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.
Seedlings of calceolarias, cinnerarias, etc, should be transplanted as early as they can conveniently be handled. Cuttings of most flower-garden plants will form roots readily at this season; but by lifting and potting a few old plants of the different sorts of verbenas, heliotropes, petunias, salvias, etc, and keeping them over winter, they will afford sufficient cuttings to propagate from in the spring. Cuttings rooted then make better and healthier plants, grow more freely, and produce larger flowers; besides the saving of time and labor required in attending to a quantity of young plants in small pots, and the economy of space which they would demand, which can be turned to better account.
Hyacinths and other bulbs should be potted as early as received. Plunge the pots in ashes, sand, or sawdust, covering them a foot deep at least; they will here form a mass of roots with little or no elongation of stem. When taken into the greenhouse (a few at a time), they will flower in a few days after this treatment. Many hardy plants afford bloom in winter, if potted now. Pre-eminent is the Deutzia gracilis; Weigela rosea, spireas, prunifolia pleno, and Reevsii, jasminum nudiflorum, Forsythia viridissima, and small bushes of the Persian lilac, are all well worth potting for early greenhouse flowering. Secure a good stock of monthly flowering carnations. All the greenhouse plants should be gradually hardened, and treated in a manner to perfect their growth. Guard them from wet and excitement at this season, that they may be prepared for the winter.
Before severe frosty weather prevents out-door operations in the ground, it will be useful to secure a quantity of soil for repotting during winter. Select a quantity of surfy sods from old meadows or pasture grounds, and pile them up under cover. All greenhouse plants will grow well in this. In former years, when vague ideas were held in regard to the relations between the soil and its vegetable products, mysterious virtues were ascribed to certain complicated mixtures of manures and composts. These mixtures are not at present held in such estimation; the intelligent florist looks upon soil as a medium for conveying nourishment, where the roots have presented to them the various gases from which they derive their principal food. To be available for the use of vegetation, soils should not only possess all the ingredients of fertility, in a chemical sense, but its physical condition (its relation to air and water) should also be of a nature to allow a free admission of air to all its parts, and be favorable to the extension and ramification of roots. Fibry soil, such as is derived from decomposed sods, presents all these conditions in an eminent degree.
The vegetable matter in which they abound insures porosity, and, as it gradually decays, a constant supply of food is liberated in the immediate vicinity of the roots. The principal care required in the general management at this time, is to guard against excitement. Air may be given freely, and watering must be cautiously conducted. Discriminate between those plants that have completed their growth, and now require a season of rest, and those that are still growing or coming into flower. The latter will require a more constant supply of water than the former. There is no operation in the management of plants in pots that demands more judgment than supplying them judiciously with water; and so varied are their requirements of this element, that no definite rules can be given to be universally applicable.
Spring flowering bulbs are a great attraction in a greenhouse, and their management a simple matter. About September, the bulbs, having for some time previous been dormant and dry, should be repotted, and set up on the shelf, water being applied in increased quantities as they proceed in growth. Early in spring, they will be in flower. Towards the end of summer they will lose their foliage, and rest for a period, and undergo a similar routine of treatment. Lachenalias, Ixias, Babianas, Sparaxis, Alstromerias, Hes-peranthas, and Oxalis, are the kinds alluded to.
The management of the atmosphere, with regard to ventilation and humidity, will now be an important consideration. In artificial temperatures there are, constantly, numerous counteracting agencies at work, destroying the natural purity of the air, either by the formation of injurious gases, or extraction of moisture; the latter was a frequent, unsuspected cause of failure. There are few houses supplied with a hygrometer, although it is as much necessary as a thermometer, the proper balancing of the atmosphere, with regard to moisture, being equally important to the health of plants as the degrees of heat and cold.
Extraction of moisture is the principal cause of disarrangement in the atmosphere. As the temperature rises, the capacity of the air for containing moisture increases, and if not supplied by other means, this water will be extracted from the plants. The amount of water carried into the air will be seen by the deposition of ice on the inner surface of the glass after a frosty night. Shallow pans containing water, should be kept on the flues or hot-water pipes; for, although the latter radiate heat at a lower temperature than brick flues, they supply no moisture. The common say that " pipes gives out a moist heat," has no foundation in truth.
The proper application of water is of great moment in the cultivation of pot-plants. The Tell-Tale pot noticed in the last number will be a useful indicator, although very porous or absorbent pots are not by any means desirable so far as cultivation is concerned.
It is a good general rule never to apply water to a plant until it is dry. The difficulty, however, is in knowing when a plant really requires water; and simple as it may seem, this knowledge can only be acquired by practical and studied observation; and without it the highest degree of cultivation cannot be attained. There are a few general rules which it may be useful to recapitulate. Watering should always be done in the early portion of the day. There arc various important reasons for this practice that we cannot now enumerate or fully explain. Plants in small pots, with a system of thick matted roots, will require much water; in this case it is hardly possible to hurt by too much water, if the plant is in a growing state. Let this plant be removed into a larger pot, and the fresh soil will act as a reservoir, and will obviate the necessity for frequency of the waterings. As growth increases and the roots extend into the soil, they will suck up more moisture, and consequently will require more frequent applications. Plants with narrow or small foliage require less water than those with large spreading leaves. During the period of growth, there should be a regular and constant supply, as they are very sensible of any check at this period.
When the weather is damp and dull, the leaves perspire very slowly; there is little lost by evaporation from their surfaces, consequently there is less absorption by the roots. The application of water when properly understood, is the most powerful controlling influence which we possess in the artificial management of plants.
The plants will now be arranged for winter, and discrimination must be given in their treatment. The structure should be well aired during mild and quiet weather, using no fire heat until absolutely necessary. Many of the plants are now in a state of rest. Camellias, Azaleas, Daphnes, Epacris, and many other spring-flowering plants that have now completed their growth, and are well provided with flower buds, should not receive any excitement. A cool, airy situation should be chosen for them in the house, and only watered enough to prevent injury from drying of the roots. By arranging the above principally at the end of the house farthest from the source of heat, and opening the ventilators chiefly at that point, they will be under the best conditions, and the opposite end of the house being kept warmer, will be a congenial position for the young Calceolarias, Geraniums, Cinnerarias, etc.; and here also, should be placed such as are now, or shortly will be, in flower, as Chinese Primrose, Linum Trigynuin, Lechenaultia Formosa, Coronilla Glauca, Oxalis, Epiphyllums, Habrothamnus, Cestrum, Begonias, Cupheas, Heliotropes, Salvias, etc.
With such a list there need be no want of floral ornament: •
" Unconscious of a less propitious clime,-There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug, While the winds whistle, and the snows descend".
Bulbous roots of Hyacinths, Narcissus, Crocus, etc, for pot culture, should be planted at once; let the pots be well drained, and use light, rich soil. The pots should then be set in a sheltered corner, and covered about a foot over with sand, coal ashes, or soil, covering with boards to throw off heavy rains. Here they may remain for a few weeks to form roots, which they will speedily do, and will flower more perfectly when taken into the house. This method provides a growth of roots previous to exciting the tops, and although it would have been better to have potted a month earlier, there is still ample time to provide for a full display of flowers in the green-house, during February and March-That - Country life. Man in Cold and in Tropical countries.
On turning into the Harrow road and entering the newer parts of the city, we notice several elegant little greenhouses about twenty feet square, tucked in between the buildings and filled with plants in bloom. These are the retail furnishing florists. After riding about half an hour we pull up before the establishment of a wholesale florist. On entering the gate we find a light span-roof house filled with fine plants in full bloom. The variety is not so great as one would expect, but the plants look remarkably healthy and strong. An hour's walk and talk in this place shows that, as far as the general carrying on of the business is concerned, there is nothing new or specially valuable. In many details of culture improvements on our own methods were visible. The greenhouses were nearly all span-roofed, and appeared to have grown up around the proprietor's house in a confused and inconvenient fashion. The mode of heating was entirely by hot water, and presented several features of interest. The space occupied is eight acres, and is located in the midst of brick houses. About half the land is covered with glass. The number of plants on hand seemed to be, roughly speaking, about one hundred thousand. They were nearly all ready for sale.
Many of the houses and frames, both hot and cold, were empty, the stock having been sold.