This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
At this time of the year our flower-gardens present such a dreary aspect, that the question naturally suggests itself, Can nothing be done to shorten this dark and gloomy season? We are apt to reply in the negative, as the difficulties to be encountered amid the frosts and snows of winter are so numerous and powerful, that our feeble efforts to render the garden interesting would at first seem to be a hopeless task; and none are so ready to come to this conclusion as the amateur, who may have lost many of his favourites, even in a more congenial season; hence it is to the amateur, and to him alone, I would now say, Persevere: the case is not a hopeless, but a very interesting one; for the more care that an object requires, the more it becomes endeared to us. I say persevere, and be industrious, and your efforts will be crowned with (if not a full display of tender flowers) at least a few remembrances of "forms departed," a few first-fruits, which are always sweetest.
In order to connect the link between autumn and spring, we would now take leave of the Chrysanthemum, which tends to shorten the dull season very materially. The first floral friend that next greets us is the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger), which is a great acquisition at the season in which it flowers. It makes a good bed; but being of a naked appearance, is better suited for planting along with plants possessed of more leaves, such as Primulas. It is easily propagated from seeds, or better by division; and planted for the summer in any spare ground, will form flowering plants for next season, if so treated early in spring. The next suitable spring flower, the Primrose (Primula acaulis), and its varieties, may be collected in most woods, hedgerows, and waste banks; they are much improved by cultivation, and will flower earlier than in their native habitats. If the flower-beds are small, they may be planted in masses of different colours with good effect; but if large, they look better regularly mixed, or the centre of the bed may be filled with one colour, and the margin with another.
Snowdrops and Crocus may be introduced in the intermediate spaces, which will prolong the succession of bloom.
Hepaticas merit a place in every spring garden; but they dislike being often transplanted, unless under very favourable circumstances, and even then they take a considerable time to make good plants; but they are well worth a little extra trouble. They may be propagated from seed; but careful division is the most expeditious method. The Wood Hyacinth and Daffodil, which give the colours of blue and yellow, may both be obtained in almost any copse. They are attractive, and have an advantage over the others in this respect, that they may be left in the ground during the summer, and that they allow Verbenas, and similar plants, to be introduced above them. The Wallflower must not be overlooked; for it not only yields us flowers for a lengthened period, but it fills every breeze that passes over it with a delicious perfume. By sowing a pinch of its seed every spring, and nipping the points off the leading shoots, nice compact plants will be formed, fit for introducing into the flower-garden in October. As the tender stock is apt to perish, if the plants could be potted when about four or five inches high, it would insure their flowering earlier, harden their tissue, and enable them better to withstand the rigour of winter.
The double varieties of Wallflower are very ornamental, but are more difficult to get in quantity. The most successful way of propagating them is by cuttings, taken off with a heel; or, if that is impracticable, bark the intended cutting all round a fortnight previous to taking it off, and strike under a handglass at the base of a wall. Take care to prevent damp from accumulating on the surface, as this proves fatal to their wellbeing. The usual bedding plants which are turned out in May may be introduced among them; they afford protection to them alike from late frosts and from the scorching sun.
Many annuals are exceedingly useful for early flowering, if sown early in autumn, and transplanted into the beds in October. Nemo-philas, Collinsias, Gilias, Clarkias, and Candy-tufts, are among the best for this purpose, and offer considerable variety of colour. The Anemone is also easily managed, and will yield a few flowers all winter, if the latter be at all mild; it requires to be carefully lifted, and is better to be kept in the soil. Many more plants might be named, but these are a few of the easily obtainable.