment of full daylight. The pots may be stored in a dark, cool pit, or any out-of-the-way place where neither sun, nor frost, nor heavy rains will affect them; but it is advisable to plunge them in coal-ashes and also to cover them with a few inches of the ashes. As to their removal, they must be taken out as wanted for forcing, and certainly before they push up their flower spikes, as they will do if they remain too long in the bed. The cultivator will be guided in respect of their removal from the bed by circumstances; but when they are removed, a distinct routine of treatment must be observed, or the flowering will be unsatisfactory. For a short time they should be placed in subdued daylight, that the blanched growth may acquire a healthy green hue slowly; and they need to be kept cool in order that they shall grow very little until a healthy colour is acquired. The floor of a cool greenhouse is a good place for them when first taken out of the bed and cleaned up for forcing. Another matter of great importance is to place them near the glass immediately their green colour is established, and to grow them as slowly as the requirements of the case will permit. If to be forced early, allow plenty of time to train them to bear a great heat, taking from bed to pit, and from pit to cool house, and deferring to the latest possible moment placing them in the heat in which they are to flower. Those to bloom at Christmas should be potted in September, those to follow may be potted a month later. If a long succession is required, a sufficient number should be potted every two or three weeks to the end of the year. Those potted latest will, of course, flower in frames without the aid of heat. In any and every case the highest temperature of the forcing-pit should be 70 deg.; to go beyond that point will cause an attenuated growth and poverty of colour. If liquid manure is employed at all, it should be used constantly and extremely weak until the flowers begin to expand, and then pure soft water only should be used. No matter what may be the particular constitution of the liquid manure, it must be weak, or it will do more harm than good. The spikes should be supported by wires or neat sticks in ample time, and a constant watch kept to see that the stems are not cut or bent, as they rapidly develop beyond the range allowed them by their supports.