This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The Cineraria belongs to the natural order of Composites, one of the most extensive families of the vegetable kingdom; hence it has been found difficult to settle satisfactorily the various genera included in the order. In accordance with the views of modern botanists, therefore, various plants once considered to be Cinerarias have been removed to other genera, leaving the genus under consideration comparatively small as regards species. The name Cineraria itself, signifying ashes, seems ill applied to a genus which at this time contains so many beautiful flowers; and we are doubtful whether botanists would not hesitate before they applied it to the race of plants which has sprung up under the title in our own day. It, however, alludes to the powdery appearance of the leaves, not to the flowers.
Taking a retrospective view of the genus, we are struck with the paucity of its members until within the last few years; and this is more remarkable when we recollect that few plants ripen seeds more freely than the Cineraria. English florists, who are stated to have been the first to turn their attention to the hybridisation of this flower, must have been long in commencing operations in good earnest; for though the materials they had at command, it must be acknowledged, were few, yet they were not only enough for the work, but have at length proved themselves amply sufficient.
If we look into gardening books of the seventeenth century, we find the Medeira Cineraria aurita (a variety in the way of Populifolia), which flowered at Kew in 1790, highly praised. The same authorities speak of Cineraria cruenta, from the Canaries, as being "a showy plant, having few equals;" and the woolly-leaved African Cineraria lanata, which blossomed first in this country about 1793, is stated to "far eclipse all the others cultivated in our garcbns." Yet these are all purple sorts of the most starry and open description imaginable. What would the admirers of such flowers have said to the beautiful productions of the present day, for which we are chiefly indebted to the industry of Messrs. Henderson, Ivery, Kendall, and Gaines? and how would their small (with the exception of Lanata) starry flowers stand the test of Mr. Kendall's properties laid down at p. 131 of our May Number? But it is not in form alone that the Cineraria has been improved. On account of the different sorts hybridising freely with each other, the most exquisite colours that it is possible to conceive have been infused into it.
Indeed, so much is this the case, that we have been prevented from figuring some flowers which we should have preferred, on account of the inability of our artist to give in his drawing their fresh and sweetly beautiful rosy-lilac tints.
The hybrids Waterhousiana, Hendersoni, and the well-known kind called King, are among our early attempts at improvement; and these kinds have had their day and their admirers; but that day is past. Pretty as these were, they have been completely superseded by our present sorts in every respect, except perhaps in habit. We confess that we do not like the too dwarf habit which some of the seedlings of late years have been made to assume, and which has been praised by some of our contemporaries. Pigmies are held to be as unsightly as giants; - we prefer the happy medium. Short "stocky" plants, "bonneted" with blossoms, looking as stiff as if they were set on stone pedestals, are not to our taste, and we should imagine will be eschewed by all cultivators who prefer graceful to stiff forms. On the other hand, we dislike as much as any body tall straggling plants, which are the result of bad management. The development of the beautiful should be aimed at as much in plant-cultivation as in the other operations of gardening; and this cannot be effected unless we have proper material, and enough of it, to work with. We are of opinion, therefore, that the application of that skill which results in the production of too "stocky" plants is wrongly directed; but this may be our mistake.
We conclude this account of the Cineraria, which is one of the most useful of all plants, with a short list of some of the best varieties now in cultivation, and which are as follows:
Maid of Artois.
Fairy Queen. Amaena. Alice Grey.
The above are all catalogued flowers, and easily procured. Of the seedlings which have appeared this year, we will give some account hereafter.
Sow seed now for new varieties; if properly attended to, they will make fine plants by autumn, and will flower all winter. Sow in pots or pans well drained, and in mould of light texture; cover the seed very slightly; keep it constantly moist and in the shade until it is well above ground. As soon as the plants have formed the rough leaf, let them be pricked off into store-pots for a little while. Where the old plants begin to throw up suckers, a few of them may also be potted for an early stock. A. Kendall.
Queen Elizabeth's Walk, Stoke Newington.
Sow seed for a general crop (for directions for sowing, see last month's Number); take off suckers from old stools for the same purpose. Seedlings sown and pricked off last month should now be put singly into small pots, and shaded from bright sunshine. Keep the lights off on all favourable opportunities, and constantly at night, unless there is danger of a storm. A. Kendall.
Queen Elizabeth's Walk, Stoke Newington.