Another appliance in frequent use on every well - equipped floral farm is the spraying machine. As its name implies, its purpose is to distribute in the form of spray certain chemical solutions, with the object of destroying blight and other pests. The machine is carried knapsack-like on the back of the operator, who with one hand controls the nozzle, and with the other works the air-pump that generates the spraying power. Directly the presence of blight is suspected, the machine is brought into use, and many crops that would otherwise be ruined are saved by its means. The cost, complete, of a spraying machine varies from about £2 upwards, but the writer need hardly mention that for a lady's use only a small machine should be purchased, as the weight of the appliance, when charged with liquid, is considerable. As for the spraying mixtures, they may be purchased from all dealers in agricultural goods, a more or less complete insecticide being kept for each form of blight, whilst there are also general solutions that may be used for the majority of pests that attack outdoor flowering plants. Full directions for use will be supplied with every tin or package.
Labour is ever the bugbear of a small holding where flowers are grown, for wages will surely eat sadly into the profits. For two or three ladies working in partnership, outside assistance should only be required at the busiest times of the year. The roughest of the work should be given to men who have sufficient experience to perform it, and in most country districts such labourers can be obtained for fourpence an hour. For the picking, bunching, and packing of flowers women have no equal, their nimble fingers going over the work in half the time men would need. In the Middlesex gardens piecework is the usual custom, the women receiving an agreed price for so many bunches, or, in cases where flowers are picked into baskets, such as pansies, so much per half bushel. Women labour at twopence or threepence an hour is also met with, that inevitable feminine perquisite, the cup of tea, being frequently added to the bargain.
Boys are useful in a garden - if you can only get the right ones. In these advanced days, however, youths are sometimes more trouble than they are worth, and boy labour usually needs a strong hand to superintend it. However, there are capable, trustworthy boys, perfect jewels from a gardening point of view, and if lady flower farmers can get such a lad and train him up, they have a prize indeed.
Watering is a serious matter among the flowers, and should be reckoned with when making a commencement. Standpipes and hoses imply an exhorbitant charge from the water company, and what usually happens is that the water-barrow is resorted to. Newly-bedded plants in particular must have moisture supplied to them during a spell of dry weather, and such thirsty subjects as sweet-peas will also require attention. With the aid of a water-barrow, costing from a guinea upwards according to size, and a watering-can without a rose, much ground can be covered quickly, and, where possible, clear rain-water should be used.
Anemone fulgens. These bright, early spring flowers will usually sell well, and the writer has seen them growing in profusion under trees in a fruit-garden, where the shelter is of assistance to them. October and November are the best months for planting.
Anemone Japonica. This is a delightful subject, the varieties being of several shades of pink, though the white class is very popular. When once established, the plants need little attention, and may be grown in rows in the open ground. Seed may be sown during the early summer, or, if the plants are purchased from a nursery, March is the best time for bedding out.
Antirrhinum. There is a certain market demand for this flower, known popularly as the snapdragon, and it is worth cultivating. The dwarf varieties sell rather better than the taller sorts. The best plan is to obtain seed from one of the leading firms, and to sow in June, nursing the plants through the winter to flower the following season. The plants are finally bedded out where they are to bloom about a foot apart, and the bloom should be picked just before it is fully out. Amateurs often allow the plants to go on bearing for years, but the professional grower treats the antirrhinum as a biennial, sowing one season for bloom the next, and then destroying the plant.
Aquilegia. The long-spurred columbine is not often seen displayed for sale in our flower-shops, but there can be no reason why this dainty flower, with its long stem, should not find favour in the market. It is a perennial, the seed being sown in May, blooming first the following spring, and brightly coloured varieties should be grown.
Aster (annual). The China aster is one of the mainstays of a floral farm, and should be cultivated in variety and from first-class seed, so that the Very latest types are secured. Asters nowadays are to be grown in a profusion of colourings, some with curved petals like a chrysanthemum; the "Comet" is a favourite class.
The last week in May and the first fortnight in June are the three weeks usually selected for bedding out the plants which are half-hardy - i.e., susceptible to frost. Showery weather is, if possible, chosen for the bedding out, and the plants are set twelve inches apart in the row, the rows being a simlar distance asunder. During the period of growth the ground must be kept free from weeds and well hoed, and when bunching the bloom for market, the colours must be put up separately.
The seed is usually sown in seed-trays in a light, rich soil during April, and if there is no greenhouse available, resource must be made to a cold frame. The seed should be sown as thinly as possible.
Aster (perennial). Somehow, one does not associate the Michaelmas daisy with the name aster, yet that is its botanical cognomen. It is a perennial that thrives in a rich soil in a sheltered position, and blooms at a time when there are few outdoor flowers. The clumps should be taken up and divided every third year at least, and there is a market demand for the newer and more showy varieties. March is the best time for planting and also for dividing clumps that have got out of hand. The difference between the small, old-fashioned lilac Michaelmas daisy and the newer kinds is marvellous, and it is only worth while growing of the best for profit.
This is a subject which thrives only in rich, well-manured ground in an open situation; and the clumps must be set out so that there is ample room between them, not only for gathering, but also to encourage satisfactory development. In the case of the extra tall-growing varieties stalking is advisable.