Another way of providing artificial heat for striking the cuttings during spring or summer is to make up a small hotbed under glass, with old manure well trodden down, and to place the pots upon it. But if this is done, great care must be taken to avoid unhealthy closeness. Time must be allowed for the rank gases to escape, and the bed to have cooled to a temperature not exceeding 70°. A chink of ventilation must always be allowed at the back.

Copyright Britannia Stuart Low

Copyright Britannia Stuart Low

A two-year-old specimen of a tree carnation

In summer or early autumn an old hotbed - i.e., one which is no longer hot - may be used with success.

Different varieties should be placed in separate pots and labelled, since the length of time for rooting varies a little. Three weeks is an average, during which time the cuttings should have as little water as possible, though they must not be allowed to become dry. They should be shaded after putting in.

Handling The Young Plants

As soon as the cuttings are found to have rooted, they should be potted singly in small pots, two and a half or three inches across. Lift the little plants with a thin piece of wood. If a quantity are taken out at once, they should be kept in a damp box until the moment comes for potting off. Hold the cutting upright in the centre of the pot after putting in sufficient soil for it to rest upon.

Pot rather firmly, covering the ball of plant with fresh soil, and giving the pot a tap on the bench to allow of the soil settling. The compost should consist of nice light loam, with a third part of sand and a sixth part of leaf-mould. The leaf mould must be freed from worms, either by baking or careful hand-picking.

Soil for potting should never be so moist as to cling to the hands. In potting the plants, leave half an inch of rim at the top of pot.

»

Place the cuttings in the same house, if possible. They should not be allowed to be checked by draught at the time of dealing with them. Water immediately after potting off if the weather is bright, but if dull, a light syringing will suffice. Shade the plants for about four days after potting, and if hot sunshine prevails, shading should be continued during the hottest time of day.

As soon as the plants have become established, pot them on again into three or three and a half inch pots, making the compost rather richer, using a little old manure or a small flowerpotful of bonemeal to a barrowload of soil, and diminishing the quantity of sand used by about one-sixth. Compost for potting at this and the former stage should be passed through a quarter-inch sieve.

Pinching Back

Stopping is the next operation to be considered. The object of stopping, or pinching back, is to make large plants, with a strong and bushy habit of growth, and to regulate the time of flowering.

The method employed will differ with the variety treated, and can best be learnt by experience. It will also vary according to the time of year. A plant in spring will perhaps be growing more freely than in June, and will therefore require shorter stopping.

Morning or evening are the best times to do the work, as the plants are then standing up stiffly. Stopping must be short enough to induce plenty of strong shoots to break.

Copyright Princess Juliana Stuart Low

Copyright Princess Juliana Stuart Low

A charming variety of a Malmaison tree carnation