MYOSOTIS: THE FORGET-ME-NOT
Perennials and Biennials for Spring and Summer Gardens
This group of hardy biennial and perennial plants is invaluable in spring and early summer. Some of them are suitable for the rock garden, others for providing masses of color in spring flower beds and borders, and for planting by the waterside or in the bog garden. They grow wild chiefly in North America, Europe and New Zealand. Forget-Me-Not belongs to the Borage family, Boraginaceae. The name Myosotis was that used by Dioscorides.
For Spring Flower Beds. The Forget-Me-Nots which are so popular in gardens for their profusion of bloom in April and May are varieties of Myosotis sylvatica, a plant which grows wild in Europe and Asia. They are very easy to grow and, in fact, when Forget-Me-Nots are established in a garden, self-sown seedlings often spring up in large numbers. This, however, is not altogether an advantage if the variety which has established itself is a poor one, for the Forget- Me-Not seeds so freely that it is sometimes difficult to get rid of it.
There are several fine varieties of the common Forget-Me-Not which bear flowers of rich blue coloring, and they are greatly to be preferred to those which are of poor pale-blue shades of color.
Yet in some gardens the Forget-Me-Nots are of this type. They should be destroyed before they go to seed, or else it may be impossible to exterminate them; a fresh stock should be raised by purchasing seeds of one of the named varieties.
Sowing the Seeds. Although it is not necessary to sow the seeds in drills, this method is to be preferred to sowing broadcast, for the care of the seedlings is so much more convenient when they are in drills or lines. The seeds should be sown thinly in drills half an inch or so deep in a nursery border or in a cold frame in June-July. They germinate very freely and the seedlings make quick progress. The young plants need shade from summer sun.
Before they become overcrowded, the seedlings should be transplanted to nursery beds or cold frames, where they are set 6-8 in. apart. Here they will form fine plants suitable for setting out in the garden in fall or the following spring. The best varieties are listed in seedsmen’s catalogues.
Forget-Me-Nots provide a charming groundwork in beds of May-flowering Cottage and Darwin Tulips, and it is possible to create many beautiful color schemes.
Self-sown Seedlings. When the garden contains a stock of plants of a good variety, the simplest way to raise a fresh supply is to lift the Forget-Me-Nots when the flowers have faded and set them in a nursery border in partial shade or in a shaded cold frame. There the seeds will fall and seedlings will spring up in large numbers. When well developed, they should be transplanted 6 in. apart in rows, there to remain until they are set in the positions in which they will bloom the following year.
Forget-Me-Nots for Naturalizing. Myosotis sylvatica and its varieties are delightful flowering plants for naturalizing in informal parts of the garden, in the shrubbery or by the side of walks in open spaces among trees. To begin with, it is worth while raising seedlings in a border in the way explained previously, and setting out the plants when they are well developed. They will then usually increase by means of self-sown seedlings.
There are varieties of Myosotis sylvatica having blue, white, and pale rose-colored flowers. These charming Forget-Me-Nots are seen at their best in semishady places in soil which does not dry out in hot weather.
For the Rock Garden. Myosotis alpestris, a Swiss mountain plant which grows about 6 in. high and bears blue flowers, is suitable for planting in the rock garden; it needs a partially shady place and well-drained loamy soil with which sand or grit has been mixed freely. The variety Victoria is of dwarf compact growth, and variety Ruth Fischer has larger flowers.
Another blue Forget-Me-Not suitable for the rock garden is Myosotis azorica, which grows wild in the Azores; it is less hardy than others and needs well-drained gritty soil. There is a white form of this, variety alba.
The Water Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis scorpioides (palustris), which reaches a height of 9 in. and blooms throughout a long period in spring and summer, is suitable for planting by the waterside, in the bog garden, and in other places where the soil is moist, it self-sows freely.
Forget-Me-Nots make excellent pot plants for the slightly heated greenhouse. Plants may be lifted from the open ground in October, and potted in 5-in. pots in a compost of loam and leaf mold with a little sand added. If watered and placed in a cold frame, which is then kept closed for a few days, the plants will soon become established and may be brought into the greenhouse. They need rather careful watering during dull wet weather in winter or the leaves will damp off. The soil should not be watered until it is moderately dry.
Midwinter Blooms. Instead of relying on ordinary spring bedding Forget-Me-Nots lifted from the garden, it is better to choose a variety that is especially suited to cultivation in pots. Such varieties are offered in seed catalogues. These plants begin to bloom in midwinter and continue gay for many weeks in a greenhouse from which frost is excluded. They are raised from seeds shown in a flat of sifted soil in June or July; the flat is placed in a frame, and, when the seedlings are large enough, they are potted singly first in 3-in. and later in 5-in. pots. Until autumn, they are kept out of doors or in a frame that is ventilated very freely; then they are placed in the greenhouse.
Owners of greenhouses would do well to make greater use of Forget-Me-Nots to provide flowers in the early spring months. The chief trouble in the greenhouse, an excessively damp atmosphere, will be prevented if care is taken to ventilate the greenhouse very freely in mild weather. Watering must be done with great care; the soil ought not to be moistened until it is dry.