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Ornamental Plants

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The one thing necessary td make most farms attractive is ornamental planting around the house and buildings. The plants used need not be expensive, they need not demand much attention, they need not be imported, they need only to be appropriate to their positions. A great many mistakes are made in planting trees and shrubs by scattering them in a meaningless way over the ground. The one thing to remember in planning an ornamental garden is to have the whole thing form a picture; that is, every plant should be in such a position that it will form part of the frame in which the main feature of the place, the house, is rendered more beautiful and homelike.

If the shrubs and trees are scattered over the lawn, each one will claim its individual share of attention and will detract from the house itself; whereas, if they are grouped around the borders of the place so as to leave the main portion of the yard in grass, the effect will be greatly improved, because the lawn will give a restful air to the place. No matter how large or how small the yard may be, the planting of ornamentals should be at the sides except for such necessary trees, vines, etc., as will partially shade the porches and windows of the house itself. Even these trees should be placed so they will not produce an undue amount of shade upon the house, and thus render it gloomy from the inside. Too often trees are planted close to the building without regard to the size they will attain when full grown. It is folly to plant Nor-way spruces, sugar maples, white oaks, and similar large growing trees almost within arm's length of the building. They cannot attain their best development and are sure to cast too much shade.


For best effects flower beds should not be used. If they are used at all, they should never be in the center of the lawn. Their proper positions are at the base of the building wall, along the fence and in angles of walks. The principal objection to the flower bed is that it is not attractive during more than half the year, and it requires much more attention than the well-planted flower border. Many people who have been depending upon beds for blossoms and not receiving a reasonable return for the labor expended, will rejoice in the wealth of bloom that can be secured with a tenth of the work in the flower border.

Too often the beds are filled with plants that have been struggling through the winter in the windows, and which suffer more or less from the changed conditions when put out of doors. When turned loose, they become victims of wind and sun and it is usually midsummer before they begin to be attractive. All this time they receive far more attention than they are worth, and far more than would be necessary to bestow upon a natural plantation of several times the size. The natural plantation produces flowers because it wants to. By proper selection of varieties, it will start when the bluebirds begin to sing and will continue all through the season until Jack Frost comes to stay for the following winter. Even during the winter, many of the trees and shrubs are attractive because of their colored bark and fruits; so that instead of having a mud hole on the lawn for six or eight months of the year, one has the restful and pleasing border to look at for twelve months.


The chief beauty about the border is that one can change it continually and add to it at frequent intervals whenever the opportunity presents. In many sections it is not necessary to buy a single plant for such a border. The woods and fence rows are filled with plants that can be had for the digging and that will repay transplanting. Among the shrubs that grow wild in many places are rhododendrons, viburnums, alder, elder, azalea, magnolia, sweet briar, judas tree, spice bush, thorn, spiraea, flowering raspberry, juniper, laurel, mahonia, burning bush, sumac, dogwood, various small cherries, and scores of. others.

Shrubs should be planted at intervals and in groups so that different parts of the plantation will be attractive at different seasons, and also so that there will be plenty of room among them for hardy perennial plants. These perennials will be found far more effective, attractive and far less troublesome than annuals, because, with ordinary attention, they will remain interesting for years. It is a great mistake, however, to grow this class of plants continuously in the same place. They should be moved to new ground at intervals f several years. As a rule this can be very easily done in the spring. The way to know when it is time to move any kind is to note when it begins to fail in its present position. As soon as it ceases to thrive it should be mowed.

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