Nature provides abundantly for the reproduction of plants, and the difficulty of multiplying by one method is compensated by the ease with which it may be done in another. Whenever we find a plant takes root with difficulty from "slips" or cuttings, in nine cases out of ten we find that it seeds freely, and gives us a ready means of increase. Thus we find the much admired Centaureas, one kind of the "Dusty Millers," the white leaved plants now so much used in massing and for baskets, are exceedingly difficult and slow to root from cuttings, but are readily raised from seeds. Our fine strains of blotched Petunias are also troublesome as cuttings, but make plants quickly from seeds. The Cyclamen with its turnip-like stem or bulb, could only be propagated by cutting in pieces, disfiguring its shape, and requiring years to form a circular bulb again, but here we have seed coming to our help which germinates freely, and makes a flowering plant in one year. The Apple Geranium never affords proper cuttings from which to make a plant, but it seeds freely, from which splendid plants can be produced in a few months. So the Primulas and Cinerarias, both slow and uncertain from cuttings, seed freely. Echeveria metallica, one of the beautiful plants of the House-Leek family, produces no bud from the base of the leaf, as nearly all the other species do, but to make up, it seeds abundantly, and so with hundreds of other plants to which our space will not permit us to refer. There is no rule by which we can designate what plants are best propagated by seeds, and what by cuttings, experience being the only teacher, and even the experience of a lifetime is too short for those of us that have had the largest practice.
Seedling plants can be nearly as well raised in the window of a sitting-room or parlor, provided the temperature is right, as in a greenhouse, for seeds do not need a strong direct light while germinating, in fact that is often a difficulty in a greenhouse, as the surface of the seed-bed dries up too quickly in the direct sunshine, necessitating watering, which bakes the surface. The best thing wherein to sow seeds is shallow boxes; these need not be more than two or three inches deep, with open seams at the bottom through which water will drain quickly. Fill the boxes within half an inch of the top with light rich earth; if it can be procured, nothing is better than black leaf-mold from the woods, or light sandy soil mixed with an equal bulk of stable manure, so rotted as to resemble leaf-mold, it will not answer unless rotted as fine as dust. In the absence of either of these, sweepings from a paved street are excellent, mixed with light sandy soil, the object in all cases being lightness of the soil or mold in which the seed is to be sown; for if tiny seeds, as many of our flower-seeds are, are embedded in a stiff soil, the germ in many of them is too weak to push its way to the light. When the proper soil has been secured, pat it down with a smooth board until it is as smooth and level as it well can be, then sow the seed carefully over the surface, distributing it evenly, then take a common kitchen sieve and sift just so much earth evenly over the seed as will cover it and no more: then take a watering-pot with the finest kind of a rose, and shower the earth with the spray. Keep the box at a temperature as near sixty degrees as possible, taking care to give it a shower of spray only when the surface appears to be dry; but few seeds will fail to germinate under such conditions. But after the seeds have " brairded," as the Scotch gardeners say, comes another difficulty; in quite a number of plants, particularly if sown in the house, just as soon as the seed leaf has developed, and before the first rough or true leaves have formed, the seedling is attacked by a minute fungus, that will often sweep off the whole crop in 48 hours, if not attended to. The required attention is, that as soon as there are indications of the "damping off" of these tiny seedlings, they must be carefully taken up and planted out in similar boxes, prepared exactly as the seed-boxes have been; they may be planted quite closely, not more than half an inch apart, and let their further treatment be exactly the same as in germinating the seeds. In the course of a few weeks they will have grown freely, and they may then be lifted and placed in similar boxes, but wider apart, say three or four inches, or potted singly in two and a half or three-inch pots as most convenient, until such a time as they are to be planted out in the open ground, or to be used otherwise. In this way as great a number of plants may be raised from a 25c. or 50c. packet of seed as would cost $25 or $50 to purchase, besides the far greater satisfaction of their being the products of your own hands.