Expert Advice for Growing Carnations
Growing Carnations in the Flower Border
Border carnations, which are perennials, are often grown by themselves in a bed or border. They may also be included in the herbaceous border but are usually given pride of place in a situation by themselves.
They are especially sensitive to a badly drained site and frequently die off in winter because of this on a heavy. For this reason, it is best, when growing carnations, to grow them in a bed raised above the level of the surrounds, an arrangement which helps drainage considerably and cuts down winter losses.
Carnations are lime-loving plants and a generous amount of old mortar rubble (a one inch layer is suitable), should be mixed in with the soil before they are planted. As well as this, give a 4oz. dressing of hydrated lime to each square yard. The raised plot or bed should be well dug by way of preparation and a 2 in. layer ofbe lightly forked into the top 3 ins. of soil just before planting. The bed should be trodden to firm it before planting commences.
It is possible to raise a batch of hardy border carnations from seed. Although only mixed colours may be obtained, and some “singles” which should be discarded, a fair percentage of large double flowers of good colours can be utilised for garden planting. Seed should be sown in a cold frame in spring, and transplanted out of doors in a sunny spot until planted in permanent positions in autumn. If you have plants already selected, new ones can be propagated by .
Briefly, suitable shoots are pegged down in the soil, a slit is cut in the stem at that point and the plant encouraged to make new roots from the exposed tissue.
The usual time for this method of propagation is July and August. The shoots growing on the outer part of the plant are most suitable. Remove the leaves from the part of the stem which will be in contact with the soil and cut into the stem as shown in the illustration. This slit is made by cutting through a leaf joint, and continuing the cut slanting lengthways up the stern.
Make a shallow hole where the layer will be, and mix coarse sand, compost and soil in equal parts, with which to cover the layered portion. The layered shoots must be kept in place with a wire peg.
A well established, selected plant may be large enough to have 6 or more layers taken from it. When rooted sufficiently, usually in 6 to 8 weeks, layers can be detached and planted in their permanent positions or left in position until the following spring, then lifted and replanted.
Propagation can also be done bywhen you are growing carnations. Use the tops of new, unflowered shoots, in June and July, and, leaving the tip intact, cut them 3 ins. long and remove the lower two pairs of leaves. Trim the base neatly through a joint, with a sharp knife, and insert the cuttings firmly in pots of sand in a cold frame, or greenhouse. Keep the cuttings fairly “close”, i.e., with little ventilation until they are rooted.
Plant most varieties 8 to 10 ins. apart, but take special care with the depth of planting as this must be no deeper than the plants were previously – in pots or, if seedlings, in the border. During the growing season, disbud the flowering stems to leave one flower to each shoot and provide some thin stakes or supports to keep the sterns upright. A 1/2 in. mulch of compost in summer will encourage surface rooting and ensure moisture retention, as well as flowers of better quality.
One of the most serious troubles when growing carnations is the disease called “wilt”. The affected plants turn yellow and the foliage dies off. Never use such plants for propagation purposes, either cuttings or layers. If diseased plants are present, always renew the soil mixture in the area they occupied.
Border carnations are often rather short-lived, and it is best to make provision for new plants, either by cuttings or layers, as a regular feature, thus ensuring a continuity of plants and flowers.
Varieties – A selection of varieties of carnations, where plants are being purchased, can be made from :
Afterglow, yellow and red; Amy Robsart, white; Autocrat, red; Bookham Grand, crimson; Dainty, yellow and pink; Donns, apricot; Egret, white and pink; Ibis, carmine pink; Lilac Clove, Moonbeam, yellow; Red Ensign, scarlet; Southern Mist, heliotrope; Sprite, white and red; Vanessa, blush pink; Vivid, scarlet and Wild Rose, pink.
When you are growing carnations, you will soon see that they can reach 1-1/2 to 2ft. high and are at their best in July.