Having made our boxes, it is now necessary to fill them, and not the least delightful part of this garden on a small scale is, with the money in hand, to pore over a florist’s catalogue, and get quite wild with all the gorgeousness promised for that small bill or large piece of silver. Hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, narcissus, snowdrops, lilies, freesias, etc., with all their varieties and colors, are so easy to raise, and so lovely about blooming.
What a wild confusion they do raise in one’s mind as to which to choose when it is not possible to get them all! But beware of getting really wild, and expecting too much of the box garden. Tulips are the cheapest, as some of them are not more than five cents apiece, and less by the dozen.
They make a great show, too, with their rich colors, and a way they have of displaying all they are. Beds of them out-of-doors are very ornamental; but if one has only a tiny indoor garden well, they do not perfume the house.
Crocuses have no odor either? but a dozen of these little bulbs can be bought for ten cents, and may be scattered among the larger ones, where they will peep forth in the daintiest robes of white and gold and lilac and pink, like the first smiles of spring. It is quite settled, then, that crocuses are among the ** must-haves.” The very best way of spending your money, after the crocuses are secured, is to lay it all out on hyacinths.
They are deliciously fragrant, have many beautiful colors and shades of color, and they can always be depended upon. Some one has compared the hyacinth among winter bulbs to the rose among other flowers ; for no garden is complete without roses, while some lovely ones are all roses.
So our garden in a box shall be all hyacinths. The little Roman hyacinth, with small clusters of single flowers, is pretty and cheap — four bulbs, promising red, white, blue, and yellow blossoms, can be had for forty cents. This dainty hyacinth has several flower stalks, which give it a more graceful appearance than its fine but rather stiff cousin, with her one great pyramid of bloom.
Three Roman hyacinth bulbs can be planted in one pot that measures Faye inches across the top, and here they will live peaceably together, and attend each to her own in- dividual affairs of sprouting and blooming. Whether stiff or not, the lovely column-shaped mass of flowers which the statelier hyacinth sends up from its calyx of narrow, thick leaves is always a delight, both for beauty and for fragrance, and half a dozen such plants will make a garden of themselves.
They are both double and single, and it is often hard to tell which is the prettier. Those that have particular names, and appear in the catalogues as ”Lord Wellington and Madame de Stael, beautiful blush shades; Countess of Salisbury, lovely clear blue; Czar Nicholas, delicate pink; La Candor, a beautiful pure white; Jenny Lind, bright red,” etc., cost from twenty to seventy-five cents apiece. But unnamed ones, and very pretty ones, too, can be bought at ten and fifteen cents.
With three of the half-dozen at ten cents, and the other three at fifteen, our hyacinths will cost just seventy-five cents. This leaves twenty-five cents from a dollar for crocuses and freesias, the latter being tiny bulbs with leaves like grass. The trumpet-shaped flowers are cream-color, and grow in a row on the stem, which is bent where the first blossom begins. But what a wealth of sweetness these little flowers send forth! We cannot do without them if there is a dollar to spend — and if there isn’t, we’ll give up some of the others. Three freesias can be had for fifteen cents.
Now that we have made our selection and bought the bulbs, what is to be done next? The first thing is to decide when we prefer to have our flowers. Eleven or twelve weeks should be allowed from the time of planting them; and for the middle of February, the bulbs should be planted by December.
For when they are planted the bulbs must be left to take a nap of five or six weeks in some cool, dark place, where they can get ready for all the work they have to do later. But be sure that there are no mice about, for these little nibbling wretches are very fond of hyacinths, in the same way that the cannibal loves his fellow-creatures.
They may be planted in earth or in moss or in water; but earth of the right kind three-quarters of light, rich loam to one-quarter of sand — is less troublesome and better for the bulbs. Water must have charcoal at the bottom to keep it pure, and it needs changing every two weeks, while the moss must be kept constantly wet.
One or two watering’s during their period of retirement, to keep the soil from getting hard and caked, will be sufficient for the earth-planted bulbs. By planting in pots, which are afterward arranged in a box for the window, the plants can be better attended to, and moved forward or a little out of sight when they come into bloom, according to height and beauty as well as harmonious coloring.
Meanwhile they are not idle while they are lying there in the dark. They are growing, but it is down instead of up. The thread-like roots are getting firm and strong, and when there is enough of them to bear such a heavy topknot, a little green sprout appears, and it is time to bring them into the light and heat.