This is the third article in April of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Apr 23, 1905, and an article about what sort of plants can be grown with the coming of spring.
School for Housewives – An Aquatic Conversation
Flowers and Easter go as naturally together in the mind and upon the tongue as April and soft showers, June and roses. It is human and natural that plant and flower vendors of all ranks should take advantage of the season’s demand to impose preposterous prices upon those to whom the association of the Christian festa with the resurrection of blade, bud, and blossom is sweet and sacred.
Every housemother must have a living plant upon her table on Easter day. The extravagance of the rich and time requisition of the churches set a price upon the humblest spring flowers which puts them beyond the poor man’s reach.
Our forefather’s kept house plants, not in leaf alone, but in flower, all winter. The traveler in England, in Scotland, and on the Continent sees cottage windows lined with thrifty shrubs and blossoming blubs, from November to May. We of this country and this generation have long since given over the attempt to decorate our sitting rooms in like manner. Azaleas, geraniums, cinerarias, and primroses, brought hopefully at the conservatory, begin to droop within a few days after they are brought into the arid atmosphere of furnace-heated, gas-lighted houses. We may inhale impalpable dust by the proverbial peck, and lengthen out our days in seeming health. Plant pores are choked and the sap refuses to circulate.
The flat-dweller who reads these lines may have abundant testimony to their truth if she will look out upon the balconies and fire-escape lining the court separating her back windows from her neighbors’. That window is exceptional which does not display one – often a dozen-forlorn, discarded earthen flower pot, with brown stalks of varying height protruding from useless soil.
Because to most of us the love of green and growing things is a passion I am writing this article. There is keen delight in watching the successive processes of the ever-new, always marvelous miracle of creation. The exquisite story of “Picciola” is in no particular exaggerated. Every leaf is a revelation; every bud has a history.
Because the sincere lover of the beautiful cannot content herself with the stiff monotony of glazed rubber plants – bearing at their best estate a humiliating likeness to patent leather – or the mournful droop of palms that live, but do not grow; because pots with earth in them are cumbrous, homely, and, as we have shown, always more or less monuments of blasted hopes – I would direct the ambition of my fellow-worshiper to some methods by which the Easter spirit may be invoked by one who is no gardener, and winter barrenness be beaten back from our windows.
The wise woman who buried bulbs of hyacinths, tulips, narcissus and crocus in the earth, sex weeks ago; who kept the tiny pots in the dark, wetting the soil once a week – may now bring them into the light by degrees, and have the pure delight of seeing the tender shoots leap up to meet the sunlight, gaining strength and color hour by hour. The next best thing to this – and sometimes a surer joy – is to buy hyacinth, crocus, and jonquil bulbs which are already “Started,” to the extent of showing a couple of inches of sturdy leafage above the top of the bulb. Hyacinth glasses are cheap. Fill each to the ridge that supports the swell of the blub, so that the lower part will touch the water. If it is submerged, the tissues will rot before the roots can strike downward. Set in the shade for a week, approaching nearer and nearer to your sunniest window daily. Then let them bask, rejoicing in the source of light and all life. As the water slowly evaporates, replenish with more that is just the temperature of the room. I have had most satisfactory results from bulbs treated thus. You should have the same.
The Chinese sacred lily deserves a distinguished place in our aquatic conservatory. Choose bulbs of uniform size; settle them in and among clean pebbles in the bottom of a bowl. A pressed glass bowl will allow you to see the lively work of the roots among the stones. The better vessel is a stout, broad-bottomed china bowl with a Chinese pattern upon it – the willowware, if you can get it in any color except blue. The opaque blue contracts unfavorably with the green stem and leaves. When bulbs, pebbles and water are in, set the whole construction in a dark room or closet, and leave it there for a fortnight. As with the other bulbs, let its approach to the perfect light be gradual. Otherwise, the delicate shoots will be scalded.
Another most pleasing decoration for mantel, window or dinner table is made by setting among clean pebbles in the bottom of a glass bowl a dozen or more healthy sprays of variegated Tradescantia, familiarly known as “Creeping Charley,” “Wandering Jew,” and “Wandering Willy.” Select woody stems, fill the bowl half-way to the top with water; set in the window – and see it grow! In a few weeks the stems will curl over the brim of the bowl and hang downward, branching to the right and left until you have a cataract of green streaked with purple and pink. A goldfish globe suspended in the window and stocked with Tradescantia is a pretty ornament.
SWEET POTATO VINE
Another hanging plant is port, or Madeira, vine. China cornucopias, with holes at the side by which to suspend them against the wall, may be bought at Japanese stores. Set a port vine root in each, pour in water and hang evenly at the side of the window.
The common sweet potato is a faster grower than the Madeira vine. Pick out one that will fit loosely in the mouth of a hyacinth jar. You will soon cease to think it homely in watching the tiny, swift filaments shoot into the water, the rapid growth above of a delicate green leaves and the graceful sway of the sprays.
A pleasant dash of green to window sill or table is gained by lining a large round platter with canton flannel and setting in the middle of it a globular sponge. Soak the flannel with water, and scatter millet seeds thickly all over it. The sponge should be filled in every pore with the seed while dry, and before it is put in place upon the flannel. Fill it with water and set in the window, wetting it every morning. In an incredibly short space of time you will have a hillock of dapple green, surrounded by a band of verdant turf.
Ah! the blessed Easter-tide! Ah! the visible promise of resurrection and of life to which death is unknown! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
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