An Aquatic Conversation

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.


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!

Marion Harland

The Housemother’s Exchange
Three Little Kitchen Conveniences
Unique Dishes – Syrian Recipes Contributed by a Syrian Constituent

How Uncle Sam Teaches Gardening to Children

This is the first article in April of the School for Housewives 1904 series published on Apr 4, 1904, and is about teaching children gardening.

School for Housewives – How Uncle Sam Teaches Gardening to Children

Photographs Reproduced by Courtesy Of “Floral Life,” Philadelphia.
Practical Work among Vegetables and Flowers for Public School Scholars

A few years ago the Department of Agriculture hit upon he happy idea of interesting public school children in practical gardening.

The plan was received with enthusiasm by the little circle of thinkers to whom it was first made known.

Here was a simple and pleasurable way of accomplishing a number of good ends. A way to keep the children interested and occupied in the open air and to stimulate their power of observation, at the same time causing forlorn or dilapidated back yards to blossom like the wilderness.

In he beginning the philanthropy was beset by many difficulties. One of the greatest of these was the fact that few teachers knew a pea vine from a pie plant.

Various methods were used to introduce the children to the seeds. In some instances little envelopes containing the latter were distributed to the pupils, with the laconic direction, “Plant.”

It is likely that all of the seeds were planted – but not all of them grew.

One tot carefully covered the envelope with six inches of soil, and eagerly awaited results. Several bricks were removed from the pavement by another youngster, the seeds most carefully distributed upon the earth and the bricks as punctilious returned to their former location.

Since that time civic leagues, woman’s clubs and similar institutions have helped along the good cause by distributing seeds, with directions for planting on the packet.

The results here have been much more satisfactory than by the first method.

The lasting and most valuable results, however, must be obtained through intelligently teaching the subject in the schools. In a short time the public schools of Washington, D.C., hope to be a model in this work for other cities.

The chief of the Bureau of Plant industry of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. E.T. Galloway, realizing the value of well-organized work through the medium of the public schools, placed at the disposal of the Normal School, a workroom, a greenhouse and all material necessary for an elementary course in horticulture. The course is under his careful guidance. Two ??? a ??? during one term is the time allotted to it.

By this method the child receives an addition of ??? to its teaching crops each year, equipped to handle the subject intelligently with children under their immediate care and to give inspiration and ideas to other teachers.

All facts are taught by experiments, the workroom being really a laboratory.

Germination experiments are performed in the spring, showing seed vitality, conditions for planting and depth of planting. Plant propagation by cuttings, budding and grafting are taught. Geraniums scarlet sage, hydrangeas, begonias, ivy are propagated in the fall and grown in the greenhouse during the winter. Cuttings of forsythia and privet for hedges are buried in sand to be ready for planting in the spring. Young apple seedlings are grafted. Bulbs are ??? for winter blooming. This material is used to beautify schoolrooms during the winter and school grounds in the warm weather.

In the spring each student has her home garden in which she applies her learning.

The beautifying of back yards is not the primary object in this course. it comes usually as a result of the effort expended, but the real aim is to cultivate close observation of plant life; to instil a love for plant culture, and by so doing awaken the young student teachers to the ??? influence of plants ins school or home, and to enable them to be an inspiration to others from the fullness of their pleasure in the work. Some of the students prefer to devote their ??? to but one variety of plant, bringing it to a high state of perfection. Sweet peas, poppies and nasturtiums have been prime favorites for such work. Others have remodelled yards after methods of good planting, keeping the centre of the yards in grass and massing the plants in borders. A number of them have had to resort to box gardening, but, whatever the form, i has always brought pleasure with it.

In addition to the work mentioned, the course of instruction calls for planning improvements of school grounds.

A school very much in need of attention is selected. Each student submits a plan for improving its grounds without reducing the playground.

The best plan is accepted and followed.

Marion Harland

A Collection of Good Recipes of General Interest
Housewives, Parents and Children Discuss Topics of Mutual Interest – Little Talks with Marion Harland
Starching – For Young Housekeepers