"A flowery crown will I compose - I'll weave the Crocus, weave the Rose; I'll weave Narcissus, newly wet, The Hyacinth and Violet; The Myrtle shall supply me green, And Lilies laugh in light between , That the rich tendrils of my beauty's hair May burst into their crowning flowers, and light the painted air."
Those plants which do not in their growth form either trees or shrubs, but which lose their tops, wholly or in part, every year, the roots continuing to live for several years successively, are called perennials.
Biennials are those plants that flower the second and sometimes the third year from the time the seeds are sown, and then perish, as the Sweet Scabious.
Imperfect Perennials continue three or more years, and then die, as the Sweet William or Fox Glove, but which, with a little care in dividing the roots every year, can be kept many years.
Perennials are hardy, half hardy, and tender. Hardy perennials stand the coldest winter without protection; half-hardy require to be well protected; and tender perennials must be kept through the winter in the greenhouse.
Perennials are of two kinds, bulbous and herbaceous, which, differing materially from each other in habits, require, consequently, a different kind of treatment. Such being the few remarks will be made on each kind separately.
They are of three kinds, - viz.: hardy, or such that grow in the open border; half-hardy, such as will not stand out over winter, or requiring a frame or the greenhouse; and stove, or those that will not grow to perfection without artificial heat. Of these last we shall have nothing to say. Many of the half-hardy are perfected when planted in the open ground in the spring, and are sometimes called spring bulbs, as the Gladiolus, etc.
The best kind of soil for their growth is a light loam, rather sandy than otherwise, yet not too light, or the bulbs will be injured during the heat of summer, and, if it be adhesive, they invariably grow weakly, and seldom flower.
As to the depth the different bulbs require to be planted in the ground, no certain rule can be laid down, as some species require to be planted from three to five inches, while others not more than one and a half deep. The different depths will be given as each variety is described.
Encourage as much as possible the growth of the leaves, by giving them free exposure to light and air; for on the full development of these depends the flowering of another year. If the leaves grow strong, a good quantity of nutriment is stored up in the bulbs and a good bloom is the consequence.
Never, if it can be avoided, disturb the roots by removal during their growth; but if obliged to do so, select a wet day, and take them up with good balls, so as not to injure the fibrous roots.
The only time to remove them with success, is during the time of their dormant state, at which time the offsets may he separated, and planted where the cultivator may judge best.
The season of rest, for most bulbs, happens shortly after they have done flowering. Tulip and Hyacinth bulbs are generally ripe in about one month from the time of flowering. As soon as the foliage of the Tulip turns purple and begins to dry, the bulbs may be taken up; and, with the Hyacinth, before the foliage is fully decayed. As a general rule, when the tops have quiet died down, the bulbs may be taken up and separated.
With the exception of Tulips, Hyacinths, Narcissus, and some others, most hardy bulbs, as the Lily tribe, Crown Imperial, etc., are injured if kept long out of ground. It is best to plant offsets of bulbs, of every description, immediately, for if kept long out of ground they become exhausted and perish. Bulbs that have commenced growing, before planting, are always weakened; yet ignorant purchasers will frequently select such because they look more lively. If they have made much growth, the bulb will not flower at all.
Some tuberous roots are classed with bulbous roots. Strictly speaking, it is not correct, but for convenience sake we shall so consider them. The Dahlia and Peony are, properly, tuberous roots. Directions for cultivating these will be given when they are described.
The mode of cultivating this class of plants is perfectly easy; three things chiefly have to be attended to. First, the manner of propagation. Second, the most suitable soil Third, the requisite temperature. There are five methods of propagation practised: by divisions, suckers, layers, seeds, and cuttings.
This may be done either with a knife, if the plant is small, or by a spade, if it is strong and large. The best time for doing it is when the tops are just beginning to grow after having been cut down.
The roots may be divided in the spring, or (with some species) almost any time during the summer, after flowering. The month of August is a proper time for many kinds, as the divisions will become well rooted before winter, and be prepared to flower strongly the next year.
These may be taken up at any time when they appear, but the most usual time is when the plant is beginning to grow.
Sow, for the most part, in early spring, in light soil, and plant out in the following autumn in the situations where they are to flower. Many of the fine double and other varieties never produce seed.
Thrifty, succulent shoots, if partly cut through, and pegged down, and covered with earth, will take root, as is the case with the Pinks and Carnations. Cuttings of many plants will take root, with proper care.
Different species of plants require rather different kinds of soil; but a light, rich loam, will suit the greater number.
Hardy, half-hardy, and green-house plants require similar care, but they differ as to the amount of protection or quantity of heat they need.