This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Just now the newspaper wits see in Oscar Wilde a shining mark. They have their fun at the aesthetic craze, and their little giggles go the rounds. Perhaps the philosophy of Mr. Wilde has been run to the extreme by would-be fashionable people. There are always some whose cravings for social distinction outrun good sense - idiotic people, whose only notions of taste and culture are to do that which some one else does, and whose efforts naturally result in poor counterfeits of excellent originals. So far as the jokes of the scribes, and the satire of "Patience" hit these people, no one need care who is hurt. But this ought not to blind sensible people as to the real objects of Mr. Wilde's work. He sees that the world is beautiful, and that to join with nature in the culture of beauty, is the noble work of man. But there is a time and place for all things. It does not follow because we assent to this principle, we need discuss whether a pigsty should be built after the Norman or the Grecian style; whether the street-sweeper should study whether his mud pile would be better in a conical than in a square heap ; or whether a lady with a sunflower on her bosom is more becomingly ornamented than if a bunch of humble violets occupied the honored place.
But it does follow that the humblest home is more enjoyable, and the humblest person more agreeable, when in proper time and in proper place, beauty is cultivated as it should be. Especially is this principle acceptable to gardening people. The vines and climbers around the cottage door ; the window-sill and the window-jambs crowded with humble pot plants, or bearing the brackets or hanging-baskets, from which the trailing plants depend; the little front yard, with its roses, shrubs, or choice dwarf tree - any of these compared for an instant with the miserable hovels too often seen, is enough to make one embrace the most aggravated forms of Wildeism, stupid conventionalities and all, in preference to the utter barrenness so profusely observed in every walk around. Even the best of us may do more in garden beauty than we do; and, very often, at little cost of either money or of time. Let us, at this season of the year, give a little thought to our surroundings. The little taste displayed in even arranging properly a few native flowers from the woods, will not be lost on the character of the planter.
He will himself feel that he is a better man after his work is done, and his neighbors will think the more of him that he gives some attention to this aesthetic work.
With this seasonable hint as to the wisdom of garden adornment, we may add a few on mere practical matters of detail. The garden is made up in the main of trees and shrubs, lawn and flower beds. Of tree-planting we have said so much in the past that even the "line upon line, precept on precept," for the necessity of which there has been so many sermons preached, seems stale doctrine. It may, however, be as well to say that to prune out the weak shoots, leave the strong ones, and press the earth about the roots as firmly as it is possible to press it, are among the secrets of successful planting.
Not to let the roots dry for an instant between taking up and planting, everybody knows, but everybody don't do it; in fact, everybody deceives himself. We have seen this distinguished individual leave the tops of trees exposed to the sun, with a mat or straw thrown over the roots; and think all was right, - or heel in for a day or two, by just throwing a little dirt over the roots. This is a little good; but everybody's fault is, that although this may be ten minutes of good, he expects to get ten hours, or even ten days' value out of it, and thus he suffers more than if he had done nothing, because he forgets that the branches evaporate moisture from the roots in a dry wind, and the juices go from the roots through the branches, very nearly as well as directly to the air from the roots themselves. So with heeling in. The soil is thrown in lightly, or, at most, just "kicked" down. "It is only temporary," very few of the roots come in contact with the soil. They can draw in no moisture to supply the waste of evaporation, and thus they stay day after day, - everybody satisfied because he sees the roots covered, - really worse than if they had been exposed. We have no doubt that more trees are lost from imperfect heeling in than from any other cause whatever.
Of course, if the tops be covered as well as the roots, there is less waste of moisture and more chance of success.
Place broad-leaved evergreens where they will get no sun in winter, yet away from where the roots of trees will make the ground dry in summer. Deep soil, but shallow planting, is all important for them. In transplanting, take care of the roots. Good roots are of more importance than good " balls." Balls of earth are useful in keeping fibres moist; but don't sacrifice the best fibres five or six feet from the tree for the few fibres in the ball at the base. When roots are rather dry, after filling a portion of soil, pour in water freely. After all has settled away, fill in lightly the balance of the soil, and let it rest for a few days. This is as a remedy, not as a rule; for watering this way cools the soil, ultimately hardens it, and in other respects works to the injury of the transplanted tree.
In your flower-beds, if the plants sickened last year, change the soil. Renovated earth is renewed health to consumptive flowers. Sow Annuals as soon as the ground is warm. Too early sowing and deep covering rots seeds very often. This is frequently the cause of one's seeds being "bad." Prepare flowers in their winter quarters for the summer campaign, by gradually inuring them to the air before setting out finally. Set out when all danger of frost is over. Don't set out a plant with a dry ball; but water well while in the pot an hour or so before.