This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Poor Jeremiah Crocus! was in trouble no doubt. He looked sorely distressed and woe begone ! His heart was aching, if not breaking! overwhelmed with misery; his soul was in agony, intense! Deep and audible were the sighs, forced through his compressed lips, as he paced to and fro, by the side of a Heartsease border. Heartsease! forsooth, what a cruel misnomer. Hearts-agony ! was the name. The lachrymal floodgates were full to overflowing. Big tears glistened in the corners of his swollen eyes, ready to start on fluvial pilgrimages, down his elongated, and grief-stricken features. Probably, from a natural proneness towards the soil he delved in, his form was downward bent. He seemed sad and dejected, as now and anon, he cast a melancholy glance towards the Pansy bed. And well he might; for there lay the cause of his disquietude and sorrow. The grim tyrant, while remorselessly hurling his death-dealing missiles, had stricken a beloved one; and the pride of the garden, lay dead, by his side! "Well a day! well a day! woe is me, for I am undone! Blast the guano! rank poison, it is!" exclaimed Crocus; in tones more in sorrow, than in anger. "Friend Crocus, what ails thee ? good man; why mingle thy grief with profanity ? Such language, is most grievous to hear; and ill becomes thee, an old Gardener." Thus, spoke Friend Obadiah Bland, from behind a holly hedge; where he had un-wontedly listened to the lamentations of Jeremiah. "Dead, dead as a door nail!" replied the miserable man, in tones dolorous. " Who is dead ?" quoth the man in drab; "I pray thee, make known thy distress." Alas ! replied the unhappy Crocus, "Captain Cook, is dead and gone! and I shall never, never see his pleasant face again!" Said Obadah: - "Verily, I fear, though thine heart be right, thy reason is wrong.
Captain Cook, dead! thou sayest. Why poor unhappy man J he having ventured far from his home, was unkindly cut off; long ago. The wicked cannibals, on some heathen isle, unjustly slew him with a spear; yea, killed, and eat him ! in a very savage, and unbecoming manner, years gone by." "Pooh!" exclaimed Jeremiah; "nothing of the kind, I do assure you! He was poisoned with a strong dose of guano ! That, did the job, for him; yesterday!" Meaning a favorite Pansy of that name, which had been too liberally treated with the new-fangled stuff.
This misadventure occurred soon after the newly discovered Peruvian guano found a market in Great Britain. The merits of the marvelous manure were but then imperfectly known, and often led to mistakes of a mischievous nature when applying it.
The writer remembers the time when pigmy Pansies were highly prized and much admired. Yes, pansies but little better than the diminutive Viola tricolor, and V. arvensis, growing wild in the woods and fields. They were funny little flowers indeed. Although considered very pretty then, they sadly lacked the form and substance of this day's beauties. Perhaps no flowers have improved more than they. But a few years ago, yellow colors chiefly predominated among them. Their lean, pinched up features, looked starved; not much like the round well-fed comely ones we see now-a-days. Two curious kinds, known as Mr. T. Cat, and Mrs. Mouser, much resembled feline faces; hence the name. The long upper petals stood apart, as like cats ears as they could be, and with eye marks, and pencilled smellers, bore a remarkable likeness to grimalkin's countenance when in a meditative mood.
George the Second had a miserable look in his jaundiced face, while the Chimney Sweep was more renowned for black looks than otherwise. The Merry Monarch seemed to have a twinkle in his eye, as he smiled at pretty Nell Gwyn, one of the fairest-faced beauties of the day. Now Venus had a perfect form, and lovely face, slightly flushed; and so had Fair Rosamond, Whose lower lip seemed as if pouting for a kiss. Cinderella's glassy face shone brighter than her slippers. Guy Fawkes, the gunpowder plot man, had a rather undecided phiz, as if smeared with soot and sulphur. Poor Cranmer! looked singed, and sad; while Bonny Lad, was sweet and fair. The Charcoal-burner, was smoky. Golden Fleece, although very bright, was neither woolly nor metallic. Canary Bird had plenty of color, but no song; never warbled a note. White Friar, was as white as any of the mendicant orders could be; while Gray Friar, was as gray as any monastic man of the order of Franciscans is supposed to be. No Dominican ever had a more sable, sombre, or sad look, than the Black Friar. Rob Roy was rather rough and ragged; his features were weather beaten, and thin. Robin Hood was not much better, as he looked with green-eyed jealousy on Little John; with Maid Marian by his side.
The Exile of Erin looked none the worse for expatriation, as he cheerfully gazed on the scene. Dick Turpin, " a gentleman of the road, " had a sinister and saffron face. George Barnwell looked rakish and unreliable at the frail, though fair featured Millwood. King Richard was purple with rage; Bosworth field was too much for him. Linnaeus was sad and seedy. His yellow lip hung listlessly; a wretched caricature of the mild mannered man. Sir Roger de Coverly looked rather roguish, and flushed; while Gipsy Jane, black eyed, dark complexioued, and beautiful, seemed a fit companion for the rollicking Roger. Dr. Jenner was of uncertain color, much like a man with the measles - or small-pox. The Miller of Mansfield was the color of a flour bag; not very white. Bacchus either had the blues, or the blues had him; for that was his color, as near as blue could be. Polly Hopkins had a pretty face; for a beautiful blonde was she. Pale-faced Hope looked steadfastly upwards. Cleopatra, queen like, wore the royal purple; while the Grand Turk, wore a white turban. Shylock had a wicked miserly cast of features, of a parchment hue. Giles Scroggins looked ghastly pale at the Phantom's waxy form. Judith was a sweet brunette.
Black-eyed Susan like Lesbia, hath "a beaming eye, " and a face that is fashioned to love.
There is something in a name, and our flowery fathers knew it, " and governed themselves accordingly." They certainly evinced an aptitude for characteristic nomenclature. For in-stance; the markings of Black-eyed Susan resembled eyes of that color; and were as fatal, when flashing as were, those of Kate Kearney. Golden Fleece was a yellow flower; and the Carmelite Friar was white, etc.
When the writer was a young lad, Pansies were mostly of the Angular type, somewhat scraggy. Not much like the improved varieties before him now, with faces " as round as a ring." Some look comely, grave, jolly, smiling, saucy, jovial, pensive, and cheerful; all facial expressions, a physiognomist would readily recognize. To-quote the language of Chesterfield, they are-" a symmetrical assemblage of beautiful faces".
The untimely death, of Captain Cook, the favorite flower of honest old Crocus - whose death "he lamented right sore;" was almost copper colored. Just such a sunburnt hue, as the old navagator would be likely to get, while-sailing around the sunny Isles of the sea. The decided cast of features had a singular pensive expression; such as would naturally become such a man. Although but half the size of the kinds now in cultivation, it was a pretty little-well-shaped flower; one of Viola's choicest gems..
Since that time " a change came o'er the spirit of my dream " of floricultural perfection: "The changer of all things, yet immutable, " has through the aid of man, worked wonders in the laboratory of Nature; and in the wide fields of Horticulture, Agriculture, Arboriculture, and Floriculture, " hath done marvelous things".
As the march of time has gone forward, so has the march of intelligence kept pace, with good gardening at the front. The fertile soil, ever bountiful, has yielded a rich, harvest of beautiful flowers, little thought of by the Florists of other days.
Lovely Heartsease flowers measuring two and: a half inches across, are not uncommon on the borders, where but a few years ago blooms of less than one inch were seen. Let me remind! the reader this is no fancy sketch of the writer, who, while he holds up the mirror to Nature, throws on the canvas, pleasant pictures of posies passed by. In those days there was " Gardening for Profit, " as well as "Gardening for Pleasure," and poor old Crocus knew there was " Money in the Garden;" he dug for it, and found it, as all industrious diggers do; - though in his case I fear but little turned up for him.
Heartsease ! good readers all desire and all deserve; and though often sought for, is but seldom found. It seems as illusive as the Hibernian's flea, who, " every time he put his thumb on the little baste, it was gone." But not so, with the Heartsease I offer you, it will continue for an indefinite period. " It may be for years, or it may be for ever, " if only well cared for.
Most seedsmen advertise Pansy, or Heartsease seed, of the best strain in variety, which is a cheap way of getting a stock. The Nurserymen and Florists have for sale good sized plants, ready to bloom, and true to name, at reasonable rates. If the amateur elects to raise them from seed, let him prepare a bed of good friable loam, made rich with a liberal quantity of decayed cow manure, (well rotted horse manure, from an old hot bed, makes a good substitute) dig deep, and thoroughly pulverize, smooth off with the rake, and sow on the surface. Cover the seed very slightly, water through a fine rose pot, and they will soon germinate. I always prefer sowing in a cold frame, either in Spring or Autumn, as they are easily sheltered during storms, or shaded if too hot. Free ventilation is given as soon as the seedlings are seen, and they are picked out when big enough to handle.
It is better to transplant the Spring seedlings where they are wanted to bloom, through the late Summer, and Fall months. It is advisable to pick off all the flower buds through the early season, and the plants will grow more stocky, and will bloom amazingly, until checked by frost and snow. A good plan is to measure the hot-bed frames, and plant in rows from six to eight inches apart, and before wintry weather comes on, place the spare frames over the bed, and if kept from freezing, they will continue to bloom without ceasing until spring time comes again.
Those left outside, protect with a few beech or oak leaves, nicely scattered among the plants; and with a branch or two thrown on, to prevent the wind from blowing away, they will often weather the storms, if not too much tempest-tossed. August sown seed may be treated in like manner, and they will flower freely from early Spring until scorched with the hot Summer's sun.
Very few plants will flower at so low a temperature as the Violas. If potted or planted in boxes, and placed near the glass in a cool part of the greenhouse, they will well reward the cultivator for his pains. They may be increased by division of roots, or multiplied by cuttings, as they strike very freely. There is no mystery about the management of the very companionable Pansy. It is really a good-natured plant, one of the kind we most of us fall in love with at once. Neither is it to be wondered at, when their soft, candid, sweet faces look as pretty as possible, while modestly peeping at you.
As the writer began the subject with the octogenarian Florist, it seem but proper it should end with him. In " the sere and yellow leaf, " well wearied with years, he finally put by his pruning knife and spade; his work was done, and well done. "With a tender regard, he took a last fond look at the flower beds he had so long and lovingly tended; bid adieu to the living, and joined the dead. The indirect cause of his dissolution, was ulcerated tubers: I mean the potatoe disease or murrain of 1847, so dire in its consequences throughout the country, especially among the poor people, so distressed his mind, and excited his commisei'ation for the sufferers, as to seriously effect his good and sympathetic heart, and bring its kind and generous pulsation to a close.