}

December 30, 2011

Greeting a Dawning Year


CONSERVATORY DELIGHTS WELCOME A NEW YEAR
A COMPOSITION INSPIRED BY AN ENGRAVING PUBLISHED IN  THE YOUNG GARDENERS ASSISTANT
by Thomas Bridgeman, 1853.

 PERIOD FLOWERS, PICKED TODAY IN THE GREENHOUSE.
Descending snow, the yellow leaf and sear,
Are indications of old Time's career;
The careful florist tends his sheltered plants,
Studies their nature, and supplies their wants.

Winter's white sheet now covers earth's cold bed;
Pride of our home the lovely flowers, outside, are dead;
Some early venturers would the aspect cheer;
B'neath thy glass, first-born greet a dawning year.


In 1850, winter flowers were often presented under glass domes, or placed in bowls and vases within Wardian Cases, where the extra humidity would keep them fresher. Greenhouses were heated by coal or wood, and night-time meant even colder temperatures. Homes where also wood or steam heated,  heated, and most recommended that plants and flowers be brought into the center of the room for evenings, so that they would not freeze when the temperature drops on chilly nights.

Above, a New Years' urn created in the 19th century style, it includes many flowers in bloom in the cold greenhouse today ( from top), Clivia caulescens x nobilis,  a natural cross which occurs in South Africa, Westringia rosmarifolia, two Abutilon varieties (the  flowering Parlor Maple), a red Vireya Rhododendron, pink and cream colored Correa 'Western Hills', a good shrub for winter gardens under glass, Narcissus romieuxii and Narcissus cantabricus, Camellia japonica and a Cyclamen graecum leaf. Moss and ferns complete the period composition.

Alos, the term 'Florists', is an old term for those who grew not only grew plants and flowers to sell,  but also those who bred flowers, sold bulbs and notions for growing plants. Somewhat different than what  a florist is today. In 1853, a 'Florist' was more like a butcher who raised his own meat, and bred his own cattle as well.


December 28, 2011

Growing like it's 1855 - Inspiration from the past for a new gardening year


A WARDIAN CASE IS DIFFERENT THAN A 

At the end of each year, I treat myself to a small selection of rare gardening books. Like many gardeners, I prefer to choose my own books, as many of you would understand, I am not the easiest person to buy a plant book for!.   This year, I've found 5 very nice vintage gardening books, all printed between 1802 and 1908. , and most focus on the subject of growing potted plants indoors, either under glass in some of the country's first greenhouses, or in conservatories. I find the subject of 18th century greenhouses appealing for many obvious reasons, but mainly, as a New Englander with a glass house, living just outside of Boston ( where many of these books were published), I can relate to this desire  people had for 'keeping a glass house'  in the middle of winter where one can grow tender plants, trees and shrubs collected from around the world. 

December 26, 2011

What's in Bloom Today - Under Glass

I PICKED A VERY NINETEENTH CENTURY COMPOSITION IN THE GREENHOUSE TODAY. THESE ARE  FLOWERS ONE WOULD HAVE FOUND SOLD ON A DECEMBER STREET CORNER IN LONDON OR IN NEW YORK DURING THE LATE 1800's  - FRENCH SCENTED VIOLETS, CAMELLIAS, HOOP NARCISSUS, TROPICAL RED RHODODENDRONS ( VIYREYA)  FREESIAS, ALMOND-SCENTED OSMANTHUS AND WESTRINGIA ROSEMARIFOLIA ( THE PALE LAVENDER FLOWERS).

Greenhouses are magical in the winter. A thin sheet of glass divides two climates, outside, the bitter cold, dry winter and New England blizzards, inside -  it's warm and moist,  and the air is thick with the scent of winter-blooming trees and potted plants like jasmine, narcissus, freesia, scented camellias, fragrant Parma and French violets. At one time these were the only flowers available during the winter for many people who live where it snows, and before air travel made shipping flowers around the planet an every day event, a greenhouse was the only way to get fresh flowers, citrus and vegetables.