This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
I take either the earth that the moles have turned up in the fields, or some soil that hath been brought together by the overflowing of some river, or some other from the bottom of ditches; all which I use with great success, but not till they have lain by for two winters at least. If I fail in getting any of these sorts, I procure some fresh soil, such as is fit to sow wheat in; and there is no country, I think, where one may not find some or other of these kinds of soil. With six measures of one of these kinds of soil I mix one of very old rotten horse or cow-dung; and, that it may grow lighter, I throw it by in a heap into some corner, frequently turning it over, and after having well screened it, I use it as I have occasion.
I find this very good for my plants; they are healthy in it, they shoot well, and produce flowers so fine and strong, that those that have seen them conclude I have some other artful composition that I have a mind to keep secret from them, that their plants may not thrive so well as mine. But they were mistaken, I always told them very sincerely and frankly; for being always pleased with seeing my neighbours' flowers fine, the finer they appeared the greater was my satisfaction. The pots proper for Auriculas, especially for the large plants, should be about five inches diameter within at the top or mouth, three only at the bottom, and six deep; they should be taper, that the plants may occasionally slip out the easier with all the earth.
There should be a hole in the middle of the bottom of the size of a crown-piece, to carry off* the wet when they have too much, either from rain or waterings. A double bottom, about an inch high, is very convenient, if not absolutely necessary.
These pots may be painted on the outside with green (or any colour), laid in oil; they are both handsomer and better; they make a very pretty appearance on the stage, and keep the earth in the pots cooler, the pores of the pots so painted not being so open, or apt to receive the heat, as the ordinary ones, in which the soil dries so soon as to make it necessary to water very frequently, by which means the plants are oftentimes much damaged.
The pots proper for the offsets or young plants should be exactly of the same form, but one-third part less. New pots taken from the fire wherein they are burnt have a certain heat, which they retain a long time, and should never therefore be used till they have lain twenty-four hours in cold water, to prevent the earth from drying up and loosening from the plant, which would perish if that heat should not be extinguished before the roots reach the sides; for the earth of which the pots are made, though less quick and lively, yet is of the nature of lime. This is clearly proved from the bubbling of the water in which you put a number of new pots. Very few florists attend sufficiently to this observation, but the reasons now given seem to make it very necessary.
Many use square pots, because they range better on the stage; but I take the one to be as good as the other. When you transplant your flowers, fail not to cover the hole at the bottom of the pots with an hollow oyster-shell, then put some coarse gravel round it up to the height of the back of the shell, and then the soil. In planting, be careful to spread the roots out as horizontally as possible, after having trimmed them, and taken off all superfluities and every thing that looks like decay. Press the earth gently round the edges of the pot, as well as in the middle round the neck of the plant, to fix it the firmer, and to facilitate its growth.
It might, in this place, seem necessary to mention what tools are proper and necessary for a florist, but I shall content myself with saying, that a sharp penknife, a little trowel, such as the masons use, and a half-round iron spoon, a little hollow, seem to me to be the most useful, especially the last, which is employed in taking off the mossy surface, which will be often contracted, as well as in loosening or removing part of the soil in the pots, and afterwards in flattening the same, and putting the whole into order, without danger to the roots, leaves, or offsets.
If, at the time of planting, you should perceive any canker or rottenness in the root of any plant, cut it boldly to the quick, and till no signs or symptoms of rottenness remain; put on the wound a plaister of wax, or some mastick, to heal and dry it; and if there be any of the root left, it will most probably (and especially in the spring) strike root again; but, however, leave as many fibres to it as possible. Mastick is made with half a pound of bees-wax, a quarter of a pound of turpentine, and a quarter of a pound of white rosin, - melt the whole, and mix them well together. The wound may also be exposed to the sun, which makes it crust over, and 'tis really the easiest and best remedy for plants tolerably rooted, and inclined to strike again.
Be sure to support your nice potted Auriculas with two little cross sticks or reeds, that they may not be loosened with the wind; as also to water them, but in such a manner as not to make holes, or displace the soil in the pot, which would be very disagreeable. The first watering should be very plentiful; then set the plant in the shade for a fortnight, without giving it one drop, unless it be in the very drought of summer. But observe that this last rule concerns only those plants that are taken from one pot to be immediately put into another, or that have not been taken out above a day or so; for others that are sent from far, and have been a great while on the road, ought to be watered at first very sparingly (as faded as they may seem to be), and that not till two or three days after potting them; but should the weather prove very hot and dry, they must be watered with discretion, and at proper distances, till they shall have taken root, which they will certainly do if this caution is prudently used.
Chevet Park, Wakefield. E. P.