Flowers[edit | edit source]
Every city in the United States affords an opportunity for flower gardening and nurseries, but a study must be made of the market in order to know what is best to raise and where to raise it.
The choice of crops depends on the popular taste. The flowers which are now in greatest demand are the rose, carnation, violet, and chrysanthemum.
Near every large city there are hundreds of florists with glass houses, some covering twenty acres or more. There were over 2000 acres of flower land under glass reported at the last census. As almost all industries to-day are specialized, so is floriculture; in one place we see ten acres of glass given over to the rose, in another thousands of dollars devoted to the carnation or the violet,while one grower in Queens, Long Island, has 75,000 square feet of glass for carnations.
The specialist who devotes his thoughts and energies to raising one flower can produce better results than if he raised a variety. He has only one crop to market, and can do it more successfully than with a number of crops. If he raises enough to make himself a factor in the market, he can sell direct instead of sending his product to a commission man, thereby receiving better prices.
Little capital is required to start; intelligent effort is the road to success. Very few, indeed, who are now leaders in floriculture,started with more than $500 capital, and many with much less. One of the largest growers of roses in the United States, whose plant covers more than ten acres, did not have $500 when he started, and many others not so well known are making handsome livings and have accumulated thousands of dollars of property from a start of less than $500.
But practical knowledge is much more necessary than in raising vegetables, as small mistakes will have more serious results.
Therefore, if you have some capital and wish to go into flower raising, it will pay you, if circumstances permit, to hire out to a florist, even at small wages, till you have learned the business--even though you have raised flowers successfully in a home garden.
Mr. Frank Hamilton, manager of C. W. Ward's of Queens, tells of at least a dozen men, who have been in their employ during his twenty-five years' experience, some of whom got only twenty dollars a month at first, and afterwards started in a small way for themselves, who are now making a substantial living.
Although the market depends largely on the wealthy class in the large cities, many florists devote considerable time and space to flowers which are bought by the poorer class of city dwellers who have no space or time to raise their own.
There are always good markets somewhere for the crop, and it is not an uncommon thing to ship flowers from New York to Chicago, Buffalo,Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, or vice versa. The chances of success for a lover of flowers are better in this business than in any in which one with a like amount of capital can engage. If the business at first is not large enough to use all his time he will find no trouble in securing employment in his immediate vicinity. There are always some who want such a person to care for their lawns or to give some time to their conservatories.
In the last ten years the business has doubled, and while many have gone into it, the profit they are making indicates that supply has not kept pace with demand, and that it is not likely to be overdone the near future.
Professor B. T. Galloway, in an article in _The World's Work, _says,"An acre of soil under glass pays fifty times as much as an acre outdoors. There are annually sold in this country six to seven million dollars' worth of carnation flowers There are no less than eight to ten million square feet of glass in the United States devoted to this flower alone."
Although Mr. Rockefeller's place at Tarrytown is the largest competitor in the New York market for violets, there is no local monopoly in that, and the local producer with personal attention can do well.
In the _Country Gentleman _an account is given of a violet farm on the north shore of Illinois, where two women are supplying local florists.. One of them says: "We started our farm last spring in the face of most discouraging prophecies from our friends and the keenest competition of violet growers of New York. But we believed we could be successful. We had studied the best scientific methods of growing the plants, had imported the best soil obtainable, and built a greenhouse fully adapted to our needs, so we just went ahead and we found it to be a paying proposition.
"Our first experiment was in using cuttings from the violet farm of a lady at Lansing, Michigan, who has been a most successful grower.
These did not thrive, and we next imported 3000 cuttings from the Tarrytown neighborhood, where violet culture has been most successful.
"The first rule is to keep the temperature of the greenhouse between forty-five and fifty degrees. Violets are spring flowers, and wither and droop if the temperature is not at the right degree. Most people think the double violets have no fragrance because most of those that we get lose their fragrance in transit.
"We supply 2000 flowers a week, and as they reach our patrons within two or three hours at the most from the time of cutting, they retain their fragrance. They are also larger and of a deeper color than the New York flowers. Next year we hope to go in on a much larger scale.
"While the work is not hard, it requires infinite care and vigilance when the little plants are growing. As a career for a woman, violet growing offers greater inducements than anything I can think of."
Then, surely, others can succeed in other flowers at other places.
While there is little choice between the standard styles of greenhouses for violets, there should be abundant provision for supplying fresh air, either from the sides or top, whichever is chosen. The system of ventilation should admit of operation either from the inside or the outside of the house, as fumigation with hydrocyanic acid gas is sometimes necessary, in the fumes of which it is impossible to enter, unless with a gas mask.
The arrangement of the house should secure the greatest possible supply of sunshine in December and January, and the least possible during the growing season, when, as Miss Howard points out, it is necessary to secure as low a temperature as possible, so as to obtain good, vigorous, healthy-growing plants. The best site is a level piece of ground, or one sloping gently to the south.
Of the diseases to which cultivated violets are subject Mr. P. H.
Dorsett, of the Department of Agriculture, names four as especially dangerous: Spot disease, producing whitish spots on the foliage;root rot, apt to attack young plants transplanted in hot, dry weather; wet rot, a fungus apt to appear in too moist air or where ventilation is insufficient; and yellowing, of the cause of which little is known. Any of these diseases is difficult to exterminate when it once gains a foothold. The best thing to do is to get strong, vigorous cuttings, and then to give careful attention to watering, cultivation, and ventilation, and the destruction of dead and dying leaves and all runners as fast as they appear.
Among insect enemies, the aphids, red spiders, eel worms, gall flies, and slugs may be mentioned. Most of these can be easiest controlled by hydrocyanic acid gas treatment.
Chrysanthemums, especially of preternatural size and bizarre colors--the college colors at football games, for instance--are in great demand. They are extremely decorative, and their remarkable lasting quality insures their permanent popularity. I have heard that the unexpanded bud can be cooked like cauliflower for the table; but we have not learned to use them in that way. In Japan and China the leaves of the chrysanthemum are esteemed as a salad. One attempt has been made by English gardeners to introduce this use of them into England, but it was unsuccessful.
The annual shows of chrysanthemums and of roses indicate the importance of the business.
It is not generally known, but the poppies are coming into favor for cut flowers in spite of the fact that they do not keep very well.
Miss Edith Granger avoids this difficulty, as she explains in the _Garden Magazine,_ "by picking off all blooms that have not already lost their petals in the evening, so that in the morning all the open flowers will be new ones. These are cut as early as possible,even while the dew is still upon them, and plunged immediately into deep water."
You need not be discouraged by the low prices at which flowers,especially violets and roses, are often offered in the streets.
Those flowers are the discarded stock or delayed shipments of the swell florists. You will find that those flowers are fading, or revived with salt, and will not keep.
That they are so peddled, shows that everybody, at hotels, dinners,funerals, weddings, in the home, and the young men for the young women, want flowers, the loveliest things ever made without souls.
We have only to supply such a want to find our place in life.
As a side line the common flowers will bring good prices;mignonette, bachelor buttons, cosmos, and even nasturtiums, which you can't keep from growing if you just stick the seed in the ground, or lilies of the valley, which you can hardly get rid of once they start, never go begging, if they are fresh.
A favorite flower with many is the sweet pea, which can be grown out of doors in the summer time where you have a good depth and quality of soil.
I have seen May blossoms and autumn leaves on the branch and even goldenrod brought into town and sold at good prices.
Enterprises often look attractive at a distance; for instance,raising orchids, especially as some of the flowers remain on the plants ready for market for weeks and bring high prices. But to ship flowers at a profit they must be in quantities, else the expenses eat up the returns, and they must be shipped with considerable regularity, else you lose your customers. To get such a supply of orchids would take a very large capital and involve so much labor that it is doubtful if more than good interest could be realized on it.
Many florists make money by keeping constantly on hand ferns, palms,and other plants like rubber trees, which they rent out for social functions, weddings, and other occasions. Most florists in the larger cities have also quite a thriving business in tree planting,which is everywhere on the increase. A highly specialized department of horticulture is that of raising young trees and plants to sell for improving grounds, planting orchards, or similar uses. The nursery business bears much the same relation to the commercial florist or orchardist as seed growing does to the market gardener.
Certain communities, through favorable soil or climate, are best adapted to the production of nursery stock. Consequently, one finds this industry most highly developed in scattered localities. It is true that people with small capital should not tackle a business so technical as this.
The business of bulb production is another highly specialized department. In certain sections of Holland large areas of the rich lowlands are given over to bulbs of various kinds of lilies, nearly all of which are propagated in that manner. To attain perfection, at least in the North, most bulbs require deep, rich, warm, and highly manured soils; and assiduous attention at every stage. In many plant specialties, the gardeners of Europe still far surpass our own,because conditions there have forced them to make use of every available means to increase production. The immense price that European gardeners have to pay for land has been a most potent factor in forcing them to seek out and apply the most ingenious forcing methods. The time is upon us here in America also when we must find out the highest use of land and apply it to that use.
As the aesthetic qualities of our people become more highly developed, the business of raising flowers must become of increasing importance, and will readily reward any one who goes into it conscientiously. Flower growing is peculiarly adapted to women,since the work is light There are few disagreeable features, unless it be the handling of the manure incidental to the best results.
Still, the enjoyments of agriculture depend upon individual tastes.
I have seen "lady gardeners" picking strawberries with the footman holding up an umbrella to screen them from the sun.
Some women would like that, some not.