Australian enquiry book of household and general information/Flower Garden

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THIS is one of the most beautiful of flowers, and perhaps of all the most interesting to grow. In a large family of girls, where each chooses some special flower to cultivate, the fuchsia should be a favorite, for a whole stand can be filled with the different varieties and can be made one of the most beautiful exhibitions in nature. They are easily propagated from cuttings, and are also raised from seed. I believe about August is the best time to strike the cuttings, and in choosing, select those that have five joints, cut the leaves off at the two lowest, and make a clean cut with a very sharp knife just below the last joint. Fill up your pots, putting some charcoal at the bottom (see how to strike cuttings); a light rich sandy soil is the best; put in your cuttings, the two lowest joints below the soil, and then give a thorough watering. Keep in a warm shady spot till rooted, putting out in the dew at night. Another mode of striking, and which is very successful with fuschsias, camelias, roses, and many other slips of that kind, is in a wide-mouthed bottle. Half fill a medicine bottle with water, and suspend your slip in it, just touching, but not in, the water. In a few days or weeks—the time depending upon the nature of the plant—tiny thread-like roots will be thrown down to the water; let these grow for a time, and then drop a little bit of earth into the water. In some instances I have seen the root attract the earth till it formed quite a little ball around it. Gradually as the slip strengthens add more earth, always being careful not to alter the position of the slip. After a time it will sprout at the top. Keep on adding the earth till the water is absorbed, and the bottle is a mass of roots, then you can break it, and plant out your slip. The striking in bottles is very interesting, a constant amusement to children who learn much about nature and her laws by watching the gradual development of each little root. To make soil for potting fuchsias, mix in equal proportions good loose loam, well rotted cow or sheep manure, and river or creek sand. Either fill pots with this, or make a bed in which to grow your fuchsias. In the latter case it will be most effective to raise the earth at the back, making it like a sloping bank. If you pot them you must watch for the roots appearing through the hole at the bottom, as then they must be transplanted into larger pots at once. Place your pots on a stand or board, or if on the ground sprinkle a layer of wood ashes first, to prevent worms penetrating to the pots. They must be protected from hot sun and rough or strong winds, either by erecting calico frames, or what is far better, glass frames. On dull or wet days, and during the warm calm nights they should be moved out. The fuchsia can be trained to almost any shape, but the one that best shows off the blossoms should be chosen. If you do not train against a frame the plants must be tied up to neat light stakes when they are about six inches high, or they are apt to straggle too much. You can pinch off the tops of the lateral growths to make them branch, but all this must be done quite a month before you expect them to flower. Care must be taken in watering, and not too much given, especially to newly potted plants. When the buds begin to show, liquid manure can be given with advantage, but not too often. Look over your plants every morning for grubs, spiders, and other insects. The little spiders do a lot of harm to fuchsias, often causing the leaves to turn yellow and drop off. If they get infested with insect life tobacco smoke blown in among the leaves is the best remedy. When finished flowering, place them in a sunny position to ripen their wood for next year, and give very little water, as you do not want to make wood now, but only to ripen and strengthen it for next year's flowering. When all the leaves have fallen, let the plants rest for a couple of months, and then prune into shape. If you have a bed as well as a stand it is well to plant out the older ones and keep the young ones on the stand. In many parts of the colonies the fuchsia grows well in the open garden with no more attention than the other plants receive. What is said here about the fuchsia will apply to all plants of the same family.


In growing flowers the first and foremost consideration must be the selection of those that are best adapted to the climate and situation, for it is useless to try and grow flowers simply because one is fond of them, if the aspect of the garden is not, suitable. One cannot grow snow drops in Queensland any more than one can grow coleouses in England in the open. If one has but a small piece of ground, those flowers that are most effective should be chosen. There is often more pleasure to be got from a border four or five feet wide round the verandah than out of four or five acres of flower garden, because in the border you know and love every plant, they are friends and companions, while in the larger space they are but acquaintances, seen but seldom.


This is a delicate little plant, though with care it will grow and thrive wonderfully and repay one ten-fold by its sweet perfume. It should be raised in a pot stood in a saucer or some receptical for water, as no water should be applied over it. Keep the saucer filled,and it will draw up all the moisture it wants. It is very subject to the ravages of a small green grub, which will often destroy a healthy plant in a day or two. Fumigation with tobacco smoke is the best remedy, but as these little pests are easily found under the leaves they may be picked off and killed. When you notice that the leaves are eaten just lift them gently, and if you cannot find the grubs look in the earth round the roots. One pot of musk will scent a large room.


It is very seldom that one sees an ornamental pond in a small garden; they seem to be a distinct feature of the large or public gardens; yet on many stations there are small ponds that could with very little trouble be made beautiful. Even a tub can be utilised for the purpose in the fernery. I will give the details for a tub, but if you have no fernery and wish to try it, the tub can be placed in some shady corner on a verandah, or beside one of the water tanks. First, get either an old fashioned wooden tub or else a barrel cut down, paint it inside with pitch, and perforate the bottom with many holes. In this put the very best earth you can get—the stuff you use for potting—with old tree moss, charcoal, and bones, etc. In this plant native lily bulbs, of which there are many varieties to be got. Now sink the tub in some waterhole if possible, or if not place it under a constant drip to keep it always moist. By and bye when the bulbs have burst and the leaves appear, the tub can be removed into the fernery and placed inside another and larger tub of water, where it will very soon form a most attractive sight. I have seen small reed baskets just to hold one bulb used, and I have also improvised baskets of wire lined with bark. Elsewhere in these pages I have given directions for growing the narcissus and hyacinth in water—these lillies are grown on much the same principal, but in more water, or greater depth of it. There is a very lovely Japanese iris that grows well in a tub, they are to be got in pure white, and also lilac, and make a grand display when in flower.


Sow a large sponge with mustard and cress, canary seed, or any other quickly growing grain. A very pretty way is to get a shallow tin dish (round) hang it on wires by boring holes at the edge, and fastening the wires through. Then paint it green—enamel is the best to use. Now buy a cheap sponge, one of the larger loose ones, or if you have an old one it will be better; open it out and arrange in the tin so that there is a cavity in the middle, and in this place one of the pretty water bulbs, a narcissus or hyacinth, gather the edges of the sponge round it, and then sow them thickly with mustard and cress. Be sure to keep it watered, enough to keep damp, but not sloppy. Hang in the window, or where there will be light enough for them to grow, and very soon you will have a beautiful window ornament. With taste and a little of the inventive faculty you can greatly improve upon this idea. For instance, you can have two dishes, one above the other, and one smaller than the other. You can have ferns in one, or some pretty moss.


This is one of the most easily grown of all pot plants and also one of the greatest favourites, you see it on almost every stand. It requires plenty of light, heat and moisture, and can be propagated from the leaves as follows: Press a leaf down flat in wet sand, and keep it moist, even wet, or the leaf won't lie. There is a variety that does well bedded out. The tuberous-rooted variety, they will grow and flower generously almost anywhere. They should be taken out and the roots or bulbs stored after the season is over; they can be divided and planted like potatoes. The handsomest varieties are The Louis Cretion, The Queen of Hanover, The Rubra, The Grandiflora, and many more.

To learn to bud and graft, practise on any trees that are handy and of no great use—the gum trees, if no others offer. Guava trees, peach, etc., are good ones to try on.


Cut the cuttings straight across, directly under a joint but not into it. Leave about four joints and cut off the leaves of all but the two top joints. The leaves help to keep the plant alive while rooting. Many people cut a long way below a joint, but it gives the plant less chance than if cut just below the joint, because in the latter way the sap cannot go so far back, as the roots spring usually from the joint. Take a large pot, say a 10 or 12-inch, turn a small pot upside down in it, resting the rim of the latter on three pieces of broken china, so as to let the water drain off. Then fill up with charcoal to an inch above the small pot. Next place some sandy soil (about half-an-inch of it) over the charcoal; now put eight inches of good rich soil mixed with leaf mould, on top of that a little decayed manure, then last add a layer of clean washed white sand. Wash the sand over and again till it is quite white and clean, unless it won't fall in between and fill up and exclude all air. Now, with a smooth, round cane, a little thicker than the cuttings, make holes in a slanting direction about two inches apart, and one inch or one-and-a -half inches deep, then put the cuttings in the holes and press the sand firmly round them and water with a very fine rose watering pot. Keep the sun off for five or six days and see that they don't get too dry. The reason the cuttings are put in slanting, is to let the full weight of the sand be on them, so that it will close tighter round them. A pot is is the best to strike, because it is warmer than a box. For draining flower pots, pieces of bone are much better than broken crockery or stones, as the plants suck the fertilizing qualities from the bones.


Mark out a space about twelve feet in width, or larger if necessary. Put in the four posts, having them not less than seven feet in height, place wall-plates upon them, trimming them off with the adze at each end, so that they can be nailed on to the posts and to each other. For the roof cut four saplings six or eight feet long, place one on each post and let the four meet together in the centre, and tie or nail them securely together.

A good plan is to have a strong post, say twelve feet high, and nail the four roof sticks on to it. You will now have a very good frame of a summer house, and you can close in a portion of each side with roughly-arranged ti-tree saplings, or a better plan is to fix a length of wire netting from the wall plate to the ground in the centre of each side, leaving a space on each side.

Wire or strong twine can be used to cover the open space in the roof, or a few thin pieces of batten can be tacked across. The less there is the better, as the creepers will very soon cover the frame, and if a lot of wood is used it soon rots, and may break the creepers when falling.

The Banksia rose makes a good covering, and is very strong and clean, that is, the leaves do not fall much. Idollicus is one of the quickest growers, and an evergreen. But there are hundreds of creepers all equally suitable for covering a summer house.


Any rude or rough structure will answer for this purpose, so long as it modifies the sun's rays, reduces the light and heat, and keeps bleak winds away. It should be eight or nine feet high, and that end from whence the coldest winds come boarded in securely. The building can be made in the same manner as the summer house previously mentioned, the sides closed in with boughs or short twigs arranged thatch fashion. The roof can be thatched in the same manner, either with brush wood twigs or (thinly) with the bladey grass, so that the rain and dew can dip through—the boughs of the ti-tree are the best for this purpose; but for a permanency or for neatness a fernery entirely built of thin battens or lathes nailed on cross ways is the best and most effective. Some authorities prefer the flat roof, others one with a very steep pitch. It is, I think, all a matter of taste, save where heavy storms are frequent, when it is advisable to protect the ferns and plants from too much water, then it is advisable to cover with light boughs or twigs. As to soil, it is best to make the whole of the soil, and if doing it altogether yourself, I would suggest your taking a small portion of your fernery at a time. If living anywhere near a scrub, a dray load of the soil could be obtained. Scrub soil is good and rich. If unable to get this, the soil under the wood heap is excellent, usually consisting of decayed particles of wood. Lay out your fernery in beds all round, protecting the edges with a board, or even two boards, one on top of the other, so that the box-like bed so made can be filled up with rich soil. If obliged to make your soil I would suggest the following as a good foundation:—To three spades of ordinary garden mould put one of fowl house manure, one of loose sandy soil, one of stable manure, and one of fine ashes. Manure from the cow yard is also very good, but this soil must be allowed to stand a few weeks, being turned over and over every few days. Pieces of rock, moss grown stones, old lengths of logs, etc., should be placed about the fernery, birds' nests, ferns, stag horns, and others being grown upon and among them. If the posts of the building are of the rough varieties of timber all the better, as ferns can be grown upon them. In the bush, and particularly in scrubs, many curious formations of branches or bark can be picked up, and help to beautify the fernery. Hanging baskets made of wire netting and lined with moss, filled with mould and ferns, look very effective when hanging about. To make a basket, cut off a piece of wire netting about five or six inches deep and a couple of feet long, fasten the two ends together with wire, which will give you a ring or hoop of wire netting; then with the fingers and thumb work round and round the lower rim, gradually bringing it narrower and narrower till it meets in a centre, as it were; now run a piece of wire through the ring, or rather round the holes, draw it tight and twist with your nippers, and bend the bottom of your basket into place. Then work round the top edge, and with the nippers turn over all ends of wire, run a strong piece of galvanised wire round the edge, and bend into shape. It is wonderful what very pretty baskets can be so made. To hang them, twist a length of wire in each corner and let them meet at the other end, and twist into a ring. Very quaint receptacles for plants can be made out of bark, and hollow logs sawn into lengths also make rustic pots for shrubs, tree ferns, etc. If you live in the bush you will be able to find plenty of ferns and orchids with which to start your fernery. No matter how common they help to fill up and make an artistic whole, and by and bye you can weed out those ferns that have not improved, or that you do not care for. I have seen maiden-hair develop from a poor weedy variety to a fine handsome fern. The same applies to pot plants. Liquid manure is a great help, but it must only be used sparingly, and when the plants show the need of some stimulant. At the beginning of spring, just when most of the plants are waking up after their winter rest, an application of liquid manure every second or third morning for a fortnight will help them to strengthen; then again an application or two just before flowering. Coleus are favorite pot plants, and I know none more interesting, there being such scope for experimenting in the way of developing fresh tints and deeper shades. I have seen great results from application of soot to the roots, also of lime and charcoal.

When starting a stand geraniums are the quickest growers, soonest make a show, and nothing is prettier than the double varieties.

To improve the poor ferns in your fernery when once they have taken root and you are sure they are growing, then begin to treat them with applications to enlarge their fronds. Liquid manure, and another stimulant I have used successfully is ammonia and water, a teaspoonful to a small watering can of warm water.

I am a great believer in salt for some plants. Coleus, I have found improved greatly when I had mixed a little salt round the roots. My advice to young gardeners is experiment whenever you can. You hear of something: it may be a remedy, a new plant, a new theory, anything, no matter how trifling, you try it, and from it is born another new idea which you try.

But re pot plants: any one who has time and inclination to devote to the matter, can produce changes and effects undreamt of by combinations of soot, sand, salt, soda, charcoal, coloured earths and many more. Just use your own wit and try anything you can. If you lose a few plants, never mind, you are gaining experience, but I would suggest to all gardeners of this class to study the plants they experiment upon, and their natural soils.

The fernery requires a thorough watering once a day. Many people make the mistake of over-watering. I think the best time for it is after sundown, but in the very cold weather I have noticed that the plants watered in the mornings appear to do best. In winter, less water is required, and those plants, bulbs, etc., that hibernate, should receive very little, if any, moisture, as it prevents their going to sleep properly, weakens them, and in some instances thoroughly alters their character.

Almost any one old enough to handle a hammer and nails can make a flower stand, The most simple and easiest made is like a wide ladder in form. I have even seen them made without the two uprights or legs at the back, being merely rested against the wall or nailed to it. But it is very much better and more convenient to have the stand portable, so that it can be moved according to the time of year and season, and if a broad shelf is put at the back, any pots not in bloom, or not looking well can be put there. A stand can be made any size, and, for that matter, any shape, according to the maker's fancy but a five foot stand is the most useful, one advantage being the ease with which all the pots can be watered and reached.

The wood work, indeed, the whole stand should be painted; green is the most suitable colour, but that is quite a matter of opinion. I saw one lately done with brown enamel and gold paint.

A very effective position for two stands, or even for one, is at each side of a French light leading from the drawing room, or if one, right in front, that is opposite the window. At one station I know of, every French light opening on to the verandah has one or two well-filled flower stands immediately opposite to it and baskets hanging at intervals all along from end to end. At another station the large well-filled fernery opens directly out of the drawing room; originally it was built from the verandah, then that part of the latter was stocked and arranged, giving a most beautiful effect, particularly at night when lighted up. But what one man can do another can; I go even farther and say what a man can do a woman can, in the matter of gardening and tending flowers.

If you have plenty of money of course you can make your fernery and garden beautiful almost at once, and your flowers will be a pleasure and an interesting study to you, and if you are—as I was—badly off, quite unable to spend one shilling upon it, then you must work all the harder, and make it not only self-supporting but a means of profit to yourself. In short, earn money by your plants and flowers. Sell your pot plants, your cuttings, your cut flowers, and the interest in the work will be increased ten-fold.

In selling flowers you must not expect to get very much, the great matter is to get custom first. Arrange your bouquets prettily and tastefully, and let them be seen and known as your work. I used to get only threepence a bunch for some time, and yet I took first prize for made-up bouquets at the local shows. So I say to all who feel disheartened at not being appreciated: never mind, work on and live down that feeling, and if your flowers do not turn you in much, help them with vegetables.


All suckers round the roots should be cut out, they sap the strength of the tree and do no good.

If you wish to make a tree any particular shape, leave the last bud on each twig pointing in the direction you wish the limb to grow.

Fruit trees should be headed low, especially those that bear heavily. Three or four feet from the ground is high enough for the first branches.

To make a show, the best flowers are balsams, phlox, sweet peas, portulacca, pinks, nasturtiums. They keep longest in bloom.

Work your soil as soon after rain as possible, to mix in the chemical properties it has left.

If growing for profit, study the wants of your nearest towns and grow accordingly.

After sowing your seeds cover with dry grass during the hot weather, water over it, and directly the plants are strong enough to bear the sun, remove the grass.

Plant melon seed on their edge; they often rot when put in flat.

The grape crop all depends on the amount of pruning, manuring, and care the vines receive.

Pile all the manure together, the stable and cow yard stuff one on top of the other, and cover from the weather if possible. Spread on the land every month.

Always pulverise the soil well before planting. Mulching improves all soil.

Scatter you wood ashes among fruit trees.

To kill the cabbage grub, dust on slaked lime dust.

Better to keep poultry in the orchard than to grow crops.

Sow a patch of clover for the milking cows, and allow them an hour a day on it. About 4 lb. of seed will sow an acre if properly done.

To stimulate the growth of such pot plants as fuchsias, carnations, roses, and heliotrope, water them with two quarts of water, in which is mixed one teaspoonful of liquid ammonia. For fruit trees, guano mixed with water just sufficient to colour it. For ivies use warm water, no manure. Pinks, a little lime water now and then. Roses are improved by powdered charcoal; it will also hasten flowering plants. Very little stimulating manure should be given to begonias or geraniums.

Grafting wax is very often made of tallow, bees' wax, and resin in equal parts. Another authority says three parts bees' wax and resin, and two parts tallow.

Test all seeds before buying if possible, by placing a spoonful or so in a saucer with a little warm water to soak over night, pour off in the morning and put the saucer in the sun, at night pour more water on and again pour it off in the morning. Repeat this process till the seeds burst and sprout, then by the proportion that have germinated you can judge weather the seed is fresh and good.

To kill weeds: Carbolic acid a quarter of a pint, or half a cupful to a gallon of water, will kill weeds on the paths and carriage drives. Pour from a watering can with a fine rose. Be careful it touches nothing else, or it will kill it.

To kill grubs on the plants: Wash with a mixture of soap suds and kerosene, afterwards with clear water.

To start seeds: After they have been planted two or three days water with hot (not boiling) water, in which there is a few drops of ammonia.