When and how to Sow. Seeds that should Succeed. 1 Everlastings.' Sweet Peas. Ornamental Grasses. Novel Suggestions for Pot Plants.
IT may seem discouraging, but I cannot advise the town gardener to try to raise many of his own bedding plants, or those to make window-boxes and balconies gay. Unless there is a fully-heated greenhouse, which is rare, plants cannot be grown quickly enough from seed to look creditable or bloom early enough.
But it is pleasant to raise additional plants, say for mixed borders, greenhouse and room adornment. Florists will supply all the well-grown ' bedding ' stuff later, when it can be put where it is to grow.
Seed-sowing of most plants is best done in April (except certain tender kinds that May suits better) unless the greenhouse has a temperature of from 50 to 6o° certain. Pans and quite shallow boxes are used, drained first by a few crocks, then by a little old coco-nut fibre refuse, or pulled-to-pieces tussocks of ancient turfs, under the compost. This should be of equal parts of loam and leaf-mould, with a quarter portion of fine silver sand. There may be less sand, and an eighth portion of the finest-chopped, oldest manure in the compost used to transplant most seedlings into.
The sown boxes should be covered by glass, shaded by a little dried moss or white paper, watered by partial immersion only, and kept always level, never slanted. An awkward tilt or shake will send the seeds all together.
Sowing must be carefully done on just damp soil; the covering in should lie lightly, not be pressed hard. (See Chapter V.) The following flower-seeds usually give good results :—
Pansies, snapdragons, lupins (slugs are fond of them), sweet-williams, foxgloves, Canterbury bells, honesty, sweet rocket,- Brompton stocks, Oriental poppies, Iceland poppies, lobelia (dwarf and trailing), French, African, Scotch, and English marigolds, columbines (aquilegias), forget-me-nots, candytufts, sweet alyssum, coloured primroses and cowslips, polyanthuses, asters, stocks, crimson beet, cornflowers, clarkias, convolvulus minor, convolvulus major (climbing), canary creeper, double daisies (Bellis perennis), fuchsias, godetias, gypsophila elegans, annual sunflowers, heliotrope, hollyhocks, kochia tricophylla, larkspurs, sweet-peas, nasturtiums (Tom Thumb, Liliput, even smaller, and the climbing kind), tobacco plants, primula obconica, primula malacoides, Virginian stock, and wallflowers.
Happily, seeds are nearly always sent out with cultural directions on the packets, so all the buyer need do is to order and obtain them early, then sort them into different classes for the different treatments.
There are a few special plants that must have special mention.
The ' everlastings ' that are used for bedding are better bought as young plants in May, but if any are to be raised for gathering the finest are double and single helichrysums. They may be sown under glass in April or May, the seedlings pricked out two inches apart, in larger and deeper boxes, as soon as they are an inch tall; then may very likely require still another shift before they can be planted out in June. If so, the easiest plan is to put each into a tiny pot, then they can be turned out into borders or beds without receiving any check.
Other ' everlastings ' are the annual sea lavenders —statices Bonduelli, yellow, and spicata, pink and white. These may be treated like helichrysums.
Miniature Fairy Roses are easy to raise, and the tiny bushes of single or semi-double, often eventually quite double blossoms, followed by wee red fruits, are very charming for pots, beds, or rockwork. Sow in April, each seed in a two-inch pot; keep moist, shaded, yet as warm as possible.
Phacelia campanularia is a gentian-blue hardy annual, nine inches high, that I recommend for sowing in large pots to stand out of doors. It will succeed sown in good beds, but only if there are no slugs or snails near. Seedlings can be transplanted into window-boxes.
Pots of blue or scarlet flax are pretty. Sow in April or May over surface-soil of pots, keep them in cold frame or greenhouse, thin out the seedlings well, put sticks round the pot edges, and bands of raffia from stick to stick as for freesias, harden off early, and flower out of doors.
To grow sweet-peas in pots, sow five seeds (previously soaked for twelve hours) in a four-inch pot in March. Keep quite moist; give bottom heat, if possible, by plunging pots in manure up to the rims. Reduce the seedlings to three ; pot on these together as the roots require it; use rich compost for the final potting, for which a seven-inch pot is large enough. Feed with liquid manure and fertilizer when buds are forming. Must have ample fresh air. Five seedlings may be permitted to grow on, if preferred, but the flowers will not be as fine.
Ornamental dwarf grasses make elegant pot plants, or may be sown in boxes or borders for gathering. Sow any of the following from March to July ;—
1 ft. Feather Grass (Stipa pennata). 2 ft.
The three first are hardy annuals, and should be thinned out slightly. The last is a hardy perennial. Five seedlings may be grown in a four-inch pot till they flower, then be given a change to a five- or six-inch.
Any of the annual eschscholtzias can be sown over a six-inch pot, thinned out to an inch apart, and flowered in a sunny window, or on outside sills, where their yellow, orange, crimson-and-gold, dark rose, cream, or pale pink masses will be greatly admired.
Pots of the annual bartonia aurea may be similarly grown, reducing seedlings to four in a six-inch pot.
The prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana), which has silvery-grey thistle-like foliage and large cream poppy-shaped flowers, two feet tall, is a charming rarity of easy culture from seed. It looks best flowered as single plants in five-inch pots, but should be sown first three seeds in each small pot, as seedlings might damp off in the larger size.
Dwarf snapdragons are excellent outside window-sill pot plants.
Single China asters and ten-week stocks, phlox Drummondi, and love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena ccelestina) will have time to bloom during summer and autumn, if sown in pots in April and May.
As a last suggestion, the town gardener who wants to make a sensation, should sow blue alkanet, (Anchusa italica, Dropmore variety) in March, three seeds in a* four-inch pot. Sink the pots up to the rims in fresh manure that has stood out for three weeks and been turned over three times, in a deep box ; pot on the three seedlings all together as the pots become filled with roots, till they occupy a nine-inch size, keeping them out of doors in sunshine from early May onwards. With good luck the anchusas should bloom in the same year, but if they do not, they can be housed in cold frames or airy attics, and will be glorious specimens early the following summer. The height is about four feet ultimately, but small specimens blossom. Liquid manure should be given when buds form. The colour is vivid cornflower blue.