Monday, July 17, 2017

1884 Why women should grow seeds & plants - Get out of the House & possibly make Money!

In the United States of America, women did not get the right to vote nationally until 1920.
Abbott Fuller Graves (American artist, 1859-1936) Flower Sellers


"In the great reform movements of this age, having in view the betterment of women's condition, no factor is so important as the economic. “What shall we do" is a question that can best be answered by those who can show how time lost in idleness — in hopeless dreaming —can be profitably employed; how energy wasted in impatient fretting for work to do, can be utilized in work that is necessary and waiting to be done.

"It was the hope that I might be able to throw out a suggestion or two, that I accepted an invitation to talk here today on the subject of, “Seed, Plant and Bulb Growing,” a subject which has engaged my attention and work for a number of years. I cannot remember the time when I did not love flowers passionately; I was very early in life called a “plant maniac;” I rarely went away from home without coming back, laden with plants, cuttings, seeds or bulbs. Among my earliest recollections are the flowers in the home garden and the gardens of dear old ladies who welcomed me because I loved their four-o'clocks, scarlet runner beans and peonys. My windows were filled with flowering plants and the thought of some day owning a greenhouse “all my own” filled me with delight. The harsh winds and the cold winters of Iowa, my childhood home, drove me, as they did thousands of others, to California and the greenhouse materialized, and became the nucleus of a rare collection of plants, greater than my wildest fancy ever pictured.

Francis Coates Jones (American artist, 1857–1932) Remaining Indoors-Flowers in a Window
I have a great sympathy for women who are compelled or think they are compelled or prefer to remain indoors. They cannot realize the delight experienced in working in the open air. There is a buoyancy, exhilaration and an enthusiasm in an intimate relation with sunshine and growing vegetation and outdoor air, that are unknown to those whose vision and life is bounded by four walls. I am glad to know the time has come when woman can go into the field and work without being ostracized, or thought to be out of her “sphere.” In the past nothing has alarmed the average woman so much as to be told she was “out of her sphere.”

"Outdoor work is healthful, it brings sight to the eyes and bloom to pale cheeks. The work done in hybridizing is most fascinating. To bring a new flower into existence; to improve existing types; to learn the habits of the various flowers and plants; to assist at their weddings and to help bring into the world a seed with it's unknown possibilities; is like opening a door into a new world of beauty, a new world of thought, where life becomes broader, richer and better. “We use flowers to speak for us our tenderest thoughts; we use them to interpret all the tenderest things in life.” “When lovers want to tell the unutterable words they betake themselves to the dumb messengers who have learned to say so much.” We lay them away to hold fast the memory of the most precious moments of life. In our deepest grief we put them on the bier of our loved ones who have left us. At all times and in all places they minister to us.

"Flower-names come down to us impearled with myth and story. What sacred romances the lotus flower, the martyrs palm and victors laurel recall. The long dreaded names of botany are often little poems in themselves, heliotrope is “she who turns to the sun,” mesembrianthemum is “flower of the mid-day,” masturtium is “bent nosed,” geranium is “cranes bill.” These were simple heart and eye names to the Greeks and Romans, just as we call our pets heartsease, morning glory and day's eye. And what is the purpose of all the beauty that comes each year to gladden our eyes. All for this. That at last the seed might grow and ripen. “And yet no man through all the population could make one. Earth and sun it takes them both. It takes the solar system all alive to make a seed.” What are our fruits but the seeds protected by rind, and pulp and sheath and juices, that each and all may be perpetuated. They are all the children of the trees and plants. But with all the delight and pleasure the work brings, like everything else it has its drawbacks, especially when one is doing it for profit. To find customers and dispose of what has been grown, to be able to meet the expenses connected with work of the kind, and make a fair profit, are the problems that all growers have to meet.

"There are many things that can be grown profitably, but any crop that is easily grown and is used in large quantities must become cheap. A few years ago, callas, smilax and freesias brought good prices, but now they are grown by so many in California, and Bermuda is also growing bulbs with great success, with the advantage of much lower freight rates, while prices offered for them are so low that in two or three years it will not pay to grow them.

Abbott Fuller Graves (American artist, 1859-1936) The Chrysanthemum Show
"The demand now is for the best. The time is past when poor quality of anything in the line of flower seeds can find a market. The germinating properties must be sure and the plant must come true. There are many bulbs that have only been grown in amateur gardens that would succeed admirably here. Gladiolus — best varieties — hyacinths, lilies, ixias and sparixies, amaryllis tritonias, rabianias, anemones, ranunculi, spotted callas, narcissus of the choicer varieties, iris, cyclamen and any other bulbs that are valuable for cut flowers or the garden. Among seeds are verbenas, poppies, cinerarias, candytuft, asters, chrysanthemums, nasturtiums, petunias, phlox, Chinese primulas, the newer varieties of mignonette, cannas and a thousand and one other varieties.

There is great work to be done with seedling roses. California has not yet given to floriculture a fine rose. Tea roses bloom from seed in a few months and very pretty varieties are often raised from the self fertilized seed. With all the types we have to work with we should be able to raise some grand new varieties by hybridizing. Especial care should be taken to develop a hardy race of roses that will stand the severity of eastern winters, and that will have all the beauty of form and color of Tea roses. Good climbing roses are also needed, the number of these that are valuable is small.

"The carnation, fragrant, spicy, beautiful, grows more popular every day and will never go out of fashion. Florists are doing much with the carnation. New and valuable varieties are brought out every year. It is very profitable for the cut flower trade, as it ships well long distances. Seeds of fine carnations always bring a good price. I find that they thrive best in a stiff soil. A good carnation should be of a medium height, the flowers should have long stems and should not burst their calyx. It should be perfect in form, with petals either fringed or plain. In growing seeds much care should be exercised and only perfect flowers allowed to bear seeds. My favorite flower, if I have a favorite, is the begonia, I have over one hundred varieties of the fibrous, besides many of the tuberous and rex begonias. I have great expectations from these exquisite plants. Beside the collection are a number of very beautiful seedlings, which are the pride of my heart. To me the begonia has always suggested things spiritual, it is so pure, so free from imperfections. Closely examined, the flowers seem as though formed of tiny chrystals cemented together with diamond dust.

"The demand for decorative growing plants and for cut decorations is constantly increasing. The leaves of various palms, strings and sprays of Asparagus Plumosus nanna and English ivy, stems of Bamboo, Papyrus and Cyperus, flowers and berries of the pepper tree, acacia blossoms, wreathes of the beautiful Bignonia venusta and Bougainvillea. Carnations, freesias, daffodils, jonquils, violets, poinsettias and many other flowers with lasting qualities will be shipped east in large quantities by cold storage, as soon as transportation becomes cheaper. Many hardy shrubs and roses are imported from Europe every year...Many plants can be grown in California for decoration. A person I would say, should grow with the idea of improving old types or developing new ones. Learn to hybridize and watch the tendency of the flower. Work with an intelligent purpose and make your ideal high. When at last a type is fixed, your painstaking and care will be rewarded, for no one can take your work and keep it up to the same standard, without going over the same ground, and it is only those who are willing to work who can do this. You can then easily find a market and within reason name your price for you alone have the new creation. It must be remembered that the tendency of all plants is to revert to the original type and any plant that shows such degeneration must be ostracised."

From the Rural Californian, A Journal for Suburban and Country Home. Los Angeles, March, 1894. Volume 17, "By permission of Pitcher & Manda, Short Hills, N. J."

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