This section is from the book "How To Make A Flower Garden", by Wilhelm Miller. Also available from Amazon: The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques.
Advice of a Canadian amateur who owns a fifteen-by-twenty greenhouse costing one hundred dollars.
I have a small garden in which I grow many flowers and vegetables. Some years ago I decided to build a little greenhouse in which I could raise my own plants in the spring for the garden, and which would be a "thing of beauty and a joy forever" during the remainder of the year. Accordingly, I constructed a lean-to, about twenty feet by fifteen. It cost me about one hundred dollars.
At first I thought I would run it all the year round. Not having a furnace in my house, I heated it by means of hard wood burned in a large box-stove, and found this did very well so long as the fire was properly looked after. This, I knew, would entail my getting up in the middle of the night, when the weather was zero or thereabouts, to renew the fire, but I had no fear about my not doing this. However, I omitted to get up on two or three occasions, and, of course, those were the nights when the thermometer dropped out of sight. I found nearly all my plants frozen, and I came to the conclusion that this would not do. Now I keep the greenhouse going until very cold weather comes, when I remove the plants into the house, and in early spring I take them back again to the greenhouse.
Chrysanthemums on a side bench.
Easter-time - the height of the greenhouse season.
When stocking the greenhouse I had visions of some of the fine plants which we see pictured in the catalogues, and I went in for a most miscellaneous assortment, including chrysanthemums, roses, carnations, orchids, palms, ferns, etc. I soon found, by bitter experience, that to grow all these plants successfully different temperatures were required. I succeeded in killing off a good deal of my first stock by trying one temperature after another. Finally I made up my mind that I would have to discard those plants which required a high temperature.
One year I grew nearly all chrysanthemums and did very well with them, but gave them up, as I found that they demanded more time and attention than a busy amateur could give.
I have now got down to the commoner plants, such as fuchsias, begonias, geraniums, abutilons, primulas, cyclamens, and a few palms. I find that these all thrive pretty well in the same temperature, and there is nearly always something in bloom. Such plants as these, too, are more easily placed to advantage around the house in winter.
On the whole, I would not like to give up my greenhouse. By its aid I am enabled to raise flower and vegetable plants for my garden in the spring. I keep it fairly attractive in the summer and fall, and in the winter I can beautify my house with the plants taken from it.