This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
A "plant cabinet," while it scarcely aspires to the dignity of a conservatory, possesses the attractions of one, and gives the family of the possessor as much pleasure as a more expensive arrangement.
A bay-window, in one of the most frequented rooms, suggested itself as a suitable place for bringing the plants as they bloomed, from a small green-house too distant from the dwelling to be visited in bad weather.
Simple glass sashes to fit the opening were procured; they open like a double door; shelves on one side support the plants, and small wooden brackets screwed on to the walls here and there, assist to furnish this little jewel of beauty. In the centre is an ornamental post, of red cedar varnished, up which climbs two different colored Maurandia Barclayanas, and the top is ornamented with a golden fern. In front are seen two China seats; on these are placed ornamental long-stemmed climbing plants, and hanging vases assist materially in the effect. During winter the cabinet is gay with the finest camellias and other flowers. Chrysanthemums, at the proper season, give it their peculiar attractions. In short, there are few plants that are not exhibited in succession; even orchideous, and other tender varieties, are introduced with success. In extremely cold weather the door is left a little ajar to admit the warmth of the room, especially at night, and the thermometer has not yet fallen below 45°.
The whole cost of fitting up this beautiful case, exclusive of the flowering plants, did not exceed twenty-five dollars. It gives completeness and beauty, and an expression to the house that could be produced in no other mode so cheaply. But it has a higher object; it embues all connected with the mansion with a love of flowers, and gratifies many senses. A pair of Canary birds are sometimes let out of their cages to enjoy the liberty of the cabinet.
Cowper, in his happiest manner, has alluded thus to the love of Nature's works: -
"The love of Nature's works Is an ingredient in the compound, man, Infused at the creation of the kind. And, though th' Almighty Maker has throughout . Discriminated each from each, by strokes And touches of his hand, with so much art Diversified, that two were never found Twins at all points - yet this obtains in all, That all discern a beauty in his works, And all can taste them".
By introducing such a cabinet into a sitting-room, the beauties of nature are made accessible in the severest season. There would be no necessity of having a green-house to resort to, to fill such a case; without leaving their comfortably warmed rooms, ladies can attend to their pets, which by employing water in dishes for the sake of the evaporation, will possess as healthy an atmosphere as the gardener's case. As much light as possible should be given. The cactus tribe would thrive here remarkably well.
Ed. Horticulturist - Dear Sir: I have no doubt many of your readers were, as I was, much pleased with your remarks on these structures. By some such contrivance, many who are now deprived of the luxury of a few flowers, may have them in perfection. I think I would sooner consent to be deprived of any source of pleasure than that which my little conservatory affords, and am gratified whenever I see anything tending to afford the masses an opportunity of similar enjoyment. I write now to remark that a neighbor who has not a bay window outside, has contrived to make one inside the common plain one, by a double sash; and the way her plants luxuriate in this small "house" is the admiration of every passer-by. Should you take time to honor my little place with a call one of these days, I will take you to see it. The dry air of rooms seems to have an injurious tendency on plants; and it is really surprising to see how well they do in these cases; besides removing the annoyance which watering plants in rooms in the usual way oftentimes entails.