The surface of the garden having been levelled, and the walks dug out, according to the plan, and partially filled with stones and coarse gravel, the operator may now proceed to plant the box edgings, or any other plant he may substitute for that purpose, or grass if that is preferred.
Box, of all other plants, makes the neatest and most beauti ful edgings. This may be set in September or October, but will require protection, as it is very liable to be thrown out by the frost, or winter-killed, without it. It may also be planted in the spring, and also in June; but when late planted will require shading and watering.
Box takes root freely from cuttings, and is sometimes used without fibres; but, unless great care is taken, some of it will fail to grow, thereby making the edging uneven and full of gaps, and it will be found difficult to get it into good shape again. If it is to be raised from cuttings, it should be done in a bed by itself, where it can have the benefit of shading and watering.
To make neat edgings, you should get some short, bushy box, and let it be slipped or parted into moderately small slips, of not more than six or eight inches in length, dividing it in such a manner that each slip shall have more or less roots or fibres upon it, rejecting such as are destitute, for planting by themselves. If any have long, straggling roots, they should be trimmed off, and the plants should be made pretty much of a length.
It is to be premised that the margin of the beds have all been properly levelled or graded; then they should be trodden lightly and evenly along, to settle it moderately firm; if for a straight edging, stretch the line along the edge of the bed or border; with the spade make up any inequalities of the surface according to the line; then, on the side of the line next the walk, let a small, neat trench be cut, about six inches deep, making the side next the line perfectly upright, turning the earth out toward the walk or alley.
For a curving margin, a strip of board, an inch wide and twelve or fifteen feet long, with pegs attached by screws or nails, at various distances along its length, so that it can be made fast in the ground, to correspond with the design, may be used instead of the line; or some workmen are so expert, that, having the design transferred to the ground, they will proceed with accuracy without such a guide. At any rate, the trench is to be dug out as directed for a straight line.
The box is to be planted in the trench, close against the upright side, against the line or strip of board, placing the plants so near together as to form immediately a close, compact edging, without being too thick and clumsy, and with the top of the plants as evenly as possible, all an equal height, not more than an inch or two above the surface of the ground; and, as you proceed in planting, draw the earth up to the outside of the plants, which fixes them in their due position; and when you have planted the row out, then with your spade cast in the earth almost to the top of the plants, and tread neatly and closely thereto. When the edging is planted, let any inequalities of the top be cut as even and neat as possible, with a pair of shears.
Grass makes a very neat edging if kept in order, but it requires so much attention to keep it in its place, so much edging and cutting, that I would not recommend it. If, however, it is made use of, it should be obtained from a pasture or road-side, where it may be easily cut in strips to suit, of three or more inches wide, according to fancy. The sward should be fine and tough, so as not to break in cutting and removing.
The mode of laying will suggest itself to almost any one: - the surface of the grass should be on a level with the earth, and but slightly raised above the walk.
Thrift, if neatly planted, makes handsome edgings to borders or flower-beds. This may be planted as directed for box, slipping the old plants into small slips; setting the plants near enough to touch one another, forming a tolerably close row.
Thyme, hyssop, winter savory, and pinks are frequently used for edgings, but they are too prone to grow out of compass, and therefore not to be recommended.
Many other plants are often used for edgings, but there is nothing that makes so neat and trim an edging as box.
It is a good time to clip old box edgings in June. They should never be suffered to grow tall, but be kept down low.
It is best to give some protection to box in the winter by coarse litter, or by throwing up a few inches of the fine grave} on one side and the earth of the border on the other.