Plants by Rail or Post. About Cheap Plants and Seeds. To keep Potted Plants from Flagging. Shading and Shielding Plants. Sticking and Tying Plants. A Beautiful Geranium Display. Another Attractive Filling for an Urn.
THE month of May is usually the time when the town dweller most wants to garden. He is right, if he must buy plants, but March is the month for starting seed sowings if plants are not to be bought, and it should never be forgotten that the planting season for roses, and most trees and shrubs, is from October to April.
May having arrived, an order is probably sent by post to some advertising florist, with the result that it has to ' get into the queue ' with orders that have been arriving for months past. So the goods are not delivered till the weather is too hot for planting to be safe. The garden-owner who has been delayed had far better go to a florist's shop or a nurseryman's grounds and select what he requires. Delightful day or half-day trips can be made to famous nurseries within twenty miles of London ; and most big provincial towns have noted growers in their neighbourhood. When trees, roses or shrubs are received by rail or post, their roots should be examined, for if these are dry they should be * puddled' (or dipped in manured mud) before being planted. Or, if planting has to be delayed a few weeks, let a trough about a foot deep be dug in the garden, water poured in, the trees laid in slanted, the soil raked over and made only slightly firm. The green portions of the travellers should be frequently syringed, and a semi-shady position is best for the trench. If there is no garden, some soil in boxes can take the place of a trench. The true gardener is nothing if not ingenious.
To order the cheapest goods is to court failure. If one selects poor plants one does at least sin with one's eyes open, but cheap plants or trees sent for are sure to look astoundingly cheap when they arrive. As for cheap seeds, there is just this to be said—there may be a few good ones among the rubbish. Cheap bulbs are bound to be either aged bulbs, bulbs dried up through keeping, or bulbs too juvenile to bloom. A few fine specimens in an otherwise rather bare garden are more satisfactory than a garden crammed with miserable plants. Needless to say, the very best quality in plants, etc., should be used for boxes, pots, urns and wherever the space is extremely precious.
We have already noted how pots, etc., are crocked and filled with compost for the reception of plants. Now a word about actual planting. It should be the worker's aim to make things so firm that they will remain upright when buffeted by wind and rain, yet not so squeezed into the soil that the roots are stifled and cannot penetrate further. A geranium will bear ramming in firmly; a carnation never thrives so treated. The surface half-inch should generally be quite loose, above the firmer soil. There is an art in giving the pot a rap or two on the potting bench, bottom downwards, to settle the soil and make the surface lie evenly. To leave a saucer-like hollow round the stem is wrong, except for a few plants that must never dry up, such as oleanders. To pile a hillock against the stem is wrong, for that means that water will always run off and descend only by the rim of the pot or box. Roots should be very tenderly tucked round by fine sandy soil, after they have been spread out as evenly as possible. If a rose-tree or plant has its roots all on one side, however, they must not be spread in all directions, but a stick will have to be placed to support the stem opposite to the roots, behind the stem. Stakes and sticks, with ties, should be given while potting is done to all plants that are to have them and are large enough.
Plants frequently flag, may even lose most of their leaves, after being potted ; the ideal treatment of newly-potted or repotted plants is placing them in air-tight frames for twenty-four hours. Deep boxes, glass covered, will serve for frames, or oiled linen will serve for glass. Sprinkle the foliage well, water the soil through the fine rose of a can, then leave them alone for a day and a night, after which give a little air, more by degrees.
In hot May, June, or July, weather plants require shading from sun-heat for twenty-four to thirty-six hours after potting. If they are near a window, or the conservatory glass, a piece of thick muslin should be tacked up between, or else laid right over them. Sheets of newspaper, or the cheap crinkled paper in cream or pale green, are useful to slip in for screens behind plants in a greenhouse. During spells of cold winds a little screening should shelter repotted plants.
Tender handling is always essential: a geranium even, or ordinary hardy fuchsia, will shed leaves that are bruised, cracked or muddied.
Sticks ought not to be too prominent nor too thick, and painting them the same green that is shown by the leaves of the plant is a most artistic device. Green wool is a fine material for tying, as it does not cut stems ; green ' raffia ' is stronger for large plants.
One quick way to adorn a house front is to prepare window boxes, and two large boxes, tubs, split barrels (or ornamental stone or rustic vases) to stand by the door steps, then order mixed dark red, scarlet, salmon and white geraniums to fill them. The plants may be rather crowded in, as this induces them to bloom instead of making lavish foliage. Small plants of only about half a dozen leaves can stand six inches apart, bigger ones at nine-inch distances. The show of the mixed varieties will be more interesting than one of all red. Another idea would be to order carmine, deep rose, pale pink, blush and white flowering geraniums.
A charming scheme for an urn or tub is to plant all the soil with tufts of blue lobelia, three inches apart, and sink a pot rose in the middle. A dwarf polyantha rose will be best, either pink or white. Mrs. Cutbush and Ma Paquerette, Mignonette and Anne Marie de Montravel are capital varieties.