The principal use of a frame is to bring on seedlings quickly, and to protect tender plants from the exigencies of our winter. For example.the professional grower of sweet-peas sows the seed in October in a cold frame, and transplants into the open in March, thus securing the earliest bloom possible. Cuttings are also forced in a garden frame, and there are other operations all savouring of careful nursing and pampering to gain a few days on our treacherous climate.
For floriculture, frames should be about eighteen inches in height at the rear, and a foot in elevation at the front; they should be some five or six feet across and nine feet long, the lights being each about a yard wide, supported on rebated framework in the usual way. In the spring, when forcing work is going forward, these frames are stood upon banks of green manure, the heat from the latter rising through the six inches of soil in which the seed or plantlings are set so hastening Nature.
The most up-to-date flower-growers have a system of portable greenhouses. The frame-work is a permanency, and in the open ground such subjects as chrysanthemums are raised in long lines. Then in the autumn, when the flowering period arrives, the sections of glass like windows are bolted in the framework, and where in the morning the plants were in the open, by evening they can be placed under glass without the labour or risk of transplanting. This, however, is the last word in flower farming, and the most ambitious grower must learn to walk before she can run in the delightful profession she has elected to follow.
There are any number of women who dread the winter in the country, deterred by the oceans of mud and slush that never seem to dry. In planning a holding where flowers are to be raised for profit, the paths must have very close attention, so that they may be as presentable as is humanly possible during the bad weather. Certainly this is a feature upon which money should not be stinted, and the walks must have a solid foundation of broken bricks, clinkers, or large cinders. They should be faced, if possible, with gravel moulded with the roller, so that the path is higher in the centre than at the sides. In the winter there are heavy barrow-loads of soil and manure to be moved from place to place, and if the paths are badly engineered, untold discomfort will be certain to follow. Take the writer's advice, therefore, and give this matter close attention.
Seediings that are grown in drills should be carefully weeded with a hand hoe
Speaking of the winter, one must not suppose that the floriculturist can hibernate and dream away the dreary spell. It is upon the winter's labour that summer success depends, and there is an immense amount of work to be done. In the first place, there is the digging and cultivation of the land, all-important and not to be neglected. Then, where the soil is heavy and sticky, wide..
deep trenches should be cut through it, the excavated earth being piled up on either side of the gulleys. The effect of this treatment will be to aerate and purify the staple, and when in the spring it is levelled, it will work finely, pulverise well, and prove to be doubly as dry as land that was neglected.
Then, again, the winter is the time of planting. Right up to Christmas, in the mild weather we often experience, and from the beginning of March, the perennials may be bedded out where they are to bloom, and the transplanting of other hardy subjects will be in season. Roses are planted in October, for instance, and so are the majority of flowering shrubs. Then there are the bulbs, which are bedded out in October and November, whilst the flowers are gathered from February onwards. The winter is, indeed, of the utmost importance, and the woman worker who hopes to make her year's income during the summer sunshine will be speedily disillusioned when encountering practical operations.
Among the etceteras of a floral farm one must number a varied assortment of tools not found in general use by the amateur. There is the hand hoe, for example - a short-handled tool employed where seedlings have to be carefully cleared of weeds, so carefully, in fact, that the long-handled implement would not be practicable. It is back-aching work using this little tool, but when the fingers grapple with the bigger weeds, the hand hoe will chop out the smaller ones very quickly. The aphis-brush, used for removing blight from the leaves of roses and other subjects, is of the utmost importance, and as it only costs a shilling, it need not be neglected on the score of expense. It is a two-headed brush, and is sold by all garden sundriesmen. Secateurs are seldom used by professional gardeners, as the blades are apt to bruise, and a sharp pruning-knife, costing also a shilling, is generally employed.
A grass-hook, which looks like a miniature scythe, is a tool much used on a floral farm, its function being to mow down wallflowers, sweet-williams, pansies, or other subjects that in flower-farming are treated as biennials. The stems so cut are raked up into a heap, and burned, the roots being retained in the ground when digging it over. A small hook suitable for this work would cost eighteen-pence.
Gypsophila. Wherever sweet-peas are grown for market, there will you find gypso-phila, or "gyp," as it is known in the vernacular. Its fine, feathery foliage, with the blue tints, makes it an ideal subject for setting off sweet-peas in bunches, and acres of it are raised in our large market-garden districts.
The annual gyp is sown in April, the seedlings being thinned out till they are four or five inches apart. The perennial kind, with its woody roots, is known as Gypsophila Paniculata, and is planted out a yard apart, seed being sown in early summer, though it is probably better to purchase plants from a nursery and bed them out late in March for blooming the same season.
Hyacinth. On account of its formal habit and overcoming perfume, the hyacinth is not a very marketable subject. White hyacinths are, however, used for wreaths, and there is a limited sale, when in full flower, for bulbs grown in pots. The Roman hyacinth is, perhaps, the best from a market point of view, and if the bulbs are planted early in September, they will bloom by Christmas. They do better in a light, sandy soil than in any other staple, but may be grown in fibre in vases without drainage.
Iris. The iris family is very valuable from a grower's aspect, the blooms being showy, and lasting well in water. The common flag iris (I. Germanica) can be cultivated profitably, especially if the newer sorts are grown. There is one variety of white and old gold, another of purple chased with rich blue, another mottled white and blue, and so on. The plants are perfectly hardy, but prefer a spot that is slightly damp though open to the sun. The peculiar rhizominous roots must not be completely buried beneath the soil, and the family, as a whole, abominates fresh manure. Every third year or so the clumps must be taken up and divided, or they will become overgrown.
The Spanish iris, commonly known as the Poor Man's Orchid, is a recognised market garden flower, and during the period of bloom a rough panvas awning is usually erected over the bed to protect the delicate colourings of the blossom. The plant is raised from bulbs bedded out four inches apart and three inches deep in early November, and blooms in the spring.
English iris and the Japanese variety are well worthy of cultivation for marketing purposes.
Lathyrus. This is the botanical name of the "everlasting," or perennial, pea. It is raised from seed sown in June, and established plants will yield a mass of bloom. I n face of the popularity of the sweet-pea, the non-odorous variety is hardly worth cultivating.
Lily of the Valley. There is always a sale for lilies of the valley. Among large growers the prevailing system is to retard the crowns. That is to say, the roots are kept in an ice-chamber till required, when they are planted in heat. In this way they can be made to bloom at almost any time of year, and in a surprisingly short period from the moment they are started into growth.
For the ordinary outdoor culture of the lilies, a somewhat damp, shady spot should be selected, and plenty of leaf-mould dug into the soil. The crowns, which may be bought through the bulb-dealers, are bedded out two inches apart all ways, so that their tips are just below the surface, and a top-dressing of leaf-mould is then applied. A bed of lilies of the valley remains productive for many years, until, in fact, the crowns become overcrowded, when they may be lifted and replanted.
Lilies. There is always a demand for good out-of-door lilies, and the auratums, rubrums, giganteums, and tigrinums will always sell, though they are troublesome subjects to pack, and bad travellers. The soil should be very deeply dug, and a sunny, sheltered spot selected, whilst bulbs of good size should be purchased from importers of repute. The majority of the lilies are stem-rooting subjects - that is to say, roots appear in the stem put forth from the bulb, and for this reason, deep planting is necessary. The bulbs need to be covered by six or seven inches of soil. Cow manure, placed well below the level of the bulbs themselves, is the best fertiliser, and the bulbs need not be disturbed for many years after planting.
The Madonna lily should certainly be cultivated. The cultivation of the liliums out of doors is a comparatively simple matter if only the soil is efficiently worked, but greenhouse culture is an art unto itself, only to be learned by hard experience, and beyond the scope of these articles.
Blight from foliage should be removed by a frequent use of the aphis brush
Lunaria. This is a prime old cottage garden favourite, usually known by its humble cognomen " Honesty." Its beauty lies in its silvery seed-pods, the stems being gathered in the late summer, and thoroughly dried. There is a limited demand for bunches of this curious plant, which will last through the winter as decorations in vases.
Lupin. There are few more showy border plants than the perennial lupin (L.. poly-phyllus), but it is hardly a profitable market flower. A few heads of bloom may, however, be grown where there are private customers to supply, for they mingle well with bunches of cut flowers. Seed is sown in June, the resulting plants blooming the following season, or established specimens may be bought very cheaply, and bedded out in March. A warm, sheltered border should be chosen.