This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A gardener writes to know what he shall do with his situation. Three years ago when he engaged he found a place of four acres, mostly lawn, part vegetable garden, and three greenhouses. He was to have one man to assist him, a house to live in free of rent, coals, and such vegetables as might be raised over and above the wants of the proprietor, and fifty dollars a month in cash. After he was there a year he was told they could give him only forty dollars a month, and to this he agreed. Last Fall they told him he must get along without the extra man, and he said he would try. Now they say for the next year they shall give him only thirty dollars a month, and he must do the best he can without anyone to help him. He does not want to throw himself out of work and his family without food, and though no better off than a laboring man without any horticultural knowledge, had he not better stay on so long as they are personally satisfied with him? Of course we can offer no advice in a case like this, but it brings us back to a thought we have often given expression to, that people often make gardens without any thought of the after expense.
The owner of the place our correspondent refers to cannot possibly take any pleasure in that place.
To keep in a pleasurable condition, a place such as our correspondent describes requires at least an annual expenditure of $1,200 to $1,500 to make it creditable, and no one should think of starting such a place unless he can see clearly that he will have that amount to spend on it without interfering in any way with other affairs. Very much may be done to have a place neat and nice by what are called handy laborers. Men who can mow, dig and plant, and look after an occasional horse, at an expense of three or four hundred a year, can often be found who can make a fair sized place look neat and clean; and if the owner himself has taste, and can mark out clearly what he wants, even creditable gardening can often be accomplished, and the fruits, vegetables and flowers raised between whiles and used in the family will pay for the man's wages. But where anything like garden taste or garden beauty is aimed at, very much garden expense must be expected and provided for. Our experience is that half the gardens where gardeners are kept are considerably too large; they are found to be too expensive. Instead of cutting clown half the work, annoying reductions are made, which only aggravate the gardener and take out of him all ambition to excel.
He simply "puts in his time," as our correspondent probably will, till something better turns up. And the same holds true of gardens where no gardener is kept, - where the owner and his family do their own work, with the occasional help of a laborer to do the rougher work. They find before the year is gone that they have marked out too much to do, and the neglect is worse than if nothing had been done. At this season of the year one may profitably contemplate what they- propose to do in gardening, but be sure not to plan out more than can be very easily done.
We are glad to repeat what we have before had occasion to refer to with praise, namely, the growing tendency to have pretty flowers in one's gardens, as well as carpets and mosaics of colored leaves. We do not go so far as to condemn this style of gardening completely, as some of our contemporaries do, but it certainly has done much to destroy the chief pleasure of a garden, which is flower culture. In real flower gardening we have new pleasures with every opening bud; in carpet and "mass" gardening we have something to surprise our friends when they visit us, but very little more. There is no objection to a little of it, only do not let it crowd out the pretty flowers.
In the Southern States, where our magazine has many friends, the first of February finds planting time arrived. In these localities it is not so much what trees or shrubs will stand the Winter, but what shall we plant that will endure our hot, dry Summers? In almost all these cases the catalogues of local nurserymen will supply the needed information, except in the cases of new things that may be so far untried. It will pay everyone at this season to get the lists of the best nurseries that are near to them. As a general rule Pittosporums, Japan Privet, Euonymus, Gardenias, Pomegranates, Crape Myrtles, and above all the Magnolia grandiflora, are the favorite evergreens for the central and lower Southern States, while such things as Rhododendrons and coniferae generally, except those of the Cupressinae class, are unsuited to a Southern summer climate.
In Northern gardens we do not plant much till March, though the weather may be open. Here much use is now made of the dwarfer kinds of evergreens. Since the introduction of so many golden forms, all of which have proved more hardy than the silver tints, they are grown in masses, and make excellent features. The common evergreen Ivy, with its numerous varieties, are grown in masses for bordering. "When growing up against the walls of our houses, they are often injured or destroyed in the Winter; but when trained, or left to trail on the ground, dry leaves, with some brush on to keep them from blowing away, make an efficient protection. The new Euonymus radicans variegata, is an excellent thing to match with Ivy grown in this way.
Every one likes to have Hollies and Magnolias, but they have the reputation of being hard to transplant. But if cut in severely when moved they always do well, and are amongst the most successful of transplanted trees. This little hint about pruning at transplanting may be applied to most things. There are very few kinds of trees that are not benefited by the practice, though often trees will get through very well without it.
It is sufficient to dig garden soil only when the garden is warm and dry. Do not be in a hurry, or you may get behind. When a clot of earth will crush to powder when you tread on it, it is time to dig-not before.
If perennial plants have stood three years in one place, separate the stools, replacing one-third, and give the balance to your neighbor who has none.