June Border Carnations.
Left:-If you think the bloom will flower too early, then you can promote another bud to be the crown bud thus delaying flowering.
Right:-The calyx becomes very hard before opening; attach a calyx band by using an elastic band, twist ties or a wire ring as shown. This should help in preventing any split of the calyx which would render the bloom useless for exhibition.
Left:- Disbudding, remove the small bud adjacent to the crown bud ONLY when large enough to do so, doing so to early may damage the stem. Lower buds can be used to promote the crown flower thus delaying flowering.
Right:- Even though a systemic pesticide has been used Aphids will still try, keep an eye on such plants that have been attacked just in case any nasty pests have hitched a ride.
June has arrived and it’s the most important month for the Borders, constant observation is now needed on the plants. Check any plants that might have had Aphids as they may have brought along an uninvited guest in the form of Red Spider as I am convinced that plants under attack attract pests it’s as though they set off an alarm informing all that they are under attack, constantly monitor all plants and it’s advisable to check around the back of the leaf especially where the leaf curls for any little cluster of tiny silvery eggs, or any silvery marks on the upper side of the leaf as this will indicate the presence of Red Spider and any marks that look like scratches on the upper leaf as these are a sure sign of the rasping by Thrip damage, stick to any spray regime and please check instructions as some sprays indicate an increased dosage for Red Spider and Thrips.
This is also the time when the bud is developing, so try and keep the compost wet do not let it dry out completely, in other words try and not to go from one extreme to the other as the stem and bud will suffer and a sure sign that the plant needs water is the sight of the stem drooping whilst a watered plant stands turgid and erect, it’s that little effort which will result in good blooms. I personally lift each pot in turn to see if it needs watering, quite a task I know but its only by knowing how the pot feels in weight do I know if it needs watering as I have never just watered on-bloc with a hose. When I water I do so, so that the water drains from all of the drainage holes and they get no more until the pot once again needs it. The last thing you want is the pots becoming waterlogged as this would be detrimental to good root growth. Pots that are water-logged cannot contain much air and the soil kept in this state would become sour. This can lead to the root growth rotting and the plant may start to deteriorate too such an extent that to the eye it may look as if it needs watering or a feed. If a plant at this time of the year is not growing well and certainly does not look well then I would suggest keep the plant on the dry side for a while, mist the foliage with plain water and no feed whatsoever. It should pick up after a couple of days. It might sound as if growing in pots is complicated but it’s not if you follow the simple premise that plants in pots cannot be watered according to the clock they can only be done so when they require it. As well as checking the stem the basal growth is still growing rapidly and will need constant attending to. Try and keep the growth tied up and out of harm’s way as it is so easy to trap between pots or even break it off when moving the pots. It’s hard to think that next month we will be starting all over again with either cuttings or layering and to this means it’s a good idea to have some system set up to show which pots to propagate from as the aim should always be to better your stock. I use red labels inserted in the pots that have produced the best blooms and it’s from these pots that the cuttings will be chosen from. Of course if you have just started then I would suggest propagating all and then being more selective next year.
The one message I would want to get across to all new growers is one of feeding and dis-budding, I do not dis-bud the stems as I can choose if needed another crown bud, the only bud that I will remove when large enough and I stress when large enough is the one that is adjacent to the crown bud as this may hinder the crown buds development, the rest are all left in situ as I believe they act as a release valve which takes the pressure away from the crown bud. They can as indicated also be used as a crown bud if the crown is to flower to early and so can be promoted and this gives around 10 days grace from being selected to flowering; I have done such in the past but have never had the need to go beyond one bud.
I would normally like to feed the plants with a weak feed of a high potash feed just as they start to form the crown bud to enhance the bloom colour and to help strengthen the stems but I would stop once the buds are well formed but this year I will not be feeding the plants due to trying the new compost mix, as to date none of the plants have been fed apart from the basic mix. I must stress once again to all who are new to growing Border Carnations that feed is not the answer to all of the problems, if you have been feeding then never over feed the plants and never think that a larger dose of feed will secure bigger and better blooms, it won’t and you will be very disappointed with the results.
I have been trying a substance called B-Nine in fact perhaps the best terminology would be experimenting as the results over the past two years have been mixed. First of all for those who are not aware of what B-Nine is then let me try and explain; B-Nine is used by some Chrysanthemum growers and is I believe painted on the stem between the nodes in an attempt to shorten the neck below the bloom on certain cultivars, this is to assist exhibiting the bloom in the vase so that the bloom is not well above the leaves. B-Nine acts as a dwarfing agent in that it alters the cell structure; this alters the forming cells from being vertical to horizontal therefore shortening and thickening the stem. I had tried such last year on a cultivar that is renowned for having a weak neck and thought by painting the solution on the stem as it elongated would assist in creating better stems. The problem cultivar is Belle of Bookham which is a wonderful flower and is always admired by the public but it does take extremely good growing conditions to achieve such and it’s another cultivar that tends to grow quite tall and the last few inches seem to give way to a weakened neck which does not allow the bloom to grow to its optimum potential, I would in normal circumstances stop growing such a demanding plant but it’s such a beauty and it’s also very old in fact nearly 90 years old and such is part of our heritage and far better try to accommodate it and hence the experiment with B-Nine. Well last year the results from painting the solution on the stem proved pointless so this year I have tried again but instead of painting it on I sprayed the plants at the early stage of growing, in March I sprayed them all and then again in April as they had begun to grow away and the solution must not be sprayed on the buds so I thought this early spraying would be early enough to assist. Just recently the results have been the same as last year and I had been starting to think that B-Nine did not work on Border Carnations until this week I have noticed that although the plants are still quite tall the stems are slightly thicker than in the past, in that they are standing erect without ties which would never have happened in the past, all I can do is report next month and let you know if there is any improvement, let’s hope so.
Right:- The stems of Belle of Bookham are better than previous years and only time will tell if they have improved enough to assist the bloom.
Below:- Belle of Bookham, a rather very nice bloom and always admired by the public who always think its a silk flower.