This section is from the book "How To Make A Flower Garden", by Wilhelm Miller. Also available from Amazon: The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques.
A HERB is a plant that dies to the ground in winter, and a border is a strip of planting skirting the boundaries of a place or lying along the walks or drives. We grow herbs because we like them. We make borders of them because they look better in such places, are more easily cared for, and are not under foot. A pigweed in the middle of the lawn is lonesome and a nuisance; or if we pull it up we have nothing to put in the hole. A pigweed in the border is happy and attractive; or if we do not like it and pull it up, there are other plants of its height and size to take its place. Anybody can make a border. It is a simple matter. But just because it is so simple and easy, there are few men who make attractive ones. Some of the best that we have had the privilege of seeing were on the Pan-American grounds. Probably few of the visitors to the exposition made more than a casual note of the herbaceous planting at the south end of the grounds, or thought of the care that had been expended there. Twenty acres were devoted to these beds. There were fifty exhibitors and more than two hundred plats. The difficulties are great in such plantings as these. The land is newly prepared. The time is short. There are few plants of a great many kinds.
Each plant is to be an exhibit, and must therefore have opportunity to display itself. Exhibition planting is difficult to manage in an artistic way. If each plant is isolated, the mass-effect is lost and the plantation is likely to be a mere nursery.
The two pictures shown on pages 27 and 31 illustrate bold and artistic effects produced with exhibition plants, and there were many other examples as good as these on the exposition grounds. These plantings were the work of William Scott, Superintendent of Floriculture, and a florist of Buffalo. Mr. Scott has been known chiefly as a florist. We shall now think of him also as a gardener - in the broader sense - and as an artist in dealing with plants He had the great advantage of knowing how to grow the things.
We often seem to lose sight of the importance of such knowledge. It is knowledge that it is troublesome not to have.
Fourteen months before these things were planted the land had been only roughly graded. New soil had to be carted on, the final grading and levelling done, and the sod established. The home-maker, with good soil and established lawn, should be able to do at least as well.
It is well to plan in the fall for the spring planting. Things always go slower than we expect. Spring will soon be here. If the ground is not yet frozen the earth can be spaded or plowed. Let it lie loose and open: the frost will pulverise it. Weathering is sometimes an efficient means of tilling. Unless the land is already rich, and contains much vegetable matter or humus, it is well to turn under manure when you prepare the land this winter. This manure may be very useful in preventing hard clay soils from cementing by the action of frost and rain as well as in affording plant-food. Even in some of the northern States hardy bushes may be planted in December, but it is usually better to wait until spring. Large specimens are often moved in the dead of winter because heavy balls of earth can be taken with them. Read the catalogues, and be ready to order your plants before the spring begins.