WITH the first mild day that comes in March the thoughts of all garden lovers, who spend the Winter months in the round of city life, fly away to their gardens. They know that within the brown earth, soon to become soft and warm, the hearts of the plants are beginning to stir, and that watching eyes will see, with each day's sunshine, new tender shoots of green appear. Let us then consider first the order of work to be followed in an old garden, or in one that was laid out and planted the year before.
Wherever gardens were covered in late Autumn with a mulch this should be removed in the Spring, the very day that the frost entirely leaves the ground, otherwise the plants under it may start unnaturally and their early growth be injured by late Spring frosts. When the beds are uncovered, the red shoots of the Paeonies, and the green ones of Tulips, Daffodils, Phlox, and Hollyhocks, will have already put up their heads. All gardeners know the thrill of delight with which this first appearance of life among the flowers is welcomed.
After the beds have been uncovered the whole place must be carefully raked, and all the beds, borders and paths edged, by cutting with a sharp spade or a grass edging knife. Wherever the grass seemed thin the season before, new seed should be sown and thoroughly rolled in while the ground is soft. In about two weeks this new grass should appear; and if some cotton seed meal, which is a most excellent fertilizer for grass, be sown thinly as soon as it is well up, and followed by some wood-ashes along in May, there should be a fine sod in June. If it is a dry Spring, the newly sown grass must be thoroughly watered at least every other day. The various mixtures of lawn grass seed offered by the seedsmen are generally good9 but I have found equal portions each to the bushel of Rhode Island bent, red-top, and Kentucky blue grass to give the best results.
Vase of Lilium Krameri July fourth.
Sweet Peas should be sown as soon as the ground can be worked.
During April and May every hour of every day is filled with work, for the success of the garden in Summer and Autumn depends upon what has been done in these early months.
The climbing Roses should now be carefully gone over, all the dead wood cut out and the loose branches fastened in place. Honeysuckle, Trumpet Creeper, and indeed all the hardy vines should be looked after in the same way. The hybrid-perpetual and other Roses that were not trimmed back in the Autumn should now be pruned, all dead wood and some of the larger branches cut away, and the tops of the hybrid-perpetuals pruned hack so that the hushes are from two to three feet in height. The Ever-blooming Roses can be pruned to a foot in height.
As soon as the Tulips, Hyacinths, and Daffodils are about three inches high, the earth should be gently stirred around them with a small trowel. But beyond this, beds planted with perennials should not be touched in the Spring until the plants have shown themselves above ground, as much injury might be done. When the perennials are well up, some fine, well-rotted manure should be carefully dug in around them with a trowel.
The hardy Chrysanthemums start very early in the Spring, and the best time to transplant them is when the shoots are about three inches high. Lift the old plant carefully, and with the spade divide it into sections having about four shoots to each. The beds to receive them should be in a sunny place, alone a stone wall or against a buiding or in front of a shrubbery, where there is some protection from the frosts of early Autumn.
Trees and shrubs should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. Magnolias of all varieties, hybrid Rhododendrons, mountain Laurel, and Azalea mollis (which does not thrive in cold localities) should only be planted in the Spring. Rhododendrons and Azalea mollis do best in a partly shady location, and should be well mulched and not allowed to suffer from drought.
Hedges of all varieties can be set out in early April. Where the Winters are severe, privet is often winter-killed. This some-times occurs after several years of growth and is a great loss. It is not so much a continual low temperature which kills, as the alternate freezing and thawing of our variable climate. Hemlock spruce, Siberian arbor vitae and honey-locust all make hardy and satisfactory hedges. After a hedge has been planted, the earth over the roots should receive a top dressing of manure.
Unless your gardener thoroughly understands his business, and is also painstaking, you should give personal supervision to the setting out of trees and shrubs.
Shrubs of all kinds require to be set out as carefully as trees. They make the best effect if planted on the edge of the lawn, along fences, as screens about buildings, or in masses in odd corners. They should be well pruned when set out, excepting Rhododendrons, Laurel, Azaleas, and Magnolias, which should never be pruned. After the first year, all trimming must be done immediately after the shrub has ceased blossoming, as the flowers for one year grow on the new wood of the year before.
Driving in Central Park early last spring, I saw men cutting ruthlessly at the Syrin-gas, Lilacs, Deutzias, and other flowering shrubs. I could have wept, and longed to cry "Stop!" The shrubs certainly needed pruning, but it was a short-sighted policy to lose a season's flowers by premature pruning, when by waiting three months the work could be done equally well and with better results.
Pale Lilac Centauria July tenth.
Standard Box and Box-edging should always be set out in early Spring, as they need a season's growth to enable them to endure the first Winter. In case the Box-edging set out the year before has an uneven look, it can be clipped lightly, early in April before growth begins.
English Ivy is an excellent susbtitute for Box-edging as a border for paths or beds. In Paris it is universally grown for this purpose, as all will remember who have peeped through the tall iron fences or an open gateway into the trim court yards and gardens. The plants of Ivy are set about every three feet, and half of the shoots trained each way. The plants must be carefully pegged down, trimmed and kept free from dead leaves. By the end of the second Summer strong plants that have been so planted and well cared for should form a border from eight inches to a foot in width. Where the Winters are too severe for the English Ivy to be grown against buildings and about the trunks of trees, it will survive when grown as a border flat upon the ground, where it can be covered in November with leaves or straw and evergreen branches.