H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Senecio Pulcher - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Senecio Pulcher Described.
Senecio Pulcher - Noble Groundsel; Nat. Ord. Compositæ.
Autumn is the heyday of Composite flowers. The one now under notice has the merit of being of an unusual and beautiful colour, viz., purplish crimson. It is, in fact, a new plant in English gardens, and has been justly described as one of the finest imports of recent years; it has only to be seen in order to commend itself to all lovers of hardy flowers. It is a robust grower, ranking with the more noble subjects suitable for the borders. Its hardiness is doubted by many, and a few have suspected its perennial quality; but notwithstanding the warm climate of South America (whence it hails), it has proved both hardy and perennial in this country. Excessive moisture is its greatest enemy.
Its bright purplish-crimson flowers are daisy-shaped and large, the centre being a fine golden yellow—on strong young plants the flowers will be 3in. across. Moreover, they are numerously produced on stems 3ft. high, in branching cymes, and last a long time in perfection; with favourable weather an individual bloom will stand above a week, and the plant provides itself with abundance of buds for succession. I never yet saw a specimen that developed half its buds, but this brings me to notice one of its faults (for it has more than one), viz., it is too late in blooming; at any rate, in Yorkshire we rarely get more than three weeks' enjoyment of its flowers, when, but for severe frosts, it appears capable of blooming for two months. To some extent this may be remedied, as will be shown when I refer to its culture. The radical leaves are over a foot long, stem leaves much smaller, very dark holly green of leather-like substance, the edges very unevenly shaped, the general form of the leaf being something like the cos lettuce.
The cut blooms are indeed fine and cannot well be inappropriately used. This brings me to fault No. 2. The flower stems are very hollow and dry, nearly as much so as the hemlock or kex, and I have found that when flowers have been cut, either from the moisture collecting in the stem, or some such cause, rot sets in lower down, and soon the branches of bloom head over. I tried cutting to a joint where the cavity was stopped, but the pith when so exposed soon gave way, so that latterly I have ceased to cut the flowers, unless the occasion was worth the risk. A specimen not cut from did not suffer from stem rot. I, therefore, blamed the cutting. There may, however, be other causes; at any rate, there is the fact of fine flowers in their prime falling over, and it is worth one's while to try to find out from what cause it happens, and if my theory is not the true one, it may prove useful as a hint.
It likes a deep and rich soil, and well deserves to have it; if left out all the winter, a piece of glass should be put over the crown, because it has the fault (No. 3) of rotting in the centre, as I believe from water being conducted down its spout-like stems; but even under the most neglected conditions it stands our winters, and the rootlets send up a number of small growths in spring. These may make plants, but will not be reliable for bloom the following autumn; the damage should be prevented if possible. Another plan, by which two points are gained, is to grow young plants in good-sized pots and winter them, plunged in cold frames, not failing to give plenty of air. In April these, if compared with others in the open garden, will be found to be much more forward, and the first gain will be that, if planted out then, they will flower much more vigorously, and, secondly, they will start earlier by two weeks at least. To propagate this fine border plant, the very long and fleshy roots may be cut into pieces 6in. long and dibbled into fine soil; they are somewhat slow, but pretty sure to "go"; they should be protected from slugs, which are very fond of the young leaves. On young stuff, grown apart from the flower beds and borders, quicklime may be used, which would otherwise be unsightly.
Flowering period, August to October.
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