This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
Plants that were benched in the latter part of July, or early August, which is the time to plant for best results, should begin to yield blooms early in September. If flowers are not desired so early, the stems may be broken off about the time the bud appears, but no general topping should be done after the plants are housed, if a steady cut through the season is desired. Cut the blooms during the early part of the day. They are then fresh and retain their natural colors, much of which would be bleached out of the delicately colored sorts by the sun during a warm day. Place in water at once in a cool room as near 50° as possible. Sort the blooms in separate colors, making two or three grades of quality, tying them into bunches of twenty-five blooms. Cut the stems even at the bottom and replace in water. Avoid crowding the blooms while they are soaking up water, as they will increase 25 per cent in size during the first twenty-four hours in water.
Fig. 812. Showing where to top (a) or to head back.
Fig. 813. Undeveloped five-petaled carnation.
During a season, running from September to the end of the following June, an average cut of twenty blooms per plant may be expected from most varieties. Varieties differ somewhat, according to the size of the blooms, the smaller-flowered sorts usually being the freer bloomers.
The preparation of the soil for growing carnations is of the greatest importance. Choose a piece of land which has not been tilled for some years, if possible. If covered with a heavy sod, all the better. The soil should be a loam of good substance, with an inclination toward sandiness. Break this sod in the fall and leave in a rough state during the winter. In the spring plow again and sow to cowpeas or some other leguminous crop. After plowing this under in the fall, manure heavily and leave until the following spring when it should be plowed again. This soil should be in first-class condition for use the following summer. In working or handling soil, always bear in mind that to handle it while it is wet is to ruin it for immediate use. Only freezing will restore it again. If it will crumble readily, it is safe to handle. Soil which has been prepared in this manner will be rich enough to carry the plants until after the first of the year, when light feeding may be given. Feeding should be done judiciously during the short days of winter, to avoid softening the growth and bloom. Pulverized sheep-manure, dried blood and wood-ashes are used mostly for this purpose.
The manure and blood improve the size and quality of the bloom, and the ashes strengthen the stem.
The carnation being a cool-temperature plant, abundant fresh air and ventilation should be provided for. A steady temperature is essential to success in growing carnations. Splitting of the calyx may usually be traced to either irregular temperature or to overdoses of feeding. Any point between 48° and 52° will prove a satisfactory night temperature for most varieties, providing it is evenly maintained. The temperature should be 10° higher during the day. Care should also be exercised, when building, in placing the ventilators, so that the atmosphere in the house may be changed without causing cold drafts to strike the plants. By placing the ventilators alternately on both sides of the ridge, this may be accomplished. The side ventilators are used only during mild weather.
Fig. 814. Carnation flower showing the calyx which has split on account of poor shape.
The modern type of carnation house runs east and west, is of even span and is 30 feet or more in width, having ventilators on both sides of the ridge and in the side walls, if houses are detached. Many ranges are connected by gutters 6 feet or more from the ground. When economy in ground is necessary, this is a good plan, but such ranges always contain some benches inferior for growing stock on account of the shade cast by gutters. The single detached house is ideal. See Greenhouse.
The leading varieties in cultivation in this country at this time are-White: White Perfection, White Enchantress, White Wonder, Shasta, Matchless. Flesh-Pink: Enchantress, Pink Delight, Mayday, Pres. Valentine. Rose-Pink: Rose-Pink Enchantress, Dorothy Gordon, Gloriosa, Mrs. C. W. Ward, Philadelphia Pink. Dark Pink: Rosette, Washington, Peerless Pink, Northport. Scarlet: Beacon, Victory, stem Nicholas, Herald, Commodore. Crimson: Harry Fenn, Octoroon, Pocahontas. Yellow: Yellow Prince, Yellowstone. White Variegated: Benora, Mrs. B. P. Cheney. Any other color: Gorgeous, Rainbow. New varieties are being registered with the American Carnation Society at the rate of about twenty-five each year. Few varieties remain in cultivation longer than ten years, so that the list changes continually.