The delivery of plants at Easter, should the weather be cold, as it too often is, makes it the most trying day of the whole year. At Christmas we are prepared for cold weather and expect it. and most of the trade then is cut flowers, which are easily and safely delivered in boxes, and the plants are carefully and securely wrapped; but we never know till dawn breaks what kind of a day it is going to be on the Friday or Saturday before Easter. A cold Saturday is a great loss to our trade, not only in the great expense of wrapping and delivery, and breakage of our plants, but we miss hundreds of sales that never come again. A man may put off buying a hat or gloves this Saturday, but he will get them sure soon, because he needs them; but if his coat is turned up and fingers cold, he is thinking more about a cocktail and forgets that his wife told him to buy a plant and send to her friend, Mrs. Expectant. In many ways a cold time at Easter is a calamity to us.
Great rush as it is, much can be done by organizing your force. Men or women who make sales should not be expected to wrap up the plants. If the address and card are handed to the delivery department, that's all that should be expected of the salesman, and the cash or charge handed to the gentleman who presides at the desk. The man who makes change and slaps the charges on file is not so busy but what he can keep an eye on what is going on; like a man who looks on at a game of cards, he can see the right card to play better than the participant, and he can notice whether a clerk by mistake (?) drops $1.75 into his own pocket instead of the till, or whether that azalea that Mrs. Smith so kindly said she would carry out to her carriage herself was paid for or charged. If we had an Easter Saturday every week, we should be able to keep trained help to manage it, but we have not, and it is a trying time, and a time above all to keep cool. It is a busy time, and your customers see, and all sensible ones will make allowance for a short but civil answer, and it is all they can get. Woe betide the fool of a man or woman clerk who wants to chin and chat and be funny and extra affable to the customers on these crowded, busy days; turn the hose on them if practicable. We have found that in the greenhouse, where many of us do our biggest Easter trade, much confusion can be saved by devoting a good big bench in a house adjacent to the door where the wagons are loaded to the plants that are bought ahead of time, as many are. We make room on the bench and cover it with strong, thick paper so that the pots when washed won't get mussed up again with sand or ashes. Thursday begins the delivering. Customers often say when buying a plant: "You can send it home Thursday* or Friday," or another will say: "Saturday or Sunday morning, whichever you choose." Always choose the earliest moment they allow. You are sure to have plenty for the last. So on that part of the bench nearest the door are all of Thursday's deliveries, the card of the donor fastened on with baby ribbon and the address very lightly fastened on with wire. It is not safe to fasten that address card on securely till you see the weather, as it may have to be pinned on to the wrapping paper that protects the plant from chilly blasts. When Thursday night comes all of Thursday's deliveries should be gone, the space devoted to Thursday should be clear, and so with the other days. Friday's orders should be looked out and got ready on Thursday and what is sold on Friday to be delivered that day should be put on the table to go out with the next load. As long as plants are on that Friday bench your wagons have not done for the day.
The deliveryman is a very important personage these days. He should know the city well and also know a great many of the residents. Never send a load of twenty or thirty different deliveries with one man. It is waste of time. The driver knows the route to save time, and the house in most cases, and tells his helper that, "Here is Mrs. Brown's, who gets that lily and that deutzia," and while the less valuable man is waiting for Mary Ann or Kate to receive the plants the driver is studying out his next call. Drivers or de-liverymen are just like those of any other calling; there are good and bad, but a good one is a jewel. Only smile at calamities that can't be helped, such as hail storms or cyclones, but swear to your heart's content at the lubber who comes home with damaged plants and says, "The lilies blowed over and I let that big azalea fall."
There are always a great number of plants that you are reasonably sure you will sell, and these should all have their pots washed a day or two ahead. Nothing can be more disgusting than a greasy, dirty pot, and no plant should be delivered, however cheap, or warm the weather, without some wrapping paper around the pot.
The lily certainly occupies the most important place among Easter plants. The Japan grown longiflorum is the favorite; a single plant in a 5-inch or 6-inch pot or three plants in an 8-inch. It is seldom that the longiflo-rums are too early, and should they be a week or ten days ahead of time they keep finely in a cool, shaded house, but should not be put there till at least one flower is open or the whole plant and buds will get stunted.
Azaleas are next in importance and perhaps in value of plants sold equal the lilies. There is no excuse for having the azaleas out of date, because they can be kept almost to the freezing point during winter and open quickly when put into a heat of 60 degrees at night. There is always a good demand for azaleas from Christmas on, but don't have many left after Easter, for people have seen so many then that they are tired of them.
The Ghent or hardy deciduous azaleas want five or six weeks in a moderately warm house. They are very attractive and do not drop their flowers at Easter, as they do later in warmer weather, and the colors are such beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red and pink that when decorated with suitable crepe paper they sold well last year.