AT present the culture of flowers in the school garden is, generally speaking, in its infancy; yet undoubtedly, with the widening of this important branch of school work, flowers will receive the attention which undeniably is due to them. Apart from the floral charm and pleasure that are associated with the culture of our commonest garden flowers there is an additional value inasmuch as these furnish the Nature lessons with ample material for plant study. In the flower plot the scholar may observe the plant accomplishing its life history and to a certain extent he is able to control the conditions of its growth. Both in America and Germany such gardens have clearly demonstrated their value as educational adjuncts and the benefits realised are available for girls as well as boys.
Except in those school gardens which command especially favourable supplies, the flower border must be content with Hardy Annuals. Yet even with these it is possible to develop a pleasing spectacle of floral beauty. Wherever it is practicable,the border should have a situation to itself, so that there is no interference with the culture of the vegetable crops. However, in many instances the annuals will be sown at one end of the plots and although the effect is not comparable with that obtained from a wider border the result is good. If a long strip, about two yards wide, be available it will be possible to establish herbaceous plants. Consequently propagation by division and cuttings may be demonstrated. Carnations, Pinks, Phloxes, and Chrysanthemums may be grown; bulbs may be introduced, so that a monthly procession of blossoms is secured. Such an endeavour, commendable as it is, lies, possibly, beyond the power of the average school garden.
The culture of Hardy Annuals may appear a very easy matter, and so it is if it is carried out carefully ; often the grower presumes on the hardiness of these plants. As with the culture of all plants preliminary operations are demanded, and consequently the soil must be carefully prepared, manured, and made fine in texture. The seeds should be sown thinly and covered with soil to a depth of about half an inch, more or less according to the size of seed. When the seedlings appear, they must be thinned so that each commands ample space for development both above and below ground.
A selection of annuals suitable for the school flower border may include Candytuft, Coreopsis, Linum, Lupin, Mignonette, Nasturtium, Nemophila, Shirley Poppy, Sunflower, and Sweet Peas. In arranging the relative positions of these plants in the border due attention must be given to height of plant, habit of growth, and colour of flower. The culture of each of these annuals should be conducted along the lines laid down in the general culture notes given.
These beautiful and easily grown flowers lend themselves pre-eminently to the decoration of the border. They are best grown in clumps for this purpose, and a pleasing effect is secured if the clumps be arranged alternately with tall-growing Sunflowers. The stations must be prepared in autumn and the soil must be worked to a depth of two to three feet. At the base a layer of well-decayed manure should be placed and the hole is then filled with fine, friable soil. In mild localities the seeds may be sown outdoors in September or October, but generally the sowing must be deferred until March. The seeds should be placed at least four inches apart, and where exceptionally strong plants are desired, one and a half feet is not too much to allow the plants. When the seedlings are about four inches high thin twigs should be fixed beside them so that the tendrils may secure a hold and thus prevent the plant from falling to the ground. Later, strong hazel sticks must be obtained for staking, and a mulch of manure should be placed on the soil round the plants in order to conserve moisture.
It may be found possible to introduce a few Biennials into the border in order to supplement the Annuals. Of these, Wallflower, Canterbury Bell, Evening Primrose, and Sweet William present themselves as suitable subjects for culture. Sowings in beds may take place in March with due attention to the cultural notes given under Annuals ; the plants are moved out to the border when required. These come into flower in the second year of growth, hence sowings are made annually in order to secure plants for the following year.