MANY people imagine that shrubs are wasted if they are not massed together in great plantations, where they present a solid phalanx of bloom for two or three days each year. The rest of the time the bed is dark and unattractive and is a blot on the lawn, detracting from, rather than adding to the surroundings. Such a system may sometimes be convenient on large and bare estates which are difficult to plant anyway, but on small grounds shrubs should be used generally as individual specimens so that their beauty may be seen and admired, so that the good qualities of each may be appreciated; they should not be considered from the standpoint of their bloom alone. The same rule should be followed as when disposing of furniture in a room; you do not hide a beautiful china-closet of rare workmanship by placing another cabinet or a desk or a settee or a lot of chairs all about it, encompassing it and hiding its graceful lines and form.
I have always thought that the plan of planting in masses was followed by the nurserymen and landscape gardeners because a great many plants have to be used. The arrangement is expensive and extravagant, besides being commonplace and clumsy, and much better effects can be obtained by placing each shrub where it belongs, where it will always look at home and can remain undisturbed for an indefinite time, after the manner of old yards and gardens. Used in such a way shrubs have a meaning and give feeling to the house and grounds; and a man of moderate means may plant and enjoy them.
When buying shrubs, if there is no nursery in your immediate vicinity, you should choose one that lies in a colder latitude or one just as cold as that in which your place is located. By doing this you will get stock that is hardy and will be pretty sure to thrive. Plant shrubs in the Fall if possible, in October or November, or in the very early Spring; and always protect the roots for the first Winter with a good dressing of straw or coarse litter.
Trees and Shrubs in the Garden; Mt. Vernon.
Closely pruned shrubs are prim looking and ugly; the natural growth is pretty sure to be more graceful than any that you can encourage by the shears. The fantastically clipped forms that were common in the Roman gardens and the gardens of the Renaissance, and that were over-extensively used in England up to the middle of the last century, are out of place on small grounds; they make them look top-heavy. Avoid the badly pleached Box that is offered to-day in so many nurseries, for they are poor imitations and detract from the true value of the garden. Try if you will to get the old, round forms that are found in the old dooryards, but do not buy pyramids and standards.
Cut away the dead wood from shrubs in the Spring; and it will be necessary often to cut back the Mock-orange, for its growth is apt to be rank and ungraceful; and remove some of the side branches that stick out and destroy the general symmetry of the bushes. Except for cutting out the large suckers the Lilacs should never be touched with shears, but allowed to grow in their natural, own sweet way. For the rest, the pruning may be left to the common sense of the owner, with the gardener kept at a distance.
There are so many shrubs that are attractive and desirable that it is hard for the novice to make a choice. If he leaves the selection to a nurseryman he will get a little bit of everything, for the average nurseryman thinks that variety is the spice of planting. One does not realize how large a shrub bill may become until it is sent in, and then it is difficult to check up the various items that have been scattered over two or three acres, for many of them even in that short space of time will doubtless have died from want of care and knowledge on the part of your gardener, or because they were weaklings when they left the nursery and should have received the attention of a trained nurse. You should superintend the planting carefully, for you cannot be sure that anything either inside or outside the house will be particularly well done if left entirely to the tender mercies of servants.
Old Stone Gateway.
It is a much better plan to know exactly what you want and to choose the varieties yourself. For that reason you should patronize the nurseries in your neighbourhood, as then you can run over at odd times when you have the leisure, or when the particular shrubs you are interested in are in bloom. Tag these carefully with the copper-wired tags which the nurseryman will provide, and on which your name should be plainly written with an indelible pencil, so that there will be no doubt about identification when the time for transplanting arrives.
The nurseryman will want to sell you novelties, of which an incredible number are put upon the market every year; and some of his reasons for doing so will not be entirely disinterested. The beginner should leave novelties alone, especially if the area to be planted is limited and his pocket-book is not over-extended. Novelties are the best anti-fat for a plethoric pocketbook that has ever been devised.
If you should send an order to a nurseryman located at some distance from your home, the chances are that all the stock that you receive will not come up to your expectations. The nurseryman, being only human, will average up the lot so that about fifty per cent of the trees and shrubs will be pretty poor; the rest, fair to medium. Your order will probably have been filled at a low price, but in the end you would have found it cheaper to patronize your own nursery. It does not pay to buy job lots of shrubs and trees, for there is a great demand for good stuff and you may rest assured that there was something queer about your "bargain."
The home nurseryman will generally be ready to replace trees that fail, unless they die through gross carelessness on your part or the part of your gardener, and he will always take an interest in your place, giving you much advice from time to time, which he will not be likely to do if you ignore the home industry and patronize outside firms. When the nursery is near by, transplantation can be more safely effected, as it is possible to wait for the right kind of weather. This is worth much in Spring, for then the plants that are moved on a rainy, muggy day are hardly checked at all; and there is a better chance of quick recuperation than when the stock has been kept on the train for days, perhaps weeks, no matter how carefully it may have been taken up and packed.
Beware of travelling agents and men who do what it called a cellar business. The former are only interested in selling their wares, never in the wares themselves; many of them do not know a Geranium from a Rose except by the pictures they have seen. The plants handled by the latter class of dealers are apt to be out of the ground a long time, and that does not benefit their constitutions; or if dormant they often begin to sprout before you receive them. Both are apt to disappoint you when it is too late to place your order elsewhere, for they do not keep track of the supplies in the nurseries they represent and are altogether irresponsible. It is much better to deal directly with some reliable house.
The Lilac is a shrub that you will surely wish to see well represented on your grounds. As suggested in Chapter IV (Laying Out The Garden) (Laying Out The Garden), much better effect can be had with old specimens, which you should be able to procure from some ancient farmhouse in your neighbourhood. You should have a White Lilac in the flower garden, for it will live to a good old age and grow more picturesque every year. Lilacs look well near the house - in front of it, if it is possible to put them there, at either side of the porch. One never tires of them in the latter place; they seem really a part of the house. They may be planted to overhang the garden hedge or to border a walk, or for an untrimmed hedge behind an old wall, or on top of a bank. Planted thickly along the party line they make a good screen, and are less stiff and formal than a fence and more useful to your neighbour. You really cannot have too many of them, as they contribute more to the atmosphere of home than any other shrub. Old bushes can be moved by the "hired man" under your direction; but if you get them from a nursery confine your choice to the old varieties. I have moved Lilacs when in flower, and they have gone on blooming just as if they were used to a carriage-drive every day.
The white flowering native Dogwood (Cornus Florida) is found in the woods where it comes into bloom when the leaves of the surrounding trees are just bursting from the buds, and the effect is as if the flowers had been floating through the forest and were caught on the outstretched branches of the other trees. It is much better used in this way, or on the edge of a wood or grove, as it needs the delicate green to set off its white stars; it is not half as attractive or interesting when planted by itself on the lawn. This tree may be transplanted from the woods, but good specimens are generally to be found in the nursery, and are surer to succeed.
Viburnum Plicatum, or Snowball, has better qualities and is more substantial and attractive than the Weigelia. One or two specimens should be used along the paths or driveway.
Hibiscus Syriacus, or Althea, is a shrub that you will find in the old yards, very often grown into a large tree that every August becomes laden down with its Hollyhock-like flowers. The oldest colours were white and rose-pink, and a rather unattractive purple which one can do without very well, although it is quite quaint in its homeliness. These shrubs were plentifully planted near the house, or as screens along paths, and as they grow old they have a habit of bending over so that they present a venerable appearance. Althea is necessary for old-fashioned "colour" in the yard, and is also desirable to plant because of its strength and vigour.
Deutzia Crenata bears a white flower in June and grows into a large shrub of graceful habit. It should be planted against a background of trees or hedges, on the outskirts of the lawn, with some low-growing plant at its base, such as German Iris, for the lower parts of the branches are bare.
Hypericum Prolificum is a little yellow-flowering shrub that grows well and blooms in the shade. It is useful along wooded paths where a little colour is needed in Summertime and is so hard to procure.