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.
Under this title is publishing in London a series of penny treatises on whatever may be the topics of the day. They are inarvelously cheap, and necessarily on very varied themes - from "Eclipses " to " Mormons," from " Sir Colin Campbell" to "The Leviathan." They are good epitomes of information, relative to subjects of which every one is talking. " The In-Door Naturalist" gives hints and directions for constructing and stocking Wardian Cases, Aquaria, etc. It concludes with the following extracts from a century-old pamphlet on "The Water Garden:"
"It is entitled, 'A Flower Garden for Gentlemen and Ladies; or, the Art of Raising Flowers without Trouble, to Blow in full Perfection in the Depth of Winter, in a Bed-Chamber, Closet or Dining Room.' From this "handy helps to useful knowledge." 551 strange old book we will take the liberty of making such extracts as are likely to interest the in-door naturalist, to whom we must leave the task of verifying the statements which they contain.
" 'I flatter myself,' says our quaint author, 'that the following improvements in the delightful art of gardening, as it has hitherto escaped the thought of the curious, will meet with no unwelcome reception, it being a contrivance to divert the ingenious, in a place and at a time they cannot be otherwise furnished with those pleasing objects of delight; that is, to raise many sorts of flowers in a chamber, in the greatest smoke of London, and in the midst of winter, and to have them blow in full perfection within the twelve days of Christmas, as I had myself in the last Christmas past.
" 'I shall run into no extravagances, and only give the reader what I •performed with very little trouble, leaving the improvement thereof to better understandings.'
"After having described his early experiments, in which he succeeded in raising Tulips, Snowdrops, Crocuses, and other plants in large basins, filled with good garden mould, he arrives at the conclusion that earth can be entirely dispensed with, and that the plants may be made to flourish in water alone".
" ' I resolved to trust to the effects of water only;' he continues, 'that is, without earth, which would be a much neater and cleanlier way, and might be more acceptable to the curious of the fair sex, who must be highly pleased to see a garden growing and exposing all the beauties of spring flowers with the most delicious perfumes thereof, in their chambers or parlors - a diversion worthy the entertainment of the most ingenious; but yet further, to bring this to a more profitable use, by raising young salads in the same place, and all with very little trouble or charge.
" ' I bought some dozens of flint glasses, of the Germans who cut them prettily and sell them cheap. I bought them from whole pints to halves and quarters. These glasses are wide at the top, and are made tapering to the bottom, which renders them very convenient for this use. I likewise bought some glass basins, as large as I could get, and took care to choose them also tapering from top to bottom; then I fitted pieces of cork, about half an inch thick, to the inside of the tops of the glasses, which I could not sink far in, by reason of the glasses being less all the way from the top to the bottom, as aforesaid. In these corks I cut holes proportional to the roots which I designed to place upon them. Some glasses would hold two roots, some but one, and some three or four. The corks on the basins had many less holes cut in them, in order to place on them a number of smaller roots, which might blow together with the more splendor. Being thus prepared, which was all my charge and trouble that way, my next business was to get the flower-roots. A little before Michaelmas, I accordingly made a small collection of Polyanthus and Narcissus roots, several sorts of Hyacinths, Tulips, Crocuses, Daffs, Jonquils, etc, all large-blowing roots, or the labor of rearing them would have been lost.
These I placed upon the corks in glasses proper to their size, the Crocuses on the corks in the basins, that they might, being of various colors, blow together to make the more pleasing object. Before I placed these dry roots on the corks, I filled the basins and glasses only just to the bottom of the corks, so that the bottoms of the bulbs, would but just touch the water, of which I take the Thames water to be the best, as being strongly impregnated with prolific matter, like rich earth well manured for corn or garden use. My dry roots being thus placed in my windows, some of them even with the panes, others with their tops only even with the bottom of the sash, which, by the way, I kept always shut because my glasses hindered the opening of the casement; but, doubtless, a little air in very fine weather, when the wind was only in the south or west, and when there was no frost, would have been very advantageous to the plants - I took particular care that no water should be filled up to wet any more than just the bottoms of the bulbous roots, for that certainly would have rotted them, and have destroyed all my hopes.
"' In a few days after I had placed my spring flower-roots on the corks over the water, they threw out their white fibrous roots strongly into the water, which was a most diverting pleasure to behold. The whole process of that germination (if I may so call it) was visible through the glass. When the glasses were pretty well filled with these fibrous roots, that is, when there were enough to draw sufficient strength for the nourishment of the leaves, stalks, and flowers, the green buds first appeared, which soon shot into leaves, and the stalks with the flower-buds soon followed, all as strong, or, I may say, rather stronger than the garden does afford. They grew so fast, and yet with a full strength, that I had Polyanthuses and Narcissuses blowing out in perfection before Christmas-day, with all their perfection of color and perfume. Several Hyacinths followed them in the same manner. The Crocuses would have been equally early, but I could not get any roots to my mind till some time after Michaelmas, which occasioned their being later than the rest of their companions. I at last met with the large roots of the great blue Crocus, which blows late, and very often not at all.
The yellow Crocus, and the white-striped, or very pale blue, are the forwardest, and the best to be chosen for our use.
" 'At a time when the gardens are divested of all their beauty, this early production will supply the curious ladies with most agreeable perfumes for their chambers and parlors, and with nosegays to adorn their bosoms at Christmas, when they dress their houses with evergreens. It must be remembered that the rooms in which this gardening is carried on must have fires in them every day, as I had in my chamber, which was kept with reasonable warmth all the day and evening, but not at night. These exceedingly forward rarities are certainly most grateful to the exterior senses; but this leads me to a more useful fact, namely, that by the same means you can produce, as early as you please, something that may be acceptable to the taste, and nourishing to the microcosm, or little world - the body; that is to say, that you can raise fine young salads in the coldest part of winter, in any warm room, as aforesaid, and very nearly after the same manner.' "