This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In the last generation the effort of the wealthy citizen was to have a home in the country, with business in town. If very well off he had a town house and a country seat - the one for his summer enjoyment, the other to pass the winter time away. The introduction of railroads has altered all this. It is so easy now to "get away," that the summers are not spent in the country, on the farm, or in the garden; but in the mountains, at the springs, or by the sea shore. There is, therefore, not the same want as there was, and in consequence that class of gardening which was called for in the olden times of country life, has by no means kept pace with the increase of wealth and population. The best gardens are now for the most part those which are comparatively close to large cities, attached to residences convenient to business by steamboat or rail, and where the families are at home winter and summer, all the year round. Those who have now their town house for winter, and country seat for summer, are among the rarest of American citizens. Gardening at country seats is almost of the past. There is little demand for that high class of horticultural talent that this system called for. On the other hand it is a pleasure to note that suburban gardening is largely on the increase.
The small places, from one to ten acres, are more numerous, we think, than they used to be, while the love of flowers is certainly on the increase. It will do no harm to our gardeners to think over these things. The ornamentation and horticultural comforts of small places are the great things for them to study.
It should not be forgotten that beauty can often be acquired without great cost. By studying the character of a piece of ground, and adding to that which already exists, we can often make a place as attractive as if we attempt wholly to imitate at great cost some pleasant garden scene that exists elsewhere. And not only cost of improving, but the future should be studied.
In all suggestions for the improvement of grounds, the subsequent cost of keeping in order should be studied well. This is the rock whereon so many strike. Walks and roads are particularly expensive to maintain, and should never be made without there is an evident necessity for them. Shady grass walks, with masses of flowering shrubs on each side, and kept mown a few times a year, are as pleasurable parts of a pleasure ground as can well be provided, yet we very seldom see them employed.
The great fault with our gardening is, that we follow too much after foreign styles. In England, for instance, they have fine evergreens, but deciduous shrubs do not do well. They have, therefore, to make their places gay by bedding plants. Our country is the paradise of flowering shrubs, and foreigners, when they come here, are amazed at their beauty. Most beautiful effects can be produced by massing them - beautiful effects that can succeed each other from spring to fall, and indeed continue to give interest through all the year. But we blindly ignore our own advantages, and persist in following English styles of bedding. We cannot put out a flower till May. We have to water and water to make them grow. By August, when it is too hot to enjoy them, those which have fought their way through the summer heats are tolerable; and then the first September frost takes them off. We have their blackened leaves till Christmas, and bare ground the rest of the time.
We are quite sure that much more satisfactory gardening than this can be made out of nice green grass and comfortable shade trees - clusters of clematises and other flowering vines that defy our heats, and masses and designs of shrubs and dwarf, colored-leaved plants, with hardy herbaceous plants mixed. And then there is the great American idea underlying all this - most beautiful grounds maintained at little cost.
It is a very good time to think of these things. Autumn will soon be here, when they can be put into shape for the next season.