This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
"The western Sun withdraws the shorten'd day, And humid Evening, gliding o'er the sky, In her chill progress, to the ground condensed The vapours throws." Thomson.
Those chilly humid evenings, which we may now expect, are frequently the forerunners of sharp morning frosts, which, if not guarded against, will totally destroy the beauty of our flowers, and perhaps even seriously injure some of the plants intended to be preserved through the winter, such as Heliotropes and Scarlet Geraniums, for bedding again next spring. Often, in the southern counties especially, a single frost, stealing upon us like a thief in the night, comes and cuts off every unprotected flower; and then, after the mischief has been done, we have uninterrupted fine weather for a considerable time. Therefore, those who are anxious to prolong the floral season to as late a period as possible must watch the weather narrowly; and when appearances indicate such an unpleasant visitation, a few of the most valued beds, at any rate, might be saved by spreading common garden-mats over them. All plants which are meant to be wintered in pots for use in another season ought to be taken up as soon as they cease to be attractive.
To economise space, use small pots for these plants, and reduce their heads considerably, - in fact, all the branches of Geraniums might be shortened to one or two joints; then place them at once in a pit or a greenhouse, and give them very little water during the winter.
Verbenas, Petunias, and all plants of similar straggling habit, are not worth the trouble of taking up: these should be propagated by cuttings, which must be put in immediately, if not already done, and if they can be assisted by a little artificial warmth at this dull season of the year, they will emit roots much more readily. Those who have had no experience in striking cuttings will find sufficient directions to enable them to perform this process at page 40 of this Volume.
As the beds are cleared, such of them as it is proposed to fill with Hyacinths, Anemones, Pansies, or other spring-flowering plants, should be moderately manured and deeply dug preparatory to planting, and the earlier these operations are completed, the better will the plants establish themselves. Or if annuals were sown in the beginning of last month for this purpose, the plants should be transferred to the flower-garden as soon as the beds can be made ready to receive them. When, however, such provision has not been made, seeds of annuals might be sprinkled thinly over the beds and raked in; and if the winter should be mild, the plants will most likely get strong enough to blossom well in spring. To the list given at p. 41 might be added the Virginian Stock (Malcomia maritima), red, and Venus's Navel-wort (Omphalodes linifolia), white, old inhabitants of our gardens, but nevertheless not to be despised. There is also a dark-blue variety, of Venus's Looking-glass (the botanical name of which has been changed from Campanula to Prismatocarpus speculum), very suitable for this purpose; so likewise is the Candytuft (Iberis umbellata).
In speaking of bulbous plants at page 183, nothing was said about the beautiful genus Gladiolus (Corn Flag). Some of the varieties which have been raised by cross-breeding between G. cardinalis, floribundus, psittacinus, and others, are exquisitely lovely, and are every year becoming more numerous and diversified. Among the best obtainable at a moderate price are Gandavensis, Jenny Lind, Madame Sontag, and Queen Victoria. The nurserymen's catalogues contain many newer kinds, but these are as yet too costly to risk in the unprotected ground through the winter, although most of the parent species are found to stand well when planted rather deeply in well-drained beds, the surface of which is slightly covered with rotten leaves. The hybrid kinds, however, are well worth cultivating in pots, where there is a greenhouse or a conservatory to decorate, as in addition to their great beauty, they blossom at a season when it is not easy to maintain a gay appearance in such structures. The same might be said of the three Japan Lilies, commonly known as Lillum lancifolium album, L. I. rubrum, and L. I. punctatum, - names that require to be corrected, as they appear to have originated in gardens.
The plants themselves, however, are great acquisitions, and, when grown in pots, make one of the principal ornaments of our plant-houses in the autumn months. They have been recommended for open-ground culture; but further experience has taught that they are not well adapted for that purpose, blossoming so late in autumn that their beauty is very liable to be spoilt by the rains and frosts of that season. Two other dwarfer-growing species, L. longiflorum and L. japonicum, have very large white blossoms, and are very handsome when well grown in pots. L. testaceum is comparatively new; it grows tall, and has flowers of a peculiar pale copper-colour, singular, but not very showy. There are many hardy Lilies, the most desirable of which are, Lilium candidum, the common White Lily; L. tigrinum, the Tiger Lily; L. bulbiferum, the common Orange Lily; L. Pomponium, the Scarlet Pompone; L. Martagon (purple), and L. M. pubescens (yellow).
Tigridia pavonia and T. conchiiflora, although literally flowers of a day, are most gaudy in their individual blossoms; and these, though transient, are produced in succession; so that a small bed, or even a patch of five or seven plants, will mostly exhibit expanded flowers. If the bulbs are taken up at the beginning of winter and put singly into small pots, they answer well for turning out early in June, between any of the spring-flowering plants mentioned at page 41. Botanists make two species of Tigridia, yet they appear to differ only in colour, and seedlings have been raised nearly intermediate between the two.
Another plant, the tuberous roots of which require winter protection, is the Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa). The flowers are of various colours, - red, yellow, white, and striped. This plant is easily managed, merely requiring the tubers to be taken out of the ground at the approach of winter, stored in a box of dry earth out of the reach of frost, and planted out in May. To maintain a stock of serviceable tubers, and to increase the number of varieties, seeds should be sown every spring; and if properly attended to, these young plants will probably bloom the same season.
The effect of all plants, and especially of Dahlias, is greatly enhanced by planting them in a symmetrical manner - that is, with the tallest plants in the middle, gradually diminishing the height till the lowest form the outer row, in circles or other beds that are viewed from more than one side; or in borders seen from one side only, the highest plants must be at the back. In order to facilitate such an arrangement, the height (as well as the colour and any peculiarity of habit) of Dahlias ought to be annually noted down, which will be found a useful guide in future planting. When the foliage is destroyed by frost, the stalks should be cut off near the ground and the roots taken up, fastening at the same time the tallies which mark the different sorts securely to the stems; then, if the soil is wet, the roots should be set upside-down in a shed for a few days, that they may get tolerably dry before being finally stored away for winter.
If the observations at page 203 should have the effect of inducing any of our readers to add to their old, or to make new collections of herbaceous plants, the present month is the best season for procuring and planting them, as the plants will then get sufficient hold of the ground to enable them to bloom well next season. In addition to the species indicated there, the following will be found well worthy of cultivation: Gentiana pneumonanthe, a dwarf species with beautiful blue blossoms; CEnothera riparia, yellow; Delphinium Atkinsii, a double bright blue variety; Dianthus gigantea, and D. mutabilis, two double kinds, the former with reddish, and the latter with a sort of grey-coloured flowers. Many very handsome varieties of Phlox have been raised from seed, chiefly on the Continent, during the last few years; but owing to that unfortunate propensity that prevails of giving a distinctive name to every seedling in which the slightest shade'of difference can be perceived, many of the kinds enumerated in catalogues are comparatively worthless on account of their indistinctness.
It is best, therefore, for buyers to make a selection for themselves when the plants are in bloom.
J. B. Whiting.