Many market gardeners prune back their bushes till only some ten inches of stem is left containing three or four eyes at the most, but, in the writer's opinion, such drastic thinning is superfluous, and, though one must have good roses for market, size is not the only consideration. Certain it is that the harder one prunes the fewer will be one's blooms but the larger the individual flowers.
Roses must never be planted in an exposed position. They require a sheltered spot such as that afforded by a slight slope open to the south. Each autumn the ground about them should be manured and forked over, and it is a good plan to slightly shorten any overgrown strands, there being no point in having these lengthy branches blowing about all the winter waiting for the spring pruning.
The same rose-bush under treatment, showing it half pruned Almost as much wood again must be removed
In the majority of markets roses are sold by the dozen blooms, and a supply of foliage is packed with each consignment. Pure whites, bright reds, and creamy yellows sell well, and there is a limited demand for the buds of moss roses, whilst clusters of rambler and polyantha roses command a ready sale.
Roses will travel quite well by post if only a careful system of packing is followed. Without a doubt the best receptacle of all is a strong wooden box, and the blooms should be packed in tightly with some of their foliage, whilst cabbage-leaves may be pressed into service as packing material. Certainly the roses must lie in the box so tightly that there can be no play whatever, for it is when flowers are loosely packed that they are liable to be damaged. As for the roses themselves, they should be picked, if possible, before the full power of the sun is on them, and before they have really opened.
Many and varied indeed are the evils with which the rose is beset, but it is an acknowledged fact that good cultivation, plenty of air space, and general healthy conditions of culture will do more to ward off disease than any of the so-called remedies. At any rate, a healthy bush is far less susceptible to attack.
The principal pest with roses is undoubtedly greenfly, or aphis, a form of insect life with which every gardener is familiar. When the pest is once established in a bush, good roses are almost impossible, and drastic steps must be taken the moment the trouble appears. A favourite plan is to use the aphis brush. This is a two-headed brush, obtainable from any seedsman for a shilling, and it is used by placing the affected leaf or stem between the brushes, and removing the green, living mass. Another method of dealing with the aphis is by syringing with soapy water, and yet another remedy is to syringe with quassia and soft soap. The mixture is made by placing a handful of quassia chips in a couple of quarts of water, and boiling the mixture. The quassia refuse is then skimmed off, and a table-spoonful of soft soap mixed with the liquid. After spraying with this solution, the bushes should be syringed with clean water.
Caterpillars and maggots are creatures that are best hunted out by hand, and mildew which is prevalent on rose-trees in imperfectly ventilated greenhouses or during changeable weather is dispersed by dusting over the foliage with flowers of sulphur.
The growing of roses in hothouses during the winter months is work for the experienced gardener, and the art takes years to learn thoroughly. It is problematical if it can be made profitable, unless conducted on a large scale with a steady market near by.
There is a certain art in planning a flower farm, an art, that is, to gain you the best results, and not necessarily to make the prettiest picture round your homestead. For instance, the majority of your floral crops will be set in rows or drills running north and south so that the maximum of sunshine may be obtained; this is quite one of the rudiments of the business.
Wallflowers, pansies, sweet-williams, and Spanish iris are just four classes that stand the winter out of doors. The bulbs of the iris are set out in October, but the seed of the other subjects is sown in May or June. Strictly speaking, many of these plants are perennial,- but in flower culture for profit they are treated as biennials; in other words, the seed is sown one summer, the resulting plants blooming in the spring and being afterwards destroyed.
The sowing of seed of biennial plants should take place on carefully prepared nursery beds. The soil should be fine and well worked with a spade or garden fork, and a small proportion of decayed manure should first be incorporated with the staple. The actual sowing, which must invariably be very thin, is made in drills a foot apart, the drill being drawn shallowly with the point of a hoe. When the seed has been sown, the rake is used to level the bed, and, in time of drought, regular watering is highly advisable.
A great many of the flower seeds are infinitesimal in size, and others are soft and adherent, so that they cling to one another; floral farmers overcome the difficulty of thin sowing with this class of seed by mixing the seed with double its bulk of fine silver sand or sifted ashes. The sand or ashes are placed in a bowl and the seed added; the whole is then well mingled together preparatory to sowing.
As soon as the seedlings appear in the drills hand-weeding starts, each unwelcome stranger being ruthlessly uprooted betwixt finger and thumb. Directly the plantlings are sufficiently large, thinning takes place, the overcrowded specimens being removed altogether and the bed set out so that each seedling has sufficient room for its own needs. In the course of a few weeks, the exact time depending upon weather conditions, the youngsters are ready for pricking-out or transplanting, and this stage is highly advisable, because it breaks the tap-root of the plant, and thereby causes the formation of bushy, fibrous roots which go far towards the ultimate appearance of good bloom. At the first transplanting a somewhat shady place is chosen, but when in the early autumn the time comes for setting the plants in the quarters where they are to bloom, a bright, open spot must be selected.