Attempts-The Art of Cultivation
Greater London is each year becoming more and more a domain of divided houses and flats, with the necessary corollary that a balcony, leads, or even the immediate surrounding of the front door, is all that individual owners can claim for their garden.
Every woman likes to have flowers of her own in spring, and, to supply this need, beautiful bulbous plants seem to have been specially designed. It only remains to provide suitable conditions to foster the luxuriance of the crocus, daffodil, tulip, and other such delights.
Space need not be devoted here to describing the many excellent designs in flower-tubs which can now be bought, nor to diffeirent patterns of window-boxes, nor the really beautiful vases in pottery or stone which can be had for the purpose.
But for those who wish to take advantage of the more economical, and by no means uninteresting, method of arranging for their own tub-gardens " from the beginning," the following hints will be of use in the month of November.
Large tubs and barrels can be bought from grocers and wine-merchants, and sawn in half; but, for the grower with a balcony or porch only, the lard-tub is a most suitable thing, while for window-boxes such cheap contrivances as the painted soap - case or chemists' packing-boxes will prove excellent. A most serviceable Ceylon tea-case, which, when painted, makes a square flower-box about two feet deep, may be had for the small sum of 4d. When dealing with lard-tubs, which can be bought from buttermen at a cost of not more than 6d. each, the grease can be removed by lightly scorching the wood with a lighted wisp of tough paper, used with caution and in the open air.
Figure 1, showing method of draining the round tub
Holes for drainage, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, should then be bored at the bottom of the tub (see Figure 1). An oblong box would be bored as in Figure 2. A red-hot poker canbe used for the purpose.
The inside of the receptacles should next be brushed over with tar, as far as three inches from the top, and the tubs or boxes painted green, with hoops " picked out " in black paint, or they may be stained brown. Three coats of good ready-mixed paint will withstand the weather admirably, if the paint is laid on thin and smooth, the untarred portion inside the top being painted in the same way.
Oak varnish stain will produce a nice effect. Size the wood first, dissolving half a pound of size in half a pint of water, by letting it simmer on the fire. On no account must it come to the boil. Size shows up the surface of varnish, and also destroys the deleterious effect of grease in the tubs, so that, if used before painting or staining, the burning process will hardly be needed. Before sizing and painting or varnishing the wood, a good surface must be prepared by rubbing down with coarse and fine sandpaper.
Little stands can be made, or the tubs raised upon feet. Such supports are easy work for the home carpenter.
Window-boxes ought always to be raise by stops of wood at least three-quarters of an inch above the level of the sill. For those who like it, virgin cork, secured with strands of wire, may be used to cover the outside of any boxes or tubs.
Figure 2, showing method of draining oblong box
Fill the tubs with good fibrous loam, which can be had from a nurseryman or
Stores at the price of from is. 6d. per bushel, or 4s or 5s. per half load, carried in. Pure loam is greatly to be preferred to the nicely mixed and sifted potting soil which nurserymen will probably be more ready to recommend. After laying in some of the turfy portions of loam, or a little half-decayed leaf-mould, if it may be easily had, fill up the tubs two-thirds of the way. A sprinkling lime, if handy, can be mixed in with the soil.
A diagram showing the right soil to be prepared for growing bulbs in tubs
Almost all hardy bulbs succeed admirably under conditions of tub and window-box culture. Snowdrops and aconites as groundwork, or edgings, can be grown if desired; blue scillas also and chconodoxas (" Glory of the Snow "); crocuses, purple, white, and yellow; narcissi and daffodils; these last succeed particularly well in the colder and shadier aspects.
Hyacinths, especially the singlc varieties, do well, while tulips, both the early varieties and the late, or May flowering. can be relied on for a splendid show.
\ "centre-piece" of these may be fringed with double arabis or a white saxifrage, or arranged (in larger boxes) in gradations of colour, shading from deep pink or crimson through palest flesh-colour to white. Scarlet or golden-yellow is also pretty in combination with white.
Where tubs and boxcs are fairly abundant, experiments may be tried in growing anemones and ranunculus bulbs for later flowering, and other uncommon plants. Early irises can also be grown. The Christmas rose - which is not a bulb- should be started earlv and when in flower. protected from smoke and splashes by a bell-glass. Some lilies can be put in for a summer display, notably Lilium longiflorum and L. speciosum; these bulbs should be smothered with sand when planted
At the time of planting, roughlv lay out the bulbs, allowing enough distance - say an inch asunder - to prevent their touching each other. Then make the holes, giving not more than double its depth to each bulb, and keeping a uniform depth. Put a little sand at the bottom of each, to assist drainage, and so prevent decay. Press the soil down firmly, cover lightly, and water if fairly dry.
May-flowering Tulip, with Double Arabis
When spring is near, and the bulbs begin to push, stir the soil gently so as to admit* air. See that the tubs are kept moist, but do not saturate.
Bulbs in small receptacles must never on any account get dry, or the flower-spike will be affected with blindness, a trouble from which there is no recovery. If the tips of leaves are seen to become yellow, this is usually a sign of over-watering.
In preparing soil for bulbs in boxes, manure should not be used, but when good growth has been made a little artificial stimulant, very weak, may be given once or twice weekly up to the time of flowering. Staking must be done carefully where needed, using thin bamboos and raffia, both green for choice, securing the stems loosely, and hiding the stakes as successfully as possible.
Bulbs, after flowering in boxes and tubs, are seldom useful for the purpose another year, but the expense of replacing such miniature flower-gardens is small, and the old bulbs will be appreciated if despatched to owners of gardens in the country for planting in wild borders or in the grass. The following is a small selection of bulbs suitable for growing in tubs and boxes, with their approximate prices:
Yellow Trumpet Daffodils: Ard Righ, Emperor, Golden Spur, Obvallaris; Bicolours: Empress, Ada Brooke, Horse-fieldii, Princeps, Michael Foster, Lent Lily. Price, 2s. to 7s. 6d. per 100. Also varieties of Narcissus Incomparabilis, Barri, Leedsi, Burbidgei, and Poeticus, at various prices.
Hyacinths, single, in white and all colours, from 2s. per dozen. Named varieties from 3s. 6d. per dozen.
Cheonodoxas, aconites, crocuses, muscari and scillas, from 2s. 6d. per hundred.
Single Early Tulips: Duc Van Thol, 9d. per dozen; named early tulips in all colours, from is. per dozen. The following are specially recommended: Thomas Moore, terra-cotta; Proserpine, crimson-pink; Chrysolora, yellow; Cottage Maid, pink-and-white; White Swan.
Double Early Tulips, from 10d. per dozen: Murillo, pink-and-white; Purple Crown, Salvator Rosa Alba, Tournesol, yellow; La Matador, scarlet.
May-flowering Tulips: Golden Crown, Bouton d'or, The Fawn, May Queen, La Tulipe Noire, Shandon Bells, La Merveille, Gesnenana in variety. Prices from 9d. per dozen, or 5s. per hundred.