How To Raise Bulbs From Seed

Bulb seeds are generally sown in an ordinary seed mixture of sandy loam with leaf-mould. The first leaves are usually fine and grasslike, and many a novice has thrown away his seedlings by mistake. Generally they should be kept in the pot in which they were sown until the end of the second year, when they can be planted out to grow on in a nursery plot.

Some of the lilies offered in modern seed catalogues grow to flowering stage in a year—Lilium regale will do this in favourable conditions. These are among the more rewarding bulb plants as subjects for the seed boxes.

Any plant which is propagated afresh each season in large quantities, used for seasonal bedding, and then discarded, is properly called a bedding plant. The term therefore includes annuals, biennials and bulbs. It may also include certain herbaceous perennials, and certain shrubs, hardy and tender.bulb seed crocus

Bedding plants are increased in any of the ways possible in gardening—by seed raising, cuttings, root division and so on. The majority of them are used for only one season after being propagated; but there are exceptions. Some of the taller, shrubby kinds, for instance standard fuchsias, are used year after year. They may be kept in their pots and the pots sunk just below the soil surface for the duration of the summer only; or they may be knocked out of their pots when they are put in the garden, and potted up afresh in the autumn.

As the average novice finds it difficult to distinguish between annuals, perennials, shrubs and so on, and as to some extent the method of treating plants may be different, even though they belong to the same class, we will describe in detail an all-the-year round treatment for various bedding plants that are fairly typical of a large group.

Ageratum. This is a half-hardy annual, used freely for edging summer beds. It is sometimes raised from seed in the way usual for half-hardy annuals; but frequently old plants are kept in pots, through the winter, at a temperature of 50 degrees, as stock plants. Cuttings of the young growths can be taken in March at the same time as seed sowing is done, and grown for use in the summer beds. Stock plants are not allowed to flower—they are pinched back periodically to encourage the production of plenty of young side growths. Pinching is the term used for nipping off the tiny growing tip of the central stem, or of the side stems.

Antirrhinums are the kings of the formal flower beds. Nothing makes a brighter or more compact mass of uniform colour. There are various types; the dwarfs for edgings, intermediates for main bedding displays, and tall varieties for the mixed flower border. Antirrhinums are actually perennials, but the first season produces the best blooms. Moreover, uniformity is only obtained among the young plants. They can be raised from seed, and many varieties of the seed now breed almost entirely true to type. Odd “ rogues “ in a formal bed should be taken out immediately they show their flower, and to replace them it is well to have growing on in pots one or two extra plants from the same packet of seed, which can be used if needed.

Antirrhinums, like ageratums, can also be increased by cuttings; but the usual method with antirrhinums is to take them from the plants in the beds, in autumn. Side growths that have no flowers are selected, and pulled from the old plant with a downward jerk.

The lowest pair of leaves is stripped off, and the cuttings inserted about 1 in. apart over a bed of sandy soil in the cold frame, or, if more convenient, in boxes of prepared sandy soil. They are kept close for a few weeks, but are later ventilated whenever possible, though frosts must be excluded.

By about April the plants should be ready to leave the shelter of the frame. If they show a tendency before then to run up into tall, “ leggy “ plants, the tips should be pinched out. This will result in short, bushy plants of even appearance when planted out in the beds.

Antirrhinums are very easy plants to fit into a general scheme. They blend well with most kinds of flowers, as both their colour and their shape can be chosen with reasonable certainty of attaining the effect you desire.

Begonias are fine bedding plants for beds where the soil is moist. They prefer a full sun, but will also do reasonably well in partial shade. There are two groups — the fibrous-rooted, which are usually raised from seed sown in a warm greenhouse in the early months of the year, or from leaf cuttings and the tuberous-rooted group, which can be bought as tubers, if preferred, though it is also possible to raise these from seed.

If tubers are bought, they should be set to sprout in moist coconut fibre or leaf-mould, in a warm greenhouse. As soon as the young shoots are visible, the roots can be potted up into sandy, leafy soil, and grown on until the end of May, when it is safe to use them in the garden beds. About mid-September the plants should be lifted, packed into pots or boxes, and gradually allowed to dry off under cover. It will then be possible to use the tubers again.

Calceolaria is an example of a shrub which is only rarely recognized as such by the amateur gardener. There are herbaceous calceolarias; but these are the large flowered type that are grown under glass all the time. Bedding calceolarias are shrubby, and given a warm enough climate would make larger, more shrubby growths than they are, in fact, allowed to make in our gardens. The usual practice with these is to take cuttings in mid-September or soon after, i.e., before the frosts ruin the plants in the beds, and to keep them through the winter like antirrhinums. As a matter of fact calceolarias propagate very easily in this way; without a cold frame and using only one or two small sheets of glass, the amateur can supply himself with sufficient bedding plants from these very useful flowers. All that is necessary is to dig out a deep hole, just a little smaller at the top than the piece of glass, and see that there is a depth of at least 4 in. of good, sandy soil in the bottom, leaving 6 or 7 in. of space above. The cuttings are taken (as for antirrhinums) and inserted close together in the prepared soil, and a sheet of glass is then laid over and pressed down on to the surrounding soil. It need not be moved to give ventilation during the winter—the plants will keep quite well unattended in most seasons. In spring the glass can be propped up at the return of bright sunshine, and if it is convenient, the plants can be potted up separately and given a few weeks of steady growth in a frame before planting out in mid-May. Even this is not imperative, however, and plants can often remain where they are until needed for the beds.

Cannas are fleshy, tuberous-rooted perennials of somewhat tender nature, similar to dahlias, and requiring much the same treatment.

Cineraria maritima is the grey foliaged plant that is often used for summer bedding. This is best raised from seed sown in heat in the spring.

Dahlias are tuberous-rooted perennials; because they are somewhat tender, they must be either raised from seed in the manner of half-hardy annuals, or stored as tubers during the winter and re-started into growth in the spring. Seeds of many modern strains give a fine selection of colours, and are a cheap and easy way to grow dahlias for general decoration in the garden, or for cut flowers in the house. Named varieties of dahlia must, however, be grown from the stored tubers.

Dahfia tubers are lifted in the autumn, before the first frosts, or immediately the frost blackens the leaves, and after being dried a little they are either hung in bunches in a frost-proof shed or cellar, or stored in boxes of dry sand or sawdust, whichever is the more convenient.

Very early in the year—usually about February—the tubers are taken from store, and separated, since they are usually in bunches. They are then laid on trays of moist leafy soil, standing in the warm greenhouse, preferably over bottom heat. This induces young shoots to develop from the dormant eyes of the tubers. These young shoots are cut off with a sharp knife when they are 2 in. long, if possible with a portion of the tuber attached, though this is not essential. They are inserted at once in pots of sandy soil, and kept in a propagating frame, or in a close atmosphere, for two or three weeks, until they have well rooted. The pots are then put on the light shelves of the greenhouse, or into the cold frame, and grown on until the end of May, when they are wanted for the summer beds.

Dahlias are hungry plants; even in the small pots they should be kept well supplied with water, and in the later stages, with occasional doses of liquid manure. When they have grown to a height of about 9 in., the tips are pinched out, so that a bushy growth results. Feeding is also important when the plants reach the border, and soil preparation for dahlias should always be on generous lines. A spadeful of old stable manure, or some substitute, worked into the subsoil is a help, since it retains moisture during dry weather. Dahlias rarely grow successfully without some artificial watering, and a pailful of water every other night in hot weather, followed occasionally by a dose of liquid manure, is the best way to ensure healthy strong plants and a fine crop of flowers. Dahlias are sun-lovers, too, and can be grown to perfection only in full sunshine.

One other point concerning dahlia culture : there are, as every catalogue will show, many types of dahlias, from dwarfs to giants. All except the small bedding types need stakes, and the tall kinds need very stbut stakes. These should be set out when the plants are first put into the open, and ties should be made frequently, for dahlia foliage and stems are very heavy, and wind damage cannot be repaired.

Eucalyptus is an example of a tender greenhouse shrub which must also be included in summer bedding types. Eucalyptus is actually a large tree, but rather tender. E. ‘citriodora, or the “lemon-scented gum,” is the species generally grown in pots. E. globulus is used often for summer bedding. Eucalyptus is propagated by seed sown in pots of sandy soil in a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees, and later grown in a compost of loam (two parts) leaf-mould and sand (one part each) and some charcoal. The plants are generally re-potted in March, and are planted out for summer bedding from June to September. They can be kept in the pots, which may be sunk below the soil surface for the summer, and brought indoors again for the winter. If convenient, cuttings can be rooted under glass in June.

Fuchsia is another type of shrub which is very suitable as a bedding plant. The fuchsias of the greenhouse are often grown to

very large size, either in hanging baskets, or as standards, according to type. Standard fuchsias are frequently taken into the open in the summer, and often sunk in their pots in the formal beds, to give them height. Fuchsias are also raised annually from cuttings, taken in spring, to provide small plants for formal bedding. Ordinary bush types of fuchsia are cut back about February, so that they make strong new growths and become bushy plants.

If young bedding plants are desired, these new growths are taken off and inserted in sandy soil in a propagating frame. They are then potted up in a compost half of loam, and a quarter each of sand and of leaf-mould. In this they are grown on until May, when they can be set out in the beds. Fuchsias are useful for formal beds in partial shade, and mix well with calceolarias and violas.

Geraniums can be treated like the fuchsias for bedding, but the best way is to take cuttings in late autumn, before the old plants are lifted from the borders. Geraniums used for bedding are botanically known as Pelargonium zonate, and are not true geraniums. Cuttings struck in spring often fail to flower until rather late in the year, while autumn-rooted cuttings, inserted close together in boxes, and wintered in a cool greenhouse, and then potted up separately in spring, usually flower freely all the summer.

Heliotropium, the favourite “cherry pie,” is a shrub, and can be treated like the geraniums, i.e., raised from autumn cuttings and wintered under glass. It is also possible to obtain strains of seed that will produce good flowering plants the first season, if treated as half-hardy annuals, and this method sometimes has advantages.

Salvias used for bedding are of varied types. The scarlet S. splendens is best treated as a half-hardy annual. The vivid blue S. patens is tuberous-rooted, and can be treated in the same way as a dahlia.

Arabis is one of the many useful early flowering plants that are used for spring bedding. There are two good ways to increase arabis—root division and cuttings. When the arabis in the spring beds has served its turn, it can either be cut back hard and left where it is to form a green edging to the summer border, or lifted for increase. If lifted, the roots can be torn apart into as many pieces as convenient, and set out in a nursery bed to grow on until autumn, when they will again be wanted to associate with spring bulbs. Alternatively, cuttings of pieces 2 or 3 in. long, pulled off without much ceremony, can be inserted in sandy soil, in a shady nursery bed. Arabis, aubrietia, cerastium—this last used sometimes for summer beds, but inclined to become untidy—and many other such “ carpet “ plants, root quite easily, and masses can be raised annually for distribution where needed in the garden picture.

Violas can, just like pansies, be raised from seed, which can be sown towards the end of summer, in late August, so that plants are well grown for spring planting, and provide plenty of early flowers. Violas raised from seed can be set out as edgings to the bulb beds in autumn, but preferably cuttings should be taken, and a fresh supply of young plants obtained by that means. Cuttings will root easily if taken in autumn or spring, or at any time when suitable side growths are available. They need to be put into sandy soil, and kept close in a cold frame until rooted. Cuttings taken in late autumn should remain in the frame all the winter, but should be allowed plenty of ventilation after the first three weeks. Golden alyssum and many similar bedding plants can also be raised from seed or cuttings.

The above selections are by no means all the valuable and easily raised bedding plants, as the attached lists will show. They are merely typical of the kind of plants that are so used, and of the ways in which the plants are produced.

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