This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Few attempts at floriculture are more discouraging than that of growing plants in the winter in an ordinary sitting-room, hoping for a continuance of flowers the whole season; for if we except Ageratum Mexicana, Browallia elata, and one or two fuchsias and geraniums which do not appear to suffer from the dry atmosphere and coal gas, these attempts are generally miserable failures.
Each year one gets more and more discouraged, and notwithstanding the occasionally encouraging words of some one who has been a little more unfortunate, is tempted to give up in disgust.
Of late I have preferred to grow some plants in the winter for summer flowering, or rather to let them live, and I feel amply repaid for the slight care they require. A plant called winter-blooming is often supposed to bloom continuously the whole year, but such is not usually the case. Most plants require a season of rest as well as growth, and if they have flowered freely in summer, it is too much to expect a continuance of their favors in winter also. If flowers are desired during the inclement season, the young buds must be nipped off" in summer and a good growth of wood obtained before removing them indoors to grace the parlor or sitting-room; but it is often better to start young plants from cuttings rooted in sand, from July to September, for that purpose.
My intention was not to speak of plants in general, but of two favorites in particular, named above, and of the treatment they require. They are called winter-blooming in catalogues, and so they are, under lavorable auspices, in a greenhouse or good conservatory; but with me those enemies to household plant culture, referred to above, have rendered my attempts unsuccessful. A few dwarfed blossoms can scarcely be called a reward for one's care and patience.
In the autumn these plants should be cut well back and the pots lifted without changing the soil: removed to a cool, light room, away from frost; occasionally watered sparingly, just enough to keep them from drying. If they commence to grow a little it will do no harm. When all danger of frost has passed in spring, shift into a size larger pot if necessary, shaking off all the old soil and give good drainage and a plentiful supply of rich loam. Plunge in the border and water freely. They will soon break abundantly, if they have not already done so, and in a few weeks be covered with a profusion of flowers.
Plumbago capensis is a perfect gem, with its one-sided clusters of fairy-like flowers of the most delicate shade of light blue imaginable, and such a profuse bloomer. It only lacks fragrance to make it unsurpassed. The flowers last in perfection but one day, but others open the next on the same- spike or raceme, so that the same cluster is in bloom for several days. P. Larpentse, a hardy perennial species, flowers of a rich shade of blue. P. alba and P. rosea do not compare with this, which is very distinct and unlike any of the others in leaf, flower and habit. P. coccinea, I have not seen.
Jasminum grandiflorum, or as sometimes called the Catalonian Jessamine, is not as hardy as J. officinale, so common in our gardens. It is sold as a winter blooming greenhouse plant of climbing habit. The leaf is larger, with nine leaflets instead of seven, and the flowers of more substance and larger also; pure white, tinged pink on reverse of petals, delightfully fragrant. The in-floresence is not as compact as in the hardy species, and is rather loose and branching, but it by far exceeds the latter in grace and beauty, and the delicate sprays, at the extremity of every young shoot, are perfection, with a skeleton geranium leaf for a bontonniere. It does not blossom quite as early as the Plumbago capensis, but continues longer in flower, and will often blossom well into winter if not cut back and removed to the house, with change not too sudden.
For several seasons I have treated these planta in this manner most successfully, and they afford me far more pleasure than a few dwarfed blossoms would as a return for the trouble to keep them free from red spider and dust in winter.