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IN passing along the streets and conservatory faced towards the 1 through the squares of London, south, their hearts would be set on how often do we see the casual ferns and camellias, which on the passer lingering-turning his head, northern aspect would thrive most as on a hot June day a breath perfectly. of fragrance falls; or as, in early People with heat at command March, he catches suddenly the first long outrageously for little English bright glimpse of spring—the pot of wild flowers; those with air and yellow crocuses in some area window. light, but without any heat, delight Many long days will pass, perhaps, so in begonias that they will have before the world will know the good nothing else! that flowers have done; the saving Now let me describe some flowers recollections that they have first for one wide-spread class—the very recalled; the sins that they have many, that is, who would like to see hindered; the kind deeds that they the outside, at least, of their windows have brought out. One always perpetually gay. augurs well of a man who can say There are few requisites out of our honestly he has a favourite flower. reach, even here in London, that are He would not care to dwell on pain- quite essential to the growth of ful recollections; the favourite plants, and yet when I say the fiower speaks of some sweet and growth, I always take for granted innocent early association; and how that healthy growth is meant. much depends on those early days, The essential requisites are, inand what their memories are
deed, but three. Light, more or Now it is quite a fact that very less; air, more or less; warmth, few indeed are the London homes more or less. The difference bewhich do not possess some means of tween the less and more of these is growing flowers well, and few are the what must decide us on the plants London dwellers who do not long to to grow. Then there are other grow them. This is, however, one things which are negatively essential of the many cases in which people their absence, that is, being urfail in a great delight entirely or gently required. chiefly because they fancy difficulties Plants must not be allowed to which do not really exist.
have their leaves and stems all We buy a massive, heavy volume choked up with soot. which professes to treat of flower Plants must not be exposed to culture generally, and there, alas! have their roots all scorched up and we find a treatise on raising auricu- baked by a burning sun, or by 'a las from seed; one on obtaining new fine drying wind' striking on the kinds of hollyhocks; another on flower-pots and reducing the earth training roses, and yet another on to a sort of brick. Mud is moreexhibition flowers!
· over only a stage towards bricks. Well-London people may get The more, therefore, the unlucky prizes sometimes; but I do not plants are drenched and sodden by think that exhibition plants, or even water placed in saucers to rectify the excitement of raising florists' the evil of the sun and wind, the flowers, is the recreation most suited more it is certain the poor things to our London homes.
will suffer. When I think of People ought, then, to know first London plants, I always hope that what they want to grow; when that they do not feel! is settled, we will soon see a way It really does seem quite inconto working it out most suitably, ceivable that in the face of such plain Wants, however, are wide, and a facts as these, the plants should still good deal diversified. I know some be allowed to die, without adopting people who want’to have brilliant the easy means of saving them which geraniums, roses, and fuchsias in a every one can supply--means, too, greenhouse that looks due north! which render them fully threefold Now I feel convinced that if that ornaments.
As to the soot: where plants are few it is but a few minutes' work to wash their leaves and make them fresh and beautiful. A fine rose on a watering-pot, or a light brass syringe would do the work still more quickly in cases where there are many.
The scorching rays of the summer sun, and the keen, drying blasts of the cold March winds, may equally be kept off with most slender care, from striking upon the roots. The mere wooden frame, for instance, which I use in my own window, answers every purpose, and is removed at once when it is not wanted : this, however, is for a balcony or a down-stairs window opening to the ground. It is made like a fender, front and two ends only, with a narrow lining to fit into the window-frame. Being rather longer at each end than the window, about eighteen inches wide, and deep enough to contain an eight-inch pot, it answers every purpose of a raised bed of flowers.
The plants being washed occasionally; being preserved from drying, and having the benefit of thorough drainage (provided by crocks and clinkers at the bottom of the box), will, even without any further care, look very fresh and green. It has, however, been often found very useful to have a small glass frame to fit into the box, so that the plants within are sheltered from the severest frost, while in very cold weather some dry moss may be carefully placed round them. Two hand-glasses answer quite as well, but are less ornamental than the light glazed frame, and it is now the fashion, also, to have little projecting glass structures, made so to fit the window that the sash itself forms one side of the little enclosed glazed garden.
Snowdrops, blue and striped crocuses, blue scillas, dwarf red Van Thol tulips, with the double red and yellow kinds, are alone enough to make any window very gay and fragrant.
The snowdrops and scillas are the first to blossom, and very fair and lovely the little dots of blue and white appear, peeping above the
green of moss, or even through the brown mould. These little flowers may all be planted in autumn in small-sized (4-inch) flower-pots, and kept in a light window, even looking north. They should be put in a dark cellar or cupboard for a time when meant for in-door flowering, and not be covered up; but for outside the window they may be planted at least two inches deep in light sandy soil. The soil does not seem to me, however, to signify in the least, so that it is well aired and mixed with bits of charcoal.
A lovely window-box may be secured by having alternate pots of snowdrops and scilla siberica, then alternate crocuses and Van Thols, and at each end a pretty spreading fir-cypress, arbor vitæ, or spruce firs are amongst the best. Again, hardy rhododendrons and Ghent azaleas are pretty evergreens, giving beautiful flowers in May. The Daphne cneorum, also, an American plant, which grows best in a very rich, sandy peat soil, is a charming plant for training down or along the box. I had it covered with flowers every spring regularly, many miles further north than London, without the least protection. In London I have found it especially improved by washing. The bright pink flowers at the end of every shoot have perhaps greater fragrance than any other spring flower.
Purple violets of the double Russian kind do also in this way; often auriculas grow beautifully, as all they care for is to avoid heat and damp. Hepaticas and primroses make delightful February gardens; and where a few pots of double daisies, white alyssum, double white and blue primroses, wallflowers, and hepaticas (of which the double pink is best) can be got together, the window may be always bright-the pots of bulbs when ready making a pleasant change.
No plan, however, looks prettier than that most simple one of pots of snowdrops and scillas, and the common spring crocuses and tulips, with plants of primroses nestling up against and underneath the prettily-growing evergreens and firs.
For culture, the chief points are
Practical Directions—Flowers on the Dinner-Table.
never to wet the leaves in cold and frosty weather, unless the frost has touched them: then, on the principle of frost-bitten fingers being rubbed with snow, the coldest water should be plentifully used to wet and thaw the leaves before the sun shines on them, otherwise, and more safely, the glass should be shaded. This is the safer plan, because otherwise it is difficult to get rid of extra wet lodging in the soil. The more slowly the things thaw the better. The absence of heat and sunshine is indeed the reason why trees on a northern aspect sometimes escape when those which are exposed to the south or cast, look,' as old gardeners say, 'as if the blast had driven on them.' The more air, the more light, the less water (consistent with fresh and unflagging foliage), and the less damp, clinging moisture, the better will be the success, and the brighter and sweeter will the flowers bloom. These hints, when one reads them, sound so very simple, that I have a fear no one will think that they can be worth practising. At the same time it is quite sure that to say the same thing in very learned words (which I cannot do) would not mend the matter. I only hope that the experiment will be tried, and that the result will not be disappointing. To me, indeed, it seems something like a duty, for those who have the means to buy and the taste to arrange, that they should try to bring a trace of fields and flowers into the dreary streets where so many children wander.
So much, then, for the flowers we grow. We will next approach the subject of the gathered blossomsdinner-tables, drawing-room vases, wreaths, and pretty bouquets : here it is very difficult to know what to speak of first.
Dinner-tables, however, will perhaps be the most useful; for it needs & good deal of practice amongst flowers to be able at first to choose & really good set for this peculiar purpose. For one great rule, however, there cannot be too much green; for a second rule, that green should be evergreen. Those large shining leaves look more self-sus
tained; a very few flowers amongst them are enough for brightness, and I do not think that a crowd of flowers is ever so effective as a lighter group, in which the separate flowers, as on the branch, are visible.
At this time of year, nothing is more beautiful than a few camellias grouped with their own dark leaves, and edged with snowdrops and with the adiantum, or haresfoot ferns; (Davallia canariensis, D. dissecta, and Adiantum formosum being about the best). Now this is precisely a case in point with what I said of quantity of flowers. One of the really best of the usual modes of filling a centre vase, or a large épergne, is to provide a perfect mass of blossoms for the stiff and formal
bouquets géométrique.' This, however, is a shocking waste, for half the beauty of flowers consists in the graceful shape of each especial spray. Why not let us see the beauty of the shining round camellias, with their delicate notched petals; and the lily-shaped, slender forms of the azalea clusters, which always look sO singularly elegant, with their pencillings of colour, and their perfect freshness, and the delightful fragrance which yet is so indefinable. It does seem a frightful waste to mass such flowers together in perfect rings, or sharply defined wedges, or even in waving lines-the said waves, besides, being of most artificial guiding. And for the waste! The flowers that make up one single group like this, would, rightly used, be enough to fill half a table.
For the centre-piece especially, being a kind of key-note, something should be said about the vase which contains the flowers. A tall white china centre-piece, composed of, or supporting a dish, or tiers of dishes, is always extremely pretty ; but then the great thing as regards the flowers is to make the edges the chief consideration : little, wreathing, drooping flowers, sprigs of brilliant colour, spreading cool green fernleaves—these are the things whereleaves—these are the with to adorn such stands.
Colour, again, must be much considered. If we have flowers that do not accord together, it is quite incredible the way they force us' to crowd up our vases. It does not occur to us to take out special flowers, which by deadening colours give the sense of emptiness, and going on adding more is often the very thing most calculated to in crease the harm. Having one colour, and keeping to it, is the grand point to think of. If a thousand shades go well with it, that is all well and good; but it is not certain that because all are flowers all must agree together, or be suited to one another. If, indeed, we could but see some vases done in a natural way-only a profusion of the one graceful lily in its own wide leaves; of the bright geraniums, with their contrasting foliage; the sweet white roses, with their own drooping heads and their small pretty leaf sprays; the beautiful flowers permitted to spread out their graceful petals as though they were still growing in their own garden bed,—we soon should see the harmony between such art and nature. Primroses again, and the blue sweet violets. I do not believe that one person in a hundred has ever seen them once arranged as if they were really growing. And who ever saw bouquet prettier than that sheltered tuft beneath the grey old tree?
'In some cases *-as in impromptu dinners in sca-side or country sojourns, where perhaps the flowers are the only materials really in abundance - it may be well to know how to make them useful; and a wonderfully beautiful display may indeed be wrought at a little expense of most pleasant labour, with the exercise of a little taste, or, as the people “there” would probably call it-gumption. A range of glass milk pans (price from sixpence upwards), or an array of soup plates, supported on finger glasses, have been known to represent a splendid dessert service in a most effective manner-sycamore leaves, and plane leaves, the spreading fo
* This plan being mentioned in a little book, just coming out, on Flowers,' and seeming so nearly connected with the subject of this chapter, I thought it might be useful to give the passage here.
liage of beautiful acacias, leaves of water-lilies, ferns gathered on the hill-sides, and many other beautiful shapes of green, utterly concealing the poverty of their supports. The green, it should be remarked, must here be looked upon as a necessary addition, as if it formed a part of the vase itself. I hope this hint may prove a useful one and lead to further attempts to beautify common things; for whatever may be thought of cheap and vulgar finery, there is no such thing existing as cheap and vulgar beauty.
For those who hardly know what country flowers to think of, I cannot resist the temptation of describing some that may be often found. They are themselves so sweet, though even if they were not so, there is a sort of breath of English woods about them which is more refreshing than any exotic fragrance. Easter is coming, and people go out of town. That is the time for the great white narcissus, lovelier than camellias; for wreaths of white sloe blossom; for garlands of pearly may; and for those richly scented yellow cowslip bells, which country people scorn, or do not, at least, appreciate while they have them. And then, in some hedges, are the wild pink apple blossoms; in many a field long tasselled spikes of grass ; larches in plumed foliage, dotted with crimson tufts; woodruffe, nestled under many a bank; palo wood sorrel, with its three-lobed folded leaves; the white 'windflower,' with its dark-red, pencilled lines; primroses by myriads; violets blue and white; wild lilac crocuses; sometimes wreaths of woodbine; and, oh prize of prizes! sometimes, we know a wood, where lilies of the valley wave in all their loveliness.
So much for wild flowers.
Why do not more of the London prisoners go out in the fair spring days to bring back home such treasures?
And all these are only our common English wild flowers, for as yet I have not hinted at the garden's store-the piles of clustering lilac, from the purest white to the deep blue lavender; the tapering balls of the Gueldres rose; the white waxen