This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Among all cultivated flowers, a constant change and improvement is being wrought through the patient and careful labor of the hybridizer, often almost completely revolutionizing in a few seasons our lists of varieties of favorite flowers. And while much that is offered among novelties is inferior and not up to the highest standard even of older sorts, still an examination will show that a handsome percentage of our best flowers of all kinds have been introduced in the last few years. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in Dahlias; every year we get new sorts, embracing shades, colors and forms before scarce or unknown, until now, perhaps, no other class comprises so wide a range of colors, if we include the fancy, or striped and tipped flowers. As we have as yet no acknowledged floral tribunal before which American novelties can be brought to have their merits criticised, we have to rely, in a great measure, upon the English raisers for our new stock, their Royal Horticultural Society serving as a test to most new English plants, and in the main, its decisions are apparently fair and unbiased.
Thus while many fine seedling Dahlias are annually raised in this country, but a small per cent, probably of even the good ones find their way into commerce, owing to this lack of an accepted power to pronounce upon their merits, and we find the best known novelties in these popular flowers coming from across the water.
Having a good selection of the newer English sorts under my notice during this season, I give you below some of the results of my observations. The novelties referred to originated principally with Keynes and Turner, names so well-known through the new plants they have sent out in the past, as to leave little doubt to begin with in regard to the value of any they may think worthy of being sent out into the floral world under their names and recommendations-A prominent feature of these novelties is the symmetry of form and full bold centre of the flowers; this is especially noticeable in Turner's Chris. Ridley and Figaro, both of which were awarded first-class certificates by the Royal Hor-ticultural Society. The flower first mentioned is of moderate size and a bright crimson color, the centre being always carefully filled with petals and showing perfect until the flower falls to pieces. Figaro is a larger flower of a really new color, the lower half of the petals being a pure yellow, which shines through the surface color of bright red with a beautiful effect.
These two Dahlias produce a surprising quantity of bloom; a plant of Chris. Ridley which, when set out last Spring, had a tuber no larger than a walnut and with a single slender shoot, now has upwards of a hundred and fifty buds and open blooms upon it, while a plant of its companion has nearly if not quite as many. I have no doubt that if the buds had been judiciously thinned the flowers would have been of a larger size, but as all the blooms they have produced were perfect, a number of smaller ones were preferred to a few show flowers. Drake Lewis, another of Turner's, is of a color very acceptable to American amateurs - a rich, deep scarlet, very full- and perfect. Keynes' late novelties remind us very forcibly of what floriculture lost in his death. His David Saunders is a magnificent Dahlia, often coming very large, and its rich purple-maroon color is much admired.. Dauntless is also very good, orange-crimson in color and a large flower. The largest of all, however, is John Wm. Lord, another of Keynes' seedlings; the outline of the flower is perfect and compactly filled with deep petals, and the centre fully covered; in color it varies from orange-vermillion to bright crimson, with sometimes a buff shading on the surface.
This also was awarded a certificate by the Royal Horticultural Society. Vivid is a large flower of a soft rich scarlet, and well worthy of its name. Minnie Bond, a creamy-white flower edged with purple, and Hon. Sidney Herbert, deep crimson, both of Keynes' raising, are very good indeed. The first blooms of Mrs. John Downie were also excellent, but those produced later have not been so perfect, the flowers failing to shape up nicely.
It seems to be a very prevalent error, both among amateurs and with many florists, that as Dahlias are rank growing plants they should be planted in a poor soil, - all the better if it is heavy and clayey; nothing could be further from the truth. They should be treated to a liberal mulch of manure in the Summer, in addition to having the soil good and rich when they are planted; for when care is shown them in this way the mulch not only further enriches the soil to supply the voracious appetite of the roots, but it also serves to retain moisture and keep the roots cool, resulting invariably in larger and more perfect blooms, such as those produced on a poor soil cannot be compared with. The flowers are much improved also by treating the plants to occasional but thorough soakings •during hot, dry weather.