Farm House 7 Flowers
Start not, gentle reader! We are not about to inflict upon you a dissertation on Pelargoniums, Calla-Ethiopias, Japonicas, and such like unmentionable terms, that bring to your mind the green-house, and forcing-house, and all the train of expense and vexation attending them; but we desire to have a short familiar conversation about what is all around you, or if not around you, should be, and kept there, with very little pains or labor on your part. Still, if you dislike the subject, just hand this part of our book over to your excellent wife, or daughters, or sisters, as the case may be, and we will talk to them about this matter.
Flowers have their objects, and were made for our use and pleasure; otherwise, God would never have strewed them, as he has, so bountifully along our paths, and filled the world with their fragrance and beauty. Like all else beautiful, which He made, and pronounced good, flowers have been objects of admiration and love since man's creation; and their cultivation has ever been a type of civilization and refinement among all people who have left written 203 records behind them. Flowers equally become the cottage and the palace, in their decoration. The humblest cottager, and the mightiest monarch, have equally admired their beauty and their odor; and the whole train of mortals between, have devoted a portion of their time and thoughts to the development of their peculiar properties.
But let that pass. Plain country people as we are, there are enough of sufficient variety all around us, to engage our attention, and give us all that we desire to embellish our homes, and engage the time which we have to devote to them. Among the wild flowers, in the mountains and hills of the farthest North, on the margin of their hidden brooks, where
Floats the scarce-rooted watercress;
and on their barren sides, the tiny violet and the laurel bloom, each in their season, with unwonted beauty; and, sloping down on to the plains beneath, blush out in all their summer garniture, the wild rose and the honeysuckle. On, through the Middle States, the lesser flowers of early spring throw out a thousand brilliant dyes, and are surrounded by a host of summer plants, vieing with each other in the exuberance of their tints. On the Alleghanies, through all their vast range, grow up the magnificent dogwood, kalmia, and rhododendron, spangling mile upon mile of their huge sides and tops with white, and covering crags and precipices of untold space with their blushing splendor. Further west, on the prairies, and oak openings, and in the deep woods, too, of the great lakes, 204 and of the Mississippi valley, with the earliest grass, shoot up, all over the land, a succession of flowers, which in variety and profusion of shape, and color, and odor, outvie all the lilies of the gardens of Solomon; and so they continue till the autumnal frosts cut down both grass and flower alike. Further south, along the piney coast, back through the hills and over the vast reach of cotton and sugar lands, another class of flowers burst out from their natural coverts in equal glory; and the magnolia, and the tulip-tree, and the wild orange throw a perfume along the air, like the odors of Palestine. In the deep lagoons of the southern rivers, too, float immense water-lilies, laying their great broad leaves, and expanded white and yellow flowers, upon the surface, which the waters of the Nile in the days of Cleopatra never equaled. And these are nature's wild productions only.
Flowers being cultivated, not for profit, but for show and amusement, need not intrude upon the time which is required to the more important labors of the farm. A little time, given at such hours when it can be best spared, will set all the little flower-beds in order, and keep the required shrubbery of the place in trim—and should not be denied in any family who enjoy a taste for them. Even the simplest of their kind, when carefully disposed, produce a fine effect; and the hardy bulbous, and tuberous-rooted plants require but slight aid in producing the highest perfection of their bloom; while the fibrous-rooted perennials, and the flowering shrubs, bloom on from year to year, almost uncared for and untouched.
The annuals require the most attention. Their seeds must be planted and gathered every year; they must be weeded and nursed with more care than the others; yet they richly repay all this trouble in their fresh bloom when the others are gone, and will carry their rich flowers far into the frosts of autumn, when their hardier companions have composed themselves for a winter's rest.
The position of the flower-bed, or borders, may be various. As a matter of taste, however, they should be near the house, and in view of the windows of the most frequented rooms. They thus give more enjoyment in their sight, than when but occasionally seen in special visits; and such spots can usually be set apart for them. If not in the way of more important things, they should always be thus placed, where they are ever objects of interest and attraction.
The ground which flowering plants occupy should be devoted to them alone, and the soil be made deep and rich. They should not be huddled up, nor crowded, but stand well apart, and have plenty of breathing-room for their branches and leaves, and space for the spread of their roots. They are consumers of the fertilizing gases, and require, equally with other plants, their due supply of manures—which also adds to the brilliance and size of their bloom, as well as to the growth of their stems. Their roots should be protected in winter by coarse litter thrown over them, particularly the earlier flowering plants, as it gives them an early and rapid start in the spring.
In variety, we need scarcely recommend what may 206 be most desirable. The crocus, and snowdrop are among (if not quite) the earliest in bloom; and to these follow the hyacinth, and daffodil, the jonquil, and many-varied family of Narcissus, the low-headed hearts-ease, or pansy; with them, too, comes the flowering-almond, the lilac, and another or two flowering shrubs. Then follow the tulips, in all their gorgeous and splendid variety of single, double, and fringed. To these follow the great peonies, in their full, dashing colors of crimson, white and pink, and the tree-like snow-ball, or guelder-rose. By the side of these hangs out the monthly-trumpet-honeysuckle, gracing the columns of your veranda, porch, or window, and the large Siberian honeysuckle, with its white and pink flowers; and along with them, the various Iris family, or fleur-de-lis, reminding one of France and the Bourbons, the Prussian lilac, and the early phloxes. Then blush out, in all their endless variety of shade and tint, from the purest white to the deepest purple, the whole vast family of roses; and in stature, from the humblest twig that leans its frail stem upon the ground, up to the hardy climber, whose delicious clusters hang over your chamber window; and a month of fragrance and beauty of these completes the succession of bulbs, and tubers, and perennial plants and shrubs—scores of which have not been noticed.
Now commence the annuals, which may carry you a month further into the season, when the flaunting dahlia of every hue, and budding from its plant of every size, from the height of little Tommy, who is just toddling out with his mother to watch the first 207 opening flower, up to the top of his father's hat, as he stands quite six feet, to hold the little fellow up to try to smell of another, which, like all the rest, has no sign of odor. Then come, after a long retinue of different things—among which we always count the morning-glory, or convolvulus, running up the kitchen windows,—the great sun-flower, which throws his broad disk high over the garden fence, always cheerful, and always glowing—the brilliant tribe of asters, rich, varied, and beautiful, running far into the autumnal frosts; and, to close our floral season, the chrysanthemum, which, well cared-for, blooms out in the open air, and, carefully taken up and boxed, will stay with us, in the house, till Christmas. Thus ends the blooming year. Now, if you would enjoy a pleasure perfectly pure, which has no alloy, save an occasional disappointment by casualty, and make home interesting beyond all other places, learn first to love, then to get, and next to cultivate flowers.
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