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The Art Of Making Exotic Leaves

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The begonia rex makes a beautiful parlor plant. Five or seven leaves make a nice-sized plant: Select five or seven healthy begonia leaves of different sizes, as no two leaves of the rex are of one size on the same plant. Cut the leaves closely off the stem and immerse them in a solution of cold water and castile soap.

Leave them in this twelve hours before using. Melt the wax to the consistency of cream, in chrome green, permanent green, dark olive-green, and verdigris-green. Now take a leaf out of the soapsuds and lay it on a marble slab, keeping the under surface or veined side uppermost; then with a camel’s-hair brush lay on the melted wax in different shades, following the shades of the natural leaf.

The soapsuds having made the leaf transparent, all the [195]shades and spots can be plainly seen on the veined side, which is the side the waxen leaf has to be formed on. The belt of light green over the silvery markings of the leaf should be put on with verdigris-green. Begin the leaf in the center and continue on each side of the midrib till the edge is reached and the leaf has a thick coating of wax. Then lay a wire along the midrib or center of the leaf, fasten it in the wax by pressing, care being taken to leave it long enough for eight or nine inches of stem.

Wire must also be laid on all the side ribs or veins leading to the midrib. These small wires are all brought to the center wire and laid evenly by its side till they all come to the stem, where they are all twisted around it to form one long, thick stem. Give the leaf another coating of dark olive-green wax (this covers the wires), then finish with a thin coating of burnt umber tinted with Vandyke brown, and the under surface of the leaf is finished. Remove the natural leaf from the waxen and tint the veins lightly with carmine. Brush a little carmine loosely on the darkest shade in the center of the leaf, and before it sticks blow off as much as possible, when enough will be left to give it that reddish-green tint peculiar to the begonia rex leaf.

The next is to finish the silver belt or silvery leaf-markings midway between the center and the edge of the leaf. This strip must be rubbed with spirits of turpentine; then with the tinting brush apply a coating of silver bronze (Nos. 4000 and 6000), care being taken that the bronze does not scatter over the leaf. Now the leaf is finished.

If the work is done according to directions, the waxen leaf will be a true copy of the original. Continue in the same way till all the leaves are made, then wax the stems and run them through the begonia stemming, when they may be arranged in their natural growing manner in a flowerpot filled with moss; or, if preferred, the flowerpot may be filled with wax, in terre-verte green, and the stems must be placed in it before the wax gets hard.

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