This section is from the book "Feeling Better? Amusements and Occupations for Convalescents", by Cornelia R. Trowbridge. Also available from Amazon: Feeling Better.
Growing plants should never be left by an open window in cold weather. If they stand close to a window pane, keep on hand some sheets of corrugated cardboard to be put up as protection behind them on cold nights. Plants need not be removed from a sick room at night. They should be watered often, but not too generously. Bowls of water standing near them will help to supply evenly the amount of moisture necessary. A shelf can be put across the window half way up if your garden outgrows the window sill. Have the pots and bowls brought to your bed-table occasionally and wash the leaves on both sides, cut off the fading ones and loosen the earth about the roots-a kitchen fork is a good tool for this purpose-and water them. By handling the plants get the good feel of the life astir in them.
Another thing that you can do in your window garden is to start new plants. Slips from a geranium or begonia or ivy will root in sandy soil or ivy can be rooted in water. Paper cups and containers make good substitutes for flower pots and are light to handle.
At a recent New York Flower Show the Brooklyn Botanic Garden exhibited a leaf of Rex Begonia, six inches across, from which over a dozen plantlets had sprung up along the veins. Some of them were three inches high, some were just starting. The leaf, right side up, had been laid flat in a shallow box filled with a mixture of sand and loam and weighted down with small stones. The stem had been thrust into the sand and the veins had been slit across where they forked. If you try the experiment, keep the soil very moist- a piece of glass laid across the box is a help in this- and the box out of the direct sunlight until the sprouts begin to appear. If none come up, try this variation on it. Cut off the stem and the tip of the leaf of any hardy begonia and set what is left of the leaf upright in moist sand. It will fade but roots and other leaves should spring up at its base.
The leaf of an umbrella plant (cyperus) will do curious things. Trim it off to a circle about four inches in diameter. Insert it upside down in a glass of water. It will put out both roots and leaves and can eventually be planted in a pot.
Cacti can be raised from seed in flat boxes of sandy soil. Even the smallest of their seedlings have as much personality as human babies.
If the air of your room cannot be kept at an even temperature and is too dry for plants, you can still grow things in earth in one of those closed glass containers known as terrariums. An English surgeon, Dr. Ward, is said to have made the first experiments with these "self-watering gardens" about a century ago. He found a chrysalis in his dingy backyard in London and took along with it into the house a small clod of earth and put the whole into a bottle. After a few weeks he noticed that in the moisture from the earth retained in the corked bottle blades of grass and some tiny leaves had sprung up. He made other experiments in closed glass containers and eventually exhibited his results at Crystal Palace in 1851. Miniature greenhouses, made to set on a table, are still called Wardian Cases in England. Interest in them has recently revived and they can be found wherever garden accessories are sold.
You can, however, make what is specifically a ter-rarium out of a discarded aquarium or any wide-mouthed glass jar, not too large to stand on your bed-table. The bottom of it should have a layer of pebbles covered with moist earth suitable for the plants to be set in it. Very small plants of course should be chosen. Some florists carry terrarium material. But if there is someone to bring them to you, there is nothing better than small woodland or swamp mosses, ferns, flowering plants and seedlings of trees. With bits of rock, pebbles and lichen, tiny landscapes can be worked out. After the plants are in place the terrarium should be covered with a piece of glass fitting closely over it. The cover should be removed now and then for ventilation but the plants should not be watered unless the moisture has dried out. Too much moisture produces mold, which should always be promptly removed.
As you watch your indoor garden, you will think of still other forms of plant life to grow in it. So long as you supply a window sill and a love of growing things and patience, your garden will bring fresh interests into every day of your convalescence.
Success with House Plants, Jane Leslie Kift and Karin B. Heden-berg. De La Mare Garden Books. 1932. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. Selling Agents. Sound advice put simply and concisely. Milady's House Plants, F. E. Palmer. De La Mare Garden Books. 1926. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. Selling Agents. A more comprehensive manual, based on forty years of experience.
Modern Care and Culture of House Plants, Marjorie Morrell Sulzer. Doubleday, Doran & Company, New York. 1935. Advice both amusing and practical on "keeping house plants happy."
A Garden in the House, Helen Van Pelt Wilson. The Leisure League of America, New York. 1934. Much information in a small compass, adapted to city houses. Gardens in Glass, Mildred Norton. De La Mare Garden Books. 1934. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. Selling Agents. To date, the fullest and best book on terrariums. Ad ventures in Dish Gardening, Patten Beard. De La Mare Garden Books. 1930. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. Selling Agents.
A delightful book along original lines, fully illustrated.