Dissolve three-quarters of a pound of carbonate of copper in a little warm water; place it in a vessel that will hold six gallons of water. Slake half a pound of freshly burnt lime and mix it with the water so that it is about the thickness of cream. Strain it through coarse canvas into the solution of copper. Then fill up the vessel with water.
With these two receipts it seems to me possible to try endless experiments on plants in any way affected by disease or rust. I shall certainly try it on Humea elegans when the plants begin to go off. For a few years I gave up growing this charming annual, the disease always making its appearance. I cannot bear being beaten by a blight.
Everywhere on the Continent I find abundant supplies of what used to be called Wild Strawberries, the cultivation of which is receiving the greatest attention. The soil at Cronberg, being strong, is very good for growing Strawberries. When I arrived last year the main crop was just over, but the cultivated Alpines appeared in large quantities at every meal. These improved Alpine Strawberries last all through the summer and late on into the autumn. I never can understand why this class of Strawberry is so much neglected in all English gardens. They are rather troublesome to pick, and have to be done with clean hands, as they come to table without their stalks.
In the 'Horticultural Journal' for January 1899, there is a most interesting article by the great improver of the whole family of Alpine Strawberries - M. Vilmorin - which will do away with any excuse of not understanding their cultivation. But I will not quote from it, as anyone can get the number of the 'Journal' who is sufficiently interested in the subject to wish for the last word. Up to the present I have never been successful in producing fruit in any sufficient quantity to make the growing of these Strawberries seem worth while, but I mean to try with improved knowledge to see if it cannot be done even on this sandy soil. A neighbour of mine has been most successful; but a vein of clay runs through his garden, which is a helpful point, not to mention his greater knowledge and experience on the subject, having previously grown them in France. He kindly wrote out for me the system which he practises in the growing of this most useful and healthful little fruit, called the 'Improved Alpine Strawberry': 'To obtain these large and abundant, it is necessary to grow them on young plants (certainly not more than three years old) and plants originally grown from seed. The fruit degenerates rapidly, if grown on runners from an old plant. Select the best seed. I grew mine from Vilmorin's No. 17,239 - fraisier des quatres saisons "Berger" - 0.60 centimes per packet. This is cheaper than yourself selecting, maturing, and preparing the seeds, which probably would mature less thoroughly here than under the hot summer sun in France. Sow in March in a shallow box or pan under glass, well watered, in soil as follows: one half of thoroughly well-rotted leaf-mould, one quarter of sand, one quarter of light loam. Cover with a glass, as usual, until they begin to grow. Very moderate heat. Prepare in a well-sheltered border exposed to the sun a strip of soil two and a half feet wide. Mix in plenty of well-rotted manure from an old hot-bed with the light loam of the open border. Plant the young seedlings in a row down the middle of this strip about five inches apart. Water them well, and shade them for a few days till their roots have taken good hold of the ground. Then they will grow rapidly and produce large leaves and strong runners, which must be laid out across the piece of ground on either side of the plants. Any runners beyond this first break should be cut off. The runners and the plant are left to grow together till about September, when the off-sets will have rooted and grown, and the strip of soil will be covered with rich leaves and strong, healthy, young plants. In winter, or early next March, prepare the bed in which they are intended to fruit: light loam with fair quantity of old leaf-mould or rotted old hot-bed manure. There should not be more than four rows in one bed without a small path, in order to facilitate the cropping and the cutting-off of runners later on. The rows should be fifteen to eighteen inches apart, and in these rows plant, in March, the rooted runners of the seedling with as good balls as you can get. They will begin to bear about July, and will go on bearing until the frost comes in October or November, if they have been kept well watered in hot weather, and the c c runners trimmed off. In November cut off any remaining runners, mulch them well, and they will stand all through the winter. The second year they will bear, from May to November, good large fruit about an inch long and half an inch across. They should be gathered with clean hands and allowed to drop off their stalks into the basket. If they do not drop to-day, they will next day or the day after, as they should be quite ripe. They will stand plenty of sunshine if they are watered in proportion to the heat of the weather. The fruit-bearing stems, in the best kinds, are strong and stand up above the leaves, so that the bloom coming on may be in full light and warmth. The leaves should never flag. Treat the bed the same way in the next winter, mulching, etc. This is the result: first year, sowing and producing the plants; second year, a good half-crop, July to November; third year, a spring crop and autumn crop. The fourth year the autumn crop will not be so large; but if they are sown every year, as they should be, a subsequent sowing will be bearing its first autumn crop. It is possible to try a late summer sowing to crop the following autumn; the runners must be taken off in the same way. Although the plants bear any amount of frost, a short light frost during blooming-time will turn the yellow centres of the flowers black, which means no fruit there. It is well, therefore, to be able to protect the beds by tiffany or bracken fixed between two laths. It is well, also, to have some natural shelter against the north and north-east winds.' This last sentence is a most useful hint for any Strawberries, and I shall certainly adopt it, as my first crop is constantly destroyed by these spring frosts.
While in Germany I saw beautiful beds of these Alpine Strawberries bearing profusely. The gardener told me that the way he managed them was to strike the runners off the young plants early in August and plant them for the winter under a wall, water well till rooted, mulch for the winter, and leave in the same place till April. Prepare a bed then in full sunshine with plenty of good cow-manure. Take up the young plants from under the wall; plant them in the bed a foot apart, alternating the next row; mulch again, and water copiously while the plants are flowering. Pick off all runners except those required for propagation.
The only real difference between this and the former receipt is that the first one prescribes the constant sowing and taking runners from the young plants, whereas the German gardener, apparently, took his runners from older plants. This difference would be quite accounted for by the difference between a soil naturally suited to Strawberries and one that is not.
Last year I heard of an American way of growing Strawberries, a man in New York having made a large fortune by inventing the following method: A petroleum barrel is made clean by burning it out. Holes, about two inches wide, are drilled into it in alternate rows from base to top at intervals of about six inches in all directions. The barrel is then raised on bricks or stones, ample holes having been bored in the bottom of the cask for drainage. The bottom is filled with crocks and broken pots, and then a layer up to the height of the first holes is filled in with good mould. The Strawberry runners, well rooted, are planted by drawing the crown of the plant through the hole and spreading out the roots. Then fill up with soil till you reach the next layer, and so on up to the top. The top is not filled to the very rim, so as to admit of rain soaking down, and to hold the watering and liquid-manure soaking which it requires in the spring. A small drain-pipe should be let in down the middle of the barrel to ensure the water and liquid manure reaching the lower plants in sufficient quantity. I am bound to own that my gardener says the cask did not ripen well last year; but I was not here, so I cannot say what was the reason. I suspect it was that the moisture did not penetrate sufficiently into the barrel. I have planted two more tubs this autumn in the same way with 'Viscountess' and 'Royal Sovereign,' and shall await results. It is just possible there is not sun enough in this country to ripen them grown in this way, though I do not believe it. The advantages, if successful, would be great economy of ground, the fact that you can water without fear of drawing up the roots, that no straw or cocoanut fibre is required to keep the fruit clean; and I imagine, grown in that way, the birds would not touch the fruit.
I saw two pretty decorations for a luncheon-table in Germany. One was: four baskets painted white with high handles and sprays of any small mixed flowers that do not fade quickly tied to the handles, the baskets well piled up with common summer fruit - Strawberries, Currants, Raspberries, Cherries, Gooseberries - each in a separate basket, and a small vase with the same mixed flowers in the centre.
The other - a pretty, daylight table decoration - was a vase in the middle, filled with blue Cornflowers (which of course grow wild in Germany), standing out on a groundwork of Maidenhair. There were small vases round with wild yellow three-fingered Trefoil, or any other yellow wild flower such as Buttercups. Between the dishes of fruit were laid on the table sprays of Maidenhair, Cornflower, and yellow flowers together.