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.
MIgnonette is of the most simple and easy culture, but we seldom see it so managed as to look, long, neat, and elegant; while, although it is but a simple flower, it is really kept elegant for a length of time when treated in the following manner: -
First with respect to box or window culture: I get some good compost, such as is usually prepared for vines; or a mixture of good cucumber and melon mould, or rich garden soil, is quite sufficient for the purpose. Instead of sowing the seed, I transplant in the boxes, either from the clumps or border, or from plants previously raised for that purpose, forming only one row along the middle of the box, at four to six inches apart from plant to plant, and pinching off the tops of each as soon as I plant them. If I plant large specimens, which I frequently do very successfully, I pinch all the shoots back to the first joint of each; and as they push fresh shoots, I continue to pinch them all back to the first joint of each shoot, till the box becomes nearly full, or till I think I shall soon require them to be in bloom, when I stop them no longer, and allow them to shoot out for flowering. Still, I occasionally pinch them in so as to keep them in a judicious trim; and frequently thin out many branches, that they may not become too crowded, so as to weaken the plants, or endanger the stems by damping off.
By the above treatment I have had Mignonette, that has been planted early in the spring, kept in fine add vigorous bloom, at the outside of windows, till the end of January.
This season,. I sowed a good deal of this little favorite round the beds and borders, but owing to our cold, wet, clay soil, and the unfavorable season, in many parts it either never came up, or so weak that it dwindled off afterwards; but on some parts of the higher and drier grounds it came up tolerably well, which has given me plenty to transplant at this more favorable season into the less congenial soils, where it had gone off; and by my box treatment it is now promising to do well. Until it gets a proper vigor, I keep picking out the blossom-bnds as soon as I can detect them, or pinch back the shoots, to make them strong, bushy plants. Those I leave after thinning I treat just hi the same manner as the transplanted'ones; so that one single plant only left becomes a much finer specimen than by leaving more. The usual manner of leaving it to ramble where it chooses, and all the plants which spring up from seed, is always disagreeable to the sight; and it soon exhausts itself by rambling seeds and blossom.
Some plants are trained to a single stem, and tied to a stake; and these may be either trained to form into a bushy head at any convenient height, or spurred into the first joint, so as to have them in blossom the whole height of the stem, as far as it may be desired, in which state it is really a very pretty object.