THE EVERLASTING FLOWER, Helichrysum monstrosu
EVERLASTINGS are of many kinds, but they are mostly members of the great family of composites, and their "everlasting" character is the consequence of the dry, chaffy texture of the flowers. These are Cape plants, natives of the sunny, sandy plains, easily cultivated, and peculiarly useful for winter bouquets and for house-hold decorations; but, to do justice to them, a few points of management must have attention.
A dry, sunny summer is requisite to the production of a good head of flowers, and this the cultivator must obtain by management. You say that is impossible. Well, it must be granted that if the summer is sunless and rainy your helichrysums will fare badly, whatever you may do. Nevertheless you can secure for them the sunshine they require by having the plants forward in time to enjoy the summer sun for making their flowers; for if they are but growing in summer and making flowerbuds in autumn, the frosts may put a stop to the business before you have secured so much as one bunch of the coveted flowers.
To do justice to these plants the seed should be sown early in spring, and the plants forwarded under glass, so as to be strong for planting out in May; then they will produce their flowers before the summer is gone, and they will have the brightness of colour that only sunshine can give. Better still is the practice of sowing in August or September, and wintering the plants in a frame or pit, where they will be safe against frost. Then, being somewhat matured when planted out in April or May, a fine crop of flowers may be expected. It happens, however, that these lovers of sunshine do not suffer from an occasional light touch of frost, and therefore in the West of England they would often come through the winter safely in the open ground, and make a grand bloom in the following summer.
It should be understood that a rich, moist soil, and a sheltered, shady situation, are promotive of death rather than life to these plants. A dry sandy or stony soil, and the most complete exposure, will suit them very well, provided the winds are not so strong as to blow them out of the ground. We often see them making a miserable bloom, the flowers few and colourless, when closely mixed up with other plants; and it is in the nature of a surprise to see a great batch in an open spot on a seed farm, where they have been raised under glass and planted out early, and the poorest and most sunny spot in the open quarters has been selected for them.
The favourite species for gardens are Helichrysum brachyrhynchum, a dwarf plant, with yellow flowers; H. bracteatum, taller, giving flowers yellow and white; and H. monstrosum, of which there are about a dozen varieties, giving considerable range of colour. When a small plantation for domestic purposes is wanted, a packet of mixed seed will give abundant variety, and serve every necessary purpose.
As regards the drying of these flowers, it is necessary, in the first instance, to cut them properly. They should be cut with a pair of scissors, with a convenient length of stem, before the flowers are fully expanded. Being cut, they must be tied in small bunches, and at once hung up (heads downwards) in a dry closet, where they can be shut up safely against dust or accidental handling. They should not be touched until wanted; and any dry place will serve to keep them, provided only that it is free from dust.
Now we come to the employment of the flowers for decorative purposes. Generally speaking, their own natural stalks will answer for their attachment where needed in any decorative work. But the best way consists in mounting them on wires, a fine binding wire being passed round the base of each flower, to attach it to the stouter stem wire. Bouquets formed of these flowers, with dried grasses, are (or should be) beautiful, and to construct them is easy enough, but requires some amount of practice and an eye for effect.
The everlasting which is in general demand on the Continent, and on All Souls' Day is an important article of commerce, is Helichrysum orientale, an evergreen greenhouse shrub, requiring a warm position and a sunny summer to flower freely. About fifty species of this genus are known to cultivators, or at all events are registered in the books; but they really are not of great consequence in connection with the ordinary wants of the amateur gardener.
A few of the more elegant grasses are of great value to associate with these flowers. Those most likely to suit amateur cultivators are the following, all of which may be easily raised from seed, obtainable in the usual way of the seed merchants:--Agrostis nebulosa, Stipa pennata, Briza maxima, Chrysurus aureus, Eleusine pencillata, Eragrostis elegans, Lamarkia aurea, Panicum capillare, Piptatherum Momasi. There are many more, but these nine make a beautiful collection.
Title: THE EVERLASTING FLOWER, Helichrysum monstrosu Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
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