Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/375

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359
CULTIVATING WILD-FLOWERS.

In the same journal we find the following: "One of the best hardy-aquatic plants, in flower at the present time, is the North American Pickerel-weed (Pontederia cordata), a plant by no means so often met with as it deserves to be. It produces a stout spike of handsome sky-blue flowers from l½ to 2 feet high. No ornamental water should be without this charming aquatic, which should, however, have a place near its margin." "The American Pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea) is thriving as well as any native plant in the bog-garden in Messrs. Backhouse's nurseries at York, and by its side a healthy little specimen of the still more curious Darlingtonia Californica is beginning to grow freely."

The Asclepias family in America is very rich in species, but the above-mentioned one is by far the noblest of them all. From the fact that it attracts around it large numbers of these beautiful creatures, it is often called the Butterfly-weed. The plant was formerly held in high repute as a medicine, under the name of Pleurisy-root. But its gorgeously-colored flowers, so intensely orange, and so densely massed in heavy umbels, present a gorgeous richness which is incomparable. There is an African species, with flowers of a similar color, which is carefully cultivated in conservatories; but, when contrasted with our native plant, on every count, the foreigner becomes tame, and mean, if not insignificant, in the comparison. As to the Pickerel-weed, it is of easy culture; and in the margin of garden-ponds, or fountain-basins, it might be pronounced as gracefully genteel. The Pitcher-plant, if set higher up on the banks in a bed of sphagnum, or bog-moss, would be so uniquely elegant as to deserve the epithet recherché. This same plant can be grown in a pot, simply by keeping the saucer well supplied with water, while its quaint flowers, and the curious structure of the leaves, would make it the favorite bit of bijoutry in the floral jewels of the window.

This culture of wild-flowers, to some extent, can be indulged in by almost all. Its effect upon a mind of average intelligence is surprising. We have, in our acquaintance, a village bricklayer, a man whose means are of the most slender kind. He has a love for flowers, and shows considerable tact in producing effect by massing the different popular sorts. The imported asters, the improved petunias, and pansies, are severally made to effect a blaze of color. But his chief affection centres in a little spot where he keeps his wild-flowers, among which he pointed out to us, with an amiable pride, his pet pogonias, obtained from the swamp over the way. This man has become quite a systematist in botany, and is deservedly looked upon as the botanical light in his community. And who could possibly indulge in this pleasure of wild-flower culture long without wanting to know the names of his plants? But, as few of them have popular names, he must turn to botany for information. Thus this innocent and elevating pursuit may become a key to the acquisition of scientific knowledge, and the