This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
After the flower-garden is cleared, Tulips, Hyacinths, Narcissus, and plenty of Crocus, may be planted. The different colours arranged effectually, such aa white edging purple or blue, yellow round purple, and vice verss gives the beds a very gay appearance in spring. Snowdrops and all the usual foliage plants may be placed for winter effect as early as can be done. Vermin are troublesome to Crocus. Red-lead placed over the bulbs at planting-time may keep mice and rats in check for a time. Shrub-planting can now be carried on with every advantage, preparing the ground by trenching, using good loam (for kinds which it suits) next the roots. Making moderately firm and staking securely must have attention, as winds, having full power over newly-planted trees or shrubs, soon bring them to grief. A good watering before the earth and mulching is finished round the roots may be all that is necessary in the way of watering, but if the air should keep dry and no dews should fall, syringing overhead may be necessary; but we have no faith in the continued cooling drenchings at top and root which are recommended by some. Keeping the roots well up in damp positions is of great importance.
Where positions are elevated and the soil dry, a basin of soil to keep the rain from running off the roots should be formed; but this is not likely to be necessary before spring. Rhododendrons and all peat-loving plants require plenty of moisture and to be kept cool at the roots. However, where stagnant water remains, no shrubs will be safe in severe winters.
The usual storing and protecting of greenhouse and other plants should be completed, if not already done. Wet and cold may not tell on them at the time, but when the energies of the roots are called into action at the active growing season, the evils of autumn drenchings will then be apparent. This is more applicable to Indian Azaleas, Heaths, Epacris, and all kinds of New Holland plants. Confined damp air in structures is another great evil to be avoided - clean pots, clear drainage, and healthy surfacings are of great importance. Auriculas should now be kept free from decaying leaves; keep healthy clean surfaces, stand the pots on a hard bottom, give water seldom, but not to neglect the plants with it, and the lights only used to keep off rain. Airing and watering with the same care are necessary for Mignonette; dampness and close air soon destroy it. Violets placed in pits should have plenty of air when they have taken root. Sprinkling overhead is good for them when mornings are dry. Chrysanthemums which have been objects of great attention through the season should not be kept on short allowance now; plenty of healthy manure-water is good for them.
Plants for winter-flowering should soon be taken where they can be kept from wet and cold; even though hardy, they are liable to suffer from exposure if they are in pots. They might, if a pit or other structure is not at command, be placed full in the sun on coal-ashes. When the leaves of the deciduous kinds die off, the plants may be placed in a shed or anywhere. This applies to Deutzias, Lilacs, and Hardy Azaleas. Thorns, Double Peaches, and suchlike, Lily of the Valley, Roses, Sweetbriars, Dielytras, Delphiniums, or any others of a similar character, may also be looked after now. Clean pots, fresh drainage, and healthy surfacing are necessary when successful forcing is expected. Some kinds of Roses which have been cut down and made fresh growth will soon be showing flower-buds. When the earliest bulbs have filled the pots with roots, they may be taken to a gentle heat, and plenty of light given. M. T.
Fruit-gathering must now be carried on expeditiously, handling Pears with great care, otherwise they will show bruises and decay quickly. The store-room should be perfectly dry, well aired for some time after the fruit has been gathered in, and then kept close and dark. Fruit-tree planting may be commenced as early as the trees are in condition, and that is when the leaves are about to fall: pure loam is necessary when a permanent tree is wanted, and the roots should be spread out 6 inches under the surface, covering them up with good soil and a quantity of litter to keep out frost. Though fruit-trees are often planted as late as April, they, as a rule, do best when planted in autumn, and a season's growth sometimes is gained. The distance apart at which fruit-trees are generally planted is varied according to circumstances; when variety is wanted, they can be planted very close, and lifted to keep them to size and in a bearing state. Extra numbers may be planted to be kept as "reserves" for planting up space where old trees are worn out in the course of a few seasons. Nothing should be allowed to stand which is to be of no use. Gooseberries and Currants which are not doing well should be lifted and transplanted to fresh ground.
When plots of them begin to die off piecemeal, it seems a pity to make them up with young plants, which will likely do little good; large quantities of soil may help them, but planting in fresh ground is always attended with good results. "We have seen bushes almost worthless become vigorous when thus removed and bear abundantly. Wood on wall-trees should not be allowed to grow after this, as it would only tend to make the tree liable to be injured by severe weather. Thorough ripening is very important in this damp climate. We have already dug under a portion of the roots of young Plum and Apricot trees which were growing over-luxuriantly; the wood is now becoming firm, and the leaves are stiff. A number of older trees have been examined to get the leading roots out of the cold subsoil, and a good mulching of rotten manure and strong loam well mixed will be spread over the surface to protect the fibre near the top, and induce roots to form upwards. When roots grow down into cold wet clay, all hopes of plenty of fruit or healthy trees are at an end.
While the leaves continue to fall, lawns and pleasure-grounds will be untidy, and where they cannot be kept swept up daily, it is well not to let them collect in quantities, as is generally the case, to disfigure the grass. While the wind can move them about, little harm is done. If mowing has yet to be performed, it should never be done closely at this season. Worm-casts will be very troublesome in some places. Lime-water will help to get rid of the worms. Rolling should be done frequently to both grass and walks. If flower-gardens are yet untouched by frost, much trimming and clearing of the beds will be necessary; high keeping will always do much to make the garden interesting. Lift all plants of value before they are cut down by frost. One can now see the value of hardy plants in the flower-garden. Where there are quantities of foliage plants in the reserve garden, a very tidy appearance can be made through the dreary winter months when such is most required.
Bulb-planting may be performed as soon as the soil can be prepared. All bulbs, though hardy, do all the better when protected from frost. Beautiful designs can be made in the beds with the ever-useful Crocus class. The colours are so numerous and bright, and they are very easily managed; mixing them with foliage plants, either in masses or bands of different colours, gives a gay appearance. All bulbs do well in rich soil well drained. Tulips are generally planted in November. Ranunculuses and Anemones are generally planted in January or February, but the ground for them may be prepared at any time by deep digging and manuring. Hyacinths, Narcissus, Crocuses, Jonquils, Irises, Crown Imperials, Scillas are among the leading kinds for present planting, and all these may be grown in pots of sizes, singly, or in numbers of threes, fives, or sevens in each pot. When they are taken from under the old tan, ashes, or whatever has been placed over them, they should be kept well aired, and no frost allowed to touch them. When the pots of rich soil are filled with roots, plenty of manure water may be given.
When forcing is done, very strong heat should not be given, as weakly and worthless flowers would only be the result.
The present will be a busy time getting the plants which have stood outside under glass. All this work should be completed as early as circumstances will allow. Chrysanthemums should be staked, the pots washed and surfaced with good rich material, and be taken to their blooming quarters; or if for conservatory work, they may be placed under the shelter of an orchard-house or similar structure till wanted. Keep Heaths and all hardwooded greenhouse plants where they can have plenty of fresh air. Let no dirty pots be staged, and examine drainage for worms; and the mischief they may have done should be put right. Let all decayed leaves be removed wherever they are seen, and avoid crowding specimens; better a few good plants than large quantities of worthless stuff. If softwooded plants, such as Cinerarias, Primulas, and Calceolarias, can be kept by themselves, so much the better; they then can have air and general treatment to suit them. Auriculas, Polyanthuses, and suchlike, can be managed better by themselves. Forcing shrubs and other things for winter decoration should be under cover, and not allowed to have the soil frozen in the pots. China and Tea Roses flowering in pots require plenty of air and careful watering. Keep all structures except stoves dry, and keep a pure atmosphere.