How to grow Violets in Borders and Frames. Carnations, Double Primroses. Ranunculuses.
VIOLETS may be grown, in absolute perfection, in frames not only'within sound of Bow Bells,' but within sight of the Tower of London. So no town-dweller need complain of 1 the impossibility of growing anything.' But there are thousands of gardens in environs of cities in which violets flourish in the borders, so we will start by planning their culture.
The two best sorts to begin with are the Czar, the well-known rich violet-blue, and Princess of Wales, which is slightly more purple, and grows with the long strong stalks that are such a convenience. Florists will provide roots, or ' crowns ' as they are called, in April, which is the right month for planting.
The beds should be well made upóby beds I mean the plantation sites in borders, for it is a pity to dot violets about a gardenógood fresh loam being enriched with really old manure, made porous by the addition of road-grit, if necessary. A soil that is naturally too light has to have clayish loam mixed in, but town soils are mostly damp and heavy. There should be no exposure to full sunshine, so a border that faces north-west is ideal, a north one will do, and a west one often answers ; if there is a hedge at the back the violets should not be placed too close to it. Many violet beds are successful under light-growing deciduous trees, such as laburnums and acacias.
The ' crowns' are planted nine or twelve inches apart, in well-moistened soil, and should not be watered until the moisture has dried out, as their roots never take hold of ' mud.' As they grow well during summer, runners will spring from them, and these must be removed while young, and the ground kept free from all weeds. While violets must not be allowed to shrivel up in times of drought, the gardener must realize that supplying water to them is always dangerous. When it has to be done the wetted soil should be just pricked over, and some fresh compost sprinkled over it between the plants. A mulch of old manure and leaf-mould can be given in November; another in March to old-established beds.
For frame culture plants can be lifted from the border (or new ones bought on purpose) and planted, about seven inches apart, in rich beds made up in sunny frames. These beds should be so deep that the leaves and flowers of the violets will nearly touch the glass. Once again, the soil should be quite moist, the ' lights ' put over closely for several days, air be given sparingly for some weeks, and no more water supplied. After the first weeks there should be ample ventilation whenever possible.
The runners from a few border plants can be allowed, to grow large enough to root themselves in the surrounding ground, then be detached in September or April and used to make young beds.
Carnations are delightful buttonhole flowers, and the plants do not mind smoke. But they need light sandy, yet rich enough soil, so it is wise to cultivate them by themselves, in raised beds in full sunshine, especially as the borders are sure to contain wire-worms, or the smaller eel-worms, that destroy them. The soil must not be made as hard as for other perennials; only the hardiest border varieties should be bought; sticks and ties must be given every flower stem, or a fencing of sticks, with raffia bands, round each plant; and traps of halved potatoes, partly scooped out and greased, should be sunk under the soil.
The perpetual-flowering carnations are of immense value, but, unfortunately, amateurs seldom succeed with them. The best plan is to grow them in pots from the first; keep the pots out from April to November, then in cold frames or unheated greenhouses. At any season of the year, if flower-buds have formed, the plants may be put into moderately heated glasshouses to hasten the opening. I cannot recommend them for London gardens. The Allwoodii perpetual pinks are far safer.
Double-coloured primroses can be advised also for buttonhole blossoms. They flourish in semi-shady rockeries.
Lilies-of-the-valley (convallaria) are often found thriving in shady borders. They need encouragement in May, so a mulch, and occasional liquid manures, should be given. New beds are planted in September or October, the ' crowns ' only just covered and three inches apart. Exhausted beds should be broken up, the crowns divided, and the portions used, those of similar size put together, to make fresh beds elsewhere.
Turban ranunculuses are admirable for buttonholes ; their culture has been described.