Saturday, January 16, 2016

1897 - In Praise of Petunias as Winter Houseplants

When I read that petunias made delightful winter companions my eyebrows shot up!  It never occurred to me petunias could be a house plant all winter long. 

However, a lady from Fond du Lac, Michigan sings their praises in this letter from Vick's Monthly Magazine, October 1897.

I would say in return to all lovers of flowers, take up some late Petunias, cut them back pretty well and pot them for the house. I did so with some a few years ago. I had several beautiful varieties, and they commenced to bloom in February, and were almost covered with flowers until June. 
They were the most interesting plants I have ever had in winter, for we never knew what a morning would disclose; sometimes a blossom would be partly double, or two blossoms would have grown together, or one would be fringed on one side, or present a number of queer little points around the edge; and nature played various other freaks with her late-blooming beauties.
 I think any one who will pot a few Petunias for winter will be fully repaid for his trouble, and if you object to the oddly-fashioned blossoms, you can pinch them off, and yet leave your plants covered with blooms. The small, purplish-rose Petunia, with white throat, seems most liable to play all these queer tricks.
Mrs. C. E. F., Fond du Lac, Wis.

Another enthusiastic woman wrote in earlier...

The Magazine of Horticulture, Botany, and All Useful Discoveries reminds us in 1846 to start petunias for winter houseplants from cuttings in August.  If you forget they say October is the month to dig up any plant that looks promising to bring in for the winter.


While Arthur's Home Magazine gives the following advice in 1856.
A little earth is thrown over one of the procumbent branches, which causes it, in a few  weeks, to develop roots in the soil.  The branch is then cut from the stem, and potted.   Those young plants which are obtained in this  manner are the most capable of being preserved  in the house during the winter. 

Here are varieties from 1895 - Vick's Catalog

Good advice from 1886 - As a window plant, many amateurs have said nothing but good words for the Petunia. It is a refreshing green, a robust grower, and a reasonably profuse bloomer, but it must not be allowed to become too dry, or red spider will make sad havoc with it. I have never used it for winter flowering, as I have not the window-room necessary, but I find no difficulty in wintering my double Petunias in a cool, frost proof, and dry cellar. The Petunia is well worthy a place in any garden, and will amply repay you for the little trouble necessary to grow it well.
More advice, 1889 - If you are fond of the pretty striped Petunias send for a packet of seeds of the Red Star variety. It is one of the best regularly striped Petunias in the market. Each flower has a white star in the centre. For ease of cultivation and profuse flowering the Petunia has no superior. It is an admirable flower for the Winter window garden. Sow some seeds in Midsummer and pot a few of the plants in the Fall if you want something very satisfactory for Winter blooming.  Success with Flowers, a Floral Magazine

1882 - Eureka Manure

I love early advertising!

This appeared in England in Gardening, IllustratedFor Town and Country. A Weekly Journal for Amateurs and Gardeners, Volume 3

early Daniel's Eureka Manure or Concentrated Essence of Plant Life