Planting Bulbs for Easter

This is the second article in January of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on January 10, 1909, and is an article on planting.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Planting Bulbs for Easter

It is a long look ahead for our amateur florist. Every anniversary falls into our lives like a surprise, no matter how long and how carefully we have prepare for it. Easier—the movable feast—seems to require less preparation at the hands of the housemother than the winter holidays.

Yet it behooves those of us who love flowers well enough to take the trouble to cultivate them to lay our plans now for filling our homes with beauty and fragrance on the most joyous festival of the year.

In our Easter talk (if it please the Lord of Life to keep us here and together until then) we will hold sweet converse as to the glorious promise symbolized in each opening bud. Today we address ourselves to homely details, without which we may not expect leaf or flower.

It sounds strange to the ears of country-bred readers to be told that it is not an easy matter to get heath for house plants in winter. For them there is always a corner of the barnyard where a few strokes of the spade will break through ice and snow down into loose soil, black, rich and warm. Our flat-dweller must buy earth for filling flower pots and jardinieres. It will be brought to her in a stout paper parcel, as if it where so much moist sugar. Even then the business of filling pots and boxes with dirt in the bathroom or kitchen is not a pleasant task. It is a relief in such circumstances to recollect that spring flowers may be brought into healthy bloom by substituting water for soil.

Easy to Grow.

Hyacinths take obligingly to this method of window gardening. If you have fruit jars that are not too wide at the mouth to support large-sized bulbs above the surface of the water, you need not go to the expense of hyacinth glasses. The latter are not costly, however, and make a better show in the window than the homelier substitute. Select some blubs of uniform size; fill the glasses with pure water and set the bulb in the mouth so that the bottom rests in the liquid. To submerge would rot it and ruin all. Be sure that the circle containing the foot-gterms is under water, and examine every few days to see that evaporation has not expose the same. When the bulbs are thus arranged set the glasses in the cellar, if you have one; if not, in a dark, rather cool closet.

All this while the water must be kept at the right level. Replenish the supply gingerly from above, stirring the blubs as little as possible, and with water suited to the temperature, of the place in which the plants are kept. Cold would check the growth temporarily.

Once in the sunlight, your nurselings require little more attention. See that water is added before the roots begin to dry out and turn the glasses daily, that the light may visit all parts of the plants impartially, and you will not have to wait long for satisfactory flowering.

Narcissus and jonquils may be brought to blossoming in water, but under different treatment. Have ready enough clean pebbles or broken bits of marble, picked up at a stonecutter’s, to half fill a wide, rather shallow bowl. Dispose the bulbs judiciously among these, so that they will not crowd one another, and that all will stand firmly upright. This done, pour in water until the root central circles are well covered. Lay a piece of lace set over the top of the bowl, fastening it at the bottom, that it may not dip into the yater. This will keep the inevitable dust from coasting and befouling it. Now, put the bowl away in the cellar or closet, as I have directed you to proceed with the hyacinths, and follow these directions exactly in further treatment until the sprouting bulbs are sufficiently advanced to be set in the window. When there they must have sunlight for several hours of each day. Reflected sunshine will not induce blossoming. Replenish the supply of water as it sink below the level in evaporating.

A Water Plant.

The Chinese sacred lily grows better in water than in earth. Indeed, the only experiment I ever made in cultivating them in the latter direction was unfortunate in result. I had brought the comparatively new plants to such beautiful perfection in water, that I reasoned in favor of setting them in the bosom of their mother earth. I knew that hyacinths, tulips, narcissus, freesias, jonquils, etc., accepted water as a makeshift for the nourishing soil. Why should the celestial bulbs be of a different mind? Therefore, I planted them in a box of rich garden mould; left them in the cellar for the prescribed four weeks, brought them by prudent stages into the light, and awaited developments in sanguine calmness. The leaves grew rapidly and rankly, and never a single bloom blessed my sight the season through. Next winter I meekly set the blubs between the pebbles, as of old, and took no risks.

If you can get a china jardinière—an oblong box made for the window garden—it will be more slightly than the bowl, and accommodate itself more gracefully to the dimensions and shape of the shelf which is the improvised conservatory of hundred of thousands of flower lovers.

For those who are poor (or rich) enough to command all the garden and forest mold they want, I add a few simple rules for the cultivation of Easter bulbs. Set those I have named in earth, instead of in water (always excepting the Chinese specimen!) Fill with soil that covers the bulb. Not too deep, as that will give the leaves unnecessary trouble in reaching the light. Half an inch of earth is sufficient to shield the upper part of the bulb from dust and draughts.

The upper stratum should be crumbled fine, and laid in loosely. Keep the pots in the cellar or dark closet until the shoots above the surface are from wo to three inches in height, then bring them gradually to the sunlight. During the weeks of seclusion, water sparingly—not oftener than once a week; and not then unless the earth is dry to the tip of the finger thrust three inches into the mold. The philosophy of this is clear—what you want to accomplish by darkness and quiet is vigorous root growth. The fibers which are to draw nutriment through the sap for the growing plant must strike deeply into the earth in order to extract it. If the surface be kept wet, the rootlets are attracted to the top of the earth, making what we know as “lateral roots,” which depend entirely upon frequent watering and get little sustenance from the soil below.

Calla lilies (which botanists tell us, are not lilies at all, but “Richardia Africana”) require larger pots than do the bulbous plan e have already spoken of. They, too, must be set in the dark until the roots have taken hold of the lower soil and the green blades appear above ground. I have seen them growing in artificial ponds, the bulbs having been set among stones. I think, however, that they must have a foundation of earth to bring them into vigorous growth. I have raised them successfully in flower pots and jardinieres. They hold their bloom longer than they hyacinths and jonquils and have a stately grace that peculiarly adapts them for Easer decorations.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

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