This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The plants which have not been stopped back since heading down will now require a little attention, to spread out their branches, that air and sun may be freely admitted. The way in which I do this is as follows: I tie a piece of twisted bast round the outside of the pot, just under the rim, and then fasten down each branch to it, at proper distances apart. This is at the first going over them. At the second time, when the shoots are too long to draw down in this way, I lay some sticks across the tops of the pots, securing them to the bast under the rim. By these attentions the plant soon attains its required form, and the young shoots in the middle of the plant, where crowded before, have that light and air admitted to them so essential for their health and vigour. Where sticks are required in training these young shoots, I carefully avoid pushing them amongst the roots. In the Gardeners' Almanack, p. 39, the editor, in an armchair article formed out of other people's materials, says, if a "Pelargonium requires support, or to be displayed by being fastened to sticks, it is a decided evidence of defective cultivation.
It has been weakened by too high a temperature, or too little light, or by an excess of water, or by neglected pruning." If the editor had been practically acquainted with the subject, he would have known, that what he asks for, "good robust growth," is only to be obtained by the judicious application of what he deprecates. At the time of exhibition, our plants require no sticks, but as a support against the shaking of the carriage over four and ten miles of granite roads, often so rough in the latter case that it requires some care on the driver's part to keep his seat. To remove all the supports before the show, and to replace them after it is over, takes more time than we can obtain; and with every desire to exhibit their beauties to others, we make a point of restoring them to their places in as good condition as when they left home. I say, therefore, train out your young shoots if you want ripened wood, and strong and abundant stalks, crowned with fine flowers. If I have used the term, "arm-chair article," I have no wish to do so offensively; but I have witnessed so much injustice done to practical men by writers, that, for one, I shall always stake my practice against their theory; adding, that my plants are open to inspection at all times, and what I write may be tested by their appearance; and for this purpose, at this the most trying time of year, I say to all: Come and see for yourselves.
Get the soil ready for shifting, and put it into the house, that it may acquire a similar temperature before beginning the operation, which you may do any time at the latter end of the month that suits your convenience.
Plants stopped for June flowering will have broken well by this time, and should be shifted, as well as all young stock-plants that have filled their pots with roots. If the latter are in 4-inch pots, shift into a 6-inch size; if they were struck from cuttings of last summer, it is as large as they require to bloom in. In shifting, rub off the outside and top of the ball. Plants which were finally shifted in the autumn will require a thorough watering, to moisten the ball of earth throughout, as, after firing, we find the surface moist, whilst the body and bottom are dry. Seedlings as last month. J. Dobson.
About the second week in the month stop back the plants required for blooming in June. Give air at all opportunities, opening early in the morning, and shutting up early in the afternoon, say three or four o'clock, according to circumstances, shutting out all cold easterly winds. Draw the syringe over the plants once or twice a week after shutting up. With plenty of sunlight and warmth, the May plants will be fast shewing their trusses. When the plants require water, give them sufficient to moisten the whole ball. J. Dobson.
An error has unfortunately crept into my last month's Calendar on this subject, where it stated, that the plants stopped back the second week in March would be in flower in June: read July. As several varieties that have not been stopped back since heading down will be coming into flower this month, it will be well, where shading is used, to put the shades on at once; and especially where the houses are glazed with sheet-glass, shading keeps the flowers much longer in perfection. For the canvass we use we pay 4 1/2d. per yard, and it is about one yard wide. See that the plants are clear of green-fly before they come into flower. Fumigate two nights successively, and on the following morning wash the plants with rain-water, and that thoroughly; water occasionally with clear liquid manure-water: the directions for its preparation are given at page 107, vol. i. Where a succession of flowers is required, if a few plants are shifted into pots two sizes larger than those they are in, and stopped back in the last week of this month, they will flower in the middle of August. After these have well broken, keep them in as cold a place as possible.
If it is in the north side of the house, and protected from heavy rains, so much the better.
Worton Cottage. J. Dobson.
The plants that have been prepared and treated as directed for this month's flowering will soon be gay, and the flowers will be acquiring their true character, as the first bloom are apt to come small. The netting (if not previously done) must be put up to exclude the bees; for if they are allowed access to the house, they fertilise the flower, and it soon falls. In Vol. I. p. 119, of The Florist, will be seen a drawing of the kind of netting we use. I beg also to say, in answer to numerous inquiries, that our old and new varieties will be in full bloom from the second week in this month till the end of June, and will be open for inspection every day, Sundays excepted.
Worton Cottage, Isleworth. J. Dobson.