Good Hope For Its Perfume

Description.--From the small, fibrous roots the square stems stand

erect about 1 foot tall. They are very branching and leafy. The leaves

are green, except as noted below, ovate, pointed, opposite, somewhat

toothed, rather succulent and highly fragrant. The little white flowers

which appear in midsummer are racemed in leafy whorls, followed by small

black fruits, popularly called seeds. These, like flaxseed, emit a

laginous substance when soaked in water. About 23,000 weigh an

ounce, and 10 ounces fill a pint. Their vitality lasts about eight


Like most of the other culinary herbs, basil has varied little in

several centuries; there are no well-marked varieties of modern origin.

Only three varieties of common basil are listed in America; Vilmorin

lists only five French ones. Purple basil has lilac flowers, and when

grown in the sun also purple leaf stems and young branches.

Lettuce-leaved basil has large, pale-green blistered and wrinkled leaves

like those of lettuce. Its closely set clusters of flowers appear

somewhat late. The leaves are larger and fewer than in the common


The dwarf species is more compact, branching and dainty than the common

species. It has three varieties; one with deep violet foliage and stems

and lilac white flowers, and two with green leaves, one very dense and


East Indian, or Tree Basil (O. gratissimum, Linn.), a well-known

species in the Orient, seems to have a substitute in O. suave, also

known by the same popular name, and presumably the species cultivated in

Europe and to some extent in America. It is an upright, branching

annual, which forms a pyramidal bush about 20 inches tall and often 15

inches in diameter. It favors very warm situations and tropical


Cultivation.--Basil is propagated by seeds. Because these are very

small, they are best sown in flats under glass, covered lightly with

finely sifted soil and moistened by standing in a shallow pan of water

until the surface shows a wet spot. When about an inch tall, the

seedlings must be pricked out 2 inches apart each way in larger-sized

flats. When 3 inches tall they will be large enough for the garden,

where they should be set 1 foot asunder in rows 15 to 18 inches apart.

Often the seed is sown in the mellow border as early in the spring as

the ground can be worked. This method demands perhaps more attention

than the former, because of weeds and because the rows cannot be easily

seen. When transplanting, preference should be given to a sunny

situation in a mellow, light, fertile, rather dry soil thoroughly well

prepared and as free from weeds as possible. From the start the ground

must be kept loose, open and clean. When the plants meet in the rows

cultivation may stop.

First gatherings of foliage should begin by midsummer when the plants

start to blossom. Then they may be cut to within a few inches of the

ground. The stumps should develop a second and even a third crop if care

is exercised to keep the surface clean and open. A little dressing of

quickly available fertilizer applied at this time is helpful. For seed

some of the best plants should be left uncut. The seed should ripen by


For winter use plants may be transplanted from the garden, or seedlings

may be started in September. The seeds should be sown two to the inch

and the seedlings transplanted to pots or boxes. A handy pot is the

4-inch standard; this is large enough for one plant. In flats the plants

should be 5 or 6 inches apart each way.