Repoduction of text and pictures from "A biography of the life and work of the late Thomas W Pockett. OBE", written by John B Pockett in 1958, with kind permission of David Pockett, great grandson of Thomas W Pockett.
Essay Specimen Chrysanthemum: "In order that one may ascertain the vast amount of work, patience, energy and skill entailed in accomplishing the finished specimen pot grown Chrysanthemum, it would be fitting at this juncture to include a copy of an essay written in 1896." John B Pockett.
System of Management: When it is intended to grow specimens for exhibition, it is necessary to adopt a system of management from the start. The first thing to decide is the number of plants the intending exhibitor wishes to stage, and then select one-third more than the number required to set up.
Making a Selection: In making a selection the approximate dates must be known so that varieties may be chosen that are most suitable for pots, that will also be in flower at the specified time. Some varieties that are considered under ordinary conditions to be a week earlier, or a week later, than the others, will also be chosen on account of their extraordinary value as plants or as blooms, and in such cases it is necessary to assist some and retard the others.
Cuttings: Cuttings are mostly recommended, but for 12in. pots I generally prefer suckers, as the latter, with many varieties, will require less stopping and consequently the foundation of the plant is formed with less risk.
Suckers: The suckers that I recommend are those that have made a steady but sturdy growth and which are generally obtained from pot plants or from plants in the open ground where they have been thinned out to a few inches apart directly they have appeared above the soil. This would be in June with most varieties.
Height of Suckers: When about 2 inches high, they should be carefully taken up and the portion that was in the soil should be cut off to within 2in. of the foliage.
Eyes: Any eyes that are showing below the leaves should be carefully removed, but the small roots should be allowed to remain.
Position: They should now be placed in 3in. pots and plunged into ashes and where they will obtain plenty of air and light, but should be sheltered from strong winds.
Early Stopping: Any varieties that have a tendency to make long growths, such as Lady T. Lawrence, Swanley Yellow, etc., may be stopped as soon as they commence to grow, but varieties such as W. H. Lincoln, Wm. Tricker, Pride of Madford, need not necessarily be stopped until they are 5in. or 6in. in height.
August 5in. Pots: About the end of July or the beginning of August, they should have made a fair start, and it will be necessary to shift them into 5" pots.
Compost: The compost should be very porous to induce strong growths, otherwise the stopping will cause them to start weak, as it is well known that strength of growths is obtained by reducing the number and weakness by increasing the number of growths.
October, Re-potting into 8in.: Towards the middle of October they should be again re-potted, this time into 8in. pots.
Soil: The soil should be a little stronger than the soil that was used for the previous potting and should also be pressed more firmly as the growths made with this shift will control to a great extent the size of the plant and the quality and quantity of the blooms.
Regulating the Shoots: Attention must be given to the regulating of the shoots, as the greater the diameter the better as the growths would be stronger and more matured.
November, 10in. Pots: By the middle of November they should again get another shift, which should be into 10in. pots. The soil should again be pressed very firmly, and they must be partly plunged.
Natural Breaks: Many varieties will now be making natural breaks, and where the growths are not likely to be too long, it is much better to get natural breaks at this season than to encourage them artificially, but should the growths be eight or nine inches long and showing no sign of breaks, it would then be necessary to stop them.
December: At the early part of this month special attention must be given to varieties that are considered to be late, and where they are showing signs of a natural break, the growths should be tied out to induce them to break freely, for should more growths be started than the number required, it would be much better to commence reducing them towards the end of the month than to find the number short and have to increase them. Where there is no sign of a natural break it is as well to stop them, which should be the last time for such varieties as Lady T. Lawrence, Col. W. B. Smith, etc.
Final Potting: Towards the end of the month they should have their final shift into 12in. pots, and special attention must now be given to every detail.
Drainage: The pots for this shift should be drained as carefully as though they were orchids. Place a good sized but comparatively thin crock at the bottom; it should not fit closely on the bottom, but remain hollow so that the water will run off; then arrange smaller pieces around which should be packed as much as possible on edge, then a layer of about half-inch charred bones and crocks, and a thin layer of oyster shells, the latter should have the dust and very fine shell taken out with a sieve, with, say, ¼-inch mesh, and it will be found that perfect drainage is assured. A thin layer of fibrous turf or partly decayed leaves should then be used to keep the soil from becoming mixed with the drainage.
Soil: A soil that will suit the whole of the varieties may consist of the following:
A few handsful of coal soot to each barrowful, and a few handsful of lime.
The whole should be in layers some time previous and now should be well mixed. A little soil should now be put into the pots and pressed or rammed very firm, otherwise the plant may rush into too soft a growth.
Depth of Plant from Rim of Pot: The plant should be placed about 2½ inches below the rim of the 12in. pot to allow space for water and also for a little top-dressing as the season advances.
Plunging: They should now be partly plunged where they can remain until the buds are showing colour.
Space in Rows: I prefer the rows to be North and South, the plants to be 4 feet apart in the rows and the rows to be six feet apart. The pots must also stand on something that will allow for a free drainage.
January: It will now be time to commence getting them into the permanent form, for if it is done carefully now it will save time and will be much better than late training.
Number of Growths: You have already decided that the plants are to do as much as possible and that the growths are now being prepared for that object.
Dates: We will suppose the date of the show to be the 20th April. It would be impossible to get such varieties as Lady T. Lawrence, or Col. W. B. Smith to be at their best as probably 20 blooms would be the limit of production for the above date, and as it would take 33 blooms to make a specimen with a diameter of 4 feet, the symmetrical form would consequently be sacrificed with 20 blooms.
Date for the Best Plants: As the number of good blooms depends almost entirely on the date, we will now arrange for the 25th April. The varieties will now be as follows:-(1) Lady T. Lawrence, (2) Centenary, (3) Florence Davis, (4) W. H. Lincoln, (5) V. Morel, (6) Chas. Davis, (7) Col. Smith, (8) Swanley Yellow, (9) E. Molyneux, (10) Pride of Madford, (11) G. W. Childs, and (12) Wm. Tricker.
Number of Growths for Date: For the first four it will be necessary to arrange for not less than 38 growths, which should be started not later than the middle of the month, and as the growths continue to grow they should be tied or pegged out so that each shoot will obtain the necessary air, and thus prevent them from becoming weaker.
The next three must also be regulated, and we will again allow 38 shoots to remain, and as they will probably make another break, it will be necessary to remove all those in excess of the specified number. The next two, which are numbers 8 and 9, are comparatively early varieties and may be used for more flowers and we will thus make the number of shoots, say, 56. The extra 18 will retard the flowering season of those varieties about six days, and consequently it will be necessary to increase the diameter of the plant to allow for the larger number of growths.
Varieties 10, 11 and 12: these last three varieties are rather too early for the fixed date and yet we wish to have them as the other varieties will not give us as much colour as we may wish to get, and to keep them back we encourage less growth the early part of the season and avoid as much as possible the January break, but try and get a break about the first week in February. Remove the early crowns and encourage a steady growth to carry the blooms and if there be any part of the bed that is shaded in the afternoon, the latter varieties are given that space.
Guide for Training: The growth should now be put into position, and, having ample room between the plants, I would recommend a line of small stakes about 1 foot from the centre of the plant; the stakes to be about 1 foot out of the ground. By putting a string from one stake to the other it is astonishing how easily the growths can be secured, either by pegs or by placing more stakes at an angle, which can also be removed much easier, and, further, it saves the roots from being injured as there is no occasion to put stakes into the pots until such time as they are put into support the flowers.
February: At the commencement of this month, plants would have made a fair amount of roots, and it will be the best time to put in the permanent stakes which should be nicely tapered and not allowed to go more than about 3 inches into the soil or a great number of roots would be injured.
Staking: As it is intended to have uniform plants with large well formed flowers, the stakes must be arranged in the proper position: about three or four lengths will be most convenient, the lengths ranging from 2 to 3 feet long.
Position of Stakes: Place a 3 ft. stake as near as convenient to the centre of the pots; a 2 ft. 9 in. stake to be placed, say, 8 inches from the centre. Another stake 3 inches less to stand 8 inches from the second, and where it is intended to have the lesser number of stakes, which is 32, the fourth stake may be put as near as possible to the rim of the pot at the bottom and 8 inches from the third stake at the top.
Angles: By taking the similar angle all round you will find that it will take 15 for the outside line, 11 for the next and six for the line nearest to the centre stake; total 33. In staking plants for 51 stakes, where it is intended to have them the same distance apart, it is as well to have each line about 3 inches higher, and as it will require one more stake to set out the angles, one more line of stakes will have to be put in, which will make up the 51 stakes. But for varieties such as G. W. Childs, 51 stakes may be arranged at 6½ inches apart, which would give about the same diameter as 32 at 8 inches apart.
Top Dressing- The stakes have now caused a little injury to the roots and to remedy the evil it is as well now to top dress (as ample room was left when the final potting was done), which could be composed of the same soil, although more charred bones may be added.
Specimens up to 10th February: Top dressing has a better effect when it is done at intervals of, say, a week for about three weeks than it has when applied in one application.
Syringing- This should be done with care, as many plants have lost their foliage on the growth made during November and December that could be attributed to syringing or hosing the foliage. I would only recommend it when the atmosphere is warm and dry, especially after being newly potted, but as far as practicable to be done towards evening when it is not likely to be cold at night, and to be discontinued by the middle of February at the latest.
(Signed) THOS. W. POCKETT,
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Last updated on 27 December, 2001