This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
It is very much to be regretted that landscape gardening as an art, is not more generally understood, as some attention to what it teaches would increase many-fold the pleasures of gardening. It would be to the interest of gardeners and nurserymen to study this art more than they do, as one of the means by which the profession is elevated. They have not only to supply the wants of the community, but be educators as well. Gardeners too often have reason to complain that society takes little note of them. It is often very difficult to make even an intelligent person see the difference between a mere cow boy and an intelligent gardener, and many a good fellow comes back from an interview with some one " who wants a gardener," with a heartburn and feeling of shame at the questions put to him. There are many ways by which these slights may be remedied, and one of them is to show by actual intelligence what one really deserves. Landscape gardening intelligence would especially assert itself. This does not merely consist in making expensive lawns and drives; it also takes in the most judicious arrangements on. the smallest places, and the wise expenditures of small sums, as well as the generous use of large ones.
Everywhere through the country we see the evidence of a desire to have nice gardens and grounds, both by persons of limited means, and by those who have much to spend, and the want of intelligent guidance seems to us more apparent than any other want. In a vast number of cases that we have seen this year, the " landscape gardening " seems to have extended no further than in sticking in a few poplars or maples, or scattering Norway spruces or white pines about, just wherever a hole could be found for them. One might just as well follow the old advice to throw out a bag full of stones, and put in a tree where each stone fell. It would really have a much better effect than much of modern planting results in.
In preparing the grounds, it should be remembered that the grass and trees are not only required to grow therein, but that they must grow well. The top soil of the lot is often covered by the soil from the excavations, trusting to heavy manuring to promote fertility. But this is a too slow and expensive process. The top surface soil should, in all cases, be saved and replaced over the baser soil. Also, where it is necessary to lower a piece of ground, the top soil should be saved to place over again. The depth of the soil is an important matter, both for the trees and the lawn. It should be at least eighteen inches deep. In shallow soils grass will burn out under a few days of hot sun. In a soil eighteen inches deep a lawn will be green in the driest weather. For the sake of the trees, also, the ground should be not only deep, but rich. If from thirty to forty loads of stable manure to the acre could be appropriated, it would be money well spent. Life is too short for it to be an object to wait too long for trees to grow, and planting large ones is an expensive, as well as unsatisfactory business. A tree in a rich and deep soil will grow as much in one year as in five in a poor one.
So in preparing a lawn, it is fortunate that while aiming at the best effects, we are helping our trees also. It is generally best to sow for a lawn than to sod, where much of it has to be done. The edges of the roads must, of course, be sodded, the balance neatly raked over and sown. The best kind of grass to be employed in seeding is a disputed point, and it will, no doubt, depend in a great measure on the locality. Philadelphia and northward, the perennial rye grass is excellent. It commences to grow very early, and has a peculiarly lively, shining green. South of Philadelphia it is very liable to get burned out in summer, and the Kentucky blue grass would be much better. It is much the best to have but one kind of grass for a lawn, provided it is suited to the locality. A mixture of kinds is apt to give a spotted and variegated character, not at all pleasing. Some people like to see white clover growing thickly in a lawn, and others object to anything but green. However, if a good grass-rake is employed freely in summer time, the heads of these flowers may be kept from expanding. Where there is a prospect of a month of growing weather, lawns may still be sown with grass seed, - the clover, where used, to be kept for sowing in April or March next.
A small quantity of rye should be thinly sown with the grass, which, by the shade it affords, will prevent the grass from being thrown out by the frost. The rye must, of course, be closely cut in the spring, to allow the grass to get ahead of it. Planting of deciduous trees and shrubs may be proceeded with this month to great advantage, and next month well sheltered from cold winds, wherever the winter is not likely to be very severe. In cold, bleak spots, or where the temperature is likely to be below 15° above zero, planting had better end with November. The risk of loss from fall planting, even in unfavorable places, is much lessened by severe pruning or shortening in.
When the leaves have fallen, many will commence pruning. Properly, summer is the right time to commence pruning; the winter should be the time the job commenced in summer should finish. The object of pruning in the winter season is to impart vigor to the tree, or to cause branches to push next season strongly and vigorously in such parts as it may be desirable to have them. A tree which is already growing very vigorously, and is shaped according to our best wishes, can receive no advantage from pruning now. Any branches that cross each other, or that are otherwise misplaced, may, however, be cut out. Any trees that have arrived at maturity, and have some parts apparently weakened or decaying, should, on the other hand, have a thorough overhauling now. All scars made by the sawing off of any of the larger branches, should be painted over to keep out the damp, and to preserve it sound till the new bark shall grow completely over it. This is a very important matter. Many fine trees are prematurely lost through this neglect. The wood decays, water enters, and the tree soon becomes hollow and worthless.
We always use paint, but others use gum-shellac dissolved in alcohol, a bottle of which they always keep on hand, ready for the purpose.
This is also a good time to cut away any trees that it may be desirable to take down. When a place is first planted, many common trees are set in with the choicer ones, with the design of taking them away as the better ones grow. These, when becoming thick, should be gradually thinned out.
Hedges, also, will need attention. Those a year planted should be pruned where it is desired to make them shoot vigorously and freely. Older hedges that have been pruned properly in summer will need little now besides trimming slightly to preserve their desired shape. If an old one is in such a condition that it seems to require a good winter pruning, it may be set down as good for nothing, and not worth further attention. The better plan would be cut it down to the ground and let it shoot again for a better summer treatment in future. It is very important that no weeds or litter of any kind should be left near hedges. Under such protection mice harbor, and feed on the plants, often to the utter destruction of the hedge. Those who keep their hedge-rows clean, never, so far as our observations go, suffer from mice. The clippings of hedges and small prunings of hedges may be put to a very good use in improving the soil. Underdraining is now universally admitted to be one of the best means of permanently improving land. Where tiles cannot be conveniently had, small stones or similar waste rubbish may be thrown in the bottom of the ditches, and over these loose materials the prunings of the season placed thinly, but firmly, before throwing in the soil.
They keep the soil out of the drainage, and, as they decay, absorb a great quantity of moisture, which, in a dry time, gives off a great portion again to the dryer soil. Even where tile are used, they may be employed to advantage.