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.
There is no doubt the fashion now common of clipping evergreens till they look like the little mossy toys children play with, is an abomination not to be tolerated in tasteful grounds. But it is not wise to abhor all trimmed trees. It is the fate of all good reforms to be run to extremes. The taste for the natural in gardening is one of these good reforms exaggerated. We do indeed often meet with wild spots that are charming. A huge pile of rocks, with ferns and mosses spring ing from any nook or cranmy that will catch a little soil, shaded by trees, and these again draped and festooned by hanging vines; or it may be clump of wild bushes on mossy banks, alongside of which gurgling streams or babbling brooks pursue their everlasting way - all these and other lovely snatches of nature's art in landscape adornment, are always to be admired - but gar den art is another matter. It is not only that we wish to get perfect specimens of natural beauty; we wish further to show that we can make nature do more than she would ; we love to make her bend to our whims and fancies, and then garden art will ever be more than mere nature can give us.
There is beauty in a wild meadow with its buttercups and daisies, and the tall grass bending before the breeze like the ocean waves; but no less beautiful is the closely shaven lawn. The hedge, beautiful as the wild, wayward plant might have been in some lonely and neglected spot, is no less beautiful under the artistic shears of the hedge trimmer. In like manner there should be no objection to trimmed trees, when there is evidently an ideal of beauty underlying the gardener's art. Mere resemblances to beasts or buildings without any other meaning are usually failures. Trees clipped into fancies, without any ideal beyond an effort at resemblance, caused the reaction against all clipping. But what is there against an arbor formed by the drawing together of the tops of half a dozen Linden or Osage Orange trees, and then to have windows or doors cut as they may be desired through the leafy mass? Why may we not have clipped archways over gates, clipped avenues, clipped screens, and even clipped trees when they are trained to shapes in keeping with some of the surroundings? There seems no more reasonable objection to clipping trees and shrubs judiciously as a genuine part of good garden taste, than to clipping our hair, and it is to be hoped that there will be more of it seen in good garden work than there has been.
All this is suggested by the fact that spring is the best time for trimming evergreen hedges and other plants that it is at all desirable to trim. Trimming should be left till all danger of cold winds are gone, but the sooner before the young growth is made the better.
Ornamental hedges judiciously introduced into a small place, add greatly to its interest. No easier method offers whereby to make two acres of garden out of one in the surveyor's draught-The Arbor-vitae (Chinese and American), Hemlock, Holly, Beech, Hornbeam, Pyrus japonica, Privet and Buckthorn may be applied to this purpose.
Shrubs are not nearly enough employed in planting small places. By a judicious selection a place may be had in a blooming state all the year ; and they, besides, give it a greater interest by their variety, than is obtained by the too frequent error of filling it up with but two or three forest trees of gigantic growth. Plant thickly at first, to give the place a finished appearance, and thin out as they grow older. Masses of shrubs have a fine effect on a small place. The center of such masses should be filled with evergreen shrubs, to prevent a naked appearance in the winter season.
Herbaceous plants do badly if several years in one place. Every second year, at this season, take up and divide them. Sow as soon as possible some hardy annuals. The earlier they are in the ground after the frost leaves it, the finer they bloom.
This is the proper season to lay down box-edgings. To make them properly, the soil along the line of the edge should be first dug, and then trod very hard and firm, so that it may sink evenly together, or the line will present ugly-looking undulations in time. Rooted plants should be employed; cuttings are sometimes used, but frequently die out in patches ; a good edge can rarely be made from them. The plants should be set pretty low down, leaving the plants, when set, one or two inches above the soil, according to their stockiness. Sometimes box edgings are laid around beds formed in grass. When so, a few inches of clear ground should be kept clean between the grass and the box, or the weeds will be so intermixed with the box, after awhile, as to render it a nuisance.
Walks should now have their spring-dressing - the verges cut, and a thin coating of new gravel laid on. Before putting on the new, harrow up the face of the old gravel with a strong iron-toothed rake. Roll well after the new is laid on.
This is particularly the month to pay attention the hardy annuals. The sooner they are sown, the finer they will flower; that is, provided they are really hardy. Tender annuals, such as Globe amaranthus, Balsams, etc, rot if they are sown before the weather becomes quite warm. The seedsmen's catalogues usually distinguish these classes for their customers. In sowing annuals, the soil should be slightly stirred with a broad-bladed knife or trowel; and after the seeds are sown, they should have a little soil sprinkled over them, about one-sixth of an inch deep, according to the size of the seeds; barely enough to cover is all that is required. Failures usually arise from the seeds being buried too deeply. Failures also frequently occur from the soil with which the seeds are covered being too stiff or clayey, "baking" after a rain. Light sandy earth or decayed vegetable loam from the woods should be employed for the purpose. Stick a peg in where the seeds are sown, so that when turning out the plants in May from pots, the annuals will not be disturbed. Also take care to preserve the names of the kinds.
This is a great part of the interest in flower-garden.