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.
About the first thing I do when the ' Gardener' arrives is to read the article by M. T., which appears as regularly as the ' Gardener' does itself at the beginning of every month. In the May number, 1870, M. T. says something about Chrysanthemums, which, in my opinion, is very far from right. He advises the plunging of the pots, "so that the sun will not burn the roots." Now, as the Chrysanthemum is a favourite of mine, and as my confreres in Scotland do not generally give it the attention it deserves, I should like, with your leave, to say a little in its favour, or rather to tell a few truths about it. It does not require being said that the Chrysanthemum is the best early winter-flowering plant we have. At the same time, a great proportion of gardeners know absolutely nothing of the perfection to which it can, with very little trouble, be grown. In the large-flowering section, some of the incurved flowers rival either the Dahlia or Hollyhock in size and symmetry of bloom. The Japanese varieties are equally worthy of attention for their curious and effective flowers; and the Pompons, whether Anemone-flowered or the more common Chusan Daisy and its hybrids, quite as much deserve attention from the fact of its being possible to train them any way that the fancy of the grower may suggest, and for the beauty of their little flowers.
In the south of England, February is quite early enough to commence propagating for general purposes; but in Scotland the beginning of January should see as many cuttings in of the various sorts as will be required for the conservatory or greenhouse in December. Always get your plants from cuttings, and never put in slips with roots attached. For plants which are wanted for quality of flowers the strong-growing points are best; and those wanted for specimen plants, either large-flowering or Pompons, ought to be stubby cuttings, as they are more free in growth than the growing points. Insert one cutting in a 3-inch pot, and place them in a cool house, such as a greenhouse, as near the glass as possible. If it can be managed to place a frame over them, so as to keep them close, so much the better. Do not, on any account, allow the soil to get dry. Keep it constantly moist. 'They will be rooted in four or five weeks, after which they should not be checked, but must be kept growing. As soon as all danger from the February frosts is past, they may be moved to a cold frame or pit, and every precaution taken to keep frost from them; for although they can stand a good deal of frost, still it checks the growth, and therefore ought to be guarded against.
Some ought to be grown for quality of the flowers, and should never be pinched; but the side-shoots ought to be taken off. However, if there is any danger of the plants becoming too tall, let the side-shoots grow till late in the season, then take them off. The large-flowering varieties and Pompons wanted for plants ought to have the growing point - and nothing more than the point - taken out when about 5 inches high; and throughout the season, when pinching, take no more than just the point, as the shoots burst out from the point more freely and in greater quantity than when pinched carelessly back. By the middle of April they may all be shifted into 6-inch pots, and kept in the frame till the middle of May. However, only use the lights in case of hard weather, and keep the plants well syringed in mild sunny weather. Select some sheltered position, on which, after having made all secure from worms with coal-ashes, stand your plants, giving them plenty of space to grow. See they are secure from the effects of wind, and keep on pinching those intended for plants as required.
Shift the large-flowering specimen plants into 9-inch pots about the middle of May, and by the middle of June have all shifted into their flowering-pots - those for single flowers into 9-inch or two into 10-inch pots. Japanese varieties may have the same treatment; those shifted into 9-inch pots in May put into 11 's now, and the Pompons into 8½-inch pots. Have done pinching by the middle of July at the very latest. A fortnight before that would be safer in Scotland. They will require tying into shape now; and if they have been gently trained from the beginning, the better the plants will be. Great care must be exercised in bending the shoots, so as not to break them, as they are exceedingly brittle. In the beginning of September go over them again; for the last time in the end of October. In the case of Pompons, the buds ought to be sparingly thinned, whilst in the large-flowering sorts one flower to a shoot is quite enough to leave. Those grown for quality of the flowers may be allowed to carry nine, three shoots being allowed to grow about the end of August. Three flowers to each of those shoots is sufficient.
It is a good plan to place the specimen plants on bricks about the middle or end of August, as it gives the shoots a better chance of ripening thoroughly, without which first-rate plants need not be expected. As soon as frost may be expected get them safely housed and out of danger. Be sure that they never once suffer for want of water, as if they do all your labour will be to a great extent lost. Give the Pompons weak manure-water from the beginning of August, watering them with it whenever they are dry; only be sure that it is weak. The large-flowering varieties may be watered with manure-water from the beginning of September. The compost ought to be free and rich. It does not matter much about this part of loam and the other part of well-decomposed manure. The cuttings ought to be placed in a light compost, with a little silver sand at top to keep away damp. The manure-water may be composed of mixtures of cow-dung and soot, or guano and soot. The best varieties may be gathered from the reports of Chrysanthemum shows; but a few good varieties are better than a great many of doubtful merit. In conclusion, the grower of this plant need have no fear of his stock getting their roots burned up if he keeps them well supplied with water.
Two or three years' experience will soon enable him to grow the Chrysanthemum as it can and ought to be grown. And the object of this paper will be gained if it causes some to give this beautiful gem of winter a fair and unbiassed trial. Teetotaller.
P.S. - The Chrysanthemum, like other flowers, has insects peculiar to itself. A little insect of a greenish colour and without wings comes out in the greatest strength. Dustings of snuff do for them most effectually. Another is a dark-brown insect about a quarter of an inch long, which, if not looked after, eats over the growing point. Hand-picking is the best method of getting rid of it. Earwigs must be looked after too. T.