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.
A case where it paid to add a conservatory to a rented house.
A little more than a year ago, as we stood gazing out on our first garden, the thought of the chilly winds and frosts of winter sweeping away the wealth of bloom and leaving things desolate filled us with feelings of keen regret.
"Why not build a small conservatory and carry on our gardening through the winter?" I temptingly suggested.
"I am afraid the cost is away beyond our means," was the cautious man's reply.
"We can at least get prices and consult our bank-book," the tempter ventured.
The man's eyes brightened as a vision of roses, carnations, and bright flowers blooming amid the snows of a Canadian winter rose to his mind.
Landlord, plumbers and contractors were interviewed, and the proposition stood thus: The landlord agreed to allow us to build a conservatory, to become his property on our removal from his house. The house was to be ours for five years, and forever if we wanted it. A conservatory ten by sixteen, built of best material, would cost $150.
The woman sat back with disappointment plainly visible on her face, for this to her seemed too large an outlay to spend on a house not their own.
"Let us see, now," said the business man. "Spread over five years, $150 would increase our rent exactly $2.50 per month, and if we remained ten years it would be $1.25."
"Then if that is all, we'll have our greenhouse!" was the woman's joyous reply, "for by your figuring it just amounts to our cream bill for the month."
In three weeks the work was completed, and there was an air of excitement about the place as the plants began to arrive. A good space was set aside for carnations; these were benched, likewise the roses. Down the center we placed a rack with three shelves, decreasing in width as it ascended. The top shelf was built like a window-box, only wider, and around both sides our choicest vines were planted, but so arranged as not to interfere with the shelves beneath. Around the other two sides of the room a bench was placed with sides built up to hold three inches of earth. At the inside edge of this, moon vines, swansonia, and the beautiful passion vine were benched at intervals and trained on trellises to cover the walls. All the creepers from the baskets and window-boxes of the summer were placed to the outside edge of the table, and in one month, as we beheld our handiwork, the result was encouraging.
All went well until the cold nights of December came; in the mornings the temperature would go down to forty-two degrees. However, during the day the sun's bright rays would warm up things to nearly scorching point, but to counterbalance the chill that was sure to follow at night I religiously excluded all fresh air, so as to retain all the heat possible. This, we found later, would never do. The temperature must vary but slightly during the twenty-four hours in order to approximate natural conditions. Then came depressing days, and it was feared by those who laughed at us and those who encouraged us that our venture was a failure after all.
It is worth while to have a little greenhouse for the pleasure of growing one's own chrysanthemums.
Begonia Gloire de Lorraine, one of the most floriferous winter-blooming plants in cultivation.
One day at lunch we told of our trials and disappointments to a clever young architect who was visiting us, and after a careful investigation of the little building he advised us to send for a carpenter, cut out a small groove on the inside of each window-frame with the exception of the roof, and insert a second pane of glass. This increased our expenditure somewhat, so that we counted that with these extras and the necessary plants to stock the place our expense account reached $200. With the extra glass our troubles ceased, and during the intense cold of our Canadian climate we were able to keep the tenderest plants. Before long our carnations bloomed freely, geraniums, begonias, chrysanthemums and other plants added colour and beauty to our winter garden, and we felt that, had our venture cost twice the amount, we were amply repaid. When the warm sunshine of February came to us, our roses, which we had looked upon as failures, budded and blossomed, and then, indeed, we felt that we had reached success.
However, there are two sides to all questions, and there are many disappointing features the first year in a greenhouse, and to all who embark in the venture I will give the quaint definition of "patience" as given by a little Scottish maiden to hang as a motto over the conservatory door: "Bide a wee and dinna weary."