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The Moonlight Garden
The Water Garden
The Rock Garden
The Wild Flower Garden
The Court Of The Queen Of Flowers
The Children's Garden
The Bulb Garden
The Indoor Garden
The Garden That Faces Four Ways
What Can Be Done With Half An Acre
Old And New Flowers For The Garden
Where Are And Nature Meet
Our Birds And Our Gardens
The Flower Spectrum
Garden Friends And Foes
Trees And Tree Planting
Window Box Gardening
Flowers For Cutting
The More Common Garden Flowers And How To Grow Them
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
There are a few general directions for plant culture which it is well for all garden-lovers to bear in mind. While many of these are simple, knowledge of them is likely to prove of assistance to the unpracticed in garden lore, although, of course, so much depends upon soil and local conditions that suggestions of a more detailed character must necessarily lose much of their practicality in vagueness. Here are, however, a few suggestions, some of which will be found mentioned in the preceding pages, upon which the successful garden may safely be said to have its f oundations.
First of a11, no plant will grow successfully upon a slope. If the bed be upon a hillside, it should be built up upon its lower edge until it is at least practically level, the lower edge being held up by stones, or by a wood or a cement border. Such borders, though ugly in themselves, may be made inconspicuous by the train-: ing of a vine over them, if they be of stone or concrete, or by the use of a little dark green paint if they be of wood. Unsightly though they be, they are a real necessity of the hillside garden, and a surprising difference will be noted in the appearance of a bed which has been struggling along without them, after they have been supplied.
Watering is to some extent necessary in the garden, but it is surprising to how great an extent it may be eliminated, except during drought or other such unusual circumstances. Plants may to some degree be accustomed to little water; and in a garden of any great extent watering is a difficult problem, since it must be remembered that a little water is worse than none. A small quantity of water, which does not penetrate far below the surface of the earth, tends to draw the roots, seeking for moisture, up to it, thus bringing them away from the dampness of the earth beneath and up into the portion which is sure to be thoroughly baked by the summer sun. On the other hand, water is valuable to plants, not only to satisfy their thirst, but also to free the necessary food which they require from the soil, of which it is a part. The plant which dies of drought dies of hunger as well as of thirst. For these reasons, it is well to study the garden and to water only when it is obviously necessary, but then to water well.
Cultivation, too, is a matter most important to the success of the garden. Soil, it is said-and many of us, doubtless, may here make a mental reservation in behalf of our own soil-contains all the ingredients essential to plant life, the only problem-to solve which we have recourse to fertilizers and other aids to growth -being to obtain them. This is in large part done by frequent cultivation, which permits rain and damp to penetrate the earth deeply, thus not only nourishing the plant by its own virtue, but dissolving the necessary elements in the soil. In addition to this, by this process a dust mulch is provided, which is of great assistance in keeping the roots from drying out in dry weather.
Transplanting is a task which is full of pitfalls for the beginner in gardening, although it surprises him, as he watches the more experienced gardener, to see what liberties may be taken with impunity by the expert. There is one infallible method of transplanting known to most "flower fans," although, both from the trouble which it involves and the sufficiently satisfactory results which usually come from a less tedious method, they are apt to ignore it. It consists merely in the filling of the hole, which is prepared for the reception of the plant, with water, and setting the plant in, filling up the water with earth. By this method, plants do not wilt down, but remain fresh and crisp, even in warm weather. To be sure, by simply setting 'them in and watering them later, good results are usually gained in time; the plants may lie prostrate for a few days, but they generally regain their normal condition. In view of this, the increased trouble may seem taken in vain; but it is satisfactory to know that the young plants are wasting no part of their vitality in regaining strength which they should never have lost, and are devoting their uninterrupted energies to the task for which they were set out. This method is especially to be recommended in times of drought.
In keeping the garden beautiful, no one thing can be compared in value with keeping the seed pods cut. Some flowers, like the sweet pea and the pansy, when seeds have been formed, stop blooming entirely, and, even where the flowers are not so exigeant in this regard, it is surprising to what extent their period of bloom may be prolonged by this simple process. The hollyhock, for example, and the Canterbury bell, may be enjoyed for almost double their ordinary period of bloom by such treatment. There are also flowers, like the phlox and the anchusa, which will give a second crop of bloom in exchange for care in this regard. It may be laid down as a general rule that the garden should be gone over every few days and all the seed pods collected as far as possible.
All plants should, if possible, be covered in the winter. In some cases they may survive without it, but the effort to do so saps their strength. Too heavy a covering is as fatal as too little; but practice, combined with a study of the natural habitat of the plant, and the climate of the place where the garden is located, will serve as a criterion. Covering should be put on late and removed early. It should in its turn be covered with stones and branches so that the winter wind may leave it undisturbed. For plants which require very heavy protection, boxes may be inverted, and the interstices between plants and boxes filled with dry leaves. A length of chicken wire may also be placed about them, and leaves piled between the wire and the plant, as well as high over the latter.
In covering, it should be remembered that the spring thaws are even more dangerous than the winter frosts. Of course a plant does not survive actual freezing; but neither, on the other hand, does it survive the thaw which draws it out of the ground before its time, only to subject it to the late frosts of spring. For this rea.son, the covering should be removed as early as may be, so that the early thaws may not tempt the plant out to its destruction. If the covering be removed in time, the cold air will keep the plant from undue development.
Although directions for culture of various sorts of blossoms are given under the headings of the names of the flowers themselves elsewhere in this volume, perhaps a few suggestions as to the general care of the garden, necessary in spring as well as in the fall, will not be amiss in this place. As has been said, the beds should be uncovered as early as possible-by about the end of March, in the neighborhood of New York. At this time, too, grass seed should be sown where it is needed, and, if the season be dry, should be wet from time to time until it is firmly established. Of course this should be done by day, since the cold nights of early April are not conducive to the welfare of grass or any other plant which has "gone to sleep" thoroughly watered. The perennial seeds may be put in by the middle of April and the plants a few days later; while annuals should not be sown until later still, some being left as late as the middle of May. The one exception to this is the sweet pea., which must be planted as early as the ground can be worked. Failure with this plant, when all the pains in the world have been lavished upon it, may often be traced to the over-tenderness of its owners, who hesitated to sow it as early as is necessary for its success.
Spraying the roses should also begin early, as has been said in a preceding chapter, as well as the removal of dead wood from the climbers and the pruning, if this was not attended to the preceding fall. The hollyhocks, as has also been mentioned elsewhere (see p. 150), should receive their first soapsuds bath as soon as two little leaflets are formed. Fertilizer as well as lime, which may easily be slaked (if this has not already been done), as has been earlier described, should be given to the beds as far as possible, but this task is none too easy of accomplishment. It is manifestly unsafe to try to dig it in about the roots of the perennials until they have made their appearance, and even then, if tulips or other spring flowers have been planted among them, or if they are set close together, the task is well-nigh impossible. A light mulch of manure may be administered safely, however, or the manure water from the pool, if diluted or if not poured directly upon the roots of the plants, is a satisfactory expedient. Failing these, one can only wait and seize a propitious time to fertilize each particular plant when the conditions about it render this possible.
Of course there are various other smaller details in regard to the preparing of the garden for the glories of the summer. These are, for the most part, purely specialized, as, for example, the surrounding of each lark spur with coal ashes. It is well to refer to the plants individually and to make sure that no important need of any one of them had been passed over at this most busy of all busy seasons in the garden. For all, however, proper staking is worthy of special notice, and with care this may be done so as to leave the appearance of the garden unmarred by the tight, constrained appearance which careless staking is but too apt to give. A most valuable second to the stake is the holder, which may be had at any dealer's, to which a heavy circular wire may be attached by an ingenious device, and which permits a bushy plant to be held in place without undue constraint. It is particularly adapted to the peony which, as is mentioned elsewhere, blooms at the time of the spring rains and is but too apt to be bowed prematurely into unlovely muddiness and discoloration, from which it rarely recovers. If these holders be put about each one just before the time of bloom, the flowers will be appreciably longer lived, and will show their heavy heads to the best advantage during their a11-to-brief span of days.
In the securing of plants, another point may be mentioned which has been touched upon before, but which cannot be too strongly emphasized. It may be divided into two heads. The first of them-a " I don't "-is, under no circumstances whatever, to purchase stock of growers who advertise to send large collections of plants for absurdly small sums. Almost every flower enthusiast, who longs for a profusion of flowers, is at one time or another tempted by the glowing nature of these advertisements, and by the smallness of the sum involved. The results, however, are invariably as absurd as the price which is asked, which, small as it is, is high, in consideration of the value of the stock which is sup plied. It is well worth while to deal with a reliable grower and to pay a higher price to secure stock which, in the first place, will live, and which, in the second, you will wish to have live.
The second of these heads may, at first glance, seem opposed to the former, although this is not the case, and has also been alluded to elsewhere. In almost all large cities are auction rooms where excellent stock can be procured at exceedingly low prices. Stock of this kind is unmercifully criticised by the dealers, al, though in many cases they purchase it for their own use. A small purchase from the place in question will show you the reliability, or the reverse, of the dealer under consideration. Probably other garden enthusiasts in your neighborhood can suggest some such place to you, if there be one in the vicinity; and should there be anything of the kind, the garden may profit greatly thereby, at an exceedingly small outlay.
In the preparation of the garden, much has been said in preceding chapters. Since "a good tale will bear telling twice," it may again be repeated that there is almost no soil which is not the better for a generous dressing of powdered lime, which should of course be slaked before using,-and which should be showered upon the surface of the ground just before a rain, if possible, or washed in with the garden hose. Fertilizer should be applied from time to time-if leaves from the compost heap be applied as a covering in winter, the ground will benefit thereby. Manure water from the water garden will also be of benefit to the plants. Only well-rotted manure should be used; cow manure is better than horse manure, although both are good. Either is better than chemical fertilizer, a1though this is, in its way, a desirable aid as well. Given sun, if possible a sheltered place-although even this is unnecessary-good earth, and care along these lines, and the growing of flowers will be found a surprisingly easy task!