This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
"The Earth, till then Desert and hare, unsightly, unadorn'd, Brought forth the tender plants, whose verdure clad Her universal face with pleasant green".
A similar transformation has lately taken place in the flower-garden, if due diligence has been exercised in filling up all empty beds with their summer tenants; but this done, our labours are only lightened, not finished. If the weather is dry, occasional waterings must be given to the newly-set plants, the balls of which often get quite dry, while the surrounding soil is sufficiently moist, and from this cause many deaths occur. Then, again, all plants with a habit similar to the Verbena ought to have their shoots fastened to the ground as they elongate, in such a manner as to cover equally the whole surface of the beds; for if this precaution is neglected, all former efforts at regularity of arrangement will be futile, and we shall have, here a bare patch of ground, and there a thick mass of tangled shoots. Various methods have been recommended for ef-fecting this object. Some prefer small hooked sticks, and others say that short pieces of bast-matting placed across the shoots, and thrust into the ground at both ends, is less troublesome; but perhaps the readiest way of securing truant branches of trailing plants in their places, is to press a joint into the ground with the finger, and then draw sufficient soil over it to keep it there.
The flower-stems of many herbaceous plants will now be tall enough to need staking and tying. As the use of the stake is merely to secure the stem or stems of the plant firmly in an upright position, our aim in placing it should be to make it as inconspicuous as is consistent with stability. For this reason, stakes ought never to be stronger than necessary, nor so high by several inches as the top of the full-grown plant, the stems of which, when there are several, should be distributed regularly round the support, and not huddled clumsily together so as to resemble a faggot. Some plants, as the tall Phloxes and Asters, throw up numerous shoots, the weakest of which had better be cut off before tying, leaving from three to seven or nine, according to the strength of the plant.
Annuals, when growing in patches in the flower-borders, are seldom seen in perfection, and the principal causes of their comparative failure are, thick sowing in the first instance, and afterwards the want of timely thinning. When half a hundred plants are permitted to grow on a space barely large enough for half-a-dozen, the natural consequence is starvation of all, and their beauty being thereby greatly lessened, if not absolutely destroyed, we uncharitably call them "weedy" and " worthless,"when the blame ought, in justice, to be ascribed to our own bad cultivation. Always, therefore thin seedlings before they have grown large enough to injure each other; retaining few or many according to the habit of the species, but generally speaking from five to nine plants will be quite sufficient to form a cluster. China Asters, Ten-week Stocks, French Marigolds, and other kinds, whose beauty is enhanced by their flowers being double, might be left thicker than they are meant to remain, until the opening of the first flowers exhibits the character of each plant, when the worst varieties can be pulled up. The same rule applies to tender annuals, which may have been sown in pans, for flowering under glass.
These should always be pricked out early into other pans, preparatory to being potted singly. "When large specimens are wanted of Balsams, and similar free-growing things, liberal shifts and rich compost must be used. At present, however, our business is more particularly with out-door plants; therefore we shall proceed to indicate some of the most desirable species of the extensive genus Narcissus, most of which are exceedingly pretty, and many delightfully fragrant. From the great diversity in the form of the flower among Narcissi, some botanists have subdivided them into many genera, under the names of Ajax, Cor-bularia, Queltia, etc.; but the majority of botanical authors agree in retaining the old family name.
Among the most interesting are -
Narcissus biflorus, petals pale straw-colour, cup yellow; fragrant; season April and May.
N. triflorus, white, cup yellow; fragrant; April and May.
N. spathulatus, white, cup yellow, margined with red; fragrant; May.
N. majalis plenus, white; fragrant; May: one of the best.
N. recurvus, like spathulatus, but larger flowers; fragrant; May.
N. Jonquilla (the Jonquil), yellow; very fragrant; April and May: there is also a double variety, which is rather tender.
N. albicans (Ajax), sulphur; April: very pretty.
N. bicolor (Ajax), petals white, cup yellow; April.
N. pumilus (Ajax), yellow; dwarf and pretty, and one of the earliest.
N. Sabini (Ajax), petals white, cup yellow; April.
N. cernuus plenus (Ajax), sulphur; April: one of the prettiest.
N. Telamonius plenus (Ajax), yellow; April: very showy.
N. pulchellus (Ganymedes), petals sulphur, reflexed, cup paler; April and May: very distinct and pretty.
N. conspicuus (Corbularia), petals narrow and inconspicuous; cup very large; deep yellow; April: very distinct.
N. Campernelli (Philogyne), yellow; April and May.
N. aurantius plenus (Queltia), orange; April: very showy.
N. concolor plenus (Queltia), sulphur; April: very showy.
N. orientalis (Queltia), whitish petals, orange cup; April.
The above sorts are selected partly from a collection of living plants, and partly from drawings made under the inspection of a person who cultivated all the so-called species which were procurable in this country, and thereby ascertained that many of the names given in modern catalogues are mere synonyms of other species. Any lady would be amply repaid for the trouble of collecting the kinds we have enumerated; all the culture they require being to take up and divide the bulbs of the strongest growers every second or third autumn after the leaves have died. Those marked "fragrant" are deliciously sweet, and deserve notice on that account only, independently of their great beauty.
J. B. Whiting.