This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Mr. Beecher's article in the May Monthly, hints of value in both. That of blunders lies in the telling. A good hearty blunder, frankly confessed, not only warns, but instructs. Out of failure often leads the pathway to success. Beyond a doubt, a chapter about blunders in the garden, would make one of the most valuable in its history. But the searcher for its materials, would, I fear, look upon a lean attendance at the confessional. The majority of us are slow to tell our blunders. Besides, lots of men blunder in the ruts of traditional methods, without knowing that those who went before, blundered all the way.
After all, our boasted human intellect is a very unsteady staff. Few men either think or observe, though they pride themselves on doing both. Half set down to the credit of our brains, is only a mixture of old saws and whims. Opinions are all the while put forward, as if the outcome of thought and experience, when only a re-hash of the blunders of the blunderers gone before.
From one of these old time blunders in the garden, Mr. Beecher strips off the cover, when he tells, out of his experience, that " Summer and Winter Mulching is Supreme Safety for ornamental trees, and for fruit trees." That sentence is brim full of the soundest kind of sense. But if this is true, is not a blundering folly read of between the lines ? In face of this new article in the creed of the garden, what becomes of the old rule of thick planting for a shelter ? If mulching will save trees from that drying of the wind and sun, which sucks out the moisture from the root, soil, and the stem, what need of the thick planting clutter, which starts out unsightly and ends in torment ? If " mulching is supreme safety, " what is thick planting for shelter but a perpetual blunder ? Who ever knew a tree to grow better in the nursery rows, than when firm planted and held in the sunlight and the breeze ? The only other need besides this mulch, till the root fibres stretch their tie and brace throughout the soil, is a firm lash of the centre shaft of tree or shrub, to a stout stake driven deep and close thereto. Then the swaying of the blast will no longer snap and twist off the rootlets which, beneath the shelter and quiet of the mulch, lift the vital currents to the parts above.
Nor, when so mulched and held, will wind or sun, suck up the moisture from the cool footings, which so delight the plant.
I confess, a thicket in private grounds or public park is my horror. Not when a thicket of Nature's make is left, or when one is gotten up as a feature. But when it is the outcome of thick planting for shelter and company, to be thinned out sometime, which sometime, if ever, always comes too late. Besides, a thicket is not the place for tree or shrub to gain the swing and spread of freedom. They need room to develop their best estate - room for their branches in the sun and air - room for the roots to range in wide feeding ground. You get neither from thick planting. Day by day there rises a spindling, spooky, impressive tangle and clutter, which is soon beyond cure. Go where you will, among the thick plantations bordering old estates, or visit like newer follies, and the same result faces you. The thinning has not come to either. It never comes. But a tiresome specimen of an embalmed folly is before you, which samples neither grove nor forest, nor decent thicket.
It would seem that the " Yank " should long ago have sent this old world folly into the outer darkness to which he has consigned so many important whim-whams. One single example of such wasted time and labor well undone is before me, in the grounds of Hon. Nathaniel Wheeler, of sewing machine immortality. An old world artist had, before his ownership, bordered his grounds with all the ins and outs, and thick planting of these irregular horrors. No end of toil and lots of money, and years of growth had been wasted in a trial after the picturesque. The only cure possible was like that of the Spitz dog, whose tail they cropped close behind his ears. Mr. Wheeler was not studied up in landscape; but a sound head, a broad nature and good eyes, had educated a taste which always finds its best help in large common sense. He tore out the unsightly wall of growth which hemmed in and dwarfed his grounds With the help of fine fruit trees, and well-grown evergreens, in one season he changed the whole aspect and expression of his place. To-day, for grace of lawn and tree groups, and reaches of tasteful vistas all through its extent, I know of no more perfect specimen of sense-ful planting. But there was no thinning, no half-way work.
His improvement was a new creation in his borders.
Before ending, let me give unction to Mr. Beecher's sentence. It is not the fancy of a man without long and large experience in the garden. He is no mere amateur. His study and work covers more than forty years of his sixty. His rule of " supreme safety " is the conviction forced on a shrewd observer, by years of trial. No man in this country, outside perhaps of some large nursery has had a wider and more varied personal planting than he. Every plant and tree tough enough to stand our Summer's sun and wintry blast, has a home beside him, to cheer and shelter his. I say, therefore, to all, heed well his counsel, of Supreme Safety in a Mulch, Summer and Winter. It is the voice of a Seer in the homeland and the wood.