This term is usually meant to apply to our long list of herbaceous plants, a few of which are useful to the florist as cut flowers. The demand of late has greatly increased for hardy plants, and where the florist has some good land at his disposal he should be supplied with a collection of the leading kinds, so that he can supply the demands of his customers.
The increased demand for this class of plants is to be attributed to so many of our people of means having summer homes in the country. They have usually more land than they can take care of, and not wishing to go deeply into the formal flower garden with our tender plants, they turn to the hardy herbaceous perennial kinds to fill up the beds and borders.
In preparing ground to receive these perennial plants, either to produce flowers for your own cutting or for your customer, remember you cannot very well dig too deeply or manure too heavily, and with the great majority the soil should be well drained and dry. You can top dress and manure annually, but you can never recover by subsequent cultivation the mistake of planting in shallow, poor soil.
Although called perennials they wear out and most of them are greatly benefited by lifting and dividing every four or five years. There are so many species of this class cultivated for the herbaceous border, and they differ so widely, that no rule for their propagation and treatment will do for all. It is generally conceded that early fall, as soon as the foliage or stems are about dried up, is the best time to transplant, and hence it is the best time to fill your customers' orders.
If you cultivate a row or two of the leading kinds, keep them in straight lines and far enough apart to run the horse cultivator between them. Many thousand plants will go on one acre, but they want keeping clean and must be constantly hoed, and should be always plainly labeled, as they are often moved before their growth appears. One more important thing is, when you plant dormant crowns of peonies, phlox, etc., keep them two or three inches below the surface; the winter will be sure to raise them up.
Herbaceous plants are always benefited by some stable manure scattered between the rows and over the crowns. In their natural state they would at least get the benefit of their own withered tops, while most of them would get a covering of leaves from the trees whose branches covered them. For appearance's sake we rob them of their natural covering.
Those most useful to the florist and which have not received notice in their alphabetical order are as follows:
Achillea, several species, good for rockwork, easily divided in fall or early spring.
Anemone Japonica alba is a florist's flower, and a beautiful fall blooming plant, and is propagated by division.
Aquilegia, the beautiful columbine. There are several magnificent species that should be in every garden. Propagated by seed.
Boltonia asteroides, a fine border plant, growing five to eight feet high. Much resembles our hardy asters. Very free growing and hardy. Useful for decorations in florists' work and should be in all herbaceous borders.
Campanula, several fine species, Car-patica, the Canterbury bell, being popular with all. Not a florist's flower, but fine for the border. Raised from seed, sown in August in coldframe and transplanted later a few inches apart in good soil in coldframe, where they can be protected during winter, and planted out in permanent bed or nursery row as soon as ground is dry in the spring. In other varieties when stated that they can be raised from seed the above directions will suit them all.
Coreopsis; the best of the species for the florist is lanceolata. Graceful and beautiful yellow flowers. Propagated by seed.
Delphiniums; almost every one knows the D. formosum, which is often called larkspur. The improved varieties are among the handsomest of our hardy flowers, and are decidedly of value to the florist. Their handsome spikes, from the lightest shades of blue to indigo, and even to bronze, are grand ornaments for our stores, even if they do not sell; but invariably those who see them want a plant. They flower a long time, should the weather not be too dry, and last a long while in water when cut. Propagated by seed, divisions or cuttings.
Cuttings of herbaceous plants should always be made from the young shoots of early spring, when only a few inches above ground. The heat in our propagating houses then, which is early May, is often about gone, as firing is only moderate.
Where a considerable number of these cuttings are to be put in, such as delphiniums, phlox or pyrethrum, there is no place so well adapted as a hotbed. Eighteen inches of manure well and evenly trodden down, with a few inches of soil and then two inches of sand, will root any of these plants. Give air carefully, shade from sun and keep watered. When rooted give plenty of air fill potted off and then grow on in cold-frame all summer. These will be good plants in 3-inch or 4-inch pots, either to sell or to plant out in September or October.
Dielytra (bleeding heart) is often forced, but beautiful and graceful as D. spectabilis is, it takes up too much room. A very handsome, hardy plant. Propagated by division.
Digitalis, white and purple and yellow; the well known foxglove. Stately spikes of flowers. Propagated by seeds.
Doronicum is of service to the florist because its bright yellow flowers are among the first to open after the snow is gone. Propagated by division.
Funkia, the day lily. There are several species of them, all handsome leaved plants. Propagated by division.
Gaillardia grandiflora has showy bright flowers. Propagated by seeds.
Helianthus; there are now a number of these tall growing perennial sunflowers, many of them very useful to the florist. The variety known as multiflorus flore plena became so common that it is no longer acceptable even in the cheapest bunches of flowers, but the single species are very fine. Propagated by seeds, division or cuttings.
Hemerocallis has several species, mostly yellow and orange flowers. Showy for the border, but not a florist's flower. Propagated by seeds or division.
Hibiscus Californicus and others; fine showy flowers. Propagated by seeds.
Iris; these have such a fine spike and curious but beautiful flower that they are most desirable for the florist, and are wanted by every amateur. They do best in a rather moist soil and root so freely that every third year they should be lifted and divided. There are now many varieties. The Japanese have immense flowers, and the I. Germanica, or German iris, includes now many beautiful varieties. Propagated by division.
Lobelia cardinalis; not a florist's flower, but most showy for the border. Propagated by division or seeds.
Monarda didyma; a native northern plant, though not common. A fine herbaceous plant. Propagated by division.
Peonies; see in their alphabetical order.
Phlox; there are several species of hardy phlox, but it is the hybrids and varieties of P. decussata that are most desirable for the border and for the florist. We have found where they can be freshly cut and used they are most desirable, but will not travel well, dropping their florets badly. The many varieties are of beautiful shades and the phlox thrives in any soil. Propagated by cuttings or division, and for new varieties easily by seeds.
Pyrethrum roseum; this is not truly herbaceous, but is so hardy we will include it in this chapter. The improved varieties, both double and single flowers, of this species are now truly a florist's flower. They are seen in our store windows in May and June and are bought in preference to carnations. They are sometimes difficult to divide and make thrive, and cuttings as described above are best to increase your stock. Few border plants are so well worthy of cultivation.
Rudbeckia; the single flowered species, maxima and fulgida, are showy flowers, yellow with dark disk, and are sometimes useful to us as well as very fine border plants. But there is now a double form known as Golden Glow, which is undoubtedly one of our finest hardy summer flowers. It is of a rich yellow. It is much superior to the dwarf double helianthus. Propagated by seed or division.
To describe the many desirable hardy herbaceous plants would require a large catalogue, and I have mentioned but a few of those kinds which every florist should grow.