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.
The Zonale geranium is one of the most popular of our bedding plants, and deservedly a favorite. They are strong and healthy growers and stand our dry summers well, continually in bloom from June until November. Comprising a variety of colors; white, salmon, rose, crimson, scarlet, etc. There is no sight more effective than a large bed filled with the different kinds in full blossom. I had the pleasure of seeing such a bed, containing nearly one hundred varieties, in the grounds of Peter Henderson, the celebrated florist, a few summers ago, and it was a sight to be remembered. A bed of the scarlet varieties planted in the midst of a green lawn, can rarely be excelled for beauty and brilliancy, fairly dazzling the beholder.
There were fifty varieties of geraniums blossomed in my garden last summer, and as I had a good opportunity of judging of their merits, I will give a list of twenty-five, which comprises the best of the collection:
Light Colors. Aurora, cherry pink; Beaton's Perfection, bright pink; Helen Lindsey, deep carmine pink ; Maid of Kent, richest shade pink ; Mons. Bar re, rosy pink; Marie L'Albe, white, rosy pink center; Philomena, white, salmon center; Bridal Beauty, white banded rose; Bicolor, white, salmon rose; Glorie de Corbenay, salmon pink ; Belle Helene, salmon pink; Aurantia Strianta, orange salmon.
Scarlet, etc. General Grant, dazzling scarlet; Union, light scarlet, white eye; Hector, light dazzling scarlet; Glow, bright scarlet; Donald Beaton, light dazzling scarlet; Successful, orange scarlet; Regalia, bright rose; Rosamond, bright rose ; Fire King, rich scarlet; Sheen's Rival, scarlet, ornamental foliage; Dr. Newham, pink rose, ornamental foliage; Paul L'Albe, pinkish crimson; Little Dorret, salmon rose, white eye; a variety fine for center of hanging baskets.
The Gold and Silver variegated geraniums comprise some of the most beautiful of the family, whose wonderful markings are a triumph of the horticultural art. But there is one sad drawback connected with them ; that these beautiful colors will not stand one hot, dry summer, and though they are a striking ornament in the parlor or conservatory, they are not effective in the flower garden. There were but two among the twenty varieties, bedded out last summer, that did well, but they were very fine and paid well for the disappointment in regard to the others. The Mountain of Snow grew as vigorously as any of the Zonales, and retained the variegation of its foliage during the hottest weather, and the Bronze Queen did nearly as well. The Mountain of Snow makes an effective edging for a foliage bed, of which more anon.
The varieties, Mrs. Pollock, Sunset and Cloth of Gold, make a fine pot plant, whose wonderfully marked leaves form a beautiful ornament for the drawing-room, and no person should be without them. They also look well and do finely as a center to a hanging basket, when it is hung in a shady situation..
The novelty of the past few seasons has been the double-flowering geraniums. They are universally admitted to be far superior to all the other varieties, and though still held at high prices, a few should be in every collection. They are of vigorous growth, with rich, green foliage, bearing trusses of from forty to eighty blossoms; each stem forming a bouquet, They stand the hot weather well, blooming as freely in the garden as the greenhouse, and have one decided advantage which makes them valuable for florists, that they do not shed their petals as soon as cut, as most of the other geraniums do. The following are the best varieties:
A dark scarlet, vigorous branching habit; truss of extraordi-nary size, contains from sixty to eighty flowrets.
Rich shade scarlet, very full and double.
Bright rosy carmine, of fine form ; larger than Glorie de Nancy..
Bright cherry carmine, habit compact.
Bright rosy pink, large truss, very double, free bloomer. The queen of the doubles and the admiration of every one.
Those who have a collection of gold, silver and bronze leaved geraniums, and at planting mix them indiscriminately with other bedding plants in the ridiculous form of stripes, centers, edges, etc., know not the excellent appearance that a bed of these would present when massed together in the flower garden. A bed containing several varieties of the newest and most approved Zonales and Pelargoniums on the grounds that I have charge of, elicits admiration from those that are well posted on horticulture;, various shades of foliage are represented, such I as gold, silver, . bronze, pure green, and variegated, with a host of the striped and deeply zoned kinds.
Then the arrangement of planting is simple and very attractive; the bed is edged with the gold and silver kinds, they being kept dwarf for the purpose, then rows of various other kinds run aiound the circle from side to center. The aspect of this bed in bloom is enchanting; numerous strong and vigorous peduncles emerge from between the rich foliage bearing trusses of blossoms of all the desirable colors. The masses of fiery red, orange, scarlet, carmine, crimson, yellow, and pure white blossoms reflecting their beautiful colors on the rich varied foliage, is a sight to dazzle the eyes of the beholders.
The geranium suffers considerably when removed from the open ground to pots in the fall; the roots not being bushy, they sever from the soil very easily; the consequence is, that the foliage partly or nearly all withers, and it will take them the biggest part of winter to recover their foliage, whereas, if transferred successfully from the beds to winter quarters, their growth would not receive the least noticeable check, and we may look to that department for abundance of gorgeous blossoms during the winter months. My horticultural friends are astonished at my successes in transferring geraniums from the open ground into pots, but they were ignorant of the mode I practiced to insure success. The method is simply this: holes being made the necessary depth to receive the plants, place on the bottom of each hole a piece of tough sod fresh from the pasture; on removing from the pots scrape from the base of the ball a portion of the soil and place the lower roots naked on the sod, press the soil tightly around, the roots will penetrate the sod and the plants will flourish during summer, and in fell there will be no difficulty experienced in removing them to the house or greenhouse.
Plants of this kind intended for winter blooming should be dwarfed or cut back a month or six weeks before the time of their removal; this will enable the plants to force young branches that will, under judicious treatment, bloom the coming December.
Prominent among the many colors and varieties in my geranium bed is the new double white species, "Aline Sisley." Those who have seen it pronounce it the best variety added to the Pelargonium family for years. It was received by me last Feb. among a package of others from Peter Henderson's greenhouses, Jersey City Heights. I have watched its progress diligently and find it possesses pecularities similar to none of the older kinds; a gardener friend suggested his preference to it in foliage to any of the other varieties in bloom. In pot it presents the appearance of a pyramidal growing very dwarf and compact, a very picture of neatness and simplicity not to be excelled by anything of the kind we have yet seen. Branching directly above the surface it makes more progress in circumference than in height; the lower leaves have a tendency to droop, nearly resting on the rim of the pot, almost concealing the entire surface. From the second lower layer the leaves bend gently upward and close in a mass at the top. The leaves of this variety are thick, tough, and slightly serrated at the edges, veins are numerous on the under side of the leaf, strong and thick, only branching when they near the edges.
More than one-half the leaves' surface is deeply marked with a broad, dark brown colored zone, leaving a center and margin of the purest green. The flower stem makes its way out boldly from among the mass of compact foliage, bearing a large tuft of buds perfectly double and of snowy whiteness. This species is a valuable addition to the Pelargonium family; its utility for outdoor bedding or indoor decoration could not be over estimated; it is yet destined to occupy a prominent place in every floral collection. I will, ere the summer is over, take another look at my geranium bed and note the points of interest tor The Horticulturist.
W. 0. Strong & Co. introduced a new Zonale Geranium. Sir Robert Napier a very distinct variety; also, Thalictrum adiantoides, an elegant plant of which the leaf fronds are of exquisite beauty, rivaling the Maiden flair Fern. This must prove a valuable plant.