Where, as in the case of border-making, permanent effects are required, it always pays to do the work thoroughly well, trenching two or three feet deep, seeing that drainage is efficient, and putting in plenty of good manure.
The pathway should be dug out to the depth of about a foot, and then filled in with broken bricks and large stones to the depth of about six inches, forcing them down firmly.
On the top of these, clinkers should be laid and rolled, filling in the crevices with sifted coal-ashes if to be had. The clinkers can be procured from a gasworks or factory if enough refuse from the greenhouse stokehole is not available.
Finally, a layer of good fine binding gravel, three inches deep, should be laid on, raking quite smooth and even and rolling afterwards. The centre must be kept slightly higher than the sides, for the sake of proper drainage.
Small gardens do not always require draining with pipes, the rubble, etc., being sufficient. Where it is needful to lay drains, however, be careful to have a solid bottom. The usual method is to lay three-inch pipes down either side on a level with the base of the rubble, fixing catch-pits about 1 1/2 feet deep, with a grating above, at every 30 feet or so.
The last of the chrysanthemums and some of the earliest bulbs may now be brought in for decoration. Keep the chrysanthemums, as well as other plants, such as Begonia Gloire de Lorraine, carefully looked over, removing all dead leaves and flowers. It is a good time for trimming the brown tips of palms and other foliage subjects.
Plants with broad leaves should be Well sponged with Gishurst compound, or with soaparite (soft soap and water, mixed with a little paraffin). If they are infected with thrip or greenfly, they should be fumigated. Bougainvilleas and allamandas may be pruned and cleaned. Keep the conservatory Warm, not letting the temperature fall below 45o.
Roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, spiraeas, dielytra, and lily of the valley can be brought on here, and bulbs forced, if desired, though the bulbs last longer if not subjected to too much heat.
A packet of seed of antirrhinums may be sown in the greenhouse to provide plants which flower the same summer. Verbenas can be sown, and tuberous begonias also. Old plants of verbena may be encouraged with genial heat in order to make growth for a new stock of cuttings.
Give weak liquid manure to camellias, and also to cyclamens and primulas, which are being got ready for succession. Bring on bouvardias. Re-pot roses, and place them in a warm house as a start. Push on spiraeas in a warm temperature. The Guelder rose is another subject which responds to very gentle forcing, in preference to stove-heat, as also lilacs, azaleas and staphylea colchica.
Plants for Succession
Among other plants for winter decoration in a moderately warm temperature is eupatorium riparium, which bears pretty white flowers. It requires the same treatment as a bush chrysanthemum. Other decorative plants for January are agathaea coelestis (blue marguerite), cinerarias, and relays of the winter-flowering carnation. Libonia floribunda, which can be propagated by cuttings at about 6o° in the spring, bears pretty tube-shaped flowers in winter of an orange-red colour. The plants should be pinched occasionally while growing on.
Kalanchoe carnea is another succulent plant for winter flowering, with wax-like pink flowers which last Well in a rather dry atmosphere. Echeveria retusa and bouvar-dias can be grown on in rather less heat.
There will still be outdoor Work in the shape of digging and trenching, whenever the ground is free from hard frost.
Horseradish may be planted in mild weather. This is one of the easiest subjects to increase, it being only necessary to cut a root into small strips and plant them.
Protect celery with strawy litter in hard frost, and broccoli by turning in.
Asparagus can be brought on if planted under a greenhouse bench, or it may be forced in a hot-bed with plenty of manure, at a temperature of 75°.
French beans can be planted in pots in the vinery or pine-stove. Sow seeds of cucumbers and melons.
Mushroom beds may now be made up. Chicory and dandelion roots for salad should be put in the mushroom house to blanch. Mint, chervil and tarragon may be potted up and placed in heat. Mustard and cress can be sown whenever required.
Sowing in a Hot-bed
Onions in a good variety (Ailsa Craig for choice) should be sown in a hot-bed, and the seedlings afterwards pricked off and kept near the glass in a house or frame with plenty of air, as soon as established. These should be fit for transplanting to the open ground in April.
Onions which are in store should be looked over and new growth checked by breaking off the sprouts.
Young trees may be planted in open weather, but it is best to protect them with straw or bracken afterwards. New plantations can be made of bush fruits and raspberries.
The growth of orchard trees should be regulated, and the branches thinned where. too thick.
Continue any unfinished pruning, shortening the branches of apples, pears, etc., to not more than two eyes, leaving four or five to the leaders.
Dust gooseberries with lime or soot, and spray with soaparite any fruit-trees affected with American blight. Mossy trunks and branches should be washed with lime, or with sodash. The latter is made by dissolving 5 lb. of caustic soda in just sufficient water for the purpose, dissolving 5 lb pearlash separately, and mixing the two together, adding enough tepid water to make up to 50 gallons. Gloves should be worn while syringing with this compound.
All surplus shoots should be removed, leaving finally one shoot to a spur.
The inside borders must be moist, and the house should be syringed or damped down with a can at closing-time. Air will be given on fine mornings, but the house must be closed early in the afternoon.
Pines. - Where these are grown, the plants intended for fruiting must be started, the temperature being kept at 6o° to 650. Keep the plants rather dry at the roots. See that the glass of the pinery is clean, so as to give all the light possible.
Peaches. - For fruiting in June, close the house early in the month, and start the trees quietly now. Moisten the borders with tepid manure-water. Until the buds move, the night temperature should not exceed 45°.
Strawberries. - Batches of these may now be started at a temperature of 45, keeping the plants close to the glass. This should not be much raised by fire-heat until the plants begin to show for flower. An increase of five or ten degrees may then be given. Admit air as much as possible. however, so long as draughts can be excluded and the temperature not allowed to fall below 500, when the actual flowering time arrives.
Red spider is one of the greatest enemies to forced strawberries, playing havoc with the foliage. This pest must be kept in check by frequent syringings.