[From Greek words signifying many and knee, in reference to the numerous joints upon the stems.]
Polygonatum multiflorum. or Giant Solomon's Seal, is a perennial, two or three feet high, with white flowers in the axils of the leaves, in June; appropriate for the shrubbery or borders. Gerarde, our old author, speaking of the virtues of the plant, says, "that the roots are excellent good for to seale or close up greene wounds, being stamped and laid thereon, whereupon it was called Sigillum Salo-moni's, for the single virtue it hath in sealing or healing vp wounds, broken bones, and such like." He further says, "The root of Solomon's Seale, stamped while it is fresh and greene, and applied, taketh away, in one night, or two, at the most, any bruise, blacke or bleu spots, gotten by fals, or women's wilfulnesse, in stumbling vpon their hasty husband's fists, or such like." A very useful plant, one would think, for some families to cultivate. We have two native species which resemble this, P. biflo-rum and P. giganteum, which are common on river banks, etc.
Every person who has had any experience in the garden is too well acquainted with the weed Purslane, or Purely, and would gladly see an extermination, not only of that plant, but all its kindred. It is indeed a troublesome weed; but as no one should be condemned because he happens to have bad relations, neither should Portulaca grandiflora, which is a splendid Purslane. In speaking of it we leave off the Purslane and call it the splendid Portulaca, for, were its family connections generally known, we should fear it might not receive the attention it deserves; for, truly, it is a great:acquisition to the flower-garden, and no plant presents a more brilliant show than this, when planted in masses. The flowers are rosy-crimson, large and beautiful, opening with the bright morning sun. It makes a rich bed from July to October. The plant is dwarf and trailing; leaves small; about six inches high. All the other varieties have the same habit, and equally beautiful. From this, and probably P. Gilliesii, have come all the showy varieties of the garden, some of which have received distinct names, such as P. Thelussoni, P. alba, P. aurantiaca, etc.
The Portulaca, though one of the most common, is still one of the most showy and beautiful annuals, admirably adapted to our climate, growing freely and flowering abundantly under conditions of soil and treatment where many other flowers would scarcely make any display; the old orange and scarlet, when planted out in large patches, vie in brilliancy and decorative effect with the showiest Verbenas. For a long time there were but two or three shades of red and orange, but with the skill of cultivators they have crossed and fertilized till we have nearly a dozen different sorts. They had hardly become well known before we had another improvement, obtained by the German florists, in double flowers, as double as a rose.
"The double varieties are in fact charming objects, and may well claim a prominent place among the novel things of recent introduction. The flowers are perfectly double, about the size of a silver dollar, and a bed of them in full bloom presents a gay appearance, not unlike that of the beautiful Ranunculuses, or the little Burgundy Rose, so-that the Germans call them 'Portulaca Roses.'
"The Portulacas need a warm and rather light soil, and a dryish situation to flower well. They need not be planted early, unless in a frame or hot-bed, as the seed will not grow freely till the ground is warm. About the middle of June the plants begin to appear in the open ground, and grow with great rapidity, soon covering a large bed, and making a dazzling display with their many-hued flowers, from July to frost.
"The double varieties, like all other double flowers, cannot be relied upon with certainty to produce all double flowers, but the largest part of them will be double, and the single sorts may be pulled up and thrown away or transplanted, unless it is desired to retain them in the same bed with the double kinds. These and the Double Zinnias are grand acquisitions of the German cultivators."- Hovey's Magazine.
I was very successful in the cultivation of these double varieties, with seed from Germany, the last season. I had double snow-white, orange, scarlet, and purplish-crimson. The flowers so much resembled little roses, that when gathered, persons who were strangers to this beautiful flower thought they were roses, and were surprised to see, as they thought, scarlet and dark-orange roses.
The single varieties produce an abundance of seed, so much, that the ground where the plants are grown is filled with young plants the following spring, and frequently it becomes a troublesome weed; but the double varieties produce seed so sparingly, that it is with the greatest difficulty that enough can be gathered for the next year's sowing; on some plants not more than one or two capsules of seed could be found.