Love of beauty is one of the traits of the human character that most distinguishes it from the purely animal, so it behooves us to cultivate this noble passion in ourselves, and to appreciate it in others. The very fact that we have so many instincts in common with the animals should teach us that as creatures of a higher type, it is our bounden duty to develop the spiritual side of our nature, and live as far away from the baser as possible.
That we were meant to love beauty is evidenced by the fact that beauty beckons to us everywhere, on the earth, under the earth, in the air, in the sea, and under its waters. How dare we permit all this beauty which surrounds us to remain unnoticed and unappreciated! If one of us makes a pretty bit of needlework, or paints a group of blossoms, or even manufactures a bonnet out of scraps of lace or ribbons and artificial flowers, what haste is made to show it to a friend or neighbor and claim her admiration! Think then of the sin of calmly ignoring all the beauty of the natural world spread before us day by day, and night by night, for our soul’s uplifting!
If we were not meant to love the beautiful, why were we given so many incentives in the bewildering types of form and color, let us say, in the flowers? A flower-garden is a feast of perfume, form and color: three graces in every bud and blossom. Happily there are but few people who do not love flowers; I know but one person, and that a man, one sort of man, and he has not a single trait to commend him to the love of any human being, for he is at once a multi-millionaire and a miser, too niggardly even to bestow love on a flower. Show me a cottage window radiant with flowers, and I will venture to affirm that the hand that planted and tends these children of the sun belongs to an owner of gentle mold. I am not alone in this view;; it is shared by all observers.
The love of flowers is a truly feminine passion, and she who indulges in it cannot be altogether coarse in type mentally, for this trait proclaims native refinement.
No home can be home-like without touches of beauty somewhere, and certainly one is sure to find it in flowers, and no home need be without them, even if it is unblessed of southern or western windows, for there are flowers for all climates and all situations. For those who are so unfortunate as to live in city homes, or in flats, or any apartments where gardens are impossible, there are bulbs for fall-planting in pots, or boxes, or glass vessels, bulbs which will blossom for winter cheering, bulbs that will fill the smallest and meanest, or the largest room with breath of spice and glory of color. I do not know how one could get more real beauty and consequent joy and satisfaction out of a dollar than by spending it for twenty hyacinth bulbs of assorted kinds and colors. And the beauty of it is that no matter how ignorant one may be about horticulture, one may raise these exquisite blossoms, because the enterprise of our modern florists has led them to send complete instructions with their bulbs. It is a good plan to have one’s hyacinths bloom in installments, so that the pleasure of seeing and smelling their delicious blossoms may be prolonged, for five plants will give plenty of color and fragrance for any one apartment at a time.
The Chinese Sacred Lily is another source of pleasure and is very easily grown. Procure good sound bulbs and set them on pebbles in glass dishes filled with clean water. Replenish the water as rapidly as it is consumed by the bulb and by evaporation. A well developed bulb with its fine array of tall, slender leaves and its stalks crowned with pearly, fragrant blossoms is a charming sight in winter. The first week in October is a good time to begin potting the first lot of hyacinth bulbs, because, after potting and a good watering, they must be put away several weeks in a cool, dark place to encourage a strong development of roots.
For home decoration another exquisite plant is the cyclamen. The bulbs of this plant may be purchased in early October, and should be potted, according to their size, in five, six, or seven inch pots. The pots should have good drainage, by means of a layer or two of broken pot-sherds at the bottom, and be loosely filled with rich soil, such as one can buy at any florist’s for the purpose. The cyclamen bulb must be pressed into the earth so that its crown may be even with its surface. Like the hyacinth bulb, it must be well watered, then put away in a dark cellar, but for three or four weeks only, and then brought into the sunlight. Cyclamens must never be in a temperature lower than fifty degrees at night, and sixty-five in the daytime. Well treated they will bloom profusely from January to April, the blossoms ranging in color from pink to crimson and white. The foliage is also a beautiful feature of this plant.
I have advices the selection of bulbs for winter blooming, because they are so easy of culture and so rewarding, but there are dozens of plants which are also sweet and decorative, and easy to bring into blossom.
Geraniums and begonias are gay and attractive, but I know nothing prettier or more rewarding than half a dozen morning-glory vines, trained in a well-protected southern bay-window. These and a few pots of geraniums and mignonette will flood a room with perfume and color.
Edna Deane (1895, October). The love of the beautiful. The Ladies World, Vol. XVI(10), 20. Retrieved from VictorianTimes.us http://victoriantimes.us/decorating/the-love-of-the-beautiful.
See also: Bulbs for the Window Garden for more Victorian decorating ideas and gardening