Single and Double Pinks.
Upon the second and third classes you must depend for pinks of the taller growth ranging from one to two feet in height and flourishing long-stemmed clusters of deliciously clove-scented flowers. The hardy Margarets might be wintered in the pit, if it were worth the while, but they are so easily raised from seed, and so prone literally to bloom themselves to death in the three months between midsummer and hard frost, that I prefer to sow them each year in late March and April and plant them out in May, as soon as their real leaves appear, and pull them up at the general autumnal garden clearance. Upon the highly scented perpetual and picotee pinks or carnations (make your own choice of terms) you must depend for fragrance between the going of the May pinks and the coming of the Margarets; not that they of necessity cease blooming when their more easily perfected sisters begin; quite the contrary, for the necessity of lifting them in the winter gives them a spring set-back that they do not have in England, where they are the universal hardy pink, alike of the gardens of great estates and the brick-edged cottage, border.
These are the carnations of Mrs. Marchant's garden that filled you with such admiration, and also awoke the spirit of emulation. Lavinia Cortright was correct in associating them with the lavish bloom of the gardens of Hampton Court, for if anything could make me permanently unpatriotic (which is impossible), it would be the roses and picotee pinks of the dear old stupid (human middle-class, and cold bedroom-wise), but florally adorable mother country I
The method by which you may possess yourself of these crowning flowers of the garden, for coronations is one of the words from which carnation is supposed but to be derived, is as follows: -
Be sure of your seed. Not long ago it was necessary to import it direct, but not now. You may buy from the oldest of American seed houses fifty varieties of carnations and picotees, in separate packets, for three dollars, or twenty-five sorts for one dollar and seventy-five cents, or twelve (enough for a novice) for one dollar, the same being undoubtedly English or Holland grown, while a good English house asks five shillings, or a dollar and a quarter, for a single packet of mixed varieties!
Moral - it is not necessary that "made in England" should be stamped upon flower seeds to prove them of English origin!
If you can spare hotbed room, the seeds may be sown in April, like the early Margarets, and transplanted into some inconspicuous part of the vegetable garden, where the soil is deep and firm and there is a free circulation of air (not between tall peas and sweet corn), as for the first summer these pinks have no ornamental value, other than the pleasurable spectacle made by a healthy plant of any kind, by virtue of its future promise. Before frost or not later than the second week in October the pinks should be put in long, narrow boxes or pots sufficiently large to hold all the roots comfortably, but with little space to spare, watered, and partly shaded, until they have recovered themselves, when they should be set in the lightest part of the cold pit. During the winter months they should have only enough water to keep the earth from going to dust, and as much light and air as possible without absolutely freezing hard, after the manner of treating lemon verbenas, geraniums, and wall-flowers.
By the middle of April they may be planted in the bed where they are to bloom, and all the further care they need will be judicious watering and the careful staking of the flower stalks if they are weak and the buds top-heavy, - and by the way, as to the staking of flowers in general, a word with you later on.
In the greenhouse, pinks are liable to many ailments, and several of these follow them out-of-doors, three having given me some trouble, the most fatal being of a fungoid order, due usually to unhealthy root conditions or an excess of moisture.
Rust is one of these, its Latin name being too long for the simple vocabulary of The Garden, You, and I. It first shows itself in a brown spot that seems to have worked out from the inner part of the leaf. Sometimes it can be conquered by snipping the infected leaves, but if it seizes an entire bed, the necessary evil of spraying with Bordeaux mixture must be resorted to, as in the case of fungus-spotted hollyhocks.
Thrip, the little transparent, whitish fly, will sometimes bother border carnations in the same way as it does roses. If the flowers are only in bud, I sprinkle them with my brass rose-atomizer and powder slightly with helebore. But if the flowers are open, sprinkling and shaking alone may be resorted to. For the several kinds of underground worms that trouble pinks, of which the wireworm is the chief, I have found a liberal use of unslaked lime and bone-dust in the preparation of the soil before planting the best preventive.
Other ailments have appeared only occasionally. Sometimes an apparently healthy, full-grown plant will suddenly wither away, or else swell up close to the ground and finally burst so that the sap leaks out and it dies like a punctured or girdled tree. The first trouble may come from the too close contact of fresh manure, which should be kept away from the main roots of carnations, as from contact with lily bulbs.
As to the swelling called gout, there is no cure, so do not temporize. Pull up the plant at once and disinfect the spot with unslaked lime and .sulphur.
Thus, Mary Penrose, may you have either pinks in your garden or a garden of pinks, whichever way you may care to develop your idea. "A deal of trouble?" Y-e-s; but then only think of the flowers that crown the work, and you might spend an equal amount of time in pricking cloth with a steel splinter and embroidering something, in the often taken-in-vain name of decorative art, that in the end is only an elaborated rag - without even the bone and the hank of hair!