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.
At a late meeting of the Rhode Island Horticultural Society, there was some pleasant talk about House Plants.
Mr. Levi Metcalf said he had been quite successful this and previous winters in raising varieties of hyacinth, and other plants, in pots, in a Wardian case at a window, where the plants had the sun about two hours and a half every day. The case should be kept open, or they need expect no blooming plants. The hyacinths would look, after the sun had shone in on the closed case, as if they had been dried or steamed. At night, however, when he lit the gas, he would always close the case. He would recommend everybody to have a case of the kind, rather than to grow plants in or upon a window. The case had better be laid on a table, lined with zinc. Fill the case half full with good clean sand, put the sand in dry; the moisture would go through the pots and the glass would be wet in the morning, sometimes too much so. The general trouble in growing house plants was that people lived in too warm rooms. Most plants were best suited by a temperature of about fifty degrees, while some plants grew better in a higher temperature.
Where a person had but a few plants, they could be cleared of insects at any time they chose, but he thought it indispensable to take out decayed matter from the case as soon as convenient. He was in the habit of re-arranging his plants once a week or so, as a means of refinement.
The president thought there was very little difficulty in growing hyacinths in the house in pots. He begun ten years ago, and soon arrived at one result, that for plants to flourish in the house there must be moisture in the air. He lived in a large house, heated by a furnace, the air was very dry, the furniture cracked with the heat, there were seams in the doors, and the skins of the people residing in the house appeared parched and dry. He introduced a system of ventilation, and found that a great change followed for the better. The furniture no longer cracked, the seams in the doors closed up, throat and lung ailments ceased to trouble the inmates of the house, and the plants began to flourish. From this experience he drew the inference that the air necessary for plants was also necessary for the good health of men, women, and children. He had been led more lately to believe that lack of ventilation affected plants even more than lack of moisture. Sulphuric acid accumulated in rooms kept closed for some time, and that acid was fatal to plants. With his rooms properly ventilated, however, he had found that the plants flourished as well as in the old-fashioned houses with fire-places. Plants needed occasional washing, and to be kept carefully clean of insects.
He had carried one hundred plants through winters, on all sides of the house, north, east, south and west, without losing any of them, and having flowers all the time. Another gentleman said that epsom salts were effectual in removing insects from plants.
This old, well known, popular bedding plant, has been most wonderfully improved during the past ten years; from the small, single, self-colored varieties have been produced the most gorgeously and elaborately marked varieties; beautiful double ones with the sweetest fragrance.
Coquette - Changeable ground colors of purple and white, with distinctly defined bars of blue radiating from the centre outward.
Fascination - Clear, fine rose, with white centre.
Lady Douglas - Purple and Violet, shaded white.
Striata Superba - Pure white, blotched and striped carmine; beautiful.
Warrior - White lilac, striped carmine.
Above are single varieties; the following are double :
Inimitable - Flowers blotched, the centre petals are richly flaked with white and violet.
Marginata Monstrosa - Flowers four inches in diameter, beautiful mauve flower, tipped and splashed with green.
Edward Beech - Clear white ground, striped dark chocolate; fine.
Queen Of Whites - White, very double, fragrant, and the best white yet produced.
Albert Victor - Double ; lilac purple; good.
Heiress - Solferino, mottled and shaded white.
Duke Of Argyle - Lilac and purple, veined white.
President Lincoln - Imbricated carmine and white with deeper shade; very sweet.
Annie - Brilliant white, blotched and spotted violet and crimson.
Atalanta - Rich crimson ground, shaded rose, with inner petals edged green, and outer ones with dark green belt; very fine.
Sherman - Scarlet and crimson, with distinct blush shade, one of the best.
The Petunia is easily handled, its great requisites are light and a good soil. It will not prosper in a shaded situation. Succeeds well on mounds, where it should be pegged down to give it a good bedding form. Cut away most of wood when lifted in the fall to bring to conservatory, or for keeping in cellar over winter. - Thompson in Rural World.
Perhaps every one is not aware that the coldest place in a room on a cloudy day or at night, is within a foot or so of the window just where the plant stand is stationed. All dwellings cannot be new, and new ones are not always proof against the insidious attacks of cold. In the old ones the windows become loose with the wear and tear of years; there are cracks and crevices where a small current of cold air penetrates, and where the frost creeps in stealthily and seizes on the green leaves. To guard against this, I paste a narrow strip of paper (of a color corresponding with the paint in the room) over every aperture that admits a passage from the air without. The unsoiled margin of newspapers is very good for this purpose, as the texture is light and thin, and adheres readily to the wood. Give it a trial and prove the fact, only do not select a cold freezing day for the business. It saves the trouble of moving the plants at night, and assures their safety when the mercury drops low in the thermometer. Our climate is subject to sudden and unlooked-for changes, and often one night will destroy a whole winter's care and ruin hopeful prospects, even as late as March, when we deem our security good. It is well to be prepared for these emergencies or caprices of our lati-• tude.
Some complain of their plants growing spindling and weak, and yielding no bloom One fault is, too high a temperature, with too much water a portion of the time during the day, and too low a one at night. When this is the case they grow sickly, and we hear the often-repeated complaint, "I can't keep plants, they don't do well; what do you do to yours? You want strong but growthy plants to secure bloom and beauty. Every day when I water, I turn my plants, and thus keep them even and shapely, by allowing every side the advantage of the sun. A slip will grow during the winter and become a large flowering plant in a four-inch pot, if judiciously watered and cared for Earthen pots without glaze are best, as they are porous, and absorb superfluous moisture. - Ex.