The old adage "as the day lengthens the cold strengthens" is just as true in California as it is in the East, and should be carefully remembered by all who grow, in the flower-garden, plants which are at all tender. Cinerarias, for instance, may be carried over a few cold nights by being covered with light cotton sheeting and will thus give grand results in the early Spring, whereas, if not protected during cold nights, they will be a failure. The old favorite Spring-flowering Doronicum should now receive special attention and will be found useful in beds and borders. Plants which have been transplanted in the Fall or have been left undisturbed from the previous season will give good results in the Spring, while those whose roots are divided at this season, will flower late in the Summer thus giving a longer season of flower.
Ivies growing on walls should be trimmed in, fairly close to the wall or fence, as they quickly become covered with new leaves at this season. Rough walls have an attractive look if covered with Ivy, Virginia Creeper or Boston Ivy. Ivy is also useful for planting under trees where grass and other plants die out, or for rambling over rocks, tree stumps or rooteries.
In the flower-borders, the Iris reticulata and Iris major are, during this month, developing their deliciously fragrant flowers and deserve a little extra attention in the way of the ground being kept clear of weeds, of being mulched with well-decomposed manure, and, should the season be inclined to be dry, of being given a copious supply of water at the roots. The same instructions should be followed in the treatment of Hyacinths, Tulips, Anemones, Ranunculus, Daffodils and other Spring-flowering bulbs.
Seeds of numerous species of annuals will have to be sown during the next few weeks. The hardy kinds may be sown in the open ground in sunny, sheltered situations, in well-prepared soil when the weather is fine and the soil is in a fairly dry condition. Salpiglossis, Phlox Drummondii and Zinnia, also Asters, Petunias, etc., should be sown, about this date, on a mild hotbed which has an even covering of finely-sifted soil two inches deep, thoroughly moistened before the seed is planted. The seeds should be thinly sown in rows and covered with finely-sifted soil to the depth of one-quarter of an inch; shade the soil until germination has taken place, care being taken that the young seedlings are not allowed to flag or wilt or even to become dry. When the seedlings are large enough to be pricked off, they should be planted, three inches apart, in moderately rich soil in boxes (four inches deep) or singly in two and one-half inch pots.
Insert cuttings of Alternantheras, Irisenes, Heliotropes, Petunias, etc., in pots or boxes filled with a mixture of one-half finely-sifted leaf-mold, one-quarter loam and one-quarter clean white sand, with a half-inch layer of sand on the surface; give water enough to settle the sand about the cuttings and plunge in a bottom heat of about seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit in greenhouse or hot frame, keeping them in a close atmosphere and shaded from sunshine for about ten days and then gradually exposing them to light and air. Seedling Lobelias and Pyre-thrums, sown last month, should now be pricked out about two inches apart in light rich soil in pans or boxes. Place them in a close, warm atmosphere shading them until they re-root in their new soil when they may be gradually inured to air and light.
If an increase of the number of plants is desired, old roots should now be put upon a bed having a mild bottom-heat, the tubers being covered up to the collar with light leaf-mold or other light sandy soil. Syringe them twice daily, and, as soon as the young shoots have made two or three joints in length, slip them off and place them singly in small pots filled with sand and leaf-mold, half and half, well-mixed together; then plunge them in a close, warm frame or greenhouse and, when they are rooted, gradually expose them to air and light.
Hollyhock seeds should be sown early in the month in order to get good flowering plants the first season. East Lothian Stocks, Lobelia cardinalis, Verbenas, Celosias and also Pent-stemons and Antirrhinums should be sown early in this month. Begonia tubers, lifted in the Fall, should now be placed in boxes, on a thin layer of light soil and half-covered with the same kind of soil. Start them growing under cool treatment and keep them in a cool frame until planting-out time. The stock of plants may be increased by dividing tubers which show many buds. The cut surfaces of these divisions should be sprinkled with sulphur-dust and allowed to dry before potting.
Where flowers of Sweet-peas are desired early, seeds should be sown, in the first week of this month (in well-prepared, rich garden soil) about three-quarters of an inch deep, either in rows or . in small circles. As soon as the young plants are about four inches high they should be given a trellis or other light support to climb over.
Sow also in the open ground, as early in the month as the soil is in the proper condition, that is when the soil is moist but not too wet or sticky, Eschscholtzias, Lupins, Poppies, Cornflower, Nemophilas and other hardy wildflowers and annuals.
If the repotting of the general collection of plants recom-. mended last month is not finished, that work should be attended to as early this month as possible. As the days lengthen, more ventilation should be given, the ventilators being closed early in the afternoon and the temperature allowed to reach eighty-five or ninety degrees Fahrenheit by sunheat. Should greenfly, scale or other insects have appeared, boil one pound of whale-oil soap in one gallon of rain water (or larger quantities in the same proportion) and use one-half pint of this mixture in four gallons of rain water for syringing twice weekly; if mealybug is troublesome, add eight ounces of petroleum. When it is necessary to use the petroleum mixture, it should be done about five or six o'clock in the evening on dull days only. By using this petroleum emulsion occasionally, much labor will be saved in checking the spread of mealy-bug and the leaves will become glossy.
Ferns growing freely should be afforded abundance of moisture at the roots, and a moist atmosphere must be maintained at all times, this being, for successful fern culture, an absolute necessity. Lygodium scandens, a climbing fern suitable for covering walls, trellises, etc., requires frequent attention at this season. In order to display the plant effectively, each frond should be secured to a fine wire; the plants should be given abundance of water at the roots and syringed frequently. Where it is desirable to increase the number of plants, in the fern family, divide the old plants into sections, and pot them in suitable sizes, care being taken that the plants are put into the smallest sizes of pots in which they may be comfortably placed, in soil composed of one-third mellow loam, one-third leaf-mold and one-third peat with enough sand to keep the whole open for free passage of water. Place them in a shaded portion of the greenhouse, syringing morning and evening, keeping the temperature at sixty degrees Fahrenheit at night, allowing it to rise to seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit by day, and carefully preventing cold draughts of air from passing through the house.
Hanging baskets should now receive a thorough over-hauling. If a basket requires replanting, line it first with moss and place about one inch of soil over this; place the plants in the basket and fill the basket with lumpy, fibrous loam and a little peat. Asparagus Sprengeri and Asparagus piumosus are excellent plants for growing in baskets as are also the Davallia ferns, the Boston fern and many of the Adianturns. Many of the small-flowering tuberous Begonias also make excellent subjects, especially where hung above the eye when their lovely flowers show to good advantage.
Propagate by cuttings, Coleus, Pilea muscosa, Tradescantia, Ficus and Panicum; also propagate Begonia Rex from leaves and Isolepis by division.
Caladiums and Alocacias having rested during the Winter, may now be repotted. Shake the old soil from the tubers and pot them in small pots, allowing not more than a half-inch of soil between the tubers and the side of the pot. They should be placed in soil consisting of equal parts of fibrous loam, leaf-soil and peat, with enough silver-sand to keep the whole sweet and open. After potting, place them in a mild bottom heat of about seventy degrees Fahrenheit and a top temperature of about sixty degrees Fahrenheit at night, allowing a rise of about ten degrees in the daytime; water sparingly until growth has begun. When the plants have filled the pots with roots, change them to larger pots, taking care that an inch of fresh soil surrounds the ball of earth around the plants; this will necessitate a pot two sizes or inches wider than the one the plant formerly occupied. In repotting, use the same soil as recommended for the first potting, but, in addition, mix a little very old well-rotted half-dry cow or horse-manure with it as the Caladiums, like most other large-leaved, rapid-growing plants, love good rich feeding and plenty of water during the growing season.
Gloxinias, Achimenes and Tydaeas may also be started and treated in much the same way recommended for the Caladiums; see that the pots are well supplied with drainage material by filling the pots at least one-quarter of their depth with crocks or broken bricks, placing one flat piece over the hole in the bottom of the pot and, above that, small pieces not over half an inch thick; cover this with moss to keep the soil from washing into the drainage material.
Rearrange the plants from time to time as this will tend to keep them in better condition and more shapely in appearance; wash the pots, sponge the leaves, etc.; also wash the woodwork and give a general cleanup to the house; in short, neatness should be in evidence in the greenhouse.