This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
The day of the Pelargonium is again coming round. Though it has always obtained a place in gardens, yet full justice has been done to its requirements only in rare instances; but during these last few years the London market-growers have taken the plant in hand to some purpose, have produced a new break or strain quite distinct from either the "show" or "fancy" sections, and to which the distinctive appellation of "decorative " has been given. I have not been so much taken with anything in the way of "novelties" for some time as I was this season with plants of these. These consisted of specimens between 4 and 5 feet in circumference, naturally grown bushy, and one mass of developed trusses and trusses yet to open. The pots were between 4 and 5 inches in diameter. The best of the sorts were Duchess of Bedford, Maid of Kent, and Mermerus. The raiser of these has other kinds, of which stock is being propagated, said to be improvements on these. It is not difficult to foresee in a few years that this class of Pelargoniums will hold one of the highest places as summer decorative plants. But meanwhile the older and universally known "show" kinds have undergone great improvements of late years - the better form, size, and colour of flower in these having the advantage of this newer section.
These can be successfully cultivated in small pots also - in fact it is the way to grow them, year-old plants in 5-inch pots, properly grown, making flowering specimens from 12 to 18 inches across. A few of the best of these are Lord of the Isles, Duke of Connaught, Sappho, Ambassador, Gipsy, Blue Boy, Victor, Christabel, Falcon, Warrior.
As a guide to those who may wish to grow these in the way above pointed out, we will add a few directions. Side growths are taken off through the summer, say in July, at which period of the year there is not the slightest difficulty in striking plants. Where a good number is grown, a frame might with advantage be prepared for the reception of the cuttings, dibbling them in not over closely, and keeping the lights on and shaded from sun for a few days; afterwards the sashes may be dispensed with, and the plants allowed to make a good start before potting them up. The compost should be a rich one, say three parts strong loam to one part of dry cow-dung, with a sprinkling of bone-dust and sand added. The plants may be put into their blooming-pots at once, making the drainage sure, and potting firmly. The plants will do well out of doors until October, when a place near the glass, in a structure where they will be kept gently growing throughout the winter, will suit them best. When the pots get filled with roots, manure-water will be required at every time of watering, otherwise the plants will get stunted and stop growing. As spring advances, air will require to be freely given until the plants are opening their flowers, when they are taken to the show-house or conservatory.
We have grown Pelargoniums in small pots for years, and can vouch for the success of the system. Everything, of course, depends on the unceasing care bestowed on the plants throughout the year, for the insuring of complete success. R. P. B.