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.
Read by Mrs H, M. Lewis, before the Madison Horticultural Society.
HOW often we hear persons say: "I know that I shall never succeed in growing fine healthy house plants. The leaves grow small and turn yellow before they fairly develop, and my plants seldom or never blossom." To such unfortunate persons I would heartily recommend the fernery.
Persons using gas and furnaces often find the use of them a great detriment to the free bloom and healthy growth of plants, and find the fern case a never-ending source of pleasure when understood and managed successfully.
The Wardian or Ward case was invented by a Mr. Ward of England, and known about 1840. Its first public appearance was made at the World's Fair in 1851.
If any one wishes for an elegant and expensive case, it can be obtained by sending to almost any of the large cities for it. One mounted upon a rustic table, with niches or brackets, for growing any ivy or choice flower, is very beautiful. Almost all sizes and shapes can be found; or one can be ordered at home and made at a cabinet or tin shop. Perhaps you can make one yourself, with help from the hired man, that will please you most of all, out of a cheese or other box, covered over with strips of bark, acorns or lichens tacked or glued upon the outside and varnished. Arrange the plants, put the high bell-shaped glass over it, and place it upon a small center table.
For growing two or three ferns and a Lycopodium for a parlor table, a large soup plate, filled with the plants and some bright wood-moss to cover the earth and the edge of the plate, then cover with the glass, is very pretty.
For a bay window or a niche in a shaded parlor, what more lovely ornament than a hanging fernery filled with bright green foliage can be imagined.
In the first place put a layer of charcoal in the bottom of the sine pan - the pan should be three or four inches deep - have a quantity of fine green wood-moss on band, and cover all the edges of soil with it, mix good leaf mould with about one-third sand, and press the plants firmly down as you place them in.
Do not plant too near together - those growing the largest should be placed near the center, unless some little fancy design is intended - a grotto, lake, bridge, mossy bank, with statuary or deer can be added with fine effect.
First, get a few choice ferns from the greenhouse, among them the gold and silver fern and the beautiful Maiden-hair, then add our native ferns, but do not expect them to retain their beauty during the severe cold of winter, for they must have a season of rest from December until the middle of February. At that time they begin to send up their graceful fronds, and it is a great pleasure to watch their progress upwards, as they often grow two inches in a night. We have but one evergreen fern that I know of, and that is a pretty dwarf one, that grows in great abundance around Devil's lake. I believe there are two or three other kinds growing in the northern part of the State among the pines, but they are seldom seen here. Lyco-podiums, Bignonia in variety, Achyranthes, Ficus stipulata, Tradescantia zebrina. Cole us, Cranberry, Sagittaria, Hepatica, Trailing Arbutus and many other plants can be grown finely in the Wardian case. A climbing fern is very beautiful placed in a corner and allowed full liberty to grow as it pleases.
Scotch Heath succeeds well, grown under glass.
Arrange the surface as your taste would dictate; some prefer little mounds, and others prefer it level; cover the soil with the prettiest variety of wood-mosses that can be found. We can find in this vicinity at least twenty green and brown mosses (but do not use lichens, as they mould under glass). If spots of mould appear on the moss, give air for an hour or two a few times, and they will soon be bright and velvety. Water freely, and if, in the morning, the water stands in great beads upon the inside of the case, it is sufficient. Do not water again for six months or longer. Let the sun shine upon it for a short time each day, unless the sun is very hot.
It is not necessary to go to the greenhouse to get plants to stock our cases, unless we prefer to do so; for if we will traverse our woods and marshes, with botanical eyes, we shall find there are many rare and beautiful flowers, ferns and vines that fill conservatories for thousands to admire, on another continent.
I hope that we shall sec the number of ferneries largely multiplied, for no little outlay of money can gratify one alive to the beauties of nature more than this little drop of sunshine, which is a perpetual reminder of green woods and running streams, and of Him who is the maker of this world, and of His wonderful works.