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.
I think the details of my plan likely to be interesting to any one, who, like myself, is fond of raising Pelargoniums from seed; and those who have not yet attempted to do so may be led to try the experiment from a perusal of the rules of the simple but sure way by which I get a nice lot of young plants from good seed. I find that if the raiser selects his seed from some good varieties, he may reasonably expect some good things, and possibly a few real novelties; but be sure that it does come from good varieties, and that the seed is fully ripened. If you have no plants from which to get seed good enough for your purpose, you can hardly fail to obtain some from your nurseryman.
Now for the mode in which I sow my seed. I take some 48-sized pots, and put in them a few crocks, and a few rough lumps of turfy loam for drainage, then a few smaller pieces by which to fill up the pots to within 3 inches of the rim: then for a suitable soil in which to place the seeds, I mix together a little loam, leaf-mould, and silver-sand, and either finally pulverise it with the hands, or sift it through a fine riddle. I then fill up the pots with this mixture to within half an inch of the rim, and give them a rap or two on the potting bench to settle the soil; then I add a thin layer of silver-sand, and slightly water the pots through a very fine rose watering - pot; then sprinkle a little more sand on whilst the soil is moist, and allow them to stand two or three hours ere I sow. Meanwhile I select the seeds to be sown, and these I pick out separately and lay them on a piece of paper ready to hand, so that they can be picked up singly. Now I take a small stick about the size of a penholder, pointed at one end, and in the soil I make small holes about half an inch in depth, beginning with a circle about half an inch from the rim of the pot, and so add circles till the space is covered with them.
Those who grow Pelargoniums know well that the seeds have each a kind of minute silvery feather at one end of them. I take each seed by this feature and place it in an upright position in the hole, holding the feathery part in the hand as in the act of planting cuttings, and allowing it to project from the soil. Each pot of the size named takes about forty seeds, and when all are planted the soil is settled about the seeds by a slight sprinkle from the watering-pot. Now each pot looks as if I had stuck a lot of very small feathers in the sand instead of seeds. I place the pots on a shelf in the greenhouse, and in about a fortnight's time I can perceive rising up from the base of the little silvery feather the tiniest green leaves. The leafage is very pretty indeed at this stage, and it is extremely interesting to watch their development, as some have pale golden leaves, some light-green, and some dark-green leaves, with a distinct dark zone traced on them. I have, at the time I write, several pots of seedlings presenting a singular variation of leaf-marking.
I find it very necessary to guard against the attacks of mice. They have decided' floral tastes, as I have discovered to my cost; they are extremely fond of devouring the seeds, and with them the chances of obtaining either plants or novelties.
Now for my experiences with seeds taken from certain varieties. I planted one pot with seeds obtained from Amy Hogg, one of Mr W. Paul's Nosegays; and, as far as I can judge of the appearance of the leaves at present, they show at least four distinct types. From Forget-me-not, a pretty and useful pink-blooming zonal, I have some plants having dark-green leaves with a dark zone like the parent, and some leaves with a pure golden surface. From Mons. Reudatler some fine zonal leaves may be expected, even if the flowers are worthless. In the early part of the summer of 18G9 I planted out in the margin of a vine-border two rows of seedlings of my own raising, and in several instances the decided character of the leaf-marking was of a very interesting character; and some of the plants produced really good flowers. From these I selected several kinds that promise to make good bedders, and I shall propagate them for the purpose, and so thoroughly test their properties and bedding qualities.
Supposing I get no decided novelties, I would on no account miss the enjoyment that the raising of seedlings always affords. It is deeply interesting to watch the opening flowers, and to note how they vary in character from the parent type, alike in the shape and colour of the blossoms, and in the shape and marking of the leaves.
I have now to add that I sow the seed in August or the first week in September. George Venner.
The Grove Gardens, Hamvell, W.