roses in march

In 1883, Easter fell on March 25.  On the east coast the weather is unpredictable  at that time of year; it can be balmy or miserable, and has been both.  According to the The Sun, one of the many daily newspapers printed in Manhattan during this period, it was a beautiful sunny day (“A sky and a temperature in keeping with the season.”). The Sun goes into detail: What women were wearing, how churches were decorated, who was singing what in which ceremonies, and of course, who gave the sermons.

Charitable events were also documented, and a few oddities jump out there:

At the Five Points Mission there was no dinner. The old rule of giving meals only on working days was adhered to, but on Tuesday next colored eggs will be added to the regular bill of far in honor of Easter.

And then this interesting tidbit:

Three hundred young voices united in singing Easter songs at the Howard Mission and Home for Little Wanderers at 40 New Bowery yesterday afternoon [Easter Sunday].

If I made up the name The Howard Mission and Home for Little Wanderers, I would be the object of scoffing.

Flowers seem to have been everywhere. The ones mentioned most often: violets, lilies, roses, and smilax (a type of greenery somewhat like holly).  As I was reading all this I could imagine it quite clearly, and then the question came to me: roses in March?

Clearly, there must have been greenhouses and gardeners who supplied out of season flowers. There’s no other explanation for  roses in March. I had assumed the normal flowers of the season — lily of the valley, crocus, daffodils.  The roses took me by surprise (and come to think of it, the lilies, too). Now I’m all curious about professional gardening, where the greenhouses were, and how all these flowers were transported.  But I won’t go searching for this information. Nope, I won’t. I am making a vow because you know, really, that’s not relevant to the story. Unless of course I can fit in a character who is in fact a gardener…

12 Replies to “roses in march”

  1. Have you read Earthly Joys or Virgin Earth by Phillipa Gregory? I read the first and am in the midst of the second. Main characters in both are gardeners–and they are set in the 1500’s-1600s. There were greenhouses (in England) and flowers were kept for the royalty out of season–and I am pretty sure she did not fabricate all of this as her books seem to be well researched. It would stand to reason then that there were greenhouses in NY in the 1800s. So there you go, you don’t need to research it!

    And The Howard Mission and Home for LIttle Wanderers would be a great book title–something depression era gritty comes to mind. So what are you researching–giving any hints? ;)

  2. What a delightful side track. But it sounds more like you have spring fever. Soon soon!

  3. I love to hear how your mind works when you read something like this.

    And the descriptions in the paper are fascinating. It makes me wonder if our own forms of news today are so poetic. I suppose we have a lot of photos now to depict styles and flowers and settings. But still, I have this feeling that people don’t talk about such things in the same way today….

    …. and no, I’m not going to go searching for that either.


      1. How is it I never ran into these before? Really good stuff. Thanks, Charlotte. You do have an eagle eye.

    1. The orphan trains are on my long list of things to read about. When my grandmother and her brother and two sisters were orphaned circa 1892, some of them ended up at a church run orphanage for Italian immigrant children, but her brother was put on the train and ended up in Coffeyville, Kansas. One of my aunts tried to track him down years later and found out that he had been killed in a factory explosion at a very young age.

  4. You may have covered this in an earlier post, but are you working on a novel set in 1883 New York? Jack Finney’s wonderful Time and Again is set in 1881. It’s a book I try to reread every few years. I doubt wheter anyone would scoff at The Howard Mission, but many would at The Home for Little Wanderers.

    1. Oh yes, I read Time and Again when it first came out in — 1970? I remember I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. I need to reread it. I’m sure there will be lots of clues on where to look for materials. Thanks for reminding me about it.

  5. Going by common names for plants can be tricky. Possibly they meant ‘Christmas’ or ‘Lenten’ roses, the hellebores? They bloom extremely early and were apparently documented as naturalized on Long Island in 1834, according to “Hellebores” by C. Colston Burrell, which I found on Google Books.

    (Yes. I’m supposed to be working ;-)

  6. Ok I had to go and look. Here is a link with some of the history of greenhouses:

    and here is an excerpt from that dealing with greenhouses in America:
    In America the first greenhouse on record was built around 1737 by Andrew Faneuil, a wealthy Boston merchant. Like his European predecessors, Faneuil used it primarily to grow fruit. The concept spread slowly, since almost all greenhouses were built for the wealthy. George Washington, perhaps the richest man in America, craved pineapples and ordered a pinery built at Mt. Vernon so he could serve pineapples to his guests. By 1825, greenhouses were becoming increasingly common. Many of the greenhouses were heated by furnace warmed air; some were pit greenhouses built into the earth and heated largely by south facing windows. This is a design that remains highly practical today.

    My curiosity is now satisfied.

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