This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
When we spoke recently of pruning trees, it is hoped the frequently seen hacking of street trees was not understood. In most of our large cities, street trees have disappeared, in some cases because of gas at the roots through escapes from the pipes; in other cases because large flat flag-stones have been placed close up to the trunks instead of leaving a few feet open and covered by an iron or wooden grating; in some others because horses have been allowed to gnaw the bark off; but in most instances from the annual visit of the tree-pruner. A tree seems to grow very strong after its head has been cut away: but the effort really weakens its constitution, and every experienced person knows that such annually pruned trees die young. This pruning generally is without any reason, - but sometimes it is a necessity from an improper kind of tree having been selected.
Some people must have " fast growing " trees, at any sacrifice; but when they get so tall that only the chimney pot is shaded, they have to cut back so as to make a leafy growth to screen the parlor windows or front door. Again trees are often selected for comparatively narrow side walks, which naturally make trunks eight or nine feet round when full grown, and there is not room to spare for them. The annual trimming of the top, by weakening the constitution' prevents the increase of girth in the trunk, and thus longevity has to be sacrificed through this early mistake. Much of these mistakes in planting comes from reliance on tree peddlers, or from nursery growers who are not well versed in their profession. Believing that all people want a great deal of bulk for a very little cash, they naturally run on trees that will make three or four inches of girth in a couple of years, rather than one that will take four or five to reach the same size. They get money sooner, and the customer pays less.
But all people are not like this; there are many who want permanently good things, if they only know what they are, and there are no greater benefactors to this class of people than writers like the Ellwangers, Bar-rys, Parsons, etc., who have of late given a world of information about ornamental trees. Also, we must have a word of caution against the evergreen pruner. In our mind as we write, we have Germantown with its immense number of tasteful and well kept places, but with one at least in which are some hundreds of Norway Spruces all cut into a sort of egg-shaped figure, and looking for all the world like the green moss-made toys which children have about Christmas time. For what purpose this unusual expense is a mystery: for there is not the merit of art in this clipping, as is often claimed for European tree trimmers. If for instance, some of the trees were cut like the following English Yew, which we take from Gardening Illustrated, we might have some praise for the primer, whatever we might think of the tastefulness of his work.
See cut below.
We are not opposed to all this kind of pruning, however, as some garden authors are. No doubt a "naturally" grown tree is very pretty, - perhaps nothing in nature is more so. But a close Irish Yew or Juniper under some circumstances, is as pretty as a spreading one, and there is no reason why we should not produce by the knife, what we admire when no knife is used to produce a similar result. No one objects to a neatly pruned hedge, - to a pruned arch over a small entrance gate. In many cases pruned plants have a wonderful effect. We confess a liking for these things sometimes, - but when over done they are repulsive. The best time for all evergreen pruning is after all danger of cold winter winds are gone. We have taken so much room with this important matter of pruning, that we must close by brief hints only on other important spring matters. Still, in regard to pruning we may say that many delay pruning shrubbery until after severe weather passes, so as to see what injury may be done, - but with March all should be finished, - taking care not to trim severely such shrubs as flower out of last year's wood, as for instance, the Wiegela - while such as flower from the spring growth, as the Althsea, Mock Orange, etc., are benefited by cutting back vigorously.
Those which flower from young wood, cut in severely to make new growth vigorous. Tea, China, Bourbon and Noisette Roses are of tins class. What are called annual flowering roses, as Prairie Queen and so on, require much of last year's wood to make a good show of flowers. Hence, with these, thin out weak wood, and leave all the stronger.
To make handsome, shapely specimens of shrubs, cut them now into the forms you want, and keep them so by pulling out all shoots that grow stronger than the others during the Summer season.
Graft trees or shrubs where changed sorts are desirable. Any lady can graft. Cleft grafting is the easiest. Split the stocks, cut the scion like a wedge, insert in the split, so that the bark of the stock and scion meets; tie a little bast bark around it, and cover with Trowbridge's grafting wax, and all is done: very simple when it is understood, and not hard to understand.
If flowers have been growing in the ground for many years, new soil does wonders. Rich manure makes plants grow, but they do not always flower well with vigorous growth. If new soil cannot be had, a wheelbarrow of manure to about every fifty square feet will be enough. If the garden earth looks grey or yellow, rotten leaves - quite rotten leaves - will improve it. If heavy, add sand. If very sandy,add salt - about half a pint to fifty square feet. If very black or rich from previous year's ma-nurings, use a little lime, about a pint, slacked, to fifty square feet.
If the garden be full of hardy perennial flowers, do not dig it, but use a fork, and that not deeply. Dig garden ground only when the soil is warm and dry. Do not be in a hurry, or you may get behind. When a clot of earth will crush to powder as you tread on it, it is time to dig - not before.
If perennial plants have stood three years in one place, separate the stools, replanting one-third, and give the balance to your neighbor who has none.
Box edgings lay well now. Make the ground firm and level, plant deep, with tops not more than two inches above ground.
Roll the grass well before the softness of a thaw goes away. It makes all smooth and level. In planting trees remember our repeated advice to use the pruning knife freely.
The rule for pruning at transplanting is to cut in proportion to apparent injury to roots. If not much the worse for removal, cut but little of the top away. Properly pruned, a good gardener will not have the worst case of a badly dug tree to die under his hands. In a nursery, where these matters are well understood, trees "never die".
A TRIMMED YEW TREE.