Friday, October 20, 2017

1892 - Lush Lithograph Showing Why We Plant Tulips

Ah...  how could anyone resist  John Lewis Childs' Fall Bulb Catalog?   We plant them because they can be awesome!

 I love those little dots....

 And just in case, like me, you wonder about the name "Bizard"

A Dictionary of Modern Gardening - Page 671 - Google Books Result
George William Johnson - 1846 - ‎Gardening
It will be observed, that tulips are divided into different classes, and as the characteristics ... A Bizard tulip has a yellow ground, and coloured marks on its petals.

1877 - "Household Elegancies" Made From Seeds

Dreadful, aren't they?   I wonder how many exist today.  I suspect they have fallen prey to mice, or just fallen apart.   But so much work!!  

Then again, as a child and adult project it is rather nice.  Little ones get to admire the beans and keep their hands busy, the adult can finish it off.  In case you don't care to read how to make these, note that fresh beans were used so they are easily pierced by a tapestry needle.  In 1877 fresh beans with interesting patterns were more likely to be available to families. 

 1877 is an interesting time as it is at the starting point in agriculture where fewer people were needed to provide for the growing population due to machinery.  In 1850, more than 60% of people were on the farm.  In 1880 or a bit after it was more like 26% feeding a much larger population.

Household Elegancies: Suggestions in Household Art and Tasteful Home Decorations

By Mrs. C. S. Jones, Henry T. Williams


The following article appeared some years later and explains how to make some of the same items.
At first I thought they were the same illustrations, but they are not.

1884 - The young ladies' treasure book: A complete cyclop√¶dia of practical instruction and direction for all indoor and outdoor occupations and amusements suitable to young ladies

Nut And Seed Work.

THE beauty of some seeds and nuts has caused ingenious persons to form them into objects of use. In pursuing this work, we would advise our friends to purchase many varieties of beans, and cultivate them with a view to appropriating them to fancy work; for of the exceeding beauty of some of these seeds, few persons, comparatively, have the remotest conception. 

Some of them are as beautifully mottled, spotted, marbled, and painted as the most elegant 
I think these are the acorn and white bead chains used to make fern holders.
mosaic-work, while their symmetrical form and highly enameled surface render them well adapted for the purpose of forming chain-work of every description.
 Many nuts, too, such as the horse-chestnut, have shells of such beauty, and capable of taking such a fine polish, that when arranged tastefully they appear like highly finished wood-carvings.

 Acorns may be made the medium of holding ferns in a variety of ways, either in a room, or, still better, in a greenhouse, or small window-garden, opening, perhaps, out of a back parlour or drawing-room.

The acorns are soft when new, and a hole may be readily made by slipping through them a large twine packing-needle. Thread them on wire—a large, round cut white-glass bead between every one.

Vase of Coloured Beans.

A vase we shall here describe may be made of any coloured or sized beans desired; but in selecting the beads which are to be combined with them, care must be taken to produce a tasteful combination.

The beans being soft when newly gathered, holes are easily pierced through them. Thread them through these holes on a wire, with a large round glass bead between each one.

Make first a ring for the bottom of the urn or vase, and another for the top, stringing the beans and beads upon them. The wire should be as thick as a large sized knitting needle. 

After making two circles for the top and bottom, form the sides by turning a hook over on the end of the wire and fastening it to the top ring, between the beans.  Pinch the wire close, with pliers, to conceal the joint. Thread this with the beans, etc., until it is sufficiently long to form the ribs of the vase, as shown in Fig. at A; to cross at the narrow part, to form the swelling part of the vase, B, and fasten again to the lower ring. This wire is then cut off with "tin-shears," and the other part formed in the same way, and both are then crossed by another, diagonally. 

If the urn is large, there may be two of these on each side, making six equal sides to the urn instead of four. Where they cross at the narrow part of the vase, bind them well together with fine zephyr or thread. These bindings must not show, and fine thread-wire is better than other material for fastening.

 Bend the six pieces into proper shape, by giving a regular and graceful curve ; join the wire to one of them, and carry it round the widest part of the urn, joining it with fine wire to every part where it crosses. Next put in the upper Vandykes, fastening the strung wires as before. The handles are rings of the beans and beads attached to each side, as shown in the illustration.

The beans should be of uniform size for each separate part, and the same number between each corresponding division; for instance, the bottom ring may contain thirty large beans, and the central circle fifty of medium size; then the divisions reaching between these should contain small ones, perhaps, but they must be alike in size and number. So also the Vandykes. 

Fill the vase with moss, green side out, and pack soil in the centre, in which plant ferns, etc. The effect of the moss against the beautifully coloured basket is lovely, and the crystal beads glisten out of the green like so many dew-drops.

 On page 139 (the above hanging fern basket) we show a hanging basket made of the nuts of the acorn, arranged in a similar manner. The acorn-nut should be held in the cup by means of the wire, and the beads for this should be either the crystal or opaque white, and of the size of a pea. Handles, made of rings of wire, are first strung with the acorns and beads, from which tassels of beads depend; one is also arranged at the bottom, and from the supports at the point where the three are joined.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

1892 - Litho Surfing on a John Lewis Childs' Fall Bulb Catalog

You can't beat a lithographed catalog for luxuriant surfaces.

Your attention can slide down the sweeps of color, twirl around a curlicue, and wipe out with a plop in the center of a blossom! 

Love it!!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

1891 - All Hail King Pumpkin


What can I say?  
The poet's own phrase "necromancy keen" sort of sums this poem up!

Good Housekeeping - 1891

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

1899 - Edgar Allan Poe and Pumpkin Pie

These bits and pieces turned up when I was looking for pumpkin pie poems.  
  They belong together!     


1891 - Edgar Allan Poe: His Life, Letters, and Opinions, By John Henry Ingram

Unattributed poem
and I forget where I found it! 

Monday, October 16, 2017

1887 - A Mother's Memories of Pumpkin Seed Craft for Little People

I enjoyed reading Clarissa Potter's memories of her childhood at the end of the instructions. Being a little "maker" is the natural state of children,  unfortunately parents flood them with pre-made stuff.  Kids don't know better when they fall for ads.  The fact kids love Legos so deeply shows their little clever souls are yearning to create their own things. Better than nothing!  but not as good as poking around and finding your own building materials.  

... A bag of dried pumpkin seeds holds resources of solid enjoyment for the little people who are experts in stringing buttons and beads, and can count. 

The forehanded, good man of our house and fields always dries and stores away many more such seeds than he possibly can use in planting time, and he knows it, so he makes no complaint when the children have a saucer of pumpkin seeds about, of which they are making mats and baskets. 

The oddest table mat I ever saw was made of a circle of paste board covered and bound with stout, bright flannel, and on the flannel were sewed scores, yes, hundreds of small, white, earthen buttons arranged in circles about the outer edge of the card board, and within in wild confusion. Next in oddness is one of pumpkin seeds, and children in the home, of both first and second childhood, enjoy making both mats.

To make a mat of pumpkin seeds, string at their points, on stout linen thread, nineteen seeds resting on their sides; draw snugly into a circle and fasten and break thread. Between each of these nineteen bases, string the points of two seeds. Again draw into a circle and tie thread. Between each of these nineteen pairs of bases string at their points three seeds; draw close and secure thread as before.

So far, mat and basket of pumpkin seeds are made alike. If the work is for a mat, continue increasing one seed to those strung at their points and placed between the bases of each succeeding circle. If you find the mat is rufiiing, getting fulness too fast, omit increasing the number of seeds strung at points for a row or more, to insure a smooth, flat mat. Finish outer row with a stout thread run through bases of pumpkin seeds, and then wind edge with a bright ribbon passed over and between the groups of seeds.

A pumpkin seed basket is made by continuing stringing seeds in triplets between bases of each preceding row till three rows are made besides the row of double seeds placed between the bases of the nineteen seeds of the first circle. This forms a flat base for basket with rounded sides.

A pretty bail is made by stringing on two wires, face to face, thirty-eight seeds; wires to run through bases and points, alternately, till a flat web is made the width of a pumpkin seed’s length. Fasten ends of bail wires to opposite edges of basket and then wind between each pair of seeds on edges of handle—the windings not to come opposite —-with narrow ‘ribbon. Finish basket with pretty ribbon knots placed over points where handle is fastened to basket.

In that bright, glad time of “when I was a little child,” we built ingenious houses and laid out: famous grounds with acorn cups and saucers, from which I think we derived more pleasure than children nowadays can from their patented, smartly painted building blocks. Acorn cups standing on their bases was our building material; the soft, warm hearth rug before the dining-room’s open fire, as near as possible to mother’s rocker, was our field of quiet enjoyment.

We grouped the acorns in a big square for the outer walls of the ground floor of our house, then filled in partition walls, leaving loop-holes for doors to our double parlors and cozy kitchen and bedrooms, with narrow walks between two long acorn rows for halls and corridors. Similar long, winding lanes led to our capacious barns and outbuilding, with cunning gateways opening into farm yards and outer fields. They were made of little cedar posts that would stand upright on their smoothly whittled bases, with lengths of tough rye straw for bars that needed continual letting down and putting up that the cattle might pass.

Watering troughs we had along every driveway and fence and wall. Flat-bottomed acorn saucers they were, filled with water. And our cattle ? Well, they were queer little blocks of cedar, with rounded heads and rumps, and four fat legs that were as uneven as the stanchions of broken-headed darning needles stuck in the floor, to which our cattle were tethered by means of a cotton thread looped round their chunky necks.

We then thought that it was the happy game, the cozy fire, the warm, bright sunshine fiecking the carpet that made the room so sunny and pleasant and our play and life so rich with happiness, but we know now, after all these long years, that it was mother’s presence, our nearness to her, and our safe trust in her for everything that made our child life so full of
comfort and sunshine.        — Clarissa Potter.

Clarissa Potter wrote for magazines.  She wrote about how to care for children as well as stories like this.

1890 - A Morality Tale with a Muskmelon Bag and a Happy Ending

This classic 19th century morality tale centered around a muskmelon seed bag was written in 1890 by a 14 year old girl, Adele R. Miller, of Mahwah, N.J.    

I looked her up and found this :-)    Her grandfather was the inventor of the Miller Platform Coupler and Buffer  (trains).   

Following the tale is an article describing how the muskmelon seed bags were made.  It places the peak of melon seed bag fancy work around 1850, by my calculations.  


It was fall. In the magnificent sitting room of the wealthy Mrs. Symes, sat Grace, her only grandchild, eighteen years of age, and very pretty. She had been embroidering a silk handkerchief, but now as she looks at the clock her work falls from her hands and she jumps up exclaiming;

"Why! It is four o'clock and grandma is not home yet. Something must be the matter. I will go and see."

Just as she is putting on her hat, her grandmother, a stately old lady with pure white hair, enters, looking very much excited.

"Grace ! Grace! come here child, I have lost my melon bag and all that money I was to take to the bank."

"Grandma, you do not mean your tin money-box?"

"Yes, yes, child. What shall I do? It was a small fortune, all the money I received for rents to-day from Johnson, $1,500, and my melon bag that your dear mother made for me a short time before she died."

"But how did you come to lose it?"

"Well, you see I don't know exactly myself, for I did not miss it until I reached the bank."

"Do you suppose some one cut it from off your arm?"

"No! I did not meet any one. The road was very muddy and I had to keep going from one side to the other to avoid the puddles and I suppose I lost it then. I have hired men to search the road and have offered a large reward for it in the papers."

A month having passed and not hearing anything of the bag and box of money, Mrs. Symes gave up the search and started with Grace, whose health was not very good, for the south to spend the winter.

It is spring now and the flowers are beginning to open and the trees have put on their leaves.

Mrs. Symes and Grace have returned from the south with renewed health. Nothing has been heard of the money and the people have ceased to talk about it.

On the road to the village, a short distance in the woods, stands a dilapidated hut. There is only one room in this building, and that contains but little furniture. An old straw mattress serves for a bed, and a soap box for a chair, on which widow Ross, careworn and sick, with her three-months' old babe in her arms sits, while her bright little boy of ten, stands with his arm around her neck, saying in a brave sweet voice: "Never mind, mother dear, I will go and earn some money and take care of baby Hope and you, for since the cruel fire killed my father and destroyed all we had, and you nearly lost your life from exposure and want, you have no one to depend on but me." He then kissed her and went out.

As the little boy, Guy Ross, by name, entered the village, his heart failed him, for he sees no chance for a boy of his tender age in that bustling place. But on he goes, wiping the tears from his eyes with his ragged coat sleeve. He wanders over all the streets without meeting a kind face, or getting any thing to do, nor even so much as a crust of bread, for he was too proud to beg and he turns his face with a heavy heart towards home. Just before he reaches the path which bears off the road to his house, he noticed a vine growing by the wayside. Guy examined it and found it to be a muskmelon vine.

"Ah!" said he, "I will take it home and when it bears melons, I can sell them in the village. But till then? Oh! the good Lord will take care of us and feed us, as papa said when he was dying."

He then began digging around the plant with his hands. Soon he struck something hard which he thought to be a rock.

"Poor little plant,'' said Guy, as he put his hand under the roots and lifted it out of the ground, "I will plant you in a better place than this, and where there are no rocks."

On looking into the hole, he saw not a rock, but a rusty tin box.

"Why! this must be somebody's tobacco box. I'll take it home and plant my vine in it"

He lifted the box out of the earth,

when lo and behold! there in the bottom of the hole was a dirty piece of blue satin, covered on one side with muskmelon seeds and rusty steel beads.

Guy, satisfying himself that there was nothing more, started home to show them to his mother.

On arriving at the house he ran in calling "Mama! mama! see what I have found!"

"Let me see it," said she wearily, taking it from him.

"Is this all you have got? Could you get no work, dear?"

"No, mama, but I ." He got no

further, for his mother who had been rubbing the rust off the box with an old rag, suddenly exclaimed: "Why, Guy, just look, this seems to be a tin bank, and here," she continued, "is a plate, with a name on it, and the box is locked. Try if you can make out the name, Guy."

"Let's see," said Guy. "S-y-m-e-s, Symes." He stood and looked at his mother and she at him. They were both so surprised. At length Mrs. Ross managed to say: "Where did you find it dear?" Then Guy told her all about it.

"Well, I do declare, I really believe it is Mrs. Symes' money that she lost. You remember the money that your father spent so much time looking for?" exclaimed Mrs. R., as Guy finished. "Oh, yes, and papa said that a large reward was offered for it in the papers."

"Yes, dear, I think this must be it. Come, let me brush off your clothes with the broom and then you go and wash your face and hands in the brook, while I wrap the box in a piece of newspaper."

Guy obeyed and soon came in again.

"There," said his mother, "now go to Mrs. Symes' house and ask for her. Tell her all you know about the box and how you came to find it, and most probably she will give you a reward."

Mrs. Ross kissed him tenderly and watched his manly little figure until it disappeared from her view.

As for Guy he ran as fast as his short legs could carry him and soon reached Mrs. Symes' house. He timidly rang the door bell, and when the butler, in livery, opened the door, he asked for Mrs. Symes. He was ushered into the hall and told to wait there a few minutes, as "my lady" is dressing. She came down soon, however, and as she saw Guy, said in a pleasant voice: "Well, my little man, did you want to see me?"

 "Yes, ma'am," answered Guy, "I want to know if this is yours?" 
"Why !" said the old lady, astonished, "this is my money box !" and taking a little key from her watch chain she tried it to the lock and the lid sprang open. "Well, of all the wonders," began Mrs. Symes, and then addressing Guy again, continued, "where did you get this, and how did you find it?" 
So Guy told her all about finding the vine by the road-side and how, on digging it up to take home, found the box and part of the old bag."Well, you deserve a reward. Have you any relatives and what is your name?"
 "My name is Guy Ross, I have a mother and baby sister. Papa was hurt in the big fire last winter and died soon after. We are very poor," he concluded, "and mama and I are nearly starved. We live in that hut on the S road.''

"Poor little thing! James! Bring some lunch right away for this honest boy, and then be sure and take a large basket of good things down to that house on the S road for Mrs. Ross. This boy will show you the way after he has had his lunch." "Now, my good boy," she said, as Guy was leaving the house, "tell your mother to come up to-morrow, I want to see her and have a talk about business." "Good night, dear kind lady," replied Guy, and then, accompanied by the butler, with a heavy basket on his arm, Guy walked rapidly home with a lighter heart than he had had since his father died.

The following Monday we find Mrs, Ross installed as housekeeper in the great mansion of Mrs. Symes, and preparations were being made to send Guy away to a boarding school at Mrs. Symes' expense.

Mrs. Symes did not take the money found in the old box, but put it in a savings bank for Guy, for as she told his mother "such a good and honest boy well deserves it."

Mrs. Symes, in thinking it over after the excitement of the finding of the bag and money, came to this conclusion: The bag must have fallen from her arm where the ground was very soft and sinking into the mud. disappeared from sight. Then, in the spring, a single melon seed that was not injured in the making of the bag, sprouted and grew there until found by Guy.

Adele R. Miller.

Mahwah, N. J., March, 1890.

[Our little authoress is only fourteen years old. We think the story remarkably good for one so young.—Ed.]

The following is another melon seed article from 1893. 


The old-fashioned melon seed and bead work of our great-grandmothers has been revived. This work is done with horse hair or silk and a needle. The only preparation necessary is to spread the seeds on a dish and allow them to dry. 

Cucumber seeds are the ornament chosen for a small work bag made of a piece of satin, twelve inches long by fourteen broad. It is gathered firmly together at the bottom and has a heading nearly two inches deep at the top. 

A string of twenty seeds, each separated with a steel bead, forms the foundation of the net, whose divisions extend in rays. In the second row two seeds with a steel bead in the middle are threaded between two in the first, and so on until the ninth row, two seeds are always threaded between the two of the lower row, the number of the beads being increased by one every row. 
The bottom of the bag and the ends of the draw strings are finished off with tassels made of beads and seeds.   
1893 - Health and Home - A Monthly Journal of Health and Domestic Economy

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

1858 - Desmanthus virgatus Seeds in Ladies Fancy Work

Appearing in the Journal of the Society of the Arts in 1858, this mention of seeds used in ladies' fine work has me looking for magazine articles with patterns and pictures.  So far no luck.   The original pattern guides must be out there!  Winter is coming, the perfect time for searching.   Until then you may like to follow up on the folio of watercolors that illustrate the plant which seeds were used in decorative crafts at that time. 

 It is also commonly called, says Wikipedia, "wild tantan,  prostrate bundleflower,  dwarf koa,  desmanto,  acacia courant, acacia savane,  pompon blank,  adormidera,  brusca prieta,  frijolillo, ground tamarind,  guajillo,  guashillo,  huarangillo,  langalet,  petit acacia,  petit cassie, petit mimosa,  virgate mimosa,  and slender mimosa,  as well as simply desmanthus." 
"The small brown seeds, something like apple pips, so commonly used, when strung thickly together, for bracelets, work-bags, nets for the hair, and other ornamental work, are the produce of Desmanthus virgatus. They are frequently dyed black for effect."
This illustration is from unpublished watercolors from 1883-1888.  Dr. A. Stahl published, on his own, a series of volumes for Etudios sobre para la flora de Porto-Rico  but the last volume was not done.
Fabaceae. Stahl Watercolor Number 130b, species Desmanthus virgatus
@ Smithsonian Institution

1887 - Memories, and Instructions for a Pumpkin Seed Mat

This is a charming and useful article from the American Agriculturist, Volume 36 in 1877. Since it is pumpkin season here in Connecticut I thought I had better post it!  When you think of the perseverance needed to finish a mat it really becomes astounding when you know first graders were doing it as well as older girls and women.


A question comes to me, which should go to Aunt Sue, but as there is no time to send it to her and get a reply, and as the seeds are likely to be more plenty this month than later, I take the liberty of answering it myself, though out of my line. 
The Doctor. 

Yes, Alice B., I have "heard of pumpkin-seed mats," and what is more, of' melonseed bags. 

When I was a youngster the girls and young women carried a reticule, and the old women carried a bag;   they were, both the same thing, but it was thought more genteel to say reticule. These bags were of various sizes, shapes, and materials, and answered the place of pockets. No doubt your fathers and mothers can recollect what a wonderful thing their grandmother's bag was, and the many nice things that came out of it. The bags of the older persons were strong and large; those of the young girls were small, and of some fancy material, often of beads of various colors, worked into pretty figures. 

At one time melon-seed bags were in fashion; these were made of the seeds of the musk-melon, and black, cut glass beads of various sizes; these were, strung on strong silk, to make an open-work net, and this was lined with silk. These bags were very pretty, and no one would guess at the material without first examining it closely. 

But, about the pumpkin-seed mat. The seeds—those of squash will answer quite as well—are to be dried, then all thin, poor and small ones picked out so as to have them alike in size: if the thin film or skin of the seeds has not fallen off in drying, it should be rubbed off to leave a clear white surface. 

You will need some very strong linen thread and a needle. Begin by stringing 18 seeds, passing the needle and thread through their small ends, and tie the thread securely; this will give you a rosette of seeds, standing on their edges.

Now between each two of these seeds put two other seeds, the thread passing through the large ends of the seeds in the first row, and through the small ends of the seeds in the second row.  The diagram will show you how this is done.
For the third row, put three seeds between the pairs in the second row, and so continue, using four seeds for the next, and so on, until the mat is large enough.  If intended for a toilet, the mat may be finished with a fringe on the edge, and a bow in the center, of any desired color.  If it is to be used for a tea-pot, then it is better to be left plain, except for a bow in the middle.  If strong thread is used, and the knots at each row carefully made, the mat will be much more serviceable than one would suppose.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

1889 - Seed Crafts for the Clever Child (With Notes for Modern Parents)

As a retired art teacher, I applaud any craft that gets a child using their hands, especially ones that turn "nothing" into something. 

Over the years I taught I noticed children having less and less control over their hands. While in the 19th century little children (K and first grade) were using tools of all sorts, from pen knives to needles and thread, kids now manipulate pre-made things, and their understanding of how to hold and use tools, even scissors has gone way down hill.   Handwriting readiness for the classroom teacher has gone the same way.  If you are reading this your child probably isn't who I am talking about :-)   (My notes in brown text.)

Harper's Young People, Volume 11, Part 1 - 1889

The fierce-looking snake shown in No. 6 is simply a lot of acorn cups strung together in order of size on a piece of string or line wire.

Hand drills are magic to children.  Forget the electric ones for little kids.  Let them revel in watching the drill turn its way down into the wood.  Show them how the drill is an inclined plane wrapped around.  They will get to invent some sort of clamp to hold the acorn cap still...perhaps their legos could be put to use?     

I think this illustration is a bit fanciful...that tail doesn't look likely.  Perhaps aiming for a fatter boa would match the acorn caps I know.

The pretty basket (No. 9) is made of melon seeds strung on stout silk or linen thread. The shape of the basket and of the handle is preserved by a frame of wire bent to the proper shape. This will form the rim and handle of the basket, and from the rim strings of melon seeds may hang. 

The manner of threading the seeds is shown in No. 10. The lining of the basket is a bag of colored China silk. It should be attached to the wire frame only, and hang loose therefrom. It is not to be expected that this fragile little basket will hold anything heavy, but hung from a gas bracket in a bedroom it will be useful as a receptacle for the burnt matches which are not wanted immediately to provide legs and arms for cork beauties.

See the original article for more 19th century projects like the little doll "cork beauties".
I do not know if this is relevant, but many seed crafts soak the seeds before sewing or piercing as the dry ones split.  

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

1887 - Elder's Wife's Way to Save Seed, and Another Way

Herbaceous Border by Helen Allingham
These two people have differing approaches to seed gathering, and life!  
Elder's Wife seems to be a bit of a Martha Stewart.   

Both of these articles were published in Popular Gardening and Fruit Growing in 1887.  

On the Gathering and Care of Flower Seeds.

Many persons gather seeds for the season all on one day and that far along in the season. I commence with the first flower of spring, and keep it up all through the season.

I usually carry in my pocket a small ball of twine, and when I see an extra fine flower from which I would like seed, I tie a bit of twine around the stem, and when among my flowers I am on the lookout for the ripened seeds of such. These I gather and tie up in the corner
seeds. Fine seeds with coarse husks can easily be separated by sifting; and still others, like Scabiosa and Calendula, require no cleaning.

All seeds must be carefully cured before storing away, and even then should not be closely packed into bags. Choose a bag considerably larger than you think will be needed for the amount of seeds, label it plainly with the name of the flower, so there need be no guesswork as to its contents.

For seed bags take bleached muslin, tear off strips from 2 to 4 inches wide. With the narrowest hemmer on the sewing machine hem them on one edge; cut the 2 inch strips into 3 inch pieces, 3 into 4, and 4 into 6, sew these into bags, leaving the hem outside. Cut pieces of twine, such as druggists use, into 3 or 4 inch pieces, tie a knot in each end, sew one fast by the middle to each bag near the top, and you are ready for the seeds as they are cleaned.

To me seed gathering is one of the pleasures of floriculture; quite as delightful as any other part, and this is especially so to one who saves more than are needed for her own use, that she may be liberal to others.

Is there not in each one's circle of acquaintance some child, invalid or poor person who would be pleased to have a pretty flower bed if only they had some seeds?  If so, then apportion into little paper bags, writing the name of the seeds plainly on each, and send them to such. 

"A good deal of trouble" do you say?   A little pleasant recreation if one enters into the spirit of it rightly.          
 -Elder's Wife

Saving Flower Seeds.

I think that my way is simpler than the Elder's Wife's, referred to on page 153. I save all my letter envelopes. In May I get an open chip basket (one costing 5c to 10c is good enough and big enough for any one who has only a small garden) and a bunch of old envelopes, and start a-gathering, beginning with Rock Cress, Erysimum, Crown Anemones, and other early bloomers, putting the seeds of each kind into a separate envelope, on which is marked the name with pencil, and the envelopes, as they are filled, put upright in the basket and bring them in.  And every now and again, all summer, as there are seeds ready to save I gather them in the same way. And when I bring them in I remove the envelopes from the basket to a flat box—the same as I use for starting seeds in—and set the box on a dry, airy shelf secure from mice. 

After the summer's gathering I clean the seeds, return them to the envelopes whence they came, the envelopes to the boxes, and the boxes to the shelves. But I never bother to put the seeds into closed bags. As they are, they are always handy, easy to get at, and open to ventilation. So long as they are dry, hard frost in winter won't hurt even tropical seeds. In cleaning seeds I use a small sieve made out of a piece of mosquito wire netting. In order to separate such wooly-coated seeds as Anemones and Globe Amaranths rub them in dry, clean sand; this will not remove the wool from the seeds but it will render it less liable to stick in bunches.         
 — William Falconer.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

1884 - Seed Humor ...really!

This story was published in 1884 in The Gardeners' Magazine, Volume 27.  I find the originals tough on my eyes and actually wait to read them until after I copy and "open up" the text for easier online viewing.


The following story first appeared in the pages of Once a Week.  It is founded on a joke of the 
painter Meissonier who set a trap for his gardener and then fell into it himself.

I THINK you're something of a gardener, are you not? 

I admitted horticultural propensities in a small degree, and he continued. 

Then you'll enjoy my story all the more. Well, my father was a great florist, an amateur, and used to take immense pleasure in the cultivation of a moderate-sized garden attached to our suburban cottage at Islington.

You seem surprised at my mentioning such a site for a cottage and garden, but I allude to the Islington as I knew it thirty years ago, when Newington “Green Lanes’ was a dangerous place after dark, and an inhabitant of Upper or Lower Clapton was considered a rustic. Numerous little cottages, with their neatly-trimmed flower-beds, were to be seen at Islington at the time of which I speak, and conspicuous among them all for artistic arrangement and plants of really great value was my father's garden.

How well I recollect the look of satisfaction with which he used to regard the work of his hands, as, sitting in his easy chair on a summer's Sunday evening, he would slowly puff his after-dinner pipe (he was a widower) while drawing the attention of some friends to the peculiarities of certain cuttings, and the various beauties of his favourite shrubs.

His companion on one of these occasions was a Mr. Tibbs, a thorough Cockney, with about as much idea of country life and agricultural pursuits as a fish has of nut-cracking. 
He was a tradesman in the City, had risen to the rank of alderman, and was now within no very great distance of the mayoralty. 

 This “achievement of greatness,’ though adding somewhat to his natural pomposity, had in no way diminished his innate relish for a joke. His fun certainly was not refined, nor his raillery elegant; but, as he used to say, “a joke's a joke,” and undoubtedly Mr. Tibbs’s jokes were peculiarly his own, and no one, I'm sure, would ever think of claiming them. 

“How's Polly Hanthus?" was his invariable greeting on entering our house. After the delivery of which facetious allusion to my father, he would indulge in chuckles of some seconds' duration. 
“Well,” said he, when my father had finished a long disquisition on the merits of a splendid chrysanthemum; “well, Lorquison, I don't know much about your kissymythumbs, which is Latin or Greek, or—something or other,” he added, after a pause, feeling rather out of his element on an etymological question.    “But I’ll send you a seed or two the like of which you’ve never come across, my boy.” 

Then, taking his pipe from his mouth, he wagged his head in a fat and happy manner. 

“And what may they be?'' asked my father, with much interest.

 “Well, they may be anything,” replied Tibbs, with an inward chuckle at his own wit ; “but they happen to be seeds.  Lor' bless you, I ain’t a-going to tell you what they are. But they're rare—very rare. Such a gardener (he pronounced it gardinger) as you ought to tell what the plant is when you looks at the seed. For my part I don't pretend to call 'em any grand name— its a very short 'un. Will you have 'em?" 

“Delighted!" answered my father, “send them as soon as possible; and I don't doubt but that we shall be able to get up a curious paper on the subject in the GARDENER's MAGAZINE.” 

“Very good; then mind you take care in planting of 'em, Lorquison, 'cos they've never been sown afore in this country.” 
Here Mr. Tibbs was taken with a violent fit of coughing, which, although he attributed it to the evening air, or the smoke going “the wrong way,” my young eyes detected as the effect caused by a series of suppressed chuckles.   My father, elated with the idea of his new acquisition, did not remark this. 

“Here's my coach,” said Tibbs; knocking the ashes out of his pipe. 
“Don’t forget the seeds,” were my father's last words, as his guest departed. 

I believe my father scarcely slept all that night, he was never a sluggard, but on that Monday morning he was up earlier than ever, and working in his garden with a diligence worthy of “The old Corycian.” He was clearing out a space of ground for the reception of the promised seeds. 

At breakfast he was in a perpetual state of fidget; the postman was late—stay—would it come by post—no, by carrier. At last, however, the postman did arrive, and delivered into my father's hands, ready at the front gate to receive him, a small packet, with a letter from Tibbs containing an apology for having sent only twenty seeds, and pleading their value as his excuse. These twenty little wonders were quite round and very small, being, as it appeared to us, of a dark red colour. My father inspected them, and looked puzzled; smelt them, and said “Humph. That “Humph" was portentous; even the stolid Tibbs would cease his chuckle at my father’s “Humph: ” 

Perhaps you know that all gardeners examine with a glass, and taste their seeds; my father was now about to go through this double process. He looked at them through his powerful microscope. “Why, surely—” said my father, and took another survey. 
Something was wrong.

 “I do believe—” he began, and then followed the trial by tasting. He smacked his lips and clicked his tongue against his palate—frowned—spat out the seed—bent down his head to the microscope, and then exclaimed:

 “Confound that Tibbs ..."
 I waited anxiously for what was to follow. 

“Seeds! Why he's sent me the dried roe of a herring!"

 I recollect how amused I was, as a child, at that practical joke of Tibbs’s.

My father laughed heartily in spite of his vexation, and folding up the packet previous to putting it away in his private drawer, said quietly, “Very well, Mr. Tibbs,” by which I knew that he intended to repay our Cockney friend in his own coin. 

He wrote, however, thanking Tibbs for his present, and that little gentleman, I have no doubt, retailed the joke to many a friend on 'Change, and began to look upon himself as the Theodore Hook of private life. But they laugh longest who laugh last. 

Three weeks after this, Tibbs met my father one Saturday afternoon in the City. 
“How's Polly Hanthus?" inquired Tibbs. 
“Well, thank you,” replied my father, “Will you dine with me tomorrow?” 

Tibbs was not the man to refuse a good offer. “By the way,” he slyly asked, almost bursting with chuckles, “how about those seeds, eh?” 

“What seeds?” asked my father, with an air of utter ignorance. 
“Oh, that won't do”; returned Tibbs. “I say, are they growing? T'want bad, was it?” 

“If you mean those seeds you sent to me as a curiosity three weeks ago, I can only say, that they’re getting on capitally.”

“They, what?” exclaimed the alderman.

 “Well? I grant you that it is a lusus naturae.”  {a freak of nature}

“Oh, indeed : " said Tibbs, thinking that this might be the horticultural Latin for a herring. 

“But come to-morrow, and you’ll see them yourself. Good-bye!” 

“Very curious—very!” murmured the bewildered Tibbs to himself, as my father hurried off. 

When my father returned to Islington on that Saturday night, he brought with him twenty red herrings.   Tibbs, according to promise, dined with us on Sunday. 

“After the post-prandial pipe, you shall see how well your seeds are progressing.” 

Tibbs put his hands in his pockets, and feebly smiled at my father's words. He had tried, during dinner, to discover whether real seeds had been sent by some mistake, or the trick had been discovered. But my father began talk about sea anemones, prickly fish, jelly fish, of strange marine inhabitants that had the appearance of vegetables, and so on, till Mr. Tibbs saw but slight difference between a cod fish and a fir tree, and began to think his joke was not so good a one after all. 

Dinner finished, the pipe smoked, my father led the way down the garden walk. He was enjoying himself immensely. Tibbs began to think of all the persons to whom he had told the excellent story of Lorquison and the herrings, and repented that he had not given more of his time to the study of natural history. On he walked, following my father through rows of geraniums, pinks, bright roses, and marvelous tulips, until at length they arrived at a sequestered part where, on a fresh dug bed, overshadowed by two fine laburnums, stood twenty inverted flower-pots arranged in four rows. There my father stopped. 

“Now,” said he, “you musn't be disappointed if they’re not so far advanced as you expected; but I think they’re getting on admirably, considering 'tis the first time they’ve ever been planted in this country.” 

Tibbs remembered his own words and mumbled something about “first time—this country—who'd ha’ thought”—and looked very foolish. 

“There,” said my father, lifting up the first pot. Tibbs caught sight of something beneath it.

 “Good gracious !” he exclaimed, and put on his spectacles. Sure enough there was the nose of a red herring just visible above the ground.

 “Cover it up, Tibbs, the cold air may hurt it,” cried my father, who had been pretending to examine the other pots. “There's a better one—it has had more sun.” 

He pointed to one which he had just uncovered, whose eyes, just visible above the black earth, were looking up in the most impudent manner. Tibbs moved on silently; carefully did he replace the first pot, and with the gravest face imaginable examined all the herrings in turn. 

"They're getting on well,” said my father, “’tis a curious sight.” 

“Curious " echoed Tibbs, regaining his speech. “It’s wonderful, sir,” said he, taking my father aside in his most impressive manner, “I thought yesterday 'twas a joke; but I give you my solemn word of honour that I shouldn't have believed it if I had not seen it.” 

Having given utterance to this remarkable sentence, he slowly, turned on his heel and walked towards the house, my father following with his handkerchief tightly pressed against his mouth. 
As for me, I stopped behind, and pulled up the twenty herrings one after the other, and when I returned to the house Mr. Tibbs had departed. 

Not bad, was it?

Herring Print from The Herring, its natural history and national importance By John M. Mitchell