This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The energetic addresses from the pen of Dr. Horner which appeared in a recent Number of the Midland Florist and of the present work, urging an extended cultivation of the Yellow Picotee, and the raising seedlings from that variety, has aroused the dormant energies of several florists hitherto indifferent to this much - neglected flower, but who now only await the proper season to commence the work; and it is truly gratifying to perceive a prospect of this golden gem being elevated, by their labours, to the position to which its beautiful tints so justly entitle it.
In the estimation of the fair sex, the Picotee has long held a prominent place; their keen perception of its chaste marking induced a preference over its more gaudy rival, the Carnation; and it is presumed that the variety now under consideration will, in an improved state, find equal favour at their hands.
As some time must necessarily elapse before a commencement can be made, a few hints, principally for the guidance of the uninitiated, may be found useful; and in drawing their attention to the subject, I would strongly urge the necessity of making themselves thoroughly acquainted with the natural habit of the plants I am now noticing. They are not a robust class, capable of enduring, without protection, the vicissitudes of our climate; but are a delicate race, extremely difficult of cultivation, and frequently rendered more so by unskilful treatment.
The raising of seedlings may be considered the most important point in the undertaking, and a few suggestions as to their management may not prove unacceptable. I will suppose them to be sufficiently advanced in growth to be ready for transplanting, when at this period no marked difference is discernible between those saved from the Yellow Picotee and other classes; this circumstance, however, must not lead the cultivator to suppose that less care is requisite, but, on the contrary, a more watchful attention is necessary. The influence of summer will naturally produce a generous growth, and yet a brief space of time will suffice to dispel the illusion, and prove their vigorous appearance to be unnatural, and by no means to be considered a criterion of hardiness: autumnal rains, and the usually humid atmosphere, often succeeded by frosty nights, will prove a severer test than any hitherto experienced; and it will be then perceived whether they can maintain the same healthy appearance under these changes.
Another circumstance is familiar to every raiser of this class of florists' flowers, that seedling plants exhibit a luxuriance of growth the first season which rarely occurs afterwards; to imagine, therefore, that the seedlings will be sufficiently hardy to endure the changes of our climate, planted out as others usually are, will be to foster a fallacy, and tend to disappointment, as well as destroy all chance of success. It is essentially necessary that a dry situation be selected, and air given on all favourable opportunities; wintering the seedlings in pots well drained, and using a light sandy soil, also being prepared with protection against sudden frost, and the usually humid atmosphere prevalent during the months of November and December, are precautions to be borne in mind, in order to ensure successful cultivation, until a hardier constitution be attained than the one which characterises the present race.
The enthusiastic cultivator must not expect his efforts to be successful, or his expectations realised, with the first experiment; "perseverance" must be his motto, for perfection is not attained at one step. The serrated edge and irregular marking have to be removed, and the motley assemblage of colours reduced, whilst, in their stead, is to be substituted a rose petal, with the colour confined to its edge, which must necessarily be a work of time. If, however, one point only be attained, and that a perceptible improvement, the cultivator may take his stand among the successful competitors for future honour - a circumstance sufficient for renewed exertions.
I am willing to hope that the uncertain style of marking peculiar to this class of flowers may not prove universal; but possibly some new variety may be originated, which will be found to advance a little beyond the present race; and if possessing a petal approximating to the white-ground class, it will be a desirable one from which to save seed.
Having proceeded thus far, I conceive the following plan, under distinct heads, will be eligible for the purpose I have in view: -
Saving seed from Yellow Selfs, hybridised with the Yellow Picotee; and, for experiment's sake, reversing the parents whenever it will not have a tendency to reduce colour.
From two Yellow Picotees.
From deep-coloured Yellow Selfs, hybridised with the highest-coloured white-ground Picotees of the several classes of red, purple, and rose, using the pollen from those flowers which are particularly distinguished by a steady style of marking, and not intermixing light and heavy edge.
From Yellow Picotees, hybridised as in No. 3.
The following white-ground varieties are well calculated for the purpose of hybridising, as they are all of first-rate excellence: - Headley's King James and Venus; May's Portia, Sebastian, and Juliet; Marris's Prince of Wales and Prince Albert; Ely's Emperor and Mrs. Lilly; Norman's Beauty; Matthews' Enchantress; Cox'3 Regina; Wood's Princess Alice; Gatliff's Regina; and Mrs. Beavan. There are several other good varieties; but I presume those I have enumerated will be found sufficient to commence with.
The process of hybridising being so generally understood, it appears scarcely necessary to allude to it here; but I beg to observe, that so soon as the bloom is expanded, it should be covered with a piece of gauze, or other light material, in order to prevent bees from anticipating the work, and rendering the operation nugatory; each cultivator should also record with minuteness the seed-bearing plants, and those from which the pollen was taken, as well as the different traits possessed by each seedling.
It will be desirable to ascertain the names of a few of the best varieties cultivated; and probably some growers may be induced to further the present project by furnishing a descriptive list of Yellow Picotees, setting forth their particular properties. This desideratum I am unable to supply; and as it is undoubtedly an important adjunct, I trust this request will be complied with.
In the estimation of some cultivators of the Picotee, the foregoing remarks may be considered rather to impede than advance the project I am advocating; but I beg to observe, such is not my intention, for I have endeavoured to point out the difficulties, in order that they may be known and avoided: the more operators, the sooner the desired end will be attained. And here I particularly caution the tyro against deciding on the merits of his own productions; but I would advise him to forward them to the respective editors of the present work and the Midland Florist, who would faithfully point out their merits and imperfections.