This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Different people have different ways, but I shall suppose my way to be the best, and I am quite sure it cannot be the worst, because we have perfect pyramids solid throughout with leaf and flower. I first of all make a mound of good loam, not over steep, but rising in nicely rounded form. Mine are ten feet in width, with another border, slightly sloping off towards the walk, of three feet wide, making the width of the whole affair sixteen feet.
The plants are of course sorted in lengths, and there are of course plenty of poles and sticks and good bast at hand. Now, I must say, first of all, that to do the pyramid well, you ought to plant early. I generally get mine made up by the end of April, and build up a wattled fence to protect the plants until the middle of May. If they got a little punished by frost, I do not much mind, for they soon come right, and it is a grand thing to get them well-rooted before hot weather sets in, for, as a matter of fact, the plants have a lot of work to do. However, seasons differ, so do climates, and mine happens to be a particularly good climate, which is a matter of some importance.
It is necessary to bear in mind that when your pyramid is in perfection in the month of July, it may be blown to pieces and scattered all over the parish by a thunder-storm, for the gales that occur in the thunder season are to be thought of in time by the prudent gardener. For this reason, then, we make our work secure in the first instance, and the first step is a stout ash pole well driven into the centre of the mound, to serve as the centre-piece of the scheme. The length of this pole must of course be proportionate to the height of your tallest plants, but it may be a foot taller out of the ground than your tallest plants, because they will soon make a growth to cover that much. My ten-feet pyramids require centre poles twelve feet long; which, when planted, are nine feet out of the ground, and my plants are so large that I could take them considerably higher. When the centre pole is fixed, drive in half a dozen more in a slanting direction and tie them at the top firmly to the centre. These should not be more than two feet and a half from the centre at the base. Now, make up a tent-like frame with slighter poles between, and plant your tallest geraniums and train them in carefully, having in view to furnish the upper part of the pyramid only.
It matters not how leggy they are, so long as they are inclined to grow at top, and have good roots to begin the season with.
The next work is to build again with shorter and slighter poles two feet and a half from the last. They must be driven in only slightly aslope, and be bent to bring their tops to the inner framework, and of course they must be notched to prevent the ties slipping, and must be well tied like the last with tarred rope. Now plant again with shorter plants and tie as before. As regards the tying of the plants, you cannot be too severe. Train your pyramid to the stiffest outline possible, but take care that every tie is loose enough to allow for the swelling of the wood. In my first attempts I trained my plants so as to ensure - as I thought - a rather soft outline, but this was a mistake. I found that the tying in should be in the style of those gigantic pyramid azaleas that startle us at the great London exhibitions. If you do not make a sharp, hard, precise pyramid in the first instance, you will be in a precious muddle before the season is out, for the growth will floor you thoroughly. But make your outline severely correct, and you will scarcely have to touch the thing all the season through; the natural growth will soften the outline beautifully, and by the time the flowers are showing freely all the hardness of the outline will be gone, and your pyramid will satisfy the eye of taste.
I had almost forgotten to say that before I plant I nip out all the flower trusses that are visible, and shorten back any shoots that appear to be superfluous or misplaced.
The finishing of the scheme is of course accomplished by planting circles of proper bedding geraniums, etc. I find a good circle of old bushy plants of Flower of the Day, and a broad margin of blue lobelia next the gravel, a capital finishing to a scarlet pyramid; but tastes differ, and I shall say no more about the finishing touches.
When the drizzle of October begins, we lift our plants carefully, slightly disroot them, and pot them in as small pots as possible without distressing them, and house them in a cool vinery where they cover the back wall, and being too tall for the house are tilted all aslant like a lot of drunkards; only, perhaps as they all lean one way, and give no trouble, the comparison is unfair. As a matter of course, they get very little water all winter, and are kept as cool and airy as possible to be safe. - W. Kemp, in Gardener's Magazine.