Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Flaccid Blue Sausage Caught My Eye

It all started with me noticing that on the side of an Ebay returns page there are "collections"...sort of a Pinterest collection  but of only Ebay images that someone is saving.  I was drawn to an image of big blue flaccid appearing things hanging on some naked twigs.   Nice blue though :-)

They turned out to be a bush called, in the Ebay offering of the seeds, Blue Sausage Tree.  Decaisnea fargesii.  Who knew!!!????

I want one! You slurp a sweet tasting but culturally unappealing looking (for Connecticut) fruit glop from the pod, and plant the beans for more.  It must taste good, as it does not seem to elicit positive reactions to its looks, if you take the REAL common name into account - Dead Man's Fingers. Yum!   I can see why the seller changed it.  A link to a NPR page by Ketzel Levine about the plant in detail is at the bottom of this page.

This plant made me think of another one I had fallen for decades ago, Akebia quinata...or maybe trifolium.  Anyway, there is a wonderful park in Newburyport, MA,USA, Maudsley Park.  It is the former estate of the Maudsley family, which now has no manner house but has beautiful grounds on the Merrimac River.

The entrance of the old estate.

While exploring it, Jack and I wandered into an overgrown boxwood garden which had a huge akebia vine covered in weird blue fruits trying to climb over the walls. It had thoroughly draped the trees, whatever they were. We had no idea what it was and went home with a drop to identify. Bailey's Hortus 3rd saved the day eventually but I am so grateful for internet access now!!!!!  Like Dead Man's Fingers, the fruit of the akebia lacks appeal once you see inside the charming blue rind. Looking very much like a huge unwholesome larvae, you need to suck the jelly from between the closely packed seeds. We didn't know that fact at the time, so I missed my chance.

This is the restored boxwood garden I found almost swallowed by the akebia 30 or more years ago.  It is nice the garden and grounds have caretakers now but it sure was romantic in its decline.  Below is a photo I took when we were still trying to identify the blue skinned alien fruits.  Do you know the vines are great for basket making?  I learned that somewhere years ago...I think it is traditional basket material in Japan. 

From NPR: Plant Profiles: Decaisnea fargesii  (Plant Profiles are excerpted from Plant This! by Ketzel Levine.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

If I Should Plant a Tiny Seed of Love

What could be more appropriate for Valentine's Day?

And if that gentleman's hand should lead to bed...

Graine de bois de lit = Seed of the bedstead = enfant
This is one weird postcard! The tiny one in the chamber pot in the bedside table is most bizarre.

I am fond of this couple. :-)

 This one below reminds me of a Stephen Sondheim moment...

And now some good, honest schmaltz.  

I probably shouldn't mention it to that cherub, but the horseshoe
 is pointing the wrong is letting the luck fall out. Oh dear.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Victorian Brownies Sawing Cucumbers

I am not referring to either a chocolate cakey treat or the short Girl Scouts, but rather to those odd little creatures that are so willing to help humans. I bumped into them while collecting images of trade cards.  Unfortunately I could not think of what they were called...I tried everything that came to mind knowing that wasn't it, hoping some reference to other tiny imaginary beings would send me in the right direction.  They didn't...

Finally I simply found another trade card that opened the door...this one! What a relief.
I have to admit that the current spate of articles assuring me that age related memory impairment is due to knowing too much rather than a decline into dribbling dementia has been pleasant. Not that I thought it was,but still...

Brownies of this sort aren't popular anymore.  I wonder, if like Tinkerbelle, they are fading away from lack of a new generation of children believing in them.  Fairies, on the other hand, like the condor, have had a comeback in the last few years.  (I'm basing this on what the younger children in my art classes are interested in drawing. This is a good change from homophobic taunts mirroring what they heard elsewhere in decades past.)  

Here is the card that made me nuts trying to remember what they were.

The only Brownie memory I have is off my grandmother and her much beloved Brownie camera. Hers was covered in an odd bumpy cloth or paper if I remember correctly.  Gram was legally blind but she loved taking pictures with her Brownie! I think she had it for 70 years or more...could that be?  Wish I had it. I think of what that camera saw.

OK, back to business, I have been following brownies all morning, finding the following wonderful web pages to fill you in on this extraordinary fad that swept the country, impacting kids and adults!

This trade card picture goes first in honor of the snow day that
 kept me home with the time to explore the brownie world.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

White-laced Crucifer - Sweet Smelling Possibilities

The other day I found a wonderful looking ad that touted a collection of seeds for sweet smelling flowers.  One was White-laced Crucifer.  I had no clue what that was.  I have decided, after poking around in period magazines and so forth that it is probably a rock cress or a wall flower.  The family Brassicaceae , older name Cruciferae, is a very large family of plants with four-petaled flowers.  

You can find some common names in Louise Beebe Wilder's Colour in My Garden .

This book turned up in the search.  There are some nice plates in this book.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Seed Trade Cards and Scrapbooking in the 1800s

Scrapbooking and Trade Cards

 Information on the Crosman  Brothers

is at the bottom of this page.  They were important seedsman for many years.  I have no info on Southworth or Green and Co..

Little children loved collecting these and pasting them in scrapbooks in the 1800s.   It was a popular activity in the later 1800s, so popular that, like today, you could buy special fancy little printed doodads to add to your pages.  Scrapbooks could be lush, gilded and embossed,  or they could be, and often were, an unwanted accounts book.  I haven't found an image on Ebay of a page with a seed card on it yet!

There's nothing like a large bird eating a snake to set off a fashionable lady.

Importers, Growers And Wholesale Seed Merchants, 300 Monroe Avenue.
A most important factor of the celebrated seed business of Rochester is the house of Messrs. Crosman Bros., which  also is the oldest in the trade having been founded in 1840, by Mr. C F. Crosman, father of the present owners and proprietors of the enterprise.
For many years this house has enjoyed a large share of popularity, not only from the assured character of its merchandise, but on account of the liberal and satisfactory terms made with retailers and consumers of its products.
Messrs. Crosman Brothers are importers, growers and wholesale dealers in seeds; they have sixty acres of land in the eastern suburbs of the city devoted to the cultivation of seeds, of which they are the largest growers in this State and we might say the United States. In connection with this acreage they have seeds grown by contract to the extent of ten or twelve hundred acres, in various parts of the United States, and they also have seeds grown for them in France, Germany and other foreign countries by experienced and competent seedsmen, thereby securing a product that haf attained its greatest perfection in the land of its nativity.
A test and trial garden is also had for the purpose of testing all seeds grown. whereby none are put on the market unless known to be genuine. On the grounds are three large green houses and a very extensive spread of hot-beds devoted entirely to the growing of vegetable plants.
Over 15,000 merchants throughout the United States are annually supplied with seeds from this establishment, besides which seeds are shipped in bulk from the warehouse of the firm to all parts of the world. The details of a trade which extends over so large a territory must necessarily involve the greatest care and the most assiduous attention. This may be readily apprehended from the fact that during the busy season, not less than one hundred and fifty employes are engaged in the several departments of the business. Twenty traveling salesmen are also constantly employed in looking after the trade of the house, traveling nearly the entire United States.
The warehouse of the firm is a three story and basement brick building, 140x45 feet in dimensions: it is equipped with printing presses, paper cutters, pea and liean sifters, elevators and all modern conveniences, is operated by a steam engine and is heated throughout by steam, and having been erected specially for the business is in every way adapted for its successful prosecution.
In the preparations of seeds for the market, great care is exercised in the selection of those varieties most suitable to the different climatic conditions of the several States to which they are to be sent. The strictest attention is also paid to packing them, each lot being carefully marked with the common as well as the botanical name, and to make assurance doubly sure a fine illustration of the flower. fruit or vgetable is put upon the outside of each package. Altogether it would be difficult for either dealers or consumers to find a house upon which greater reliance can be placed and with which every transaction is certain to be accompanied by fairness and liberality on one side, and entire and lasting satisfaction on the other.
The mdividual members of the firm, Messrs. C. W. and G. F. Crosman are both natives of Rochester and were brought up in the seed business, to which they devote their entire time and attention. In conclusion we may add that the reputation acquired by this house is in every respect the well-merited reward of a business policy which precludes the possibility of the use of any means likely to mislead or savoring of deceit.


The name of Crosman has for nearly half a century been known to every place on earth where the fame of the Flower city has spread. Charles F. Crosman, who established the seed business in Rochester in 1840, was born in Wilmington, Vermont, in 1802, and from the age of sixteen years lived for nineteen years with the community of Shakers in Columbia county, New York. In 1840 he came to Rochester and established the wholesale and retail seed business now carried on by his sons, Charles W. and George F. Crosman. In 1843 he married Mary L. Wilson of Fenner, NewYork. When C. F. Crosman died, in 1865, leaving to his minor sonsthe business which he had established by twenty-five years' work, no one could foresee that in a short time the young men would have fostered their inheritance so successfully that by the time they had reached middle age it would be one of the largest seed houses in the world. But such is nevertheless a fact. His son, Charles Wilson Crosman, was born in Rochester January 13, 1847, and received his education here. On the death of his father, while he was still under age he assumed the management of the business, and the trade now done by Crosman Brothers is the largest in the United States. Mr. Charles W. Crosman was married in 1884 to Josephine, daughter of  C. W. Godard of Brooklyn, for many years captain of the Port of New York. He is a life member of the New York State and of the Western New York Agricultural societies, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, is prominent in Masonic circles, and president of the American Seedsmen's Protective league. George Frederick Crosman was born in Rochester in 1851 and was educated here. In 1885, on the death of his father, he took hold with his brother to carry on the business, and by untiring efforts succeeded long since in building up one of the most important interests in the city. Their wholesale and retail seed business is one of the largest in America. At their seed house on Monroe avenue two hundred persons are employed and they have dealings with thirty thousand country merchants. In addition to their Rochester interests they have large establishments at Cobourg and Wellington, Ontario, where large quantities of peas are grown for seed that is sent over the world. Mr. George F. Crosman in 1879 married Ella D., only daughter of Ira Todd of Brighton, New York. She died November 4, 1887, leaving two daughters, Clara M. and Beatrice E. Mr. George F. Crosman is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Masonic fraternity and the Rochester club.

1895 - Rochester and the Post ExpressA History of the City of Rochester from the Earliest Times : the Pioneers and Their Predecessors, Frontier Life in the Genesee Country, Biographical Sketches : with a Record of the Post Express

Monday, February 10, 2014

White-Laced Crucifer - Mystery Flower

I wonder what it is.  This we need to find out!
First, the name itself...does it help describe the flower?From Wikipedia: A crucifer is, in some Christian churches (particularly the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, andLutherans), a person appointed to carry the church's processional cross, a cross or crucifix with a long staff, during processions at the beginning and end of the service. However, while it is used in several different denominations, the term is most common within Anglican churches.
The term "crucifer" comes from the Latin crux (cross) and ferre (to bear, carry). It thus literally means "cross-bearer".
  Nice ad, isn't it?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Charlatans Tout Tomatoes and an Unrelated, But Great, Anecdote

(Read the last story on this has nothing to do with tomatoes and will make you smile.There is a green arrow there.)

Dr. John Cook Bennett was such a sleazy dude that I kept bumping into in news stories about him when I was doing reading about the rise of tomatoes as a popular food in the early 1800s.  The articles were either ones that he wrote about the tomato cure or similar articles mirroring this "work", or they were articles by people documenting the awful things he had been up to!  Some folks felt it necessary to simply publish statements like, "I have nothing to do with Dr. John Cook Bennett or anything he does....".

It is a fascinating story that gets even stranger after Bennet as other men take up the tomato as miracle cure and start a Tomato Pill War.  I find it amusing that Hartford, Connecticut was the center of the Tomato Pill universe.  It is like knowing some dignified grand dame secretly plays Plants and Zombies.  The following free and take a peek books  put order to the story.  I wouldn't mind reading Smith's book.  Following these I have dumped some articles I saved before I realized I wasn't interested in writing about Bennett, just interested in reading about him up to a point.

Download PDF: Dr. Cecil Muncey's paper, The Tomato as Patent Medicine

Andrew F. Smith - 1994 

This article shows Dr. Bennett being a bad, bad man.

I included the story about Robert Mills the saddler because it is worth reading!

This story reminds me of Bert and I!  Listen to one of Marshall Dodge's performances here.