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.
The culture of the Carnation is believed by certain horticultural writers to have been for upwards of 2000 years We know nothing of what was practiced at that time, and horticultural Science as well as some others, dates but little in the first century, so that we can only trace the present history of the Monthly Carnation. The Remontant Carnation originated in Lyons. Mons. Dalmais, gardener to Mons. Lacure, (the zealous patron of Horticulture in Lyons, and formerly of our Horticultural society) obtained the first true one nearly 36 years ago.
It was sent out in 1844. Atim was the product of artificial impregnation of a kind known by the common name of Mahon or St. Martin (because it flowered almost regularly towards the middle of November) with the Carnation Bichon. This first result was afterwards impregnated with the fancy and produced in 1846 numerous varieties of different colors.
Mons. Schmitt one of the most earnest and intelligent Horticulturists of Lyons, followed Mons. Dalmais in the track which he traced and increased the collection to several remarkable varieties, such as Arc en Ciel, and Polar Star, which were cultivated for a few years but are lost now, being replaced by better sorts.
Towards 1850 a malady broke out amongst these. Mons. Schmitt was discouraged and abandoned them. It was at that time that Mons. Alegatiere applied himself to their culture, and in a short time made great progress, and it is to this able and persevering Horticulturist that we are indebted for the numerous Remontant sorts so esteemed in England, Germany and Italy, and also for the best means of cultivating them, which we will describe. Mons. Alegatiere is not contented to increase the Carnation so extensively as to put it on a level with the old Florist's Pink (in the culture of which the Belgians and Hoilanders excel) but he imposes upon himself the task of giving us Remontant Carnations with stiff flower-stems, which he obtained in 1866. And it may also be said that Mons. Alegatiere has produced a race which will be continued by seed.
"A permanent race is almost a race which we have created," (Henri Lecoq.) . This kind has the same merits as the Carnation Flon, and the advantage of having large flowers and various shades of color. Certain authors have said that the culture and propagation are very easy. At a time not very distant it was said and published of the culture of the Carnation: "Grafting, considering the few chances of success which it offers is seldom employed; therefore it is recommended to split the bottom of the graft and introduce into it a grain of wheat, oats, barley or a small pebble, to keep it apart." Without doubt this means of grafting offers fewer chances of success, as one of the grafts rots, and if the plant coming from this graft does not die, it remains weakly. Grafting was therefore condemned, and layering,which was in its infancy,was extolled. Now the routine yields to observation, and by the intelligent student of facts it is generally admitted that grafting is the best means of multiplying all plants.
Thus it is admitted that grafts can be made of a plant when layers cannot. The graft cut, the plant seeks to replace these cuts, to repair the damage to which it has submitted,and reproduces new branches, whilst the plant that has been layered nourished its half cut branches without replacing them. It has been said on this subject, that shoots take root very easily; it is quite certain that cuttings make better plants than layers.
These can be made (says my friend Alegatiere,) at all seasons, but for those who have a greenhouse and wish to propagate largely, the best time is winter, that is to say, January and February, and they will have plants that can be potted in April and May,will be strong in the course of the summer, and flower in the autumn. If you have no bell glasses the sash of a greenhouse will suffice to strike these cuttings. It is not necessary to tell how to prepare these cuttings,- every gardener knows that. An essential point towards success is to remove every day the leaves that become yellow and not to fear to lift the cuttings; on the contrary the undertaking is more sure, for changing the place and soil from time to time hastens them in rooting. And why? Because the earth around them becomes mouldy and if the cutting does not die the development of its branches is retarded. Frequent waterings are indispensable, as excess of moisture is better for Carnations than dryness. Cuttings made in winter, take root generally in 3 or 5 weeks, according to the variety.
As soon as the cuttings are rooted they are put separately in small pots and brought gradually to the air, and the further treatment is like A, B, C, to the workman.
The cuttings having rooted it is best to put them in the ground during April or the beginning of May, (according to the season and climate,) in a place well aired, as the Carnation loves air and dreads to be confined between walls and trees.
The nature of the soil is not difficult; however, it prefers fresh earth provided it is well drained, as stagnant moisture is very destructive to it.
Copious waterings, not too often repeated, it likes, provided these waterings are of liquid manure and free of foul materials. These last can easily be disinfected by sulphate of iron.
To preserve Remontant Carnation dwarf it is better to take oft* each flower-stem immediately after the flowering, to 2 or 3 inches above the base, the plant will then branch out more and send forth new flower-stems. Carnations resist the cold perfectly and can be left in the ground, unless they are desired to bloom in winter. In this case a good precaution to take is to shelter the plants after a strong frost from the rays of the sun by some covering.
If they are to flower in winter, pot the plants in October, at least those that show buds, and let them be as late as possible (so that the buds do not freeze) in an Orangery greenhouse, shed or any other temperate shelter, and give them air every time the exterior temperature is fit. The amateur who has not a greenhouse for propagation should graft them in September, against a northern wall in the open air. The striking of them is then almost certain. This culture is within the means of everybody. These same rules will apply to many plants, especially those which are called soft-wooded. Many horticultural publications contend that certain plants are difficult to multiply by grafting. Why difficult? Because we are ignorant. Every plant grafts easily if we know how to do it. It is to hide our ignorance that we say a thing is difficult. " Seek and you will find," says Jesus Christ, and it is and always will be true. What man knows not how to do he declares impossible. Pride! What he cannot comprehend or what is above his intellect, he decides to be impracticable.
Pride! Jean Sisley.
Monplaisir, Lyon, Dec. 19, 1875.