Lobelia—This favorite little plant bears starry blossoms of one of the most intense blues found anywhere in the realm of flowers. Grown easily from fall sown seed, or cuttings. Star of Ishmael and Kathreen Mallard are two named varieties recently introduced and great improvements.
Mahernia—(Honey-bell)—Of great value for its fragrance. Grow on from summer cuttings.
Mignonette—Another flower owing its popularity to its fragrance. Start winter plants by sowing in two-inch pots in July or August, several seeds to a pot. As soon as well started, thin to the best plant. Grow on, keeping cool and well pinched back. Give support. There are several newer named varieties that are great improvements over the old type, especially in size of spike. Colossal, Allan's Defiance, Machet, are all fine sorts.
Pansy—If wanted for winter blooming, take cuttings or start from seed, as described for Daisy (Bellis perennis). The seed bed must be kept cool and shaded.
Salvia—One of the most brilliant of all flowering plants. For winter make cuttings in August, or take off suckers with roots at base of plant. They like heat. Keep thoroughly sprayed to ward off red spider.
Piqueria or Stevia serrata—Another fragrant flower. Root cuttings in January or February and grow on for blooming from November to February.
Stocks—What I said about snapdragons on page 64 might well be repeated here. Start from seed in August or September. They are very easily grown. In addition to their beauty—they resemble a spray of small roses—is their entrancing fragrance. Only the double sorts are good. There are many fine new sorts. Abundance, a beautiful delicate pink, will be sure to arouse your enthusiasm.
Verbena—If any of these old brilliant favorites are wanted, start from cuttings, being sure to use strong new growth which may be induced by spading up and enriching the soil in August, and cutting back the plants.
Verbena, Lemon—See page 77.
Violets—See Part II (page 183).
There is one thing which the beginner cannot be told too often, and which I repeat here, as it has much to do with the success of many of the above plants. Do not fail to pinch back seedlings and cuttings during their early stages of growth, to induce the formation of stocky, well-branched plants. This must be the foundation of the winter's returns.
The shrubs of dwarf habit available for growing inside in winter are numerous and valuable. They include a number of the most attractive plants one may have, and as a rule will stand more hardships in the way of poor light, low temperature and irregular attention than any of the other flowering plants.
They differ from the other flowering plants in several ways. They are harder wooded; the resting spell is more marked and they make growth and store up energy for flowering ahead of the blossoming season.
Their differences in habit of growth naturally involve differences in treatment. In the first place, they are harder to propagate; in many cases it is better for the amateur to get plants from the florist than to try to raise them. This is not such a disadvantage as might at first appear, because most of them can be kept for several years, only improving with age.
The "snapping" test (page 30) will not apply to many of the shrubs when taking cuttings. In this case they are made from the new growth after it becomes firm and well ripened. It should be fresh and plump, and rooting will be made more certain by bottom heat. Often cuttings of hard-wooded plants, such as oleander, are rooted in plain water, in wide-mouthed bottles hung in a warm place in the sun, the water being frequently renewed or kept fresh with a lump or so of charcoal.
Many of the shrubs are beautiful for summer blooming on the veranda or in large pots or tubs. These may be kept over winter safely by drying off and keeping in a frost-proof cellar where they will get little light. In this way they will come out again in the spring, just as hardy shrubs do out-of-doors. The earth should not be allowed to get dust dry, but should not be more than slightly moist; very little, and often no, water is required, especially if mulching of some sort is put over the earth in pots or boxes; but it should not be any material that would harbor rats or mice. The leaves will fall off, but this is not a danger signal, such plants being deciduous in their natural climates. It will be best to keep such plants as are to be stored in the cellar, from the time there is danger of frost until about November first, in an outbuilding or shed, where they will not freeze. This makes the change more gradual and natural. The temperature of the cellar should be as near thirty-four to thirty-eight degrees as possible. About March first will be time to start giving most plants so treated heat, light and water again, the latter gradually.
The fact that growth is made in advance of the flowering period means that the summer care and feeding of such plants is very important. Plenty of water must be given, and frequent applications of liquid manure or fertilizers, or top dressing. Flowering shrubs that bloom on last season's wood, like hydrangeas, should be pruned just after blooming.
Abutilon—The Flowering Maple (Abutilon) is an old favorite, but well worthy of continued popularity. It is practically ever-blooming, which at once marks it as highly desirable. The pendulous flowers are very pretty, coming in shades of pink, white, yellow and dark red. The foliage is also beautiful, especially that of the variegated varieties, than which very few plants are more worthy of a place in the window gardener's collection.
New plants, which will grow and bloom very rapidly, are propagated by cuttings rooted in the fall or spring. Give the plants when indoors plenty of light. Old plants, for which there is not room in the window garden, may be wintered almost dry in a cool place and allowing the leaves to fall off.
The varieties are numerous. Some of the best are Santana, deep red; Boule de Neige, pure white; Gold Bell, yellow; Darwini tesselatum; Souvenir de Bonn and Savitzii (the latter the most popular of all variegated); Eclipse and vexillarium, trailing in habit.
Acalypha—Valuable for its variegated foliage. For use in the house root cuttings in early fall. The old roots, after cutting back, may be kept on the dry side to furnish cuttings in spring for the garden plants.
Aralia—Aralia (Fatsia Japonica) and A. J. variegata, especially the last, are two of the most decorative plants one may have. They are not widely known—very likely because they are difficult to propagate. Easily kept. Get from florist.
Ardisia—(Ardisia crenulata) is the best red berried plant for the house. It is a dwarf, with very beautiful dark green foliage. While kept healthy it will be laden constantly with its attractive clusters of berries, one crop lasting over the next. Seedlings make the best plants, and are readily grown. Sow in January to April, and plants will flower within a year and thereafter be perpetually decorated. Old plants can be topped (see page 86) and make fine specimens. By all means give the ardisia a place in your collection.
Aucuba—The Gold Dust Plant: one of the beautiful shrubs and especially valuable for decoration because doing well in such shaded positions as inner rooms, or by doorways. Strong tip cuttings—six to ten inches—can be rooted readily in the fall. Give a soil on the heavy side.
Azalea—The azalea is the most beautiful flowering shrub—if not the most beautiful of all winter flowering plants. With proper treatment an azalea should do service for several years, becoming more splendid each season.
You will probably get your plant when it is in full bloom. At this time, and during the whole growing season, it requires abundant water. The best way to make sure of giving it a thorough one, is to stand it for half an hour in a pail of water. Keep it in a rather cool place, say forty-five at night, and the flowering season, which should last several weeks, will be prolonged.
With the azaleas you must do the work for next year's success as soon as the flowering season is over. After repotting, keep in a temperature of fifty to fifty-five degrees at night.
There are three types of azalea suitable for winter blooming, the Indian, Ghent and Mollis, of each of which there are several kinds. The Indian type has the advantage of not blooming without its leaves, as the others do. The best way to select the varieties wanted is to purchase when in bloom. It will not pay the amateur to attempt propagation.
Bouvardia—Pink, white or red flowers, sweet scented. Propagated by root cuttings, but as the plants are good for a number of years, the best way is to get them from the florist. Old plants may be divided, small enough to go into number three pots. Give either cuttings or divisions about sixty degrees at night after potting, which should be in spring, until put outdoors. Keep pinched to shape. Then bloom from late fall to February.
Browallia—A very attractive flowering shrub, easily grown in a cool room, with plenty of sunlight. Sow seeds in 4-inch pots in August, thinning to three or four. Repot to 6 inches. Cuttings make good plants. Best grown as standards.
B. elata is especially valuable because of its deep blue flowers. B. Jamesonii is orange. Roezlii and Grandiflora, blue or white.
Daphne—D. odora is easily grown and very fragrant. As ornamental as orange or lemon and very free flowering. Give almost no water in winter, or store in cellar. Plants good for many years.
Genista—A beautiful evergreen shrub, bearing freely in spring clusters of pea-shaped yellow flowers, richly fragrant. Cut back after flowering, and in fall put in a cold room, forty degrees, or a frame, giving several weeks rest. Cuttings may be rooted readily in spring, when pruning the plants.
Grevillea robusta—The Silk Oak is grown with the greatest ease and makes an extremely graceful, beautiful plant, either by itself or as a center for fern dishes, etc. Sow in March and grow on with frequent shifts.
Hibiscus—One of the most brilliant flowering shrubs outside of the azaleas, with single and double flowers. Give a warm, sunny spot. Large plants can be stored in the cellar. Cuttings in spring or summer will furnish new plants.
Hydrangea—This is another popular flowering shrub, often had in bloom inside in the spring, but personally I do not consider it suited for such use. The flowers are rather coarse to bear close inspection, such as a house plant must be subject to: they are far more effective in masses out-of-doors or used as semi-formal decorations about paths or stoops, for which purpose they are unsurpassed.
If you care to have them bloom indoors, get small plants from the florist, or start cuttings of new growth in spring, taking shoots which do not have buds. After flowering, cut back each branch and grow on, in a cool airy place with slight protection from noonday sun. Take into the house before frost, and gradually dry off for a rest of six weeks or more in a cold room. Then start into growth.
Plants for flowering early in the spring outdoors should be treated in the same way during summer, and wintered in the cellar, as directed above. Take up to the light any time after first of March in the spring, but be careful to harden off before setting outside.
The varieties of the hydrangea are several, some being entirely hardy farther north than New York, but the sorts best for house and tub culture are not. Most of them will come through some winters, but it doesn't pay to take the chance.
H. Hortensia Japonica is the blue flowering variety; the color will depend much, however, upon the soil. To make sure of the color, dissolve one pound of alum in two quarts of ammonia, dilute with twenty gallons water and use as a liquid fertilizer. Thomas Hogg is a beautiful pure white, quite hardy. H. h. Otaksa, pink, is one of the most popular.
Lantana—Easily grown flowering shrub, trailing in habit, with small flower clusters of white, pink, red, yellow or orange. New dwarf varieties best for pot culture. Cuttings root easily. I have never cared for this plant, and its odor is not pleasant to most people.
Lemon—The best lemon for house culture is the Ponderosa, or American Wonder, of comparatively recent introduction. Most florists now have it. Easily grown and a very attractive plant. The fruit is good to use.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citriodora)—Many people consider this the most delightfully fragrant plant grown. Certainly no window garden should be without it. Early in September cut back old plants, if in the garden, and pot up. New growth will quickly be made. Plants kept in pots should be rested in early winter by keeping dry and cool. Spring cuttings root easily.
Oleander—A beautiful old-time favorite, with fragrant blossoms of red, pink, yellow or white. Give a very rich soil and plenty of water when growing. Rest after flowering. Cuttings are rather hard, but will root with care.
Orange—There are several sorts suited to house culture, and they should be more frequently tried, as a well grown plant will have flowers, green fruit and attractive golden oranges almost all the time—to say nothing of its foliage beauty and delightful fragrance. Their rest period should be given during November, December and January.
Otaheite Orange is the one most commonly grown for house culture, and while the fruit is of no use for eating, it has the more valuable advantage of remaining on the tree (which is eighteen to twenty-four inches high) for months. Satsuma is another good sort. Kumquat (Citrus Japonica) is also very attractive.
Reinwardtia (known usually as Linum trigynum)—Another attractive flowering shrub, with light or bright yellow flowers. Cuttings will root with bottom heat in April. L. tetragynum is a companion variety.
Roses—Those who will take the proper pains can grow roses successfully in the house; but as a general rule satisfactory results are not obtained. The first essential to success is the use of the right varieties and those only. The second is a moist atmosphere; the third is cleanliness,—insect enemies must be kept off. For soils, growing in summer, etc., see Part II, page 188.
The best varieties for house culture are the Crimson Baby Rambler (Mme. Norbert Levavasseur), Pink Baby Rambler (Anchen Muller), Crimson Rambler, Clothilde Soupert, Agrippina, Hermosa, Safrano, Maman Cochet, White Maman Cochet and La France.
If the plants are set in a window-box (see page 9) about one foot apart, they will be more easily cared for than in pots. They may be treated in two ways. (1) After blooming, cut away most of the old growth and enforce rest during the summer. Start again in October and grow on in the house. (2) Grow on through the summer and dry off in the fall as the leaves drop. Store in a cold place (a little freezing will not hurt) until about January first. Then prune back severely—about half—and bring into warmth and water. A combination of the two methods will give a long flowering season.
Swainsona—A shrub of vine-like habit, bearing flowers, white and light pink, which greatly resemble sweet peas. The foliage is unusual and very pretty. It should be trained up to stakes or other supports and cut back quite severely after flowering.
Sweet Olive (Olea fragrans)—This is still another fragrant flowering shrub and one of the very easiest to grow.
The house shrubs, having harder stems and tougher leaves than other classes of plants, will stand many hardships that to the latter would prove fatal. They are, however, particularly susceptible to attacks of red spider and scale. Keep your shrubs clean. If you do not, in spite of their seeming immunity to harm, you will have no success with them. Syringing, showering, washing, spraying with insecticides, even giving a next-to-freezing rest,—all the remedies mentioned in Chapter XVII on Insects and Diseases—may at times have to be resorted to. But, at whatever trouble, if you want them at all, keep your shrubs clean.
The foliage plants depend very largely for their beauty upon making a rapid, unchecked growth and being given plenty of sunlight. In many of those having multi-colored and variegated leaves, the markings under unfavorable conditions of growth become inconspicuous and the value of the plant is entirely lost. Therefore, where the proper conditions cannot be given, it will be far wiser to devote your space to plants more suited to house culture.
Aspidistra, araucaria, Pandanus and the rubber plant are exceptions; two of them being remarkable for their hardihood under neglect and ignorance. While many of the foliage plants will live under almost any conditions, it must be remembered, however, that the better care they receive the more beautiful they will be.
Achyranthes—Achyranthes are still popular as bedding plants, as they furnish good coloring. They may be used as house plants also, but in my opinion are a little coarse. Take cuttings in August for new plants and keep on the warm side and rather dry in winter.
Alternanthera—These little plants are unique and brilliant, and a few will be worth having in any collection. They make dense, shrubby miniature bushes a few inches high, very attractively colored. Take cuttings in August; give rich soil, on the sandy side, plenty of light and heat.
A. versicolor has leaves bearing a happy contrast of pink, crimson and bronzy-green. Tricolor is dark green, rose and orange. There are numerous other attractive varieties.
Anthericum (A. variegatum)—The foliage is shaped like a broad blade of grass and very prettily bordered with white. Of the easiest culture, doing well in the shade. Propagated by division. A. medio-picta is another variety, often considered more attractive than the above.
Araucaria—The several araucarias should be much more widely known than they are. Their beauty has made them popular as Christmas gifts, but most of the fine specimens which leave the florists during the holiday season find their end, after a few weeks in a gas-tainted, superheated atmosphere, with probably several times the amount of water required given at the roots, in the ash barrel. They are, when one knows something of their habits of growth, very easily cared for. Little water in winter, and a cool even temperature, are its simple requirements.
The araucaria is, I think, the most beautiful of all formal decorative plants. Its dignity, simplicity and beautiful plumelike foliage place it in a class of its own. The branches leave the main stem at regular intervals, in whorls of five, and the foliage is a clean soft green, lighter at the tips. Propagated by cuttings from leading shoots, not side shoots.
The two varieties ordinarily used are A. excelsa glauca and A. e. robusta. Some time ago I saw a specimen of a new variety, not yet put on the market, and the name of which I have forgotten. (I think it was stellata) The outer half of each branch was almost white, giving the whole plant a wonderful star-like effect.
Aspidistra—The aspidistra is the toughest of all foliage plants—if not of all house plants. It has proved hardy out-of-doors as far north as Philadelphia. The long flat leaves grow to a height of eighteen to twenty-four inches, springing directly from the ground. Its chief requirement is plenty of water during the growing season. New plants are readily obtained by dividing the old roots in February or August.
There are several varieties and those familiar only with the common green sort (A. elatior) will be surprised and pleased with the striking effectiveness of the variegated, (A. e. varigata) and with the spotted leaved A. punctata.
Caladium—This is another popular plant for which I have never cared greatly myself. It seems to have no personality. Well grown plants, however, give most gorgeous color effects. Buy bulbs of the fancy-leaved section, and start in February or March, giving very little water at first. Take in before the first sign of frosts. When growth stops, dry off gradually and store in warm cellar; or better, take out of pots and pack in sand. Do not let them dry out enough to shrivel.
Coleus—The best of all the gay colored foliage plants, but tender. To keep looking well in winter they must have plenty of warmth and sunlight. Root cuttings in August. They grow on very rapidly. Make selections from the garden or a florist's, as they come in a great variety of colors and markings.
Dracaena—The best of all plants, outside the palms, for centers of vases, boxes and large pots. Small plants make very beautiful centers for fern dishes. The colored section need to be kept on the warm side. Give plenty of water in summer, but none on the leaves in winter, as it is apt to lodge in the leaf axils and cause trouble.
Dracaena (Cordyline)—Indivisa, with long, narrow, recurved green leaves, is the one mostly used. The various colored sorts are described in most catalogues.
Leopard Plant—Farfugium grande, better known as Leopard Plant, has handsome dark green leaves marked with yellow. It is of the easiest culture, standing zero weather. Old plants may be divided in spring and rooted in sand. There is a newer variety with white spots, very beautiful. The farfugium is now more commonly listed as Senecio Kaempferi.
Pandanus—The Screw Pine is another favorite decorative plant, easily grown. The leaves are two or three feet long and come out spirally, as the name indicates. As they get older they curve down gracefully, giving a very pleasing effect.
The soil for pandanuses should contain a generous amount of sand. Give plenty of water in summer, little in winter, and be sure that none of it lodges in the axils of the leaves, as rot is very easily induced.
New plants are produced from suckers at the base of the old ones.
Pandanus utilis is the variety most commonly seen. P. Veitchii, dark green bordered with broad stripes of pure white, is much more decorative, a really beautiful plant. P. Sanderi is another good sort, with golden yellow coloring, that should be given a trial.
Pepper—Some of the peppers make very attractive pot plants on account of their bright fruit, which is very pretty in all stages of growth from the new green pods, through yellow to bright red. Buy new plants or start from seed in spring. They are easily grown if kept on the warm side. Celestial and Kaleidoscope are the two kinds best suited for house culture.
The Rubber (Ficus.) This is the most popular of all formal decorative plants. At least part of the secret of its success undoubtedly lies in the fact that—almost literally—you cannot kill it! But that is no excuse for abusing it either, as there is all the difference in the world between a well cared for symmetrical plant and one of the semi-denuded, lop-sided, spotted leaved plants one so frequently sees, and than which, as far as ornamentation is concerned, an empty pot would be far more decorative.
The rubber requires—and deserves—a good rich soil, and in the spring, summer and fall, all the water that the soil will keep absorbed. Give less in winter, as an excess at this time causes the leaves to turn yellow and droop.
As the rubber is more difficult to propagate than most house plants, and specimens will not get too large for several years, it will be best to get plants from the florist. It frequently happens, however, that an old plant which has been grown up to a single stem, becomes unwieldy, and bare at the bottom. In such cases the upper part may be removed by "topping" and the main trunk cut back to within six to eighteen inches of the pot or tub, and water withheld partly until new growth starts. The old stem may thus be transformed into a low, bush plant and frequently they make very handsome specimens. The topping is performed by making a deep upward slanting cut, with a sharp knife, at the point you want in the pot for your new plant. In the cut stuff a little sphagnum moss; remove this after a few days and wash the cut out with warm water, removing the congealed sap. Insert fresh moss and with strips of soft cloth tie a good handful over the wound. Keep this moist constantly until the roots show through the moss, which may be several weeks. Then pot in moist earth, not wet, and syringe daily, but do not water the pots for two or three days. Sometimes pots cut in halves and the bottoms partly removed are used to hold the moss in place. August is a good time to propagate.
Ficus elastica is the common rubber plant. The "fiddle-leaved" rubber plant (F. pandurata) is another variety, now largely grown. It differs from the former in having very broad, blunt leaves, shaped like the head of a fiddle, which are marked by the whitish veins. Two other beautiful plants are F. Cooperia, having large leaves with red mid-ribs, and F. Parcelli, with leaves marbled with white. They should be given a higher temperature than F. elastica.
Saxifraga: S. sarmentosa tricolor is the commonly known strawberry geranium, or beefsteak plant. It has a quite unique habit of growth and is best displayed where its numerous runners have a chance to hang down, as from a basket or hanging pot. The runners are easily rooted in soil. There are numerous varieties, with flowers of red, white and pink.
Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica)—This is a pretty little green-leaved plant, the never-failing interest in which lies not in its beauty, however, but in the fact that it shrinks and folds up when touched, as though it belonged to the animal kingdom. It is easily grown from seed.
Tradescantia—This is otherwise known as spiderwort, Wandering Jew, Creeping Charles and under other names. It is a very pretty running or trailing plant, of the easiest culture, its chief requirement being plenty of water. Cuttings root easily at any time. There are several varieties, among them being discolor, a variegated leaf, and Zebrina multi-color, the leaves of which give almost a rainbow effect in their wonderful diversity and blending. For those familiar only with the old green variety it will prove a great surprise.
Zebra Plant (Maranta zebrina)—This is another easily grown decorative plant with tropical looking, large leaves. While usually listed as Maranta zebrina, it is really a calathea and the plants of this genus show a variation in their markings unsurpassed by any. Zebrina and most of the varieties, of which there are many, should be grown in the shade, with plenty of water and a minimum temperature of sixty degrees all the year. C. pulchella and C. intermedia resembles C. zebrina and can be grown in a cooler temperature. Do not allow the plants to flower. Increase by division.
A number of the vines make very excellent house plants, though one seldom sees them. This seems rather strange when one takes into consideration the facts that they are easily grown and can be used for decorative effects impossible with any other plants.
If there is one particular caution to be given in regard to caring for plants in the house, it is to keep the foliage clean. Naturally a vine that runs up the window trim, and maybe halfway across the wall to a picture frame, cannot well be sprinkled or syringed; but the leaves can be occasionally wiped off with a moist, soft cloth. Keep the pores open; they have to breathe.
Cissus discolor—This altogether too little known vine has the most beautiful foliage of any. The leaves are a velvety green veined with silver, the under surfaces being reddish and the stems red. It is a rapid grower and readily managed if kept on the warm side. New plants may be had from cuttings at almost any season. C. antarctica is better known and easily grown.
Clematis—This popular outdoor vine is sometimes successfully used as a house plant, and has the advantage of doing well in a low temperature. Cuttings rooted in June and grown on will make good plants, but the best way will be to get at the florist's two or three plants of the splendid new varieties now to be had.
Coboea scandens—The Coboea is sometimes called the cup-and-saucer flower. It is very energetic, growing under good conditions to a length of twenty to thirty feet. The flowers, which are frequently two inches across, are purplish in color and very pretty. They are borne quite freely.
The coboea is easily managed if kept properly trained. As the plant in proportion to the pot room is very large, liquid manures or fertilizers are desirable. Either seeds or cuttings will furnish new plants. The former should be placed edge down, one in a two-inch pot and pressed in level with the surface. They will soon need repotting, and must be shifted frequently until they are put in six-or eight-inch pots.
Coboea scandens variegata is a very handsome form and should without fail be tried.
Hoya carnosa—This is commonly known as the wax plant on account of its thick leaves and wax-like flowers, which are a delicate pink and borne in large pendulous umbels. It is easily cared for; give full sun in summer and keep moderately dry in winter. Leave the old flower stalks on the plant. Cuttings may be rooted in early spring in pots, plunged in bottom heat.
The Ivys—The ivys are the most graceful of all the vines, and with them the most artistic effects in decoration may be produced. I have always wondered why they are not more frequently used, for they are in many respects ideal as house plants; they produce more growth to a given size pot than any other plants, they thrive in the shade, they withstand the uncongenial conditions usually found in the house, and are among the hardiest of plants suitable for house culture. And yet how many women will fret and fume over a Lorraine begonia or some other refractory plant, not adapted at all to growing indoors, when half the amount of care spent on a few ivys would grace their windows with frames of living green, giving a setting to all their other plants which would enhance their beauty a hundred percent.
The English ivy (Hedera helix) is the best for house culture. A form with small leaves, H. Donerailensis, is better for many purposes. And then there is a variegated form, which is very beautiful. Large cuttings, rooted in the fall, will make good plants. Hedera helix arborescens is known as the Irish ivy and is a very rapid grower.
The German ivy (Senecio scandens) has leaves the shape of the English ivy, and is a wonderfully rapid grower and a great climber. It lacks, however, the substance and coloring of the real ivy. It is, nevertheless, valuable for temporary uses, and a plant or two should always be kept. Cuttings root freely and grow at any time.
Manettia—This is a cheery, free flowering little vine, especially good for covering a small trellis in a pot. The brilliant little flowers, white, blue or red and yellow, are very welcome winter visitors. Cuttings root easily in summer and the plants are very easily cared for, being particularly free from insect pests. Give partial shade in summer.
Mimosa moschatus—This is the common Musk Plant which, according to one's taste, is pleasant—or the opposite. It is of creeping habit and has very pretty foliage.
There are a number of varieties. That described above is covered with small yellow flowers. M. m. Harrisonii has larger flowers. M. cardinalis, red flowers and is dwarf in habit. M. glutinosus is erect in habit, with salmon colored flowers, very pretty.
Moneywort (Lysimachia Nummularia)—This is a favorite basket plant, as it is a rapid grower and not particular about its surroundings, so long as it has enough water. While the flowers are pretty, being a cheery yellow, the plant is grown for its foliage. New plants may be had by dividing old clumps.
Morning-Glory—This beautiful flower is seldom seen in the house, but will do well there if plenty of light can be given. Neither vines nor flowers grow as large as they do out-of-doors, but they make very pretty plants.
Nasturtium—Another common summer flower that makes a very pretty plant in the house. Start seeds in August and shift on to five-or-six-inch pots. There is also a dwarf form and other sorts with variegated ivy leaves that make splendid pot plants. Of the tall sorts some of the new named varieties, like Sunlight and Moonlight, give beautiful and very harmonious effects. They will be a very pleasant surprise to those familiar only with the old bright mixed colors.
Othonna crassifolia—This pretty little yellow flowered trailing plant, sometimes known as "little Pickles" is quite a favorite for boxes, or as a hanging or bracket plant. It should be given the full sun but little water in winter. When too long, it it may be cut back freely. Root cuttings, or the small tufts along the trailing stems, in spring.
Smilax—In some ways this is the most airily beautiful and graceful of all the decorative vines. And it is valuable not only for its own beauty, but for its usefulness in setting off the beauty of other flowers. It is very easily grown if kept on the warm side, and given plenty of root room. Care should be taken to provide green colored strings for the vines to climb up, as they make a very rapid growth when once started. The best way to provide plants is to get a few from the florist late in the spring, or start from seed in February. New plants do better than those kept two seasons.
Sweet Peas—Of late years a great deal has been done with sweet peas in winter, and where one can give them plenty of light, they will do well inside. Plenty of air and a temperature a little on the cool side, with rich soil, will suit them. Start seed in very early fall, or in winter, according as you want bloom early or late. There are now a number of varieties grown especially for winter work such as Christmas Pink, Christmas White, etc. Five or six varieties will give a very satisfactory collection. The fragrant, beautiful blossoms are always welcome, but doubly so in winter. Do not let the flowers fade on the vines, as it increases the number of flowers to have them taken off.
Thunbergia—The Thunbergia, sometimes called the "butterfly plant," is the best all-round flowering vine for the house. The flowers are freely produced, average an inch to an inch-and-a-half across, and cover a wide range of colors, including white, blue, purple, yellow and shades and combinations of these. Its requirements are not special: keep growing on during summer into a somewhat bushy form, as the vines will grow rapidly when allowed to run in the house. It can be grown from seed but cuttings make the best plants. Root early in spring, and by having a succession of rooted cuttings blossoms may be had all winter.
Thunbergia laurifolia has flowers of white and blue; T. fragrans, pure white; and T. Mysorensis, purple and yellow.
Ferns, although there are not many varieties of them available for culture indoors, are probably more universally used as house plants than any other class of plants. Their culture is not difficult, although it differs somewhat from that given most of the plants described in the preceding pages.
In the first place, ferns want a porous soil, say two parts screened leaf-mould, one sand and one old manure or rich loam, the latter being preferable. In the second place, they should be given a warmer temperature, a minimum of fifty-five degrees at night being very desirable, although not absolutely essential.
The third requisite in success with ferns is a moist atmosphere, as well as plenty of water at the roots. If the pots are carefully drained (facing page 41) as they should be, and the soil properly porous, it will be almost impossible to over-water at the roots. Great care should be taken, however, not to wet the foliage, particularly where the sun can shine on the leaves. When the fronds must be wet, to keep them clean, try to do it on a warm day, that they may dry off quickly near an open north or east window. They should always be given as much light as possible, without direct sunlight, and as much air as possible while maintaining the proper temperature.
Many of the ferns can be increased either by runners or division, and these are easily propagated at home. Those which are grown from spores (the fern's seeds) it will be better to get from the florist's.
Most of the ferns belong to one of three groups, the sword ferns (Nephrolepis), the maidenhairs (Adiantum) or the spider ferns (Pteris). The distinguishing feature of the sword ferns is their long pointed fronds; the maidenhairs command attention by their beautiful feathery foliage, in some varieties as delicate as the filmiest lace; and the spider ferns, seen usually in mixed varieties in dishes or fern pans, are attractive for their shades of green, gray, white and silver, and compact growth.
THE SWORD FERNS
The old widely popular sword fern was Nephrolepis exaltata, but the original form has been almost entirely replaced by new varieties developed from it, the most widely known of which is the Boston fern (N. ex. var. Bostoniensis). The wide popularity of this fern is due to both its beauty and its hardiness, as it will stand more ill usage than any other house fern. It grows rapidly and makes a handsome plant at all stages of development.
THE SCOTT FERN
A well grown large Boston fern requires a good deal of room, and the long fronds—three feet or more in length—are apt to get damaged at the ends. For these reasons the Scottii fern, a development of the Boston, is for some purposes a better plant. Its fronds are like those of the latter, but shorter and proportionately narrower, and the habit of the plant is much more dense and compact. It makes a very satisfactory plant.
THE PLUMED TYPE
Another fern developed from the Boston is Whitmani, in which the fronds are not so long but the foliage is so finely divided that it gives a decided plumey effect. The Whitmani is perhaps the best of this type for house culture as the others, under adverse conditions, are likely to revert to the Boston type of frond. Piersoni and Elegantissima are exceptionally beautiful, but must be given careful attention. Scholzeli, sometimes called the Crested Scott fern, is very beautiful and well worth trying.
Of the beautiful, but delicate, adiantums perhaps the one most frequently seen in the florist's window is A. Farleyense, with its drooping, lace-like, light green leaves. It is not, however, suited for house culture and while it can be made to succeed, do not waste time in trying it until you have mastered the growing of the hardier sorts.
However, just because Farleyense is so delicate, do not feel that you cannot have any maidenhair fern. Croweanum is another beautiful adiantum, and as its fronds are much firmer than those of most of this class, it withstands the trying conditions of house culture very satisfactorily. Another maidenhair, often called the hardy Farleyense, is Adiantum c. v. imbricatum. As its name suggests, it looks very much like the Farley fern, but it is suitable for house culture. It is a very satisfactory fern. And just recently there is another from England called the Glory fern (Glory of Moordrecht). I have not seen it, but certainly from photographs and what the horticultural journals have said of it, it will make a very fine fern for the winter garden.
THE SPIDER FERNS
The name given Pteris ferns is descriptive of only part of them, as they vary greatly. They are commonly used in made up dishes, or with other plants, but most of them will make fine single plants as well. P. Wilsoni is a popular sort making a compact plant with a unique tufted foliage of light clear green. P. cretica is dark green, or green lined with white, according to the variety. Victoriae is perhaps the best of the several variegated Pteris'.
The Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) is another very desirable house plant and has been a favorite for years. It has very dark green substantial glossy foliage, and stands up well. There is a new Holly fern, however, which I think will replace C. falcatum; it is C. Rochfordianum; its foliage is not only a richer deeper green, but the pinnae, or leaflets, are deeply cut and also wavy, and have given it the popular name of the Crested Holly fern. Be sure to try it among the next ferns you get.
Fern balls, which are usually composed of one of the Davallias, sometimes prove unsatisfactory. Be sure in ordering to get them fresh from some reliable mail order house, rather than take chances on them at the florist's. The best way, however, is to get them already started. If you get them in dormant condition, soak in tepid water and then give a temperature as near sixty degrees at night as possible until they start.
While not strictly members of the fern family, the asparagus used for decorative purposes under the name of Asparagus Ferns, are commonly classed with them. Since their introduction they have proved very popular indeed.
Asparagus plumosus nanus, the Lace fern. No foliage is more beautiful than the feathery light green sprays of this asparagus. Notwithstanding its delicacy, it keeps wonderfully well when cut. The plants can be grown as pot plants, or as vines. If wanted for the former purpose, keep the sprays pinched back at twelve inches, and the roots rather restricted. For vines, keep in large pots or boxes—always well drained—and keep well fed.
Asparagus Sprengeri in both foliage and habit is very distinct from A. plumosus. The leaves resemble small glossy pine needles, borne in long sprays, and as it is trailing in habit it makes a unique and beautiful plant for stands or baskets. The sprays keep well when cut, and make an excellent background for flowers. It is now used more universally for green by florists than any other plant.
Either of the above may be started from seed, or propagated by dividing old plants, but small young plants may be had of the florists at a very low price. They need about the same treatment as smilax (see page 94), but will do well in a temperature of fifty to fifty-five degrees at night. Shower frequently, but water only moderately.
For many years these two varieties have held the field to themselves, but recently a new asparagus, of each type has put in an appearance. Hatcheri resembles plumosus nanus, but is more compact in habit and the leaves are much closer together on the stems. If it remains true to type, and is as hardy as plumosus, it will replace it, for it certainly is a more beautiful plant. A. S. variegata is a very pretty "sport" with the leaves edged white.
The number of palms adapted to house culture is very limited but they comprise the most elegant of the decorative plants.
Although popular now, they would be much more widely used if their culture were better understood. Mistakes made in handling palms are serious in results, for they produce for the most part only two or three new leaves in a year, and so any injury shows for a long time; it is not soon replaced by new growth and forgotten, as with many of the more rapid growing house plants.
Nevertheless, if the few cultural requirements of palms are carefully attended to, they are as easily grown as any plants and yield a solid and lasting satisfaction.
The house palms, as I have said, grow very slowly. It is not only useless, but dangerous, to try to force them into unnatural growth.
Palms do best when restricted as to root room. When your plant comes from the florist, do not get impatient after a month or so and think that a larger pot would make it grow faster. Repotting once a year while palms are growing, and not so frequently as that after they are in eight-or ten-inch pots, will be sufficient. The best time for repotting is late spring—May or June. Use a pot only one size larger than that in which the palm has been growing. Remove carefully, do not disturb the roots, and put into the new pot carefully, ramming the new earth in firmly about the old ball with a thin piece of wood (see directions for repotting, page 40).
The soil for palms need not contain as much humus (leaf-mould or peat) as that for most other house plants. Good rich garden loam, with sharp sand added, and bone meal worked through it, will be right.
Be sure the drainage is perfect. Crock the pots carefully (facing page 41). If any of the crocking from the old pot comes out with the ball of earth, remove it as carefully as possible and fill in the space with soil. After potting, keep shaded for several days.
While palms require plenty of water, no plants are more fatally injured by overwatering. Above all must care be taken never to let water accumulate in saucers or jardinieres in which the pots are standing. Water will soak up through a pot as well as down through it, and water-saturated soil will quickly become sour. When you do water, water thoroughly and then see that the pots are kept where they can drain out, and do not water again until they show a tendency to get too dry. Much water will cause the leaves to turn brown. In this case change the treatment at once. (The looks of the leaves can be somewhat improved by cutting them to shape with a pair of scissors.) The amount of water required is much greater in summer than in winter, when the plants are practically at rest.
Direct sunlight is not desirable for palms, but they should have plenty of light. Do not stick them away in a dark corner or an inner room and expect them to do well. They will stand such a situation several days without injury, but should be brought back to the light as soon as possible. They do well in north windows, providing the temperature of the room is high enough. Remember, however, that pots kept in a shady place will dry out much less quickly than those in the light or sunlight. If they are to be kept permanently where the sun does not strike, it is a good thing to add charcoal to the soil, as this aids greatly in keeping it from getting sour.
Give plenty of air. The more the better, so long as a proper temperature is kept up, as that counteracts the effect of the more or less poisonous atmosphere of living-rooms kept closed during winter. Beware of drafts blowing across the plants, but provide plenty of fresh air.
In the spring as soon as it warms up outdoors—say after the apple blossoms fall—plunge the palms outside, in a sheltered position, where they can be given plenty of water. At this time, if they are not repotted, bone meal should be worked into the surface of the soil and a liquid manure of bone meal given once a month or so during the growing season.
Both during winter and summer, shower the leaves frequently, with as forceful a stream as possible, to prevent scale and mealy-bug getting a start. (For treatment see page 135.) Keep the leaves and stems clean by wiping off every once in a while with a soft cloth and soapy warm water, syringing with clean water afterwards.
THE BEST HOUSE PALMS
Although the number of palms cultivated is very large, very few indeed—only about a dozen—will give satisfactory results in the house. The fact that a palm will live—or rather, takes a very long time to die—under abuse, has misled people into thinking that they do not need as much care as other house plants. This is a mistake.
Palms may be considered in two classes, the fan-leaved and the feather-leaved, or deeply cut, sorts. Of the former there are but three sorts good for house culture.
Latania Borbonica, the Chinese Fan-leaved palm, is the best known. It is one of the hardiest, standing a temperature as low as forty-five degrees at night. It is broad in habit, and the large leaves are deeply cut and drooping at the edge, making a very attractive plant.
Livistona rotundifolia, the Miniature Fan palm, is a more compact type of the above; not only the leaves but the whole plant being round in habit and growing quite dense. It is a beautiful lively green in color, and making a neater plant, is in many ways more desirable for the house than Latania Borbonica. It requires more warmth, however, and should be kept up to 55 degrees at night if possible.
Chamaerops excelsa has the distinguished feature of forming shoots at the base, thus having foliage where most palms are bare, and in old specimens unattractively so. Its leaves are shaped like those of Borbonica, but are smaller, and the leaf stalk in proportion is longer. It is a good strong variety.
THE FEATHER-LEAVED PALMS
Many of these are of more recent introduction than the old favorite fan palms, but they have won their way to a growing and deserved popularity.
Phoenix Roebelenii is one of the newest. It is destined, I venture to say, to become the most popular of all palms for the house. It has frequently been described as having "the beauty of Weddelliana and the hardiness of Kentia." That perhaps describes it, but does not do it full justice. It has several times the amount of foliage that Cocos Weddelliana has, and is a more robust grower. It has, unlike that palm, leaf stalks growing all the way to the bottom, the lower ones gracefully recurved and the upper ones spreading airily. It is very easily cared for, and on the whole wins on a larger number of counts than any other house palm.
Phoenix Rupicola has gracefully arching, drooping foliage and is very handsome, the dark green leaves being even more feather-like than those of Cocus Weddelliana. It is also one of the hardiest.
Areca Verschaffeltii is unique in having a creamy colored mid-rib. It must be given the best of care, but will well repay any extra pains taken with it.
The Kentias, K. Belmoreana, the Thatch-leaf palm, and K. Forsteriana, the Curly palm, are the hardiest of all the house palms and sure to give satisfaction. The former is of dwarf, sturdy habit, with broadly divided, dark green leaves borne up well on stiff stems. K. Forsteriana is of stronger growth, spreads more, and the divisions of the leaf are broader.
Cocos Weddelliana is the most artistically graceful of the house palms. The finely cut, feathery leaves spring well up from the pot and from the slender erect stem. It is a small palm, and grows slowly. I think I should give it a place among the three choicest palms for the house, although, unfortunately, it is not as hardy as some of the others. It is the best palm to use as a center for fern dishes.
Seaforthia elegans, the Australian Feather palm, is a tall growing and stately variety, which does well in the house.
Caryota urens is commonly known as the Fishtail palm, and on account of that distinguishing characteristic deserves a place in any good collection. It is a large growing sort and will utilize more root room than most of the others. It is not so strong as most of the others described, but will succeed well if precautions are taken not to let it get chilled in cold weather.
Personally I am not an enthusiast over cacti. While a cactus in bloom is a marvelous sight, so gorgeous in fact that it is almost unbelievable and unreal, I prefer flowers a little less fervid and more constant.
There are, however, two distinct advantages which most of the cacti possess, making them available for use where no other plants could be kept. They are practically proof against any hardships that may be imposed upon them, and they take up very little room. In addition to that they are always an interesting curiosity, and for that reason alone well worth the little attention they require. The low-growing sorts, among which some of the most curious are to be found, may be given a narrow shelf or the edge of the plant shelf in the winter window garden.
As far as care and soil are concerned, their requirements are simple. The most important thing to see to is that they are given perfect drainage. The soil should be sandy, and coal ashes, or better still, old plastering or lime rubbish, should be added. Only a moderate amount of water will be required in winter, but when the plants are set outside in a well drained position in summer they should be showered frequently. As to temperature, although they come from hot climates, most of the sorts will stand as low as thirty-five degrees without injury. Just before and during the blooming period about sixty degrees is desirable, but forty-five to fifty degrees will be better at other times. Where room is lacking, they may, for the most part, be wintered over in the cellar, as described previously for other plants (page 71). Propagation is performed either by seeds or cuttings, the latter being the more generally used, as they root very readily—just break a piece off and stick it in the sand.
Considered from the layman's point of view, cacti are made up of two classes: those which are valued for their wonderful flowers and those which excite curiosity by their weird habits of growth. Some of the latter—such as the Crown of Thorns and the Mammillaria—have small or infrequent flowers.
Specimens of this class, well cared for, are worthy of a place in any collection of flowering plants. They will stand, especially during the flowering period, weak applications of manure water.
The Epiphyllums or Crab cacti (Ephiphyllum truncatum and its varieties) are by far the most valuable, because of their profuse and long flowering season, especially as it comes in the winter when bright flowers are scarce. E. t. coccineum, with deep scarlet flowers, is one of the best. Ruckerianum, light purple with violet center; Magnificum, white, slightly pinkish at the edge; and violaceum superbum, white with rich purple edge, are some of the other good varieties of these beautiful plants. Phyllocactus is perhaps the next best flowering sort. The flowers are larger, more gorgeous, but borne only for a very short time. P. Ackermanni is one of the best of these. It has very large flowers, lily-shaped, bright red shading to light red with the inner petals, and the long gracefully curved stamens add to its beauty. It blossoms in May or early June, but the season is usually limited to two or three weeks. The night blooming Phyllocactus, with white flowers, is commonly confused with the Night-Blooming cereus. Cereus may be distinguished by its angular stems as compared to the broad flat stems of Phyllocactus. C. grandiflorus and C. Macdonaldiae, the famous Night-blooming cereuses, have white flowers which remain open only one night. They are, however, though so transient, a marvelous sight. Prone to strange tasks indeed is the hand of Nature which has fashioned these grotesque, clumsy, lifeless looking plants to accumulate nourishment and moisture for months from the niggardly desert sands, and to mature for a few hours' existence only these marvelously fashioned flowers which collapse with the first rays of the heat-giving sunshine. C. flagelliformis, and C. speciosissimus, two very gorgeous flowered day blooming sorts, remain longer, but they are not so hardy as most of the other cacti. Opuntia, the Indian fig, is another flowering sort, though not so valuable. They are grotesque in shape and the flowers, which are various shades of red or yellow and two inches or so across, according to variety, look as though they had been stuck onto the plant.
Of the other cacti commonly grown most are of dwarf form and a single window will accommodate quite a number of them.
Echinocactus, the Hedge-hog cactus, is one of the best known of these. E. myriostigma, the Bishop's Cap, is a quite familiar variety.
Echinopsis, the Sea-urchin cactus, is another queer dwarf type. The flowers seem much too large for the plants, being sometimes half a foot long. They are lily-shaped and rose pink or white, according to variety.
Pilocereus senilis, the Old Man cactus, is another sort which always attracts attention in any collection. The stem is covered with fine white hairy spines, three to five inches long, which give it a very peculiar appearance. When kept in the house the hairs are likely to become dusty and grimy. They may be protected by cutting two panes of glass into four long pieces, just wide enough to square the pot, and enclosing it, putting a fifth piece over the top.
Opuntia senilis, the dwarf prickly pear, is very similar to the above, but indoors makes a larger plant usually, although much smaller in its natural habitat.
Anhalonium fissuratum, the Living Rock, is an other frequently encountered and very interesting sort.
The Mammillarias are compact, neat little plants quite unique and attractive in spite of their spiral rows of vicious spines. They grow only a few inches high and have inconspicuous pale flowers of yellow, red or purple, followed by the bright red little fruits which are one of the most interesting characteristics. M. bicolor is one of the best and most frequently encountered sorts. M. plumosa has fuzzy spines, like the Old Man cactus. It can be kept clean by growing under a large glass.
There are several succulent plants quite closely resembling cacti, which need about the same treatment.
The century plant (Agave Americana) is universally known. There are two sorts frequently seen, that with the green leaves and a variety with broad yellow bands which is much handsomer. They make excellent formal tub plants, standing almost any hardships and lasting for years. They are easily propagated from suckers and grow quite rapidly. They are, however, in the larger sizes very difficult to handle, armed with spines at leaf tips and edges. Tub specimens are usually wintered over in the cellar, or at the florist's. There is an unfounded superstition that they bloom once every hundred years. They rarely flower when domesticated. Repot as often as needed, in fairly rich soil, while growing. Small plants are quite attractive in the house in winter and may be plunged outside in summer. The Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia splendens) is also quite well known. It makes a long tangled vine, full of wicked short thorns and small, pretty leaves. The flowers are not large but the bright red bracts add a touch of color and the plant is covered with them most of the year. It must be carefully staked up and trained, a short wide pot trellis being the best thing to use.
"Little Pickles" (Othonna crassifolia) is quite a favorite basket and hanging plant. The odd, thick foliage looks like small cucumbers. It must be given plenty of light, sunshine if possible, to produce its flowers, which are small and yellow, in shape like those of the sun pink, but smaller.
There are a number of other succulents sometimes used for house plants, among them the aloes, mesembryanthemums (fig marigolds), echeverias (E. metallica being the best sort), sedums and house leeks (Sempervivums), among which S. globiferum, "hen-and-chickens," is the most widely known. These do not occupy very important positions, however, and space does not permit further description here.
Bulbs furnish one of the most satisfactory classes of winter-blooming house plants, especially for city houses and apartments where conditions are not apt to favor the longevity of plants.
They may be considered in two classes:—the forcing bulbs, such as narcissus and freesia, and those given natural conditions of growth in pots, such as amaryllis or callas.
Most of the forcing bulbs are included in what florists term the "Dutch" and "Cape" bulbs. They may be had in a succession of bloom from Thanksgiving to Easter, and yet all the work is done at one time. The task of bringing them to bloom is an easy one.
If you want to have the enjoyment of attending to the whole process yourself, procure your supply of bulbs from a reliable seed store, or order by mail. The bulbs should be firm and plump. The easiest to grow and the most satisfactory are hyacinths, tulips, narcissus and freesia. They can be grown in pots, but success will be more certain with small boxes four to six inches deep and any size up to the regular "flat" (about 13x22 inches), according to the number you wish in bloom at one time. All the paraphernalia you will need is a supply of light, rich soil (one-third old rotted manure, two-thirds rotted turf-loam is good) a few fern or bulb pans, boxes, and your bulbs. Begin operations early in October. Cover the bottoms of your pots and boxes, which should have ample drainage (see illustration) with an inch or so of coarse screenings, charcoal lumps, pot fragments or sifted coal cinders to assure good drainage. Cover this with an inch or so of soil, and put the bulbs in place, setting them firmly, right side up, and near enough almost to touch each other. The "extra size" bulbs can go a little further apart, but not more than two or three inches. Then cover over and fill with the same soil, until the bulbs are an inch or so below the surface of the potting soil.
The Dutch or Cape Bulbs.—The next step is to select your storage place, where the bulbs are to be kept while making roots, and until they are wanted to flower in the house. A dark, cold, dry cellar, free from mice, will do. If this is not available use the coldframe, if you have one, or simply dig a trench, in any well drained spot, about one foot deep, and long enough to hold your boxes and pots. After placing them here give them a thorough watering, and cover with six or eight inches of soil. Cover freesias only two inches, with a light soil. If you wish to keep tabs on your plantings, use a long stake, with place for tag at the top, in each pan or box. Don't trust to your memory.
Your bulbs will need no further care until they are ready to be brought in, except, on the approach of freezing weather, to cover the trench with leaves, or litter if they are kept outdoors. In four or five weeks bring in hyacinths and polyanthus narcissi. Von Thol tulips may be had in bloom by Christmas. Success will be more certain with the other tulips and large flowered narcissi if you wait until the last of November before bringing them into the house. Their growth outside will have been almost entirely root growth; the first leaves may have started, but will not be more than an inch or two high. Immediately upon bringing them in, the bulbs should be given another good watering, and from this time on should never be allowed to suffer for water. When the flower spikes are half developed, a little liquid manure, or nitrate of soda, or one of the prepared plant foods, dissolved in water, will be of great benefit applied about once a week. The temperature for bulbs just brought in should be at first only 45 to 50 degrees; after a few days 10 degrees more. In the ordinary living-room a little ventilation by opened windows will readily lower the temperature, but care should be taken not to expose the growing plants to any draft. Forcing bulbs, like almost all other plants, will be better and healthier with the maximum amount of fresh air compatible with a sufficiently high temperature.
The plants thus brought into water, light and warmth, will grow with remarkable rapidity. Just as the first buds are opening out is the ideal time to use them as presents, as they will continue subjects of daily attraction for a long time. Those that are kept can be saved, either to plant out or use another year. Let the soil gradually dry out when they are through blooming, and when the tops are dead take the bulbs from the soil, clean them and store in a perfectly dry place, or in boxes, in dry sand.
The colors and other qualities of the many varieties of hyacinths, narcissi and tulips will be found described in the fall catalogues of all the best seedhouses.
As before stated, hyacinths, tulips, narcissi and freesias are the most readily forced and the most satisfactory bulbs. The beginner will do well, for his first attempt, to confine himself to these. There are, however, several more that respond to practically the same treatment, and whose various types of beauty will repay handsomely the trouble of forcing them.
Ixias and sparaxias are two more of the Cape group easily forced and well worth growing. They like a cool temperature, 35 to 40 degrees at night, even after having been brought in. They should not be put in the dark or covered with earth after potting, but started in a cool temperature, with light.
Oxalis. Another very beautiful effect is had by getting a hanging basket, or a pot-hanger with which to suspend a six-inch or eight-inch bulb-pan, and in it start some oxalis bulbs. They do not need to be rooted first, but should be placed at once in the light and heat (about 55 degrees). They will send out spray after spray of beautiful flowers, continuing in bloom for months. Dry off and rest about June, if started in October; start again in the fall. Freesias and oxalis, to be had in bloom by Christmas, should be started in August.
Easter Lily (Lillium Harrisii) is universally popular. It is usually bought from the florist in bud or bloom, but may be grown in the house. Large firm bulbs should be procured, and potted at once in five or six inch pots, and given the same treatment as above until root growth has been made, when they will still be several months from flowering. When wanted for Easter they should be brought into the house the first or second week in November. Keep rather cool for two or three weeks. Later they may be given a much higher temperature. When the pots are covered with roots, it is a good plan to carefully repot, setting rather deep, so that the new roots starting above the soil, may be of use.
Lillium candidum and L. longiflorum may be given the same treatment but will require a longer time in which to mature.
Calla (Richardia Aethiopica) The soil for callas should, where possible, be about one-third rotted cow manure. Otherwise make very rich soil with bone and whatever may be had but get the cow manure if possible. It also likes a great deal of water. Pot at once in large pots, give a thorough watering and keep cool and shaded for four or five weeks, until active growth begins. Then give more heat, keeping it about 60 degrees if you can. They will continue to bloom a long time. In the spring, after flowering ceases, dry off gradually and lay the pots on their sides in a shaded spot, and rest until August. Beside the large white calla most commonly seen, there are several other forms which will be found described in good catalogues, among them Tom Thumb or Little Gem, a dwarf sort; Elliottiana, the Yellow calla; Godfrey, a dwarf ever-blooming sort, especially desirable as a pot plant where, as is often the case, the ordinary large white sort is too big to be managed conveniently; albomaculata, white with purple throat, etc. The red and black callas are arums.
Cyclamen. While these beautiful flowers may be grown from seed it is much easier for the amateur to get the bulbs or a growing plant. If the former, pot in four-or five-inch pots, using a light compost and giving little water at first. Repot as needed. Shade during summer and syringe frequently, give 55 to 60 degrees in winter, with liquid manure while flowering. When the leaves begin to look yellowish, dry off, and give a short rest but don't let them get dry enough to shrivel.
The Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) may receive much the same treatment but is a summer bloomer. The bulbs or dried roots should be potted up in February or March and kept growing on and repotted. One of their valuable characteristics is the great range of colors and combinations in the flowers, which are freely produced.
The Amaryllis-like Group. Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) is altogether too little known in its modern varieties. Everyone has seen one of the old forms, red or red with a white stripe, with the lily-like flowers borne well aloft above scant foliage. But the new named sorts are tremendous improvements and should by all means be tried, even if they seem expensive beside other bulbs, of which you can get a dozen for the price of one good amaryllis. Remember, however, that the amaryllis is of the very easiest culture and will last for years.
Pot the bulbs up as soon as received—they come in November—and let them stay dormant awhile. In a month or two they will begin growth and flower (unfortunately) long before the leaves have made much of a show. Do not dry off just because the flowers fade,—the plant has got to make its growth and store up food for next season. Continue to water and feed—outdoors in the summer—until the leaves begin to turn yellow; then dry off and store in a cool place until the bulbs again show signs of growth. The flowers are generally borne from January until May and come in shades of crimson, blood-red and white and attractive combinations of these colors.
Vallota purpurea is little known, but a very useful plant for the window garden, resembling the amaryllis, but having evergreen foliage which, of course, gives it a distinct advantage. The flowers are reddish scarlet.
Imantophyllum miniatum is another very desirable evergreen foliaged bulb, having large amaryllis-like flowers, red with a yellow throat. There are several varieties.
The African blue lily (Agapanthus umbellatus) is quite like the above but the flowers are bright blue, a large number forming each umbel, so that it is one of the most striking of plants. It naturally flowers in the summer (being carried through the winter by storing in the cellar), but by changing the resting season may be flowered in the spring. Unlike most of the other bulbs in this group, they should be repotted in rich soil every year, to do their best. Beside the above there are varieties with white and with double flowers and one with variegated leaves. They form a most interesting group.
The Blood Flower (Haemanthus) has very beautiful flowers but they are produced in advance of the foliage. Give the same treatment as amaryllis.
The above group will make a very unusual and desirable collection, easily managed, and giving satisfaction for a good many years.
Tuberous Begonia. While this is not a bulb, strictly speaking, it is treated in about the same way as the bulbs. The tubers should be started in pots and not much larger than themselves, in a light, rich soil, using old cow manure and leaf-mould, if available, to secure these characteristics. Repot as often as necessary until seven or eight-inch pots are filled. Then feed while blooming. The tubers are dried off after growth, taken from the pots and stored in sand or sawdust to prevent shriveling. They are among the most satisfactory of flowers, but as their development has taken place largely within the last ten years or so, they are not yet nearly so widely known as they deserve. For flowering either in pots or outdoors they rank among the very best. Avoid direct sunlight.
Gladiolus. This magnificent flower has gained rapidly during recent years, but few flower-lovers seem to realize as yet that it may be easily forced indoors. Pot up the bulbs in December, using a rich soil and setting them just even with it and covering with half an inch of gritty sand. America, May and Shakespeare are three of the best varieties for forcing but new ones are being produced every year. Keep cool until a good root growth is made, then shift to four-or five-inch pots and keep in a room of 45 to 50 degrees at night.
Caladiums. While the fancy-leaved caladiums require a higher temperature than most house plants, they will repay the extra care and heat demanded in cases where it can be given. Start in February. Cover under and over with fine sphagnum moss, kept moist, and give 60 degrees until the roots start, which they will do quickly. Then pot in rather small pots, using a rich, light soil, with plenty of leaf-mould and sand. Water sparingly at first; shift on and give manure water as the leaves develop. Give all the light possible without letting the direct sunlight strike them during the heat of the day. Fifty-five degrees at night is the minimum temperature to allow. When the leaves begin to die dry off and treat as for begonias.
Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) may be forced in the house where sufficient bottom heat can be given and they are very desirable flowers, possessing a grace, beauty and fragrance seldom combined. Get "cold storage pips" and place in deep flats of pure sand. They may be stored in the cold and brought in as desired. Increase the temperature gradually until by placing over a radiator or in some other exceptionally warm place, 75 to 80 degrees is given at the bottom of the box. Keep covered from the light until the buds show when the shading should be gradually removed.
Iris. The Spanish iris makes a very desirable plant for forcing and the plants are easily managed. A list of colors, etc., will be found in most of the fall bulb catalogues. They are quite distinct from the Japanese and German irises ordinarily seen outdoors. Start same as caladium, but they do not require so much heat.
Spirea (Astilbe Japonica). Several varieties of this beautiful flower are good for forcing. When the roots are received pot up in light, rich soil, water thoroughly, and set in a shaded place. Remove to the cellar or a deep coldframe as freezing weather comes on. Do not let the soil dry out. After the first of January bring into heat gradually. Sprinkle frequently as growth develops.
Ranunculus or buttercups, listed in the catalogues as Turkish, Persian and French, are very easily grown flowers. They have fleshy roots which are given the same treatment as Cape bulbs, i.e., started in light.
Poppy-flowered Anemones (A. fulgens and A. coronaria) are also easily grown in the same way. They come in a variety of colors, including reds, whites, and blues. They are very cheery little flowers, two inches or so across, and well worth giving a few pots to.
Several of the bulbs are easily grown in water, or pebbles and water, with no soil at all. The best known of these is the Chinese Sacred Lily. The Golden Chinese Lily is not so well known but very desirable. Hyacinths are easily grown in pure water; a special vase called the "hyacinth glass" being made for the purpose.
VERANDA BOXES, WINDOW-BOXES, VASES AND HANGING BASKETS
Many of the plants ordinarily set outdoors in pots, or planted in the flower beds, could be much more effectively used in veranda boxes, window-boxes, vases or hanging baskets.
The veranda boxes are generally about eight by six inches, made as described on page 9, and of the right length to fit some window-sill, or the corner or top of a veranda railing.
Arrangements for watering should be made as convenient as possible, as this work is almost sure to be more or less neglected during the hot months when it needs frequent and thorough attention. The soil used should be porous and very rich, as many plants will have to get their nourishment from a very limited space.
The majority of the plants described in the foregoing pages may be utilized successfully in box work; which ones in any particular case should depend on circumstances, such for instance as whether the boxes will be in partial shade, or strong sunlight; or whether in a sheltered or a windswept position. A favorite combination is dracaenas, Nutt or Beaute Poitevine, with the variegated vinca as a front border. The lover of plants desirous of artistic effects will not be content, however, to go by fixed rules where so many opportunities for expression of individual taste are offered.
There are two warnings to be given in addition to the suggestions above. Do not attempt to crowd too many plants into the small space available; remember that as a safe rule the most pleasing results will be obtained by the use of a very few kinds and colors. A good way to be sure of not making mistakes is to fill the boxes to within three or four inches of the top, arrange the plants, still in their pots, until a satisfactory picture is designed, and then fill up with soil and plant.
Vases usually have three serious drawbacks; they are very restricted in size, are exposed to the most drying action of winds and sun, and are not conveniently watered. The last two disadvantages can be to some extent overcome by placing them in situations at least partially sheltered and shaded, and by running a half-inch or three-quarter inch pipe (which may be bought second hand for two to four cents a foot, while good hose costs sixteen to eighteen), a few inches under the sod and up to the top of the vase. Such a pipe should be detached and drained in the fall and will last many years; the few feet running up to the vase will be sufficiently concealed by the vines and reasonably inconspicuous.
Where such precautions are not taken, restrict the plants used to those doing well in the heat, and a dry soil; one of the best is the ice plant (Mesembryanthemum) with flowers of pink or white, very freely produced.
There is no prettier way of displaying plants than in the hanging basket, either in the house or on the porch. That one so seldom sees them is undoubtedly due to the fact that few people seem to know how to fill and take care of them. In the first place, the basket should be as large as possible—a size or so larger than you think you ought to have, for what reason you will see in the following.
Get a supply of sphagnum moss, and line the entire inner surface, sides as well as bottom, an inch in thickness; press down compactly, then fill nearly full of light, rich prepared soil, and put in the plants; something tall and graceful in the center, compact and dwarf-growing around this, and vines around the edges. Astonishingly beautiful results may be had with small baskets by using only one sort of plant in each, such as oxalis, ivy geranium or some trailing flowering vines. Cover the surface of the soil between the plants with clean live sphagnum moss. This will both add to the appearance and conserve the moisture.
The best way by far to water hanging baskets is to have them so arranged that they may be taken down easily and allowed to soak until thoroughly wet in a tub or pail of water—which will take some time, as the moss will be like a dry sponge. Let them drain until dripping ceases and hang in place again.
If the above method is adhered to, you are sure to meet with success that will prove most gratifying.
HOUSE-PLANT INSECTS AND DISEASES
If the suggestions for taking proper care of plants, detailed in a former chapter, are carefully followed, and they are given plenty of fresh air and not crowded together, insects should not cause serious trouble.
No matter how careful one may be, however, they are almost certain to put in an appearance and steps to combat them must be taken immediately. Remember, however, that the best remedy is prevention, and the best prevention is to have good strong healthy plants.
The two troubles perhaps the most common are neither insects nor disease. They are gas and sour soil.
The faintest trace of furnace gas or of illuminating gas will cause trouble, indicated by the yellowing and falling of the leaves and unsatisfactory development of buds. Where there is no way of eliminating the presence of these gases the only way to success with the plants—unless they can be entirely shut off in an enclosed place as suggested in Chapter II—is to take every possible care about leaks, and to give all the fresh air possible.
Sour soil is the result of improper drainage conditions, too much water, or both. It causes the leaves to turn yellow and checks new growth. Making right the harmful conditions will usually renew the health of the plant, but in bad cases it will be far better to remove the earth, wash the soil from the roots, carefully clean the pot—if the same one is to be used—and repot in good porous fresh earth. Keep on the dry side until growth is resumed.
As a rule, insects do much more damage to house plants than is caused by diseases. One characteristic of nearly all plant insects which will astonish the amateur is the marvelous rapidity with which they increase. One to-day, and to-morrow a million, seems no exaggeration. While it may be true that, as one of our erstwhile best-selling heroes said, "a few fleas is a good thing for a dog; they keep him from broodin' on bein' a dog," a few bugs are certainly not good for a plant, because in a day or two there will be enough of them to endanger its life and surely, quickly to ruin its appearance. Never let the bugs get a start. If you take them in time they're easy: if not you have a very difficult and disagreeable task on your hands.
Aphis. Aphis or green plant louse is the most commonly encountered of all the insect pests. It used to be dreaded, but with modern methods it may be readily and effectively exterminated. There are several forms and colors of these pests. If you have attempted plant-growing you are undoubtedly familiar with them. In the house, shaded places, crowded plants, poor ventilation, dry plants, all furnish environment favorable to the development of aphids. Change these conditions at once. The old method of fighting used to be by burning moistened tobacco stems, or steeping them in water and making a very weak tea for spraying. But either was a difficult, disagreeable and unsatisfactory method. There are now on the market three forms of tobacco all of which are easy to use and efficient. Tobacco dust—but it must be strong and made especially for the purpose; liquid nicotine, to be diluted and sprayed on according to directions; and prepared paper for fumigating. The last is perhaps the most effective. Besides these, and in my experience pleasanter and quicker, is the comparatively new compound called Aphine, which can be had from almost any seedsman in quart tins—enough to make five gallons of very effective spray, which will not discolor flowers or foliage.
Red Spider. This very serious pest is about the size and color of a grain of red pepper—although sometimes appearing brown or dull red. To make himself inconspicuous, he works on the under side of the leaves and behind a tiny web, but his presence is soon made manifest by the leaves upon which he is at work, which first turn light green, then show minute yellow spots, turn yellow and finally drop off.
The red spider is very tenacious of life, and hard to get rid of when he is allowed time to become well established. The best weapon to use against him, where it can be done, is clear cold water with as much force as possible against the under side of the foliage. Damp atmosphere assists in the work; so keep the air damp, and be on a sharp lookout. Evaporated sulphur, or flowers of sulphur dusted upon the leaves will also help.
Where the collection of plants is not too large a one, the quickest and most certain way to be rid of the spider is to dip the top of each plant quickly two or three times into hot water—140 to 165 degrees. Although uncomfortable to the hand, water of this temperature will not injure the tenderest plant. It is effective against aphis and mealy bug, as well as against the spider.
Mealy Bug. The mealy bug inhabits a white, cottony looking mass, which is easily seen. Remove this covering and the real intruder is there. It is most fond of the soft-wooded plants, such as coleus and fuchsias, thrives in a hot, dry atmosphere, and will keep out of sight, if not watched for, in a mass of leaves or under some branch axis, until there are a large number.
If they are discovered before multiplying to any great extent, exterminate them with a fine brush or feather dipped in alcohol, coal-oil or kerosene, any of which, if applied directly to them, will kill them on the spot.
Scale. The scales infesting house plants are of two kinds. The more common is the brown scale, which has a hard, slightly convex, circular shell, one-quarter of an inch or so in diameter. The white scale is much smaller, and soon forms quite dense colonies. Both attack the thick-leaved, smooth-barked plants, such as palms, ferns, lemons, and abutilons. They do not appear to be doing any damage, but invisibly suck the juices of the plant. They should be destroyed at once. This is accomplished by the use of fir-tree-oil soap, whale-oil soap, or kerosene emulsion and a stiff brush.
Thrips. These do not often appear in the house, but may where plants are crowded in a shady place. They eat the substance of the leaves, leaving only the skeleton structure. They are small, about a quarter of an inch long, and brown or black. Aphine, kerosene emulsion or Paris green (one teaspoonful to twelve quarts of water) will keep them quiet.
Root Aphis. Sometimes the leaves of a healthy plant will begin to look sickly with no apparent cause. It may be found upon examination that the blue root aphis is at work, clinging in clusters to the rootlets. Remove and wash away the soil, and then wash the roots in whale-oil soap suds, and repot in fresh soil. If no fresh soil is available, tobacco tea or tobacco dust should be washed into the soil every other day for a week.
Soil Worms. The common earthworms sometimes find their way into a pot, and while they do not seem to bother the roots, I should judge from observation that they render the soil next to useless, especially in small pots. Another worm, or rather larva, sometimes to be found, is very small and hatches into a small white fly. If numerous, they do a good deal of damage. The treatment recommended for root aphis will get rid of them; or lime water (slake a piece of fresh lime the size of an apple in a pail of water, drawing off the water after settling), if used freely will kill them.
There are but two plant diseases likely to attack plants in the house: fungus and mildew. The first seems to be a sort of decomposition of the leaf, leaving a black, powdery residue. It is combated by spraying with bordeaux. Bordeaux can now be had in paste or powder form, which for small quantities is much better than to try to mix it yourself.
Mildew causes the tenderest leaves to curl up and some of them seem to be covered with a white powder. Flowers of sulphur, dusted over the plants while the foliage is damp, is the standard remedy.
For the sake of ready reference, the foregoing is condensed in the following simple table of plant insects and diseases.
======================================================================= INSECT CONDITIONS OR SUPPORTING REMEDIES DISEASE GROWTH - Aphis, green and Shade; poor Aphine; tobacco-dust black ventilation; or tea; kerosene thick foliage emulsion; hot water bath; insect powder. Aphis, blue Stunted growth; Whale-oil soap lack of water solution; repotting; tobacco tea applied to roots. Thrips, 1/4 inch, Shaded places; Kerosene emulsion; long, brown or crowded plants Paris green 1 black; they eat. teaspoon to 12 quarts Mealy bugs } water. Other scale } Corners; close, Brush off; coal-oil; insects } dry air kerosene emulsion; hot water. Red spider Hot, dry Moisture, sulphur, atmosphere hot water. Rose-beetle Hand picking; wood ashes. White flies Dry foliage Kerosene emulsion. (Aleyrodes) Slugs Dark corners; Air-slaked lime. dampness; sweetened bran and decaying wood Paris green. Ants Insect powder; molasses traps. Angleworms Dampness; heavy Lime; lime-water; soil tobacco tea, and tobacco dust washed into soil. White grub Manure not old enough. Destroy. Fungous leaf spot Shocks; checks Bordeaux; Fungine. Mildew Checks Flowers of sulphur; Fungine. =======================================================================
To make the kerosene emulsion, use 2 ounces of soap (whale-oil is much better than the common), 1 quart of boiling water (over brisk fire), 2 quarts of kerosene oil. Dissolve the soap in boiling water, remove from fire, and add oil. Churn or beat until of the consistency of cream. If correctly mixed, the emulsion, on cooling, will adhere without oiliness to glass. Use rain water, if possible; if not, add a little baking soda to the water.
For scale insects, dilute with 10 parts of water; for aphis and soft insects, with 15 or 20 parts water. In using kerosene emulsion, apply in fine spray. Remember it must come in contact with the insect to be effective.
The following list of implements and materials is suggestive rather than imperative. While all these things are useful many successful flower growers get along without many of them. At the same time, if one adds to the garden outfit from time to time, the expense will hardly be noticed and in the course of two or three years a fairly complete set will be accumulated. Do not feel in the least that in the meantime you cannot grow flowers successfully.
FOR MIXING SOIL
Spade. A good long-bladed sharp instrument should be procured, for use both in taking up plants and in cutting out sod, etc., for the compost heap and in "cutting down" the same for repiling.
Hoe. Get a long blade with a straight edge. See that the ferrule and shank are of one piece if you do not want to be bothered with a loose head.
Sieve. For small amounts of soil, an ordinary round coal ash sieve is just the thing. It is a good thing to have as it will insure getting soil for seeds and small pots to the proper degree of fineness.
Trowel. Don't buy a cheap trowel. They may be had for fifteen or twenty cents but a fifty-cent one will outlast a dozen of these and not break just when you need it most.
A sufficient quantity of soil constituents should be kept on hand in barrels or covered boxes. Store where they will not dry out.
Rich Loam or Rotted Sod. This is the basis of most plant soils. Keep a good supply ahead, that it may be thoroughly decomposed.
Sand. What is known as "Builders' Sand," medium, coarse and gritty, is the proper kind. Contrary to some horticultural superstitions, it makes no difference what the color is, "silver" or gray, red, white or yellow.
Leaf-mould. Easily procured by scraping aside the top layer near some stone wall or hollow in the woods where leaves collect and rot from year to year.
Sphagnum moss is another very valuable accessory. It can be gathered in most swampy places or bought cheaply at the florist's.
Peat. Not obtainable in all localities, but it can be bought cheap from florists. Found under mucky bog-swamps but must be thoroughly dried and pulverized before use.
Bone meal. This is invaluable for enriching plant soil. (See page 19.) The fine sort, sometimes called bone flour, is the quickest acting. For plants that stay potted for several years, it is best to use about two-thirds of the coarse-ground.
FOR PLANTING AND TRANSPLANTING
Transplanting fork. This can be had in malleable iron for fifteen cents and as it is not submitted to hard strains, like a trowel, will do as well as the seventy-five-cent imported sorts. It will save the life of innumerable seedlings, in lifting them from the seed box.
Dibber. You can make two or three of various sizes in a few minutes from a piece of soft pine. They are used for pricking off and repotting. It will often be convenient to have one end bluntly pointed and the other rather flat.
Sub-irrigation tray. The use of this convenient method of watering is described on page 24 and illustrated facing page 28. The tinsmith will make you a tray for fifty or seventy-five cents. It will certainly pay to have one if you attempt to grow many fine-seeded flowers.
Watering can. As this accessory is more used perhaps than any other, and as the quality of the work it does is very important, it is poor economy to buy a cheap one. The Wotherspoon type, sold by most seed houses, is the best. It has brass fittings which will not rust, tighten or rot out and a coarse and a fine brass nozzle with each pot. They cost from two to three dollars, according to size, but are well worth the money.
Pots. A good smooth red pot adds not a little to the looks of a plant. For the ordinary collection of house plants three shapes, quite distinct, are desirable: "Standard" the sort ordinarily seen; "Pans," very shallow for their width and used for bulbs, or ferns (facing p. 116); and "Rose" pots, or those exceptionally deep. The latter are good for plants requiring large root room, such as single bulbs, or plants demanding exceptionally thorough drainage.
Bulb glasses. These are constructed especially to support the bulb, while permitting the roots to grow down into the water. They come in different shapes and colors and are not expensive.
Hanging baskets. Attractive baskets can now be had cheaply. They are made of wire, rustic work or earthenware, and no plant lover should be without one or two, as they offer a most effective way of displaying plants. Use picture wire to support them, as cord is apt to rot and break. They should be hung so as to be easily taken down.
Boxes. While these may be homemade, as described on page 9, it is often desirable to purchase one of the ornamental sorts now on the market. Many of them are hideous, but there are artistically designed ones. The "self-watering" box is a great labor-saver and well worth getting where one can afford the investment, as they will last for years.
FOR HANDLING PLANTS
In addition to the above there are a number of other devices often convenient to use.
Brackets, frequently make possible the accommodation of a number of extra plants and show them off to the best advantage, especially vines and drooping plants. They are readily secured by screws to the window casing.
Pot-hangers, can be had for a few cents each and used to convert pots of any size into "Hanging baskets." They very often solve the problem of what to do with a choice plant that is beginning to take up too much room.
Pot-covers, made of water-proof material are now to be had in a great assortment of styles and colors and are very useful, especially in connection with potted plants used as gifts.
Plant-stakes. Often any old stake is used for supporting drooping plants, such as fuchsias. A much better one can easily be made by taking a round stick, say one-half or three-fourths of an inch in diameter and boring small holes through it with a gimlet. Stout pieces of wire, of a size that will fit snugly are inserted and twisted once around to reinforce the wood. These may then be bent readily to any angle and thus made to conform with needs of the particular plant being supported. If one has a soldering outfit, the main stake may be made of heavy wire.
Raffia. This may be bought cheaply at the florist's and is much better than twine for tying up plants and similar purposes, as it is soft and broad—a dried, ribbon-like grass. It may be had stained green and with green stakes makes the support of a plant practically invisible.
Syringe. If only a few plants are kept, a rubber bulb plant sprinkler may do for syringing them. But if one wants to combat insects and keep plants healthy with the least trouble, a small florist's brass syringe will prove a good investment. With ordinary care they will last a lifetime. It will also be useful for applying insecticides in liquid form.
Fertilizers. In addition to the chemicals, etc., described in Chapter III, there are to be had concentrated plant foods in tablet form. These are very convenient to use, and a box kept on hand will frequently prove useful. If any number of plants are kept, however, an old metal pail and a small dipper, for mixing and applying liquid manure, should have a place in the tool outfit and be used frequently. Never apply liquid manure when the soil is dry.
Part Two—Home Glass
It cannot be said that America has yet reached the gardening age. There is no doubt, however, that the appreciation of flowers, and the liking for things horticultural in general, is growing rapidly. The stimulus that compels hundreds to turn with delight to the joy in the creative work of growing things arises from a sound foundation. Comparatively few people, however, realize that this pleasure can be had by them around the entire circle of the months. They look forward to planting time in the spring and accept as inevitable the cessation of their gardening adventures with the first frost.
It is to such people that the message of home glass must come as good tidings indeed. For them the gentle art of gardening under glass has seemed a distant and mysterious thing. Little indeed have they realized how easily it might be brought within reach; that instead of being an expensive luxury it would be by no means impossible to make it a paying investment, yielding not only pleasure but profit as well.
As a matter of fact, when one's mind is once made up not to sacrifice the pleasures of gardening for six months every year, a little energy, ingenuity and a very few dollars will go a long way in providing the necessary equipment.
Nor is the care of the ordinary flowers, and the vegetables suited for winter use, such a complicated profession that the beginner cannot achieve quite a considerable measure of success with his or her very first attempts, provided that regular care is given the work in hand. It is a much easier task than succeeding with plants in the house, notwithstanding the fact that general opinion is to the contrary.