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.
In reading "Teetotaller's" article on the Chrysanthemum, I think his opinion as far from right as he thinks M. T.'s. In almost any case I should advocate the plunging of the pots, and I believe the majority of gardeners adhere to the plunging system with the greatest success. By exposing the pots to the direct rays of a June or July sun, you are almost certain to have the roots burned, unless the greatest attention is paid to watering. Let a plant exposed to a July sun once get really dry, and mark its future progress ! I saw plenty of this last summer: about 100 plants were subjected to the above treatment, and a more scrubby lot of subjects I never saw. Doubtless they occasionally suffered from want of water; but in a summer like last, where most gardeners were depending on the use of the water-cart, and a long distance to draw it, it was quite impossible to give them the required attention. Chrysanthemums as a rule are placed some distance from the houses, and run greater risk of being neglected than most other plants; consequently I think the plunging has most points in its favour. Upon the whole, I call the plunging the safest system, notwithstanding the arguments of some, that the plants not plunged are more easily watered for the inexperienced. I think this a very weak point.
I never saw an established Chrysanthemum plant killed with water in the summer months: they delight in moisture; more plants are killed for want of it than with it. When the plants are ready to be turned out of doors, decide upon a south aspect. All gardeners believe in well-matured wood and a stubby growth, and the plunged plants in a good position reap a decided advantage. "Teetotaller" also says the flowers of the large-flowering section rival that of the Dahlia. I should like to see the plants which produce these monster blooms. I am informed on credible authority that the plants which produce these blooms are grown solely for exhibition purposes, perhaps from two to three blooms on the plant, sometimes grown in a cool house and strongly fed.
I had the pleasure of being present at the Liverpool Chrysanthemum Show a few weeks ago, and I presume the Liverpool growers are in advance of any in England. The cut blooms exhibited there were enormous - perfect models, in fact; but I am inclined to think the plants from which they were cut would prove no acquisition to a show-room. The specimens, too, were something splendid. I had never expected to see the Chrysanthemum cultivated to such a degree of perfection: the specimens, though confined to 3 feet in diameter, were so neatly trained, so compact, and so tastefully staged, that the naked eye could discover nothing but the results of the most careful attention. "Teetotaller" also says his confreres in Scotland don't give the Chrysanthemum the attention it deserves. Granting this to be a fact, do the same inducements present themselves to the Scotch growers? There is no Chrysanthemum show held in Scotland, and I think I am justified in saying that competition leads to efficiency. The Scotch growers, as a rule, grow their plants for usefulness. Few gardeners can afford to grow plants for the sake of two or three blooms, nor even to train their plants as practised by exhibitors.
As regards dates for shifting, I think they are entirely out of place; circumstances differ so widely that it is next to useless to attempt giving them.
Every gardener should know his own circumstances best, whether he grows his plants for a show to be held on such a day in November, for the family may arrive home at the time when he wishes his best display. The Chrysanthemum needs no date for shifting more than other plants, and the gardener must humour their culture according to the time he requires them in flower. Next, as to "Teetotaller's" system of feeding, I should throw dates out of the scales altogether, and apply liquid manure when the buds are set; there is then no danger of encouraging over-luxuriant growth, as is too often the case if we apply liquid manure to Chrysanthemums before the buds are formed. "Why not treat Camellias, Pelargoniums, Fuchsias, etc., in a similar way 1 However, the use of stimulants has been carried to a wonderful length lately. I saw with my own eyes last season a head-gardener, when watering the soft-wooded subjects of a greenhouse, apply it simultaneously to a few nice heaths at one end of the house. Lastly, I would advert to the fact that sensational Chrysanthemum-growing is not carried out at large and general establishments, except, of course, in some instances.
A man superintending a large and general place cannot afford to make a hobby of a score of Chrysanthemums or a like number of stove-plants; he means all departments of his place to be in unison. I know places where you could sling a stone over the whole premises, and yet the gardeners' names hold a prominent place in the prize-lists of the season for a dozen Chrysanthemums or a like number of greenhouse or exotic Ferns, etc. And instead of the Chrysanthemum being brought to perfection with little or no trouble, I maintain it requires enormous attention and labour. Wm. Hinds.
Childwall Lodge, near Liverpool, January 14 th.
I was sorry for having surprised "Teetotaller's" feelings with my few remarks on the Chrysanthemum in the March number of the 'Gardener;' but I can appeal to every reader of the 'Gardener' if I, or any one, could come to a different conclusion from the rules and details of culture laid down in the article alluded to. The young gardeners in Scotland should certainly feel obliged to "Teetotaller" for his kind exhortations on the abuse of the Chrysanthemum. But it strikes me very forcibly the hints offered were intended for more than the young men, for we find "Teetotaller" differing from your correspondent "M. T." about the plunging of the pots, which is a decided saving in time and water, if not a step in advance of the non-plunging system; for if the best plants ever grown in England were plunged, and the system recommended by the great champion grower, then "Teetotaller's" arguments must fall to the ground, as he seems convinced that nothing remains to be said on sensational culture after Mr Hignett. If plants are plunged in June, and lifted by the middle of August, do they not save the risk of having their roots burned? and is there not plenty of time to ripen their roots with the medium heat of an autumn sun? But, if I mistake not, "Teetotaller" thinks we bury our pots, instead of plunging them, for he says the plunged plants have not the least possible chance either of sun or air.
I, for my part, do not suppose all the roots to be at the bottom of the pots, nor yet that they are cemented in the ground so as to be air-tight. As regards the comparison drawn between Chrysanthemums and Heaths, I think their treatment is so different that it is useless to comment upon it; and, judging from the description of "Teetotaller's" wood (with little pith), one would be inclined to fancy that administering stimulants is wasteful. I had almost forgotten the 5½-inch in diameter blooms. Something must, of course, be done to produce these. I am referred by "Teetotaller" to the 'Journal of Horticulture' for January 1871, in which Mr Castle says that potting has little to do with the time of flowering. Mr Castle's opinion, as that of one individual, is of course worth something; but what says the same writer (in the same article) on the subject of liquid manure? His opinion is that it creates a tendency to an undue circulation of the sap, causing the plants to make more wood than is necessary, without giving any addition in size to the flowers; whilst by giving it when the buds need additional stimulus, it improves them very much. We now come to the matter of insects; and, so far as I am aware, the Chrysanthemum sails pretty clear: a few flies and mildew can be easily disposed of.
Who wouldn't vote for the non-plunging system to prevent mildew? Facts are no doubt stubborn things, but facts are against some of us in the present instance, but whom, the readers of the 'Gardener' will be best able to judge. In concluding my few remarks, I may state that what first induced me to comment upon "Teetotaller's" article was the too frequent belief of so many young men that to go southwards is hazardous without a great amount of experience. Such an idea is simply absurd, because, except in the mere matter of a few specimen plants in the neighbourhood of large towns, the Scotch training is more a general one than the English, and upon the whole more efficient, at least such is my conviction, after a little experience of both; and I think I might invite "Teetotaller's" inspection of Chrysanthemum - growing from Ilford to Scotland (the neighbourhood of Liverpool excepted), and to designate the difference would be a puzzle. However, the north- country juveniles need have no fear of growing Chrysanthemums as good as any they read of, if they are not pushed for time nor particular to quantity of flowers.
Childevale Lodge, Liverpool.
[We think our correspondents have now sufficiently disclosed their views of their respective practices as to plunging. - Ed].