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one knows that the root is the life of the plant, I doubt whether every one believes it; or else boys, when they weed, would not so often pull a weed off instead of rooting it up. Why do gardeners prune and cut down plants ? To make them grow stronger; and so I conclude that boys wish the weeds to grow stronger, and therefore snap them off, instead of rooting them up.
Now the root of a plant has two things to do. First, to feed the plant; secondly, to keep it firmly in the ground. Well, it sometimes happens that stupid people put plants into soil which does not suit them. No one would think of feeding different sorts of beasts on the same food. Fancy how vexed a horse would be if his master brought him a slice of roast mutton; or a cat, if she were offered a feed of oats ; or a donkey, if he were handed a cup of good tea. Now animals are not much more different in their tastes about what they eat than plants are. But very often, it is thought odd that all plants will not do well in the same soil.
What should you do if you found nothing you could eat at the first shop to which you went to buy a dinner? Why, if you had any sense, and were not lazy, you would go to another. And that is what the poor plant does. If a plant is put into ground that does not suit it, it pushes its roots out along the ground until they meet with something better. But I advise you, if you have gardens, to try and find out what plants suit the soil, and to grow only those. There is little pleasure to be got out of half-starved, stunted plants.
Secondly, the roots keep the plant firmly in the ground. If a tree is growing on the edge of a very steep place, hundreds of feet deep, great gusts of wind may blow upon it and yet it may remain firm. Why? Because deep, deep underground are the roots; and besides, they will always go towards the blast. The wind may come dashing round the corner of the cliff, but it does not matter to the plant if its roots are firm. Right down the side of the steep place, these fibrous roots are twisted in and out, like so many knots.
If a plant is to grow well, it must have room. I have known people plant two big hyacinth bulbs in one tiny flower-pot, and then wonder that the flower was poor. I did not wonder. The poor roots were stunted in growth, and starved as to food. Why do gardeners so often repot plants? To give them plenty of room. Remember then, if you have a geranium or a rose, or any pet flower in a pot to, see, first of all, to its roots. Give them plenty of room, and plenty of the soil which they like best.
Some plants are called annuals. This means that they bear flower, and seed, and die, all in the course of one summer. Many of our prettiest flowers are annuals. If you have any, either in your garden or in pots, you should let a few run to seed, and then save the seeds to sow in the spring. Some other roots are called biennial. These plants have leaves one summer, flowers the next, and then, having lived two summers, or for one year, die.
And the third sort are perennial, which means perpetual, or lasting for a long time, unless killed
by frost, or starvation, or some other accident or piece of carelessness.
Besides these three divisions, which are made according to the time the root lives, there are others which depend upon the sort of root. There are creeping roots, which run along underground, and have many stems starting up in different places. There are roots which end quite suddenly, looking as if they had been cut with a knife. There are tuberous roots with large knots in them. The potato is a tuberous root. Then there are bulbous roots, or bulbs as we call them, such as the onion, or crocus, or hyacinth.
And now we will leave the roots alone, only reminding you not to starve them, either for meat or drink, but to give them good soil and plenty of water; and also not to let them drink too much, which is as bad for plants as for people. Only give them drink when they are thirsty, which you will know by seeing the ground dry. And as you are more thirsty in hot weather than in cold, you will soon remember that your plants feel the same.
Now for the stems, or stalks.
I need not tell you what a large variety there are, and how they differ, from the stem of the old oak tree to the thin stalk of the lily. There are straight stems, creeping stems, climbing stems, like those of the ivy, trailing stems, like those of the strawberry. But in one point they are all alike. They all bear leaves, flowers, or fruit.
Leaves.--Here again the variety is endless. There are no two leaves exactly alike. I do not mean only that an ivy leaf and a rose leaf, for instance, are different, but that you cannot find two rose leaves exactly alike, nor two ivy leaves. You may spend a year in a wood, and never find two leaves exactly alike. Leaves, like roots, last different lengths of time. First, there are fugitive leaves, which are shed soon after they appear. Secondly, deciduous plants, whose leaves drop in winter. Thirdly, evergreens, so called because the leaves are not shed until new ones have come, and thus the plants are always, or ever, green.
And now remember that a plant likes a clean face. If you have any plants in pots, wash their faces, that is their leaves, every day, if they are thick-leaved plants, such as geraniums or myrtles; if they are more delicate, you must sprinkle them with water. Also, remember to pinch off the dead leaves from your plants, for they do mischief, besides being ugly. Lastly, if you have a garden, bury dead leaves; for in the ground, instead of being mischievous, they are useful, and improve the soil.
And now, at last, we come to Aowers. I have not much to say here, excepting that I think they are a proof that God likes us to have pretty things as well as useful ones. Some people care only for what is useful, and think what is only pretty is worth nothing. But I believe if that were true, we should not have so many pretty flowers.
It seems as if God made all the beautiful things in the world to remind us of Him, and to give us some little idea of how beautiful Heaven must be.
I advise all country children to have a little bit of their garden for flowers, and not to think it waste of
time to look after them; and I am sure that town children will enjoy having a few flowers in pots. Only give them plenty of light, if you want them to grow strong and healthy, and to keep their bright colours.
Perhaps, sometimes you country children will gather nosegays of wild flowers; very pretty they might look, but very often they do not, because they are not well arranged. Never make a stiff nosegay, and remember always to put plenty of white and green. Some flowers last longer when picked than others. Geraniums, excepting red ones, last well ; better than nearly any; annuals do not. So, if you want to get flowers to decorate a church or room, or to sell in nosegays, never gather annuals. There are not many wild flowers which will last fresh very long. Mind, when you gather, that the flowers have long stalks, and cut them, instead of snapping them off. Lastly, change the water after a day or two, and your flowers will last all the longer. In fact, you must, both in gardening and in making nosegays, take a little trouble. It is said that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well; and if God thought it worth while to make flowers, I am sure we may think it worth while to care for them.
(Specially recommended as a dictation lesson.)
January brings the snow,