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.
In starting on our New Year's journey, it may be well to remind the reader that gardening is to be followed chiefly for the pleasure we derive from it. Pretty flowers and handsome trees, beautiful lawns and artistically designed grounds, are the essential elements of gardening. As in other rational enjoyments, the more intelligence and mental culture we throw into the work, the greater enjoyment does gardening afford. At the present time there is something of a revival in true gardening taste. Works on art in gardening, publishers tell us, are in more than usual request, and fine books like "Scott's Suburban Home Grounds," have a more than usual sale. Magazines which in years gone by, would busy themselves only with how shall we eat, and what shall we wear, now find some of their most popular articles are those which relate to garden culture and garden art. We cannot forbear repeating what we have taken several occasions to say of late, that there is a great want of intelligent landscape gardeners of business tact and talent to meet with this increasing demand. Many, to be sure, have had little encouragement of late years. When a chance has offered for good work, it is disheartening to find some one engaged in it, utterly ignorant of what good gardening requires.
But the good landscape gardener must remember that this is the fate of all professions ; lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and other professions, have a dozen incompetents for every one fit for his business. The intelligent man must wait for his chance to show what he is. There are few large cities now in the Union but would welcome an intelligent landscape gardener among them. In some places where there are already a few, there is room for many more. It will also be well for those who are about to make or improve their gardens, to remember that true garden taste ought to save and not spend money. It is often sad to pass by places being "laid out" by some bungler, where hundreds of dollars are being wasted, under the name of "practical gardening." It will be money saved to try to find out the man who understands what fine landscape gardening is.
We have often stated that one of the grievous errors of American gardening is that gardens are too large. American fortunes are not so steady. We have a succession of years of prosperity, and among other luxuries form a good garden ; but it is hardly put in fair order before we find that its necessary expenses are too large for our income and the establishment runs down. We see these places everywhere. Here are gardens which ought to have half a dozen men to keep them properly, cut down perhaps to one laborer, besides the gardener; and the gardeners engaged are of the cheapest kind, and for all grudgingly paid. It should never be forgotten that it costs something to keep up a garden as well as to maintain horses and carriages. We build stables, and buy fine animals, but we well know that this is but the beginning of an annual cost. A garden must be viewed in the same light. Many lose interest in their gardens through getting poor gardeners. There is nothing new, no taste, no enjoyment. Far better to get some one of superior education and pay him well, though we have but half the extent of ground, or a much less number of greenhouses.
We should advise all our friends to cut down their large gardens, employ with the difference only first-rate men at a fair price, and it will be wonderful how much the interest in the garden will grow.
Some judgment is required in pruning flowering shrubs, roses, etc., although it is usual to act as if it were one of the most common-place operations. One of the most clumsy of the hands is commonly set with a pair of sheers, and he goes through the whole place, clipping off everything indiscriminately. Distinction should be made between those flowering shrubs that make a vigorous growth and those which grow weakly; and between those which flower on the old wood of last year, and those which flower on the new growth of next season, as the effect of pruning is to force a strong and vigorous growth. Those specimens that already grow too strong to flower well, should be only lightly pruned; and, in the same individual, the weakest shoots should be cut in more severely than the stronger ones. Some things like the Mock Orange, Lilacs and others, flower on the wood of last year - to prune those much now, therefore, destroys the flowering; while such as Altheas, which flower on the young wood, cannot be too severely cut in, looking to that operation alone.
Among the prettiest effects in gardening is the combinations of various plants. A mass of Hollyhocks for instance, in front of an evergreen is singularly pretty. In the fall of the year the colored leaves of the Andromeda arborea, give great beauty to a mass of Rhododendrons, as also do Chrysanthemums and Japan Anemones in the fall of the year. There are positions in gardens where hardy Cactuses, and such artificial things as Yuccas, look particularly beautiful. It is the test of true garden culture, that one is able to bring out fine effects from these simple and well known things.