Among annual flowers for the conservatory, mignonette will always be one of the most popular, so that the culture of this flower in pots is worth careful consideration. It needs good growing to be seen to advantage. A number of three-inch pots should be filled in April with rich light soil, and four or five seeds should be dropped into the centre of each, makini? a slight hollow for the purpose with the finger. From the resultant plants, all but the strongest should be pulled out, and this one will then be grown on near the glass, staking and repotting whenever needful. Keep the main stem growing upwards, and let the side stems spread horizontally, pinching where necessary to encourage the bushy habit. Mignonette may also be started in a house in large pots in August, and placed in the greenhouse in October. Mignonette planted in a border of soil in the conservatory becomes shrubby and assumes the perennial habit.
A well filled conservatory, suitable for an amateur gardener. Some of the plants should be put into beds so as to impart an element of permanency to its decoration, thus distinguishing it from a greenhouse
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Right ventilation of the conservatory is a most essential point, it being important to give as much air as possible during summer, while in dull, foggy winter weather the house should be kept close, an arrangement which is preferable to using large fires. The temperature of a conservatory should not in a general way fall below 50°. If the pipes are beneath the central pathway, some space will be saved, and this will help to keep the beds in a nice warm condition.
If a rule can be given as to watering, this will be to water so as to reach every fibre of the plant's roots, and then wait until this is again needful. A plant may need water twice in the same day in summer; in winter twice a month might suffice.
In normal weather, between May and September, watering should be done in the morning, but in cold weather this should be deferred till later. By this means the stimulus of sun-heat will reach the plants after they have been refreshed by watering, the extra moisture is given off in good time, and the subsequent evaporation is not too sudden. By watering in afternoon and evening during summer the plant has time to absorb moisture and refresh its roots and foliage, and so prepare for the hot sunshine of the following day.
Manure water will be needed often, certainly for plants which remain long in their pots. It is important, however, that it should be applied weak and clear ; if necessary, a little quicklime may be added for the purpose. Stimulants of any sort should only be applied to a growing plant, when it shows signs of flowering, if the object be to improve the flowers. The periods of a plant's rest must be marked by the withdrawal not merely of extra food, but of water, either entirely or to a considerable extent, as the case may demand.
Syringing is one of the most important departments of conservatory work. It cleanses the plant of dirt and impurities, and of insect pests, and promotes a condition of moisture and general healthiness in warm weather, when it should be done in the evening. Do not, of course, use the syringe during frost ; if it is needed at all in cold weather the work must be done in the morning.
Most conservatory plants are pruned after flowering, if at all, as it is then wished to start them into fresh growth ; but many spring and summer flowering subjects are the better for being stood outside to ripen their growth.
Any plants which are freshly brought into a house should be examined to see that they contain no mealy bug, which is only too apt to lurk in cracks and crevices, and is often found in pot-soil itself. This may not be discovered until a plant has been in the house for as much as three weeks. Plants, etc., which have been attacked should be sponged thoroughly with soft-soap and lukewarm water churned up with paraffin, or Gishurst compound will be effective. If pot-plants are resting at the time, they may be repotted into clean pots and entirely fresh soil. Methylated spirit is a good remedy applied in drops to the pest.
The best cure for red spider is to keep the house as moist as possible, and, if it has become much established, syringe vigorously the plants attacked. Greenfly can be kept under by the use of insecticides, or by spraying with soapy water.
The most effectual remedy for this and most other insect pests is to close doors and ventilators, fill up crevices, and then fumigate with some reliable vaporising compound. " Scale " insects must be treated by sponging, unless syringing with cyanide of potassium can be accomplished.
Thrip can be discovered by the ravages of this pest on the under side of the leaves. Fumigate or spray the plants affected. Mildew, rust, and other fungoid diseases are best treated by dusting on flowers of sulphur, but the state of the house as to airing and heating should be looked to first.
Climbers may be tied to wires strained against the wall at a distance of about three inches from the wall, and six inches apart, green raffia being used for the ties. Plants on pillars will be secured to what are called tie-rods surrounding a pillar. The wire should be fixed about two inches from the pillars, about eight or nine strands to each, fixing them in pieces of wood, but in two equal halves, the shape fitting around the pillar.
To form a good bush plant, the leading shoot must be pinched after its first potting, and the side growths then induced to grow. As soon as the resultant shoots make much headway, or the plant requires to be made thicker, more pinching must be done.
A good bush plant should have three inches of clean stem above the pot surface. For pyramids the rule is the same, but the plant needs more pinching to establish the base, after which the head will be allowed to develop. A clean stem of at least two feet is required for a standard tree. The leader of the tree should be encouraged to grow vigorously, and, as it increases, the lower growths will be cut away. When the leader attains two and a half feet in height, it should be pinched back, and the same repeated with the growths induced.
Various forms of training over wire balloons, umbrellas, etc., may be accomplished easily by taking the plant, which will be kept well staked till fully grown, and tying the shoots out at equal distances over the framework.