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 response to the Editor's solicitation, I venture to detail my treatment of the above; and in doing so, I do not mean to think that I will write anything that will be new to the bulk of your readers, but if it prove of any service to "W. H." and such as he, my purpose will be so far served.
The Cineraria forms a feature in our conservatory for at least five months out of twelve, and they seem to be always acceptable. We remove them from the conservatory as soon as they are nearly done flowering, cut them down at once, and take them to a cool shady situation, behind a wall, where the sun does not see them except in the morning and evening. There they are regularly supplied with water. If young plants are required from the old roots in autumn, they require as much attention in watering as when they were blooming in the conservatory (indeed, any stint of water will make shorter work of their leaves even than the maggot). The plants soon begin to push new leaves, and make nice stools for selecting young plants from in autumn. We divide them as soon as we can get plants. We pot them singly in 3-inch pots. I don't believe in smaller pots, as they are apt to get dry too quickly unless they are plunged. A very good way is to plunge them in ordinary wooden cutting-boxes, where such are at command.
After potting, we place them in a cold pit, keeping them close and shaded until they begin to move again, when air is admitted gradually until the lights are drawn off entirely through the day, putting them on and tilting them well up during the night if the air is not frosty they cannot get too much of it. We keep them in the cold pits as long as there is no danger from very severe frosts. They are afterwards taken to a light airy part of the greenhouse, where they get a shower overhead every fine morning. They are kept in a group by themselves, as many of our other plants in the same structure do not care for a shower in winter. But the Cinerarias are greatly benefited by it; their leaves, as well as their roots, delight in moisture. When the weather admits of sufficient ventilating to dry up the moisture, we do not syringe them if the weather is unfavourable. As soon as flowers begin to develop on them, they are distributed among the other subjects of the conservatory. We always endeavour to shift them when the roots are entering the drainage.
This may be ascertained by placing one hand on the top of the soil in the pot, then turning it bottom upwards and lifting the pot off, replacing it again without disturbing even a crock; it will settle into its pot again by a single rap on the stage. The soil I use is good turfy loam and old hot-bed manure, consisting of half leaves, half stable-manure. We use this and the loam in about equal quantities, adding sufficient river-sand to keep it open. I may add that good drainage is as essential for the Cineraria as for any other class of plants. The above treatment being carefully carried out, we have seldom been troubled with maggot. We keep a very sharp lookout for them, and whenever we see one, we destroy them by placing the forefinger below the leaf, and bringing the thumb nail to bear on them from above, with little, if any, damage to the leaf. By thus checking every appearance, they have never given us much annoyance. We have always abundance of leaves; in fact, we generally thin them. I am of opinion that if something like the foregoing treatment is strictly attended too, pests of every description will give very little trouble.
I have every reason to suppose that the maggot or grub proceeds from the root; therefore, if placed in such circumstances as "W. H," I would turn the whole stock into the rubbish heap, and procure a fresh supply from a clean stock.
In closing this paper, I will say a few words about seedlings; and although we have not yet discarded the named varieties, I must say that the quality of the seedlings we have grown for some years back would compare favourably with the named ones. We sow none but Wetherill's prize strain, procured direct from B. S. Williams. We sow in April and May. Their treatment does not differ in any material point; but they are, if anything, less troublesome, and can be got to flower much earlier than the named sorts; at least, such has been my experience of them. D. I.