Room Plants 1500112

THE present is an appropriate time to say a few words about growing plants in rooms. There are many persons without the convenience of a greenhouse, but in whom the love of plants is so strong that they will not be without them during the winter, even though they have to grow them in a garret window; and it is a happy circumstance that they can do so. We never pass a window in winter, with its few Scarlet Geraniums, and perhaps a pot of Mignonnette, etc., without thinking that there dwells within that house a soul full of the aspirations of a better life; and we can well imagine how many lonely moments have been lightened by the presence of these silent yet cheerful companions: the light and sunshine so essential to their own well-being they impart freely to those who care for them. There is a striking resemblance, in many respects, between woman and flowers, more especially in the modesty, loveliness, and sweetness which we are all willing to concede to both; and we should naturally expect to find, and do find as a general thing, that women have a nicer and more refined appreciation of flowers, than men. Her organization, more delicate than that of man, intellectually and physically, fits her better to discriminate the finer shades of beauty.

It should, therefore, excite no surprise to find among women the most constant lovers of flowers. Probably two thirds of the flowers found in rooms are grown by women, and the number might be greatly increased with a corresponding diminution of that unnatural craving for excitement now quite too common. We know of nothing better calculated to beget home attachments than the love and culture of flowers.

We should be glad to do or say something to increase the number of those who grow room plants. It is true that plants can not be as well grown in rooms as in a well-constructed greenhouse; but, notwithstanding, there are some kinds that may be grown and flowered in a manner quite satisfactory, and with results highly gratifying. Certain conditions are necessary for the best success, and these it is our object to point out. The greatest obstacle to success is the dryness of the air: this may in a measure be overcome by a table suitably constructed, and the selection of plants best adapted to a dry atmosphere. The table should be the length of the window, and two or three feet wide, the boards being tongued and grooved. Around the edge nail a strip three inches wide, making the corners fit tight. The table is then to be filled with two inches of clean white sand. With a table of this kind, the foliage of the plants can be frequently syringed or sprinkled with water, which keeps them clean and promotes their health; the drippings and surplus water are caught and absorbed by the sand, and the floor of the room is thus kept clean; the sand, indeed, ought to be kept constantly wet, and even watered for this purpose, if necessary.

The evaporation from the sand will diffuse itself among the plants and through the room, and thus overcome, in a small degree, one of the chief obstacles to the successful culture of plants in rooms. The table should be fitted with rollers, to facilitate the operation of watering and cleaning the plants, and also for the purpose of moving it back from the window during very cold nights. The flower-stands in common use are altogether unfit for a room; the surplus water, dead leaves, etc., fall to the floor, injuring the carpet, and giving the room an untidy appearance. The table above described is free from these objections, besides having positive advantages for the successful growth of plants which no ordinary flower-stand can possess.

All rooms do not possess equal advantages for growing plants. A room with large, high windows, looking to the south, is the best; the next best is one with a southeast or southwest exposure; next, east; 'next, west; and the least desirable of all, one looking to any point north. A large bay window with a southern exposure possesses many advantages for growing plants, quite equal in many cases, and superior in some, to those structures absurdly called "plant cabinets,"unless the latter be intended for the preservation of dried specimens, the only purpose for which most of them are fit. A basement window with a southern exposure will sometimes answer tolerably well, but a room in the upper part of the house is always to be preferred. Having secured a table and selected a room, the next thing in order will be a collection of plants; and here we would drop a caution against accumulating too large a number. Plants can not be well grown any where, or under any circumstances, when crowded together; it is always more satisfactory to grow a few well than to grow many indifferently. In making a list, we name only those which we know to succeed well in rooms, and which are least impatient of neglect and changes in temperature.

From our list of annuals given last month may be selected Schizanthus, Lobelia, Alysumm, Mignon-nette, Mathiola, and Ageratum. Of perennials a good selection may be made from the following, taking them somewhat in the order in which they are named: Geranium, (scarlet and sweet-scented,) Primula sinensis, Azalea, Epiphyllums, (indeed, the whole Cacti family,) Spiraea Reevesiana and pru-nifolia, Roses, (such as Hermosa, Agrippina, Fragoeletta, etc.,) Heliotrope, Lauru8tinus, Bulbs, (such as Hyacinths, Narcissus, Crocus, Ixias, Babianas, etc.) Calla, Oranges, Lemons, Deutzia gracilis, Weigela rosea, Coronilla, Petunias, Cypripedium insignia, Hoya, (or Wax-plant,) Verbenas, Stevia, Daphne, Carnations, Cape Jasmine, Pittosporum, Salvias, Passiflora, Bouvardia, Fuchsia. We do not recommend the young amateur to make so large a selection, unless several windows are fitted for the purpose of plant-growing, or unless the selection is confined mostly to one plant of a kind. A good selection for a beginner would be a few pots of Alyssum, iJignonnette, Lobelia, Geranium, Primula, Azalea, Calla, Cacti, Coronilla, Heliotrope, Spiraea, Orange, Lemon, Petunia, and some bulbs.

It is better to begin in a small way with a few kinds easily grown, and to increase the number and variety as experience and skill are acquired.

We can not, of course, within the limits of a single article, give directions for the cultivation of the plants we have named; we can only add a few brief remarks on their general treatment. One of the most important things to be attended to is watering; the plants should not be allowed to wilt for want of water, but they should not be watered till the surface of the pot becomes dry, and then enough should be given to go entirely through the ball of earth. The plants should be frequently syringed or sprinkled overhead, and kept clean, and free from dead leaves. Extreme changes of temperature should be avoided as much as possible; a moderately low temperature is to be preferred in a room to a high one; since, in the absence of a strong and diffused light, too much warmth will cause the plants to grow weak. If the windows have curtains, they should be kept up or drawn aside, and all the sun and light possible admitted to the plants at all times during the day. When the weather is mild, the window may be thrown up for a while, or the top sash lowered a little.

During very cold nights the table may be moved to the middle of the room; and if the plants should unfortunately get frozen, darken the room and throw cold water over them repeatedly till the frost is drawn out, and then expose them gradually to the light. In this way we have saved plants when the ball of earth has been frozen as hard as a brick. Room plants should not be brought into the house till the nights get frosty, and while out of doors they should have a sunny exposure. Insects should be looked after, and destroyed on their first appearance; a little attention in this way will keep them free from such pests.

It has been objected by some that it is unhealthy to keep plants in rooms; but their arguments lack coherence and force, and we are compelled to record our experience against the position. We believe them, on the contrary, to be conducive to health, not only by their soothing and cheerful influence on the mind, but as purifiers of the air, so that all may indulge their tastes without the least apprehension of injury to their health. We have no room for an argument here, but we believe that every vegetable physiologist will sustain our position; if he will not, then, in our opinion, he has something to learn. We commend room-plants to all who have a room in which to grow them, and especially to the ladies, who are necessarily much confined to the house: they will cheer many a lonely hour, and afford balm to many a wounded heart. The world can not seem utterly a blank while the love of flowers is left to console us.