Plants that require a high or low temperature or a very moist atmosphere and plants that bloom only in summer are undesirable. Procure fresh sandy loam, with an equal mixture of well-rotted turf, leaf mold, and cow-yard manure, with a small quantity of soot.
In repotting plants use one size larger than they were grown in. Hard-burned or glazed pots prevent the circulation of air. Secure drainage by broken crockery and pebbles laid in the bottom of the pot. An abundance of light is important, and when this cannot be given it is useless to attempt the culture of flowering plants. If possible they should have the morning sun, as one hour of sunshine then is worth two in the afternoon. Fresh air is also essential, but cold, chilling drafts should be avoided. Water from one to three times a week with soft, lukewarm water, draining off all not absorbed by the earth.
Do not permit water to stand in the saucers, as the only plant thriving under such treatment is the calla lily; and even for these it is not necessary, unless while blooming. Dust is a great obstacle to the growth of plants. A good showering will generally remove it, but all the smooth-faced plants (such as camellias, ivies, etc.) should be carefully sponged so as to keep the foliage clean and healthy.
Plants succeed best in an even temperature, ranging from sixty to seventy degrees during the day and from ten to twelve degrees lower at night. If troubled with insects, put them under a box or barrel and smoke from thirty to sixty minutes with tobacco leaves.
FOR THE RED SPIDER
The best remedy is to lay the plants on the side and sprinkle well or shower. Repeat if necessary. If manures are used, give in a liquid form.
Some of the plants most suitable for parlor culture are: Pelargoniums, geraniums, fuchsias, palms, begonias, monthly roses, camellias, azaleas, oranges, lemons, Chinese and English primroses, abutilons, narcissus, heliotrope, petunias, and the gorgeous flowering plant, Poinsettia pulcherrima. Camellias and azaleas require a cooler temperature than most plants, and the Poinsettia a higher temperature. Do not sprinkle the foliage of the camellia while the flower buds are swelling or it will cause them to droop, nor sprinkle them in the sunshine. They should have a temperature of about forty degrees and more shade. By following these rules, healthy flowering plants will be the result.
A good way to start slips is to partly break off the slip (but do not entirely sever it from the parent stock), leaving it hanging for ten or twelve days; then remove and plant in a box of half sand and half leaf mold and it will be well rooted in a week. Do not water too freely or the slip will rot.
If house plants are watered once a week with water in which is mixed a few drops of ammonia they will thrive much better. Sometimes small white worms are found in the earth—lime water will kill them. Stir up the soil before pouring it on, to expose as many as possible. For running vines, burn beef bones and mix with the earth.
TO KEEP PLANTS WITHOUT A FIRE AT NIGHT
Have made, of wood or zinc, a tray about four inches deep with a handle on either end, water-tight. Paint it outside and in, put in each corner a post as high as the tallest of your plants, and it is ready for use. Arrange your flowerpots in it and fill between them with sawdust. This absorbs the moisture falling from the plants when you water them and retains the warmth acquired during the day, keeping the temperature of the roots even. When you retire at night spread over the posts a blanket or shawl, and there is no danger of freezing.
SURE SHOT FOR ROSE-SLUGS
Make a tea of tobacco stems and a soapsuds of whale oil or carbolic soap; mix and apply to the bush with a sprinkler, turning the bush so as to wet the under as well as the upper part of the leaves. Apply, before the sun is up, three or four times.
Immediately after gathering take a moderately warm iron, smear it well with white wax, rub over each surface of the leaf once, applying more wax for each leaf. This process causes leaves to roll about as when hanging on the trees. If pressed more they become brittle and remain perfectly flat. Maple and oak are among the most desirable, and may be gathered any time after the severe frosts; but the sumac and ivy must be secured as soon after the first slight frost as they become tinted or the leaflets will fall from the stem. Ferns may be selected any time during the season. A large book must be used in gathering them, as they will be spoiled for pressing if carried in the hand. A weight should be placed on them until they are perfectly dry; then, excepting the most delicate ones, it will be well to press them like the leaves, as they are liable to curl when placed in a warm atmosphere. These will form beautiful combinations with the sumac and ivy.
TO PREPARE SKELETON LEAVES
When properly prepared, skeleton leaves form a companion to the scrapbook or collection of pressed ferns, fronds, etc. This is a tedious operation and requires skill and great patience to obtain satisfactory results. Some leaves are easier to dissect and make better specimens than others, and, as a rule, a hard, thin leaf should be chosen; that is, when a special variety is not required.
Among those which are skeletonized most successfully are the English ivy, box elder, willow, grape, pear, rose, etc. They should be gathered during the month of June, or as soon as the leaf is fully developed. The leaves should be immersed in a vessel of rain water and allowed to remain till decomposed. When this takes place, press the leaf between pieces of soft flannel, and the film will adhere to the flannel, leaving a perfect network. Dry off gradually and clean the specimen with a soft hair pencil. Place between folds of soft blotting paper, and when perfectly dry place in your collection.
TO BLEACH THE LEAVES
Dissolve one half pound of chloride of lime in three pints of rain water, strain, and use one part of the solution to one of water. For ferns, use the solution full strength. When perfectly white remove to clear water, let stand for several hours, changing water two or three times, float out on paper, and press between blotting paper in books.
A correspondent of the Gardener’s Monthly tells of a new style of hanging basket made of round maple sticks about one inch in diameter, eight inches in length at the bottom, increasing to fourteen at the top. In constructing, begin at the bottom and build up, log-cabin fashion; chink the openings with green moss and line the whole basket with the same. These are easily kept moist, and the plants droop and twine over them very gracefully. A good way to keep the earth moist in a hanging basket without the trouble of taking it down is to fill a bottle with water and put in two pieces of yarn, leaving one end outside. Suspend the bottle just above the basket and allow the water to drip. This will keep the earth moist enough for winter and save a great deal of time and labor. Plant morning glory seeds in hanging baskets in winter; they grow rapidly and are very pretty.
TO OBTAIN FRESH-BLOWN FLOWERS IN WINTER
Choose some of the most perfect buds of the flowers you would preserve, such as are latest in blowing and ready to open. Cut them off with a pair off scissors, leaving to each, if possible, apiece of stem about three inches long. Cover the end of the stem immediately with sealing wax, and when the buds are a little shrunk and wrinkled wrap up each of them separately in a piece of paper perfectly clean and dry and lock them up in a dry box or drawer, and they will keep without corrupting.
In winter or at any time when you would have the flowers blow, take the buds at night and cut off the end of the stem sealed with wax and put the buds in water wherein a little nitre or salt has been diffused, and the next day you will have the pleasure of seeing the buds opening and expanding themselves and the flowers display their most lively colors and breathe their agreeable odors.