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 former has a fine appearance in winter, and is easily trimmed, but it requires poor soil to grow in.
Hedges may be cleaned at the roots and trimmed: where repairs are necessary, allow plenty of space for the young plants, and place fresh healthy soil with their roots. Rose stocks, if they are required for budding, may be placed where they are to remain all next summer. Have all suckers taken clean from the roots, and plant them so that any one can work freely among them. Pruning of Roses may remain till February, March, or April. The later in the season, success is the more certain. Ranunculus beds should be prepared by throwing them up roughly, and well exposing the soil to frost and air. All bulbs should have protection from severe frost. Hoops and mats may be used to protect favourite Pinks or Pansies. Auriculas, Carnations, and Picotees, wintered in frames or pits, must be kept free from damp. Dryness at the root at this season is necessary, and fresh air should be given on every favourable opportunity. Cloves which may be wintering, attached to the stools of the old plants, may have dry sand or fine coal-ashes, an inch thick, placed round and among the layers. We often have them do better in this way than when well cared for in frames, etc. They lift nicely with balls in spring; and when planted with free healthy soil, they grow and flower freely.
Pots of cuttings will require careful attention while the weather is dull and damp, keeping all bad leaves picked off, and the surfaces clean and open. Washing the pots, if green, is very important to the health of the plants. All plants, whether tender or hardy, under glass, will require great care with watering, airing, and firing at this season. Water should always be at least as high as the temperature of the structure, and only given when necessary, and then enough to moisten all the soil in the pots. Air, to greenhouse plants, may be freely given when the thermometer out of doors stands above 40°; but cold currents of frosty air passing through plants of any sort, under glass, is very injurious. In close damp weather, structures should be opened at top only. Where fire-heat can be safely applied, the difficulty of keeping plants is almost done away; but firing should only be used as a "necessary evil," sufficient to keep up the required heat, or to dry off damp. Chrysanthemums done flowering may have the old tops trimmed off, and the pots plunged in ashes under the protection of a frame, to be kept from frost, so that cuttings may be had in time. Hyacinths in flower may have plenty of manure-water, especially if the pots are small, and several bulbs in each.
Roman Hyacinths, now past, have done good service here since the second week of November. Lily of the Valley, brought forward in a Mushroom-house till the flowers appeared, is now useful. Rhododendrons and Lilacs, in flower now, are very telling in rooms. Azaleas, Deutzias, Cytisus, Acacias, Cactuses, Crocuses, Snowdrops, and a number of common things, are now useful here; they had the heat of an early vinery to bring them on till opening of flowers, and then were carefully taken where more light and air can be given. Frames placed on the manure-heap, and well banked round with leaves, etc, are turning in useful "odds and ends." Violets, in pits, are giving supplies, but not large; pots brought forward on the back shelf of a stove are more useful. Cinerarias in flower may have manure-water. Heaths, whether in flower or otherwise, may have abundance of fresh air. The collars of the plants kept sodden with wet will soon destroy them: any which are pot-bound, and become accidentally too dry, should be placed in a tank or pail of water, and well soaked till the soil is moistened through.
Amateurs with fruit-structures in their possession often have to turn them to "houses of all work;" - Vines, Peaches, and Figs often have to be grown where plants are in flower, or being grown for room-decoration. Rhubarb, etc., is forced in vineries. This often meets with a measure of success when the principal objects of the structure are kept in view. Much can be done, and is done, both in private and market establishments, by turning the Vines outside of the house, first thoroughly moistening the rods and carefully bending them outside, placing them in a wooden case and packed with straw, or wound round by straw ropes or some other contrivance to keep the Vines dry and protected from the weather. If there is not forcing of plants, Strawberries, Vines in pots, French Beans, or other things requiring heat, the taking out of the Vines is not necessary, as ordinary bedding or greenhouse plants can be kept, and are extensively, when the crop of Grapes is cut and the foliage not close enough to exclude all the light. Of course this practice may be termed a "necessary evil," and the most careful attention is required to keep the house cool, dry, and airy, not to start the Vines prematurely, and at the same time to keep a suitable temperature for the plants.
During the next few months is a good time to prepare for the erection of new vineries and the planting of young Vines. Most practical men do the planting between March and June, either before the young Vines start into growth or when they have grown a little and the soil is warmed by the sun, and growth can go on uninterrupted with little artificial help. Opinions as to time of planting are still in a great measure divided, but both systems have proved very successful. If Vines, which did well once, have of late years done poorly, we would advise that the extremities of the roots should have an examination, and it may be found that they have grown out of the good soil which may have been prepared for them, and are starving in poor sand, or something unsuitable. They should be lifted back till the good soil is found, and good fresh loam placed in the opening at front. If turfy loam cannot be had, some of the best of the garden soil may be taken, and the front of the border filled up with it. It is often a matter of surprise why Vines which have done well in some places for years, have suddenly become infested with mildew, subject to red-spider, the foliage small, fruit inferior, keeping badly, and shanking.
This in very many cases (we could mention many) could be traced to the "active feeders" being far a-field of the fine made border, and not having a chance of getting into good kitchen-garden soil, but finding their way into a miserable subsoil, to starve or rot. Many of the best Grapes in the country are grown from Vines which find their way into good garden-soil, where they can luxuriate at leisure. We give this hint so that amateurs and others who have not the means of getting good loam from old pastures, etc, can have fair success by using good garden-soil placed on suitable drainage, thus keeping the feeders right - as the best applied top-dressing, the most careful watering, and attention to the most ably written calendar, will be labour thrown away if the extreme points of the roots have not pure and wholesome food to feed on. This principle applies to all fruits. M. T