From the end of August to the end of September is the best time for this country. The cuttings should be from plants that flowered the previous spring, and if the plants had been kept the previous two weeks rather dry so much the better. When you cut the plant down for cuttings don't be afraid; cut it down to within three inches of the pot. Don't look for eyes, as you would on a zonal; there will be any number of eyes breaking from the stems that you saw no signs of. Any part of the wood will root; the young, tender tops or the firmer parts. Make the cuttings with two eyes, one above and one below the sand. They will root in soil readily, as we do our geraniums, but 1 prefer to put them in sand, either in the bed or in flats. Keep only moderately moist, and after the first few days very little or no shade is needed.
In five or six weeks they will be ready to put into 2 1/2-inch pots and should be grown on in a very light, airy house. From the time they start to grow in the small pots they should be encouraged by a light, warm, but well ventilated house, to grow as fast as possible. They will soon take a 4-inch pot, previous to which they should have had their tops pinched out. This pinching, or stopping, after they have made about three or four eyes of growth above the cutting is enough. If a larger plant is wanted they can be pinched again in January or February, but they will be later in flower. I shall pause here to say that this fall treatment is the most important. We leave our zonal geraniums in 2-inch pots till after New Year's, and if they get hard and somewhat stunted no matter; but the show pelargoniums want the opposite treatment; grow them on as fast as you can without forcing in a moist heat.
I do not like to advocate anything so antiquated as a shelf, but nevertheless it is a fact that pelargoniums will make a better, stouter, more thrifty growth during winter on a shelf near the glass than on any bench I have ever seen them grown on. I don't attribute any advantage to the fact that on a shelf they are nearer the light, but I do realize that on the shelf they get a purer, warmer and altogether better circulation of air, and that is why these and many other plants show a great improvement when raised up on a shelf. By January they will be stout plants with several side shoots, and before the end of the month should be shifted into their flowering pots, 5-inch or 6-inch; no more is needed. During spring they will grow very fast.
In watering they are like the geraniums; during dark, cloudy, cold weather they need little water, but in the bright and warmer days of spring they will take plenty. Avoid wetting the leaves if the weather is damp and cool.
The soil should be a good, coarse, turfy loam, with a fourth or fifth of decayed manure, and when they are in 5-inch or 6-inch pots, or larger, give them a crock and piece of moss for drainage, as they never want a wet, soggy soil. From a 4-inch to their flowering pot they should be always potted quite firmly; this is a matter of great importance.
Pelargoniums will thrive in a very cool house during winter. I would say that from the middle of November to the first of March 45 degrees at night was just what suited them, and 50 degrees at night by fire heat is enough at any time. The principal thing to avoid is dampness, and in May, when in bloom, if we get a cold, wet spell, especially if there is a shade on the house, you must drive out the dampness by fire heat or you will lose the blooms.
Nothing troubles them but aphis, but unlike the common geraniums they are much troubled with it and must be constantly and regularly fumigated. Tobacco does not hurt them in the least, so there is no excuse for their being injured by greenfly.
The old plants that were cut down in September should be kept in the full light, but quite dry for two or three weeks; by that time they will have made a great many small shoots or breaks from the ripened wood. When the growth is quite small, say in three weeks from time you cut them down, shake off all the soil, shorten back the long roots, and repot in a size smaller pot than they were growing in, and start growing with the same treatment as you give the young plants. These old plants need not be stopped or pinched at all, and if kept growing in a light, warm house, can be had in flower by April 1. They can be used as one of our Easter plants, although there are many other plants that are to be preferred.
Pelargoniums can be rooted during winter most easily, but except where you are short of some variety there is no need of it, as you get plenty of stock when cutting down the plants in September.
There has been a great improvement in the pelargonium the last thirty years, and what is known as the regal type, almost a semi-double with fringed petals, is very handsome, but not so easily grown and flowered as the older type.
It is difficult to find a list of varieties published in any of our florists catalogues, showing that these plants have been supplanted in popular favor by many less worthy of a fine name and long description; and it is the great beauty and grand qualities of the zonal geraniums that have done this.
Of the show flowers we recall: Crimson King, an early red; Gen. Taylor, same color, but brighter and an improvement; Desdemona, an early, free flowering white; Lord Clyde, scarlet, with maroon blotch; Retreat, rose, white center.
Of the semi-double flowers some of the best known are: Capt. Raikes, bright crimson; Dr. Masters, dark maroon; Maid of Kent, white, spotted rose; Queen Victoria, orange carmine, white edges; Madame Thibaut, white ground, richly marbled with rose, a very free and beautiful variety; Mrs. Sandiford is identical in habit, but a fine semi-double white.
The fancy pelargoniums have smaller leaves and smaller flowers, but borne in the greatest profusion. The plants have a neat, compact habit, and we have found them to be grand window plants. They want a little higher temperature than the show section. The best time to propagate them is in January or February from the young growths, when they root most easily and will make small flowering plants the same summer. They want less drying off when cutting back in August, and don't cut them as severely as the larger growing kinds. The fancy section has a longer period of flowering. They are most desirable plants and there is of late a returning taste for them.
There are innumerable varieties, but I am not acquainted with the newer ones except the grand variety Bridesmaid, which with many is called the pansy geranium; upper petals lavender, lower white. It is a most beautiful plant and we frequently see them in the windows of the village home flowering for months. Any of the fancy flowers are fine and the few varieties of the other sections mentioned are merely what I remember; there are hundreds of varieties.
As a bedding plant the pelargonium is of no use, but as a market plant, to be sold to those whose gardening is confined to the window, it must again come into popular favor.
Tree Peony Queen Elizabeth.
A Nursery Block of Peony Festiva Maxima.