This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
"Spring! spring! beautiful spring! Hitherward cometh, like hope on the wing; Pleasantly looketh on streamlet and flood, Raiseth a chorus of joy in the wood; Toucheth the bud, and it bursts into bloom, Biddeth the beautiful rise from the tomb; Blesseth the heart like a heavenly thing, - Spring! spring! the beautiful spring!"
We quite agree with those writers who have eulogised March, notwithstanding his boisterousness, and an occasional ill-natured practical joke played off by him on our pet flowers. With a little caution in relation to tender productions, March will do us no harm, while his approach will be hailed by the lover of nature, as bringing with it all precious and hopeful things. "If March is a rude and somewhat boisterous month, possessing many of the characteristics of winter, yet it awakens sensations perhaps more delicious than the two following spring months, for it gives us the first announcement and taste of spring; and there is something in the freshness of the soil, in the mossy bank, the balmy air, the voices of birds, the early and delicious flowers, that we have seen and felt only in childhood and in spring." All our readers will agree with Mr. Howitt in this passage, except that this year "the taste of spring" has come much earlier; for at the time we now write, the 9th of February, the garden is most delightfully gay with spring-flowers. On the first of the month the Yellow Crocus was in full bloom, and now the purple and white are ready to expand their petals on the first sunny day.
Aconites and Snowdrops are gone off; and if no severe weather intervene, Hyacinths and early Tulips will be in flower before these lines are in the hands of our readers. Happy are those amateurs who have liberally furnished their garden with spring bulbs! To them the early months of the year will be as interesting as the most genial and gorgeous days of summer.
Flower-beds should be kept as light as possible, by frequent raking of the soil on the surface; this will conduce to neatness, and will serve as a protection to advancing bulbs. We have gone over our beds with a good sprinkling of leaf-mould and well-rotted manure, reduced to a fine soil; this will protect tender things in this forward season, and may be done in March with advantage. When the soil is pulverised, frost has less power over it; it is also raised considerably in altitude by being properly loosened, and thus acts as a defence. When Crocuses, Snowdrops, and other early flowers have done flowering, and the space they occupy is wanted for something else, bad gardeners are in the habit of cutting off or pulling up the foliage, leaving the bulbs underground destitute of lungs, by which to inhale solar and other influences, and to perfect their growth. It must be remembered, that as long as there are healthy leaves on any plant, they are doing good service; and therefore the foliage of bulbs should be allowed to wither before the roots are disturbed.
As this leaves the bed in an untidy condition longer than is desirable, the best plan is, to take up the bulbs carefully, soil and all, and remove them to a sunny place in the kitchen-garden, until they may be stored away with safety.
The stock intended for filling the beds in the summer months must be looked over, and kept in a shrubby, compact mode of growth; each plant should be treated so as to develop its energies fully, that it may be prepared to start into bloom as soon as it is turned out into the parterre. Beds filled with Verbenas, Pelargoniums, etc. often have a miserable appearance for weeks after they are arranged, because the plants are crowded together and neglected until April or May. If treated as greenhouse plants, they will at once convert an empty bed into one of great beauty. They should be gradually exposed to the open air, that they may experience no perceptible change when placed in the situations they are destined to occupy. Annuals should now be selected and sown. A gentle heat, with a small frame, is the best mode of raising them; but they may be sown at once in the beds, if covered with a flower-pot in very cold weather.
The Bury, Luton. Henry Burgess.