This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
G. T. The cooler your Azaleas are kept through the winter, so that frost be kept out of the house, the better. So also, your geraniums; and it is wonderful how little water the latter require if a low temperature is kept, by which they will be infinitely benefitted when set to work in spring.
It is the prevailing opinion that these plants should have shade in their summer quarters. Our experience of several years with them is, that they bloom much better if placed out of doors in the full sun. If kept in pots, the pots should be plunged; care being taken to raise them up a little, as often as once a month, to break off any roots that may have grown through the bottom of the pots. Young plants will grow with much vigor, and soon make fine specimens, if they are turned out of their pots into the ground as soon as the frosts are over in the spring. A mulching of short grass from the lawn mowings will keep the ground moist, and prevent injury to the roots from dry weather in July or August. One of our best growers of the Azalea informs us, that it has been his practice to turn out into beds all his plants, both large and small. When lifted in the fall, they came up with large balls of earth completely filled with roots, and suffered not a particle by being again put into pots. The soil should be well mixed with leaf mold from the woods, if possible.
There is no plant grown that will give more satisfaction, either for culture in rooms or the green-house; and if well cared for, its beauty increases with its age.
Lawns all during this month should be frequently mown and rolled; but as the regular period of seed-forming and comparative rest to the grass approaches, the lawn should be mown only when it is apparent the roots are about to send up flower or seed stems. Too frequent mowing in dry hot weather in our climate has rendered many a lawn bare in spots, or brought us false coarse grasses.
Judging from the large lists of new plants and flowers to be sent out, this season will be a busy one for all amateur and professional gardeners. Floricultural committees will have to keep themselves well posted, or they may find their knowledge of little value on days of exhibition.
The catalogues of European nurserymen contain long lists of new varieties of this beautiful shrub. The tender Chinese azaleas are far better known in this country than the hardy species. This is to be regretted, inasmuch as the hardy sorts may be grown by every one, and not be confined to those whose circumstances allow them to build costly green-houses for the purpose of growing tender exotics. We shall not attempt the naming of the best foreign varieties, but merely call the attention of our readers to this most beautiful class of shrubs. Even our own country furnishes a great variety, and by a little care in the selection, a splendid collection may be obtained from our woods and fields. We have found varieties of every shade of color, from the purest white to the darkest purple, and we have experienced no difficulty in making the plants live when removed from their localities in the open fields to the garden. Those who are seeking for choice ornamental shrubs should not overlook the native azaleas.
Mrs. T. W. Ward exhibited two single specimens - Standard Azaleas, Princess Mary of Cambridge and pelargoniflora - the first one receiving the Silver Medal for the best single specimen. These plants were grown on a single stem, some four feet high, from which branched out a handsomely trained head, at least three feet across, in full flower, well intermixed with luxuriant foliage. The effect was very fine, and these are probably the best standard Azaleas that have been exhibited.
The early flowered Azaleas, which have finished blooming, should have the seed-pods pinched off, and be placed either in a forcing house or warm part of the greenhouse, and well syringed two or three times each day to induce a free growth; see that the, ball of soil is not allowed to get dry, or the growth will be weak, and some of the plants will die; in fact, allowing the plants to get very dry is the cause of more deaths among Heaths and Azaleas than anything, besides it is astonishing the number of waterings required to soak through a thoroughly dry ball of roots; in fact, in some cases, it is difficult to moisten it at all, without placing the plants in a tub of water; it is especially so if the plants are grown in the light peaty leaf mould so generally used by the Belgian and German florists. We have soaked plants from six-inch pots in a tub of water for twenty-four hours, and then found the center of the ball dry; this was the case with fresh imported plants.
The early varieties which have been kept warm will be coming into flower, and may be placed in a cooler part of the house; but not in a draught. The flowers will last longer when cut, and also on the plants. The old variety, called Anioena, is a very nice little compact sort for early blooming. We have it in flower by the middle of October in a warm house. Give all the plants at rest a thorough washing with soap, sulphur and tobacco water, as previously recommended, if not already done, and place a few more plants in heat to succeed those coming into flower.' Give the plants a good soaking of water when required, and keep the plants required to bloom at Easter as cool as possible.