Some years ago I was asked to reply at one of our annual conventions to the query, "Is it advisable for the florist to be in a position to supply to his customers hardy shrubs and trees" The question was not probably just that, but the sense was that. My answer was brief, and certainly not with the knowledge of the business I have today, or to be more modest, which experience has compelled me to absorb. Division of labor is most truly the order of the day, as much in our trade as in others, but" circumstances alter cases.
It would be absurd to think of Mr. Galvin, Mr. "Wienhoeber, or Mr. Thorley talking about the best hedge to plant, or a specialist like Charles D. Ball, or John Burton, or Dailledouze Bros, going out to plant a group of shrubs. Their specialty is all they can do, or all they need do. But in smaller cities, among the men who grow and retail and plant flower gardens, there is a growing demand from their customers that they supply them with hardy roses, hardy vines, hedge plants and shrubs, and if with shrubs why not with ornamental trees?
Perhaps there is no local nurseryman, and if there is he is too busy a man in his shipping season to bother about retail orders. So who is there to supply the local trade? The tree peddler is fast losing ground, his wonderful pictures and himself are now discredited, and the local florist is called, for he is responsible. A tree peddler who has hung out in the same neighborhood for ten years past, once told me that "he did not reckon to make a second sale to the same person." Fancy that, and we expect to make sales to the same people as long as they and we live. We will make our sales of shrubs or vines satisfactory. If failure occurs the first time we try again.
In our growing suburbs and on our residence streets there is an increasing and continuous demand for handsome shrubs and ornamental trees, and if you have the knowledge what to buy and how and when to plant you are throwing away a great chance if you neglect this substantial part of the horticultural profession. If you can't show your men how to prune and plant a shrub, get a foreman who can, but it is an enormous advantage if your early education embraced the spade as well as the pen.
We used to deplore the absence in our northern clime of what are known as the broad-leaved evergreens, such as the sweet bay, arbutus, aucuba and laurestinus that form the shrubberies of temperate Europe, but we believe now that our vegetation in this line is just right as it is, and with our snowed up winter the true evergreen would look too sombre. How beautiful and inspiring in the warm days of spring, after the hibernating days of winter, to see willows blossom, and later the gay scarlet flowers of Pyrus Japonica and the yellow wreathing of forsythia. And then the many tinted leaves of the hardy shrubs. It is an awakening, an annual treat and pleasure to the senses that the monotonous sombre evergreen cannot give. So everything is right as it is. And Japan has to be thanked for contributing a whole host of our best hardy shrubs.
Shrubs, so-called, are always more safely transplanted than trees, for two reasons. They are seldom in the nursery more than two or three years, and even the neglect of transplanting, of which our American nurserymen are woefully guilty, should they be left five or six years in one spot, does not prevent them from making a mass of roots, most of which can be lifted. So the percentage of loss in transplanting shrubs with any ordinary care is very low.
The time of transplanting varies a week or so with the season. With a dry season and early frosts you can plant from middle of October till late in November. If you start early in the fall and the leaves have not fallen off the shrubs, pull or rather rub them off. If they come off easily no harm is done. In spring the transition from winter to summer or hot weather is sometimes very short and affords the planter but a very brief time. Had we a month of cool, moist weather between frost and the bursting of the buds into leaf, I should say that April and even May was the best time of all to move shrubs.
If the buds are breaking and the leaves showing, then the shrubs must be severely cut back. Even if you plant them in the most favorable time and in the best condition, it is necessary to shorten back the shoots. The larger and taller the shrub, the more in proportion should it be cut back. Don't think, and don't let your customer think, there is going to be any eventual loss of growth or size on account of this cutting back. The roots are disturbed, the fine fibrous roots that are the feeders and nourishers of the plant are gone or inactive, the shortened supply of sap goes to the extremities of the shoots and a feeble break or growth occurs at the end of the shoots, the lower buds perish, and then you have bare stems. Insist on it that transplanted shrubs and trees must be pruned more or less according to the loss of roots.
A word here about future pruning. No shrubbery is planted for all time. Perhaps where they do well a mixed belt of shrubs never looks better than from six to ten years after they are planted. Then they crowd each other. Some grow tall and lose their beauty, so a shrubbery is never finished; it is a continual thinning out and replenishing.
In pruning distinguish the difference between those that set their flower buds in the fall and those that flower on the growths of the current year. The lilac is a good type of the former, and if you prune severely in winter and spring you cut away the flower buds. You will readily distinguish the difference in these shrubs, and if they are to be pruned, a good time is just after they have done flowering, when they have time to make more growth and set more flower buds. The latter type is well represented by our hardy roses and the
Hydrangea Paniculata Grandiflora Growing on a Florist's Lawn at Jamestown, N. Y.
Hydrangea paniculata. The more hard back this class of shrubs is pruned the larger and better the flowers.