I CAN NOT impress too strongly upon my readers the importance of ordering their plants and seeds of well-known firms. The best are always the cheapest in the end. Inquiry among friends will generally give the best information as to reliable seedsmen and growers. In ordering shrubs and plants it is important to specify the precise date of delivery, that you may know in advance the day of arrival. The beds or borders should be prepared in advance, so that everything may be set out without delay. Care must be taken that the roots are not exposed to the air and allowed to become dry. It is a good plan, when unpacking a box of plants, to sort them, laying each variety in a pile by itself, covering the roots with the moss and excelsior in which they were packed, and then, if at all dry, to sprinkle thoroughly. Unpacking should, if possible, be done under cover - in the cellar if there be no other place.
Great care must also be taken in setting out plants that ample room be given; as the roots should be well spread out and never doubled up. Do not be afraid of having the hole too big; see that the earth is finely pulverized and well packed about the roots; that the plant is thoroughly soaked, and, if the weather is dry, kept watered for a couple of weeks. If the plants have arrived in good condition and are carefully set out, but few should die. I have never lost a deciduous tree, and frequently, in setting out a hundred shrubs at one time, all have lived.
Wherever there is a fence make a border, wide or narrow according to your space; if wide, - and it may be as much as twelve feet wide, - always make the edge irregular, never straight. Some prefer a hedge at the back of the border. The best effect and quickest screen is made by planting, against the fence at the back of the border, White Lilacs (not the Persian), Syringas, Deutzias and the beautiful new Altheas. Plant these shrubs three feet apart. In good soil they will send up great canes, and in four years time should be six feet high and shut you in from all prying gaze.
Long grass walk, with Foxgloves blossoming in the border June thirteenth.
In planting a border, always keep in mind the fact that it should be blooming from May to November. Put in the plants according to height, the tallest, of course, at the back and the lowest in front, filling the front also with spring-flowering bulbs, Daffodils, Tulips and Narcissi, which will blossom and be over before the plants come on. You will thus have the longest succession of bloom. If the border is quite wide - from four to six feet - and perhaps one hundred and fifty feet long, it will hold a surprising number of plants.
Certain plants, in a long border with a background of shrubs, look best in rows, in spite of all that has been written against it: For instance, Hollyhocks, a long row of plants three deep, broken every ten feet or so by a clump of a dozen, and in front of these a single row of Rudbeckias, broken with clumps of six or so, and the rest of the border planted in masses, more or less according to space, of Phloxes, Larkspur, Lilies, Columbines, Sweet Williams, with every now and then a good clump of Chrysanthemums to blossom when all other flowers are gone.
In filling a border along a rather short path, the plants should always be set in clumps of from six to twelve of a kind. If the border is narrow and has no shrubs or hedge back of it, the effect will be better if the plants do not exceed three feet in height. Omit from such a border Hollyhocks, Rudbeckias, Sunflowers and Cosmos. Sweet Williams, Columbines, Sweet Alyssum, Candytuft, Nasturtiums and Phlox Druvunondii can all be grown as edging for borders.
I have a border, two and a half feet wide and three hundred and fifty feet long, that is a mass of bloom from the middle of May until the last of September.
It may give the reader a suggestion to know its contents. Everything is in rows, the only border in my garden where the planting is done in this way. Along the edge is Narcissus Poeticus; back of Narcissus Poeticus a row of Sweet Williams, pink, white and very dark red; back of the Sweet Williams, Foxgloves; back of the Foxgloves, Peonies and Hydrangea grandiflora planted alternately; and back of these, a row of Hollyhocks. About two feet behind this border, a row of Rudbeckia (Golden Glow) grows like a tall hedge.
When Narcissus Poeticus has finished blooming, the Peonies come on. Before the last Peony has lost its petals, the Sweet Williams (quite two feet high) are in blossom, and the Foxgloves (from three to four feet high) begin to bloom, and last for a month. While these flowers are still lovely, the tall Hollyhocks begin to flower, each plant sending up from three to five stalks. Then, by the time the Hollyhock stalks are cut down, the Hydrangeas, which are trimmed back very severely every autumn, are a mass of white. Meanwhile the Rudbeckias, for quite six weeks, form a yellow background. The illustrations show this row of flowers while the Narcissi, Peonies, Foxgloves, and Hydrangeas are successively in blossom.
Early in June, I transplant into perennial borders, wherever a spot can be found, clumps of Asters, Cosmos and other late annuals, which are beautiful in September and October when most flowers have ceased to bloom.
From September twentieth to October fifteenth is a busy time in the garden. New beds and borders should be made then. The plants in all borders four years old should be lifted, and the beds or borders spaded deeply with plenty of manure, the plants reset, and the young perennials transplanted from the seed-bed into their final places. All perennial plants whose roots are sufficiently large, should now be divided and reset. This fall planting and transplanting should be done at about the time mentioned, for the shrubs and plants must become well rooted before the ground freezes, or they will rarely survive the winter. No matter how rich a bed or border may be, I always have the hole to receive the plant made larger than is necessary, and put a spadeful of manure in the bottom. In transplanting, my man always has a wheelbarrow of this at his side to work from.
If there are bare places in lawns or grass paths, sow grass seed about the twentieth of September, then roll, and the grass will be well rooted before cold weather.
It must be borne in mind that everything possible should be done in the fall. Perennials start early in the spring, and it is a pity, when they are once started, to disturb them. When the frost has finally killed everything, all the dead tops should be cut off at the ground, the dead annuals pulled up, the borders made clean and neat, and, about the last of November, covered with a good layer of stable litter, leaves or straw, I have always found the plants start earlier and do better for this slight protection.
Whenever I tell my inquiring friends of the proper preparation of beds, and the spring top-dressing, and winter covering with manure, there is generally an exclamation of alarm at the quantity used. But much is required to make the garden grow. I call upon the farm for manure when the stable supply is insufficient, and both my farmer-husband and his manager at times look askance. But how can I live unless my garden has what it needs! The farmer-husband looks upon my gardening as a mild species of insanity, and cannot understand why a little garden with a few plants is not enough for any woman. By dint of much showing and explanation through many years, he has acquired a floricultural knowledge which enables him to tell a Rose, Lily, Sunflower and Phlox, and of this knowledge he is proud.
All manure should be drawn out into the garden when the ground is still frozen, in March or earlier, and placed in convenient piles, so that the ground may not be cut up, when soft, by the wagon wheels; and also to facilitate work when the first spring days come, and there are a hundred things to be done. If possible, have a spadeful of well-rotted stable manure stirred into the ground around each shrub and vine in early spring. The result will amply repay you. Save all wood-ashes carefully, under cover, for the garden, and scatter them on the beds and on the grass. Get well-ground fresh bone-meal, and let all plants have only a handful in the spring, and the reward in bloom is great. To have good results from the hardy Chrysanthemums the soil cannot be too rich, and I generally "give them something to eat," as a boy who helps in the garden calls it, about the fifteenth of June and the fifteenth of August.
Care must be taken, in using bone-meal, not to put on too much, and to keep it away from contact with the rootlets.