GREAT deal of pleasure without a large outlay of expense can be derived from a small Conservatory or even a Plant-room attached to the dwelling-house. In a small Conservatory, the first requisite is perfect command of the ventilation, and the next, perfect command of the light by having the sides, which are exposed to the sun, provided with spring blinds or shades so that in clear, dry weather the direct rays of the sun may be kept off the foliage, for otherwise, the foliage is apt to become scorched and blistered. Besides, when the air of the Conservatory gets too hot and dry, it takes away from the leaves that lively, fresh finish which is so much of the beauty of the plant carrying perfect leaves.
We build a Conservatory to enable us to enjoy the vegetation of the tropics or of countries with warmer climates than our own. Let us then fill the Conservatory with plants which cannot be successfully cultivated in the open air, and not with Roses, Carnations, Geraniums, etc.
The plants best suited for Conservatories are the finer Palms and Dracaenas, the finer Ferns such as the Adiantum, the Daval-lia, Asplenium, the tropical Gymnogramma and many others which are easily grown in a temperature between fifty-five and eighty degrees Fahrenheit, provided they are sheltered from the direct rays of the sun, are given a moist atmosphere and are not subjected to cold draughts of air blowing through the plant house.
Special care must be given to preparing the soil for Palms. Most of the Palm family enjoy a good, strong soil, one composed of one-half good yellow surface loam, one quarter well-rotted horse-manure, and one-quarter well-decomposed leaf-mold, with a sprinkling of good sharp sand, suiting them well. A soil composed of these parts should be turned over several times, so as to insure that all are well-mixed together.
Before potting, the pots must be thoroughly clean and dry. If the pots are new, they must be well soaked in water (being left in the water sufficiently long to get saturated) and then allowed to dry before being used. When a new pot is not soaked before being used, it frequently happens that the first few waterings, instead of being beneficial to the plant, only serve to soak the pot, while the ball of soil, which the pot contains, becomes so dry that it is a difficult matter to again get it into a satisfactory, moist condition.
One of the most common errors of amateur gardeners is to put their plants into pots which are too large. A pot which will hold all the roots, leaving one-half of an inch of fresh soil around the old ball, is quite large enough for a change of pot; for example, if a plant growing in a four-inch pot should require a change, it should have the ball of earth reduced so that it may be repotted in one which is five inches in diameter. Over-potting should be guarded against, as if a Palm or a Fern is given a pot which is too large, a little over-watering sours the soil and kills the roots.
Interior of Greenhouse.
In taking a plant out of a pot to put it into a larger one, the pot, in which the plant is, should be turned upside down and the edge of the pot tapped gently so as to start the ball of soil. All the drainage material must be taken from the bottom of the ball. The roots must be carefully examined, and, if they are not in good health and condition, must be cut, with a knife, back into sound wood; any loose soil should be removed, and then the plant can be repotted in a pot a size larger than it formerly occupied. This, of course, is provided the roots are in good condition, as if they are not so, the plant should be repotted in a pot the same size as formerly, and should be kept in that size of pot until the plant forms fresh roots, when it should be repotted in one a size larger.
The question as to what size of pot should be used for a plant is one which is often asked. This depends not only upon the size of the plant, but also upon what kind of plant it is; for example, whether it is a plant which is a fast, strong grower, or one of slow growth; whether its roots are soft and fleshy, or whether they are of a fine, hair-like texture, etc., etc. Palms, for instance, which carry six leaves, three feet in length, will do better and will be more easily kept in a healthy-growing condition if potted in good soil in a seven-inch pot than if in one which is much larger.
See Chapter XXII (Calendar Of Operations) (Calendar Of Operations), "The Calendar of Operations," for suggestions and detailed instructions as to the work in the Greenhouse or Conservatory, month by month, throughout the year.