This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The advent of the spring catalogues has jogged my memory. We are on the eve of another battle and I have never reported the last engagement. And, although it may look suspiciously like a last-year's bird's-nest, it is barely possible there are still "eggs in last year's nest".
I haven't nearly as many grievances to report as usual. Having learned wisdom and caution, I didn't try to compete with Baltimore on Cal-adiums, or California on big trees, under the alluring name of " dwarf pink salvias." I am, consequently, in a happier frame of mind than when I last poured my sorrows into the sympathetic bosom of the Monthly, and got properly rebuked for my impertinence in venturing to have an opinion concerning certain "magnificent " things. Will the Editor be so gracious as to look the other way while I reach across the distance and touch palms with "Virginian?" I am ready to bear my share of the drubbing administered to that luckless individual, but am not ready to take back a word. So long as the good Editor did not wield the axe, I'm not a bit scared. " Correspondents" don't amount to much,-aren't I one?
The drought of the past summer, coupled with the damage caused by the severity of the preceding winter, made garden-making rather up-hill work. When one loses, as did the writer, such supposed-to-be-reliable things as Lilium candidum, L. longi-florum, Yucca filamentosa, Hollyhocks, Aquilegia chrysantha, Adlumia, and even Lobelia cardinalis-our well known cardinal flower - it very seriously affects the foundation of things. The only satisfactory thing about it was that Galtonia (Hyacinthus) also went by the board. I was reading an advertisement, not long since, of that delectable plant, in which the blossoms were represented as being "exquisitely fragrant,"etc.; and "specially suitable for bouquets." Any one who has ever grown it, knows how very wide of the truth are both statements. There is, however, a Cape bulb which is not at all common, and though not entitled to a very long list of adjectives in its description, it is worth, for beauty and usefulness both, ten times as much as Galtonia can ever be; save, possibly, as a large clump in a shrubbery border.
The bulb alluded to is Montbretia Pottsi. The foliage resembles the Gladiolus, only being much more dwarf in every way, and the flowers are borne on long, graceful spikes of from fifteen to twenty blooms.
They are about an inch and a quarter long, lily-shaped, and of a peculiar waxy appearance. In color they are of a rich red outside, showing a tinting of deep yellow in the throat. They are very pretty and graceful for bouquets, but are not fragrant. The bulbs increase with the most astonishing rapidity, and each a strong bulb. They are about the size of a walnut, throw up three or more spikes in succession, the season of bloom continuing about two months.
Among new annuals, the double Gaillai dia is the most satisfactory of anything I have seen for years. It is so entirely different from the type, it hardly seems possible it could have been evolved from it. It was new in my locality last year, and the subject of much inquiry and admiration. Its habit of growth is also good, which is, to my mind, a great point in favor of any plant.
I tried the Polyantha roses, three sorts of them, and admired them greatly. Mignonette is the best grower, and the clusters of bloom are larger, though the individual flowers are smaller. But they are so exquisitely beautiful, the soft blush tipped at the edges with rarest crimson, and they last long in beauty, clusters of a dozen and upwards keeping in full beauty for more than two weeks. Mme. Montravel has larger flowers, but their pearly whiteness is marred before the end of a week. Cecile Brunner is of a lovely salmon pink at opening, but fades quickly, and had not, with me, nearly as large panicles of bloom. They are a novel and interesting group of roses, and well deserving of attention. I note with pleasure the introduction of a new yellow sort, which must be a great acquisition.
I am growing more and more pleased each year with the single Dahlias. Being grown with equal facility from seeds or tubers, and coming into flower as early as most annuals (July 1st), I think they are destined to a great and growing popularity. From their profusion of bloom they are one of the most showy ornaments of the garden for three months or more. For bouquets, I know of hardly any other flower, after June, that is so striking and pretty.
Among the noticeable things of recent introduction, the small single sunflower, " Oscar Wilde," is worthy of mention. I had one plant that deserved to have its biography embalmed among other good things in the pages of the Monthly. Although said to be more dwarf in growth than the old sorts, this particular plant grew to be over eight feet in height, and so regularly and finely branched that it was about the same in breadth at the top. The foliage was small and the flowers ranged in diameter from two and a half to four inches, probably three inches being the average. It began flowering about the middle of July, and at no time was there less than twenty-five, and oftener twice that number of blooms on it at once. A sudden wind-squall broke it down early in September, and it had then over twenty buds and blossoms, with every promise of as many more. It is, perhaps, unnecessary for me to say that it had liberal treatment, and was well supplied with water. To those who have never grown it, I desire to recommend for any situation, where a vigorous climber is required, Ipomcea grandiflora, or noctophyton - I am not sure which is its proper name.
Its luxuriant habit of growth is a perpetual surprise and delight, and when to its glossy foliage is added its great, starry, white flowers, it is indeed superb.
. Among the newer Tea roses I am greatly pleased with Mad. Joseph Schwartz. It is of a vigorous and healthy habit of growth; the flower is of good size and of a perfect cupped form, and is exceedingly fragrant. The color is a very delicate blush, the edges of the petals stained and tipped with carmine. It is one of the loveliest of its class.
I notice in the report of the discussion on roses, at the weekly meeting of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society of December 29th, 1883, that there was a general agreement as to the need of replanting rose-beds as often as once in two or three years, either by setting out new plants or by a complete renovation of the beds, so that they have an entirely fresh soil. It was the general testimony of all these rose experts that it was very little use to try to compromise the matter by even the most liberal enriching of the old soil.
Now, I submit that this is a terribly disheartening piece of intelligence. What with aphis and thrips, and rose-bugs and red spiders, and worms of high and low degree, and every degree of voracity, the average amateur doesn't get his rose-bed fairly established in two years. If, then, they have all to be "roused" out of bed and put into cold sheets, or somebody else put into their warm place, one might as well give up the battle and done with it.
Do the readers of the Monthly grow Salvia and Nierembergia from cuttings, I wonder? I have done so in previous seasons, but last season tried seeds. I shall never grow them from cuttings again. Plants from seeds of both the above, sown the middle of March, began blooming by the tenth of July. They were of much more vigorous growth and better form. I took care to train them in the way they should go, and had three times as many flowers as any I ever grew from cuttings.
A word about Chrysanthemums, and I am done. I caught the epidemic bearing that name, now going the rounds, and had a severe attack last autumn. I like it, too, and hope to have it some more. If any reader of this has not seen the " new departure " in this old-time flower, he has missed a rich treat, and should repair his mistake by investing in a choice dozen. But, there is a "fly in the ointment," and in this case it is a black fly - yea, flies, millions of them! I syringed with tobacco water outside and dusted with snuff indoors. But this was only a temporary relief. A score came to each one's funeral. Can anyone give me a better method of treatment? Because I must have the Chrysanthemums.