This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
[The following article, abridged from an American paper, so well illustrates the evil results of neglecting to follow our oft-repeated advice, "Whatever you cultivate, let it be the best of its kind," that we gladly republish it for the benefit of our young readers. - Ed.]
Nothing more surely defeats an incipient taste for flower-culture than a rash beginning. If one is pinched for room or for money, they are in a very good way; they will have to begin moderately. A few flowers finely grown for a single season will generally fix a person irrecoverably. But, however fine the taste and sincere the relish, if one begins their practical cultivation by crowding their garden with a multitude of different plants requiring very diverse treatment, the result will be great expense, much labour and confusion; and after all the industry, it will be so divided as to avail but little for any thing. When the season closes, the remembrance of the flower-campaign will be a reminiscence of confusion, of starveling plants choked with weeds, pitiable blossoms, seed lost, and roots not secured. And what between neglect, weeds, insects, drouth, or floods of rain, and murderous frosts, the winter will find you bereaved of one half of your dearly bought favourites.
The consequence will be, that disgust will follow injudicious enthusiasm. Wise people, who always despised such trifles, and wondered that people would waste time in a garden, will shake their heads, pat your cheeks, and say, "You see what comes of such nonsense." Wherefore we beseech all beginners to take heed how they begin.
We repeat, and with emphasis, do not be tempted, by the beauty and variety of flowers, to cultivate too many. Make it a duty to cultivate whatever you take in hand perfectly; and add nothing until you perceive that you can do it justice. We protest against floral spendthrifts, floral dissipation, and all flower-mongers. Let. any one look about him, and he shall see such persons as these:
They will bid-off bushels of trash at flower-auctions; they will be entrapped by sounding names in seed-stores, and made wild by pompous catalogues from florists and seedsmen. Nobody is so likely to be imposed upon as persons who affect to despise flowers. We have known a man who, laughing at wife and daughter, wiped his mouth of all love of flowers, who nevertheless, at some unwatchful moment, comes into temptation in some spring sale. Now, says he, I will surprise my wife with a present worth having! And perhaps he secretly whispers to himself, I'll shew them that I know something about buying flowers, if I do not about raising them. Once a going, he does buy; buys every thing; buys worn-out roots, cast-away rose-bushes, effete bulbs, four-year old and three-year dead seeds of splendid names. Quite aroused by his luck, he sends for cart and barrow, and to his wife's consternation, begins to heap his trash into the yard and garden.
Now for the sweet surprise. " Why, what is this?' " This? let me look at my memorandum; these are assorted Tulips; and these are Hyacinths, - A No. 1, ma'am." " What on earth do you expect to do with these bulbs at this time of the year? why, they ought to have been in the ground last October - they ought to be nearly done blossoming by this time of year; and besides, see the musty bottoms - the things are dead and gone long ago ! What did you get them for? how much did you give for them?" "Never mind, they cost but little - no great affair - 1 knew they were not much, but I thought something might come of them." " Well, now, as sure as I am alive, here you've brought a pack of Cinnamon Roses home, and 1 have had a man digging half a day to get the pests out of my garden ! Do throw them right into the street. Look here, husband, here's snowballs, and waxberries, and mock-orange flowers, and lilacs; you didnt buy this stuff, did you, husband? Our garden is full of them, and has been this ten years." " Stuff! I tell you it's no such thing.
Why, here's what they are (reading from his memorandum), they are the Viburnum Opulus, and the Symphoria racemosa, and the Philadelphus coronarius, and Syringa vulgaris!" "Pshaw! you've paid away your money for a pretty parcel of Latin names ! I don't care what you call them, they are nothing but our old-fashioned syringas, and lilacs, and snowballs, and waxberries !' Alas, out of some thirty dollars' worth of plants, roots and bulbs, the poor wife got half a dozen new plants, that she might have purchased of an honest florist for two dollars !
Every spring they begin to feel the garden impulse. Out they run to see what they have left in their beds. A pitiable account their garden gives of their last season's care. Weeds choked out these; the drouth destroyed that; worms and bugs eat up one thing; dogs and pigs scratched or rooted out another thing; and the winter did the business for pretty much every thing else. " Never mind; I know who's got more of them. Mrs.-------, good soul! she's given me plants every spring these five years ! " So away she goes, begging roots here, bulbs there, a few seeds, a slip of this plant, a cutting of that, a root of another; and by night she has got a heterogeneous heap of thirty or forty kinds. They all go through the violence of being punched into the earth; take a gallon of water for their first drink; the one half die in the act of transplanting, the other half linger un-thought of, and die at their leisure along the season; for the flower-monger, good soul, got over her paroxysm the first hot day that came, sweating in the garden, and will trouble herself no more till the next vernal begging season returns.
We say, once more, in closing, do nothing that you do not do well. One good plant is worth a prairie full of starved and stinted things !