This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The season of the year is now at hand in which we can go with pleasure to the woodland, the hillside, and the meadow, and find objects worthy our closest attention and consideration. The love of flowers is natural, and this love coupled with a spirit of investigation creates a pleasure which corresponds to the amount of effort put forth. In the selection of objects for pleasure or study, we should discard those thoroughly "epicurean" in character, and select those combining as much as possible - pleasure present, and pleasure in its permanence; their object seems to be found in scientific pursuits, and especially among the objects of the vegetable kingdom. We should therefore take advantage of the opportunities afforded us, and especially of those which are scattered around us in such abundance. It is well known that "wild flowers " in general are looked upon as " weeds," but that does not in the least detract from, or in anywise alter their beauty. To persons who consider things from an intellectual point of view, wild flowers are far more interesting than those which are cultivated. It is not plants under cultivation which Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Burns and a host of others tell us of, but flowers in the simplicity of their beauty.
It is of a few of these, therefore, that it is now purposed to speak, and to show that it is possible for all to enjoy their beauty with a very little amount of effort.
One of the earliest flowers to make its appearance, and one of the most eagerly sought after, is the Trailing arbutus (Epigsea repens). It usually may be found in flower about the 15th of March ; in favorable seasons it may be found much earlier. The flower-buds being formed the autumn before, open at the beginning of fair weather; the pale pink flower may then be seen peeping from some mossy bank, or inconspicuous, as they often are, "But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes, Or Cytherea's breath".
It is a prevalent belief that it is impossible to transplant the Arbutus, and numerous cases of failure have been reported me. But if the conditions under which the plant is found growing be taken into consideration, success is almost certain. The plant will be found on high banks where moisture is abundant, and where the drainage is perfect. In transplanting the great difficulty appears to be to obtain a place where the roots may be kept moderately dry. The great secret in transplanting anything, and this plant especially, is to press the soil around the roots as firm as it can be done with the thumbs; when first transplanted it should be thoroughly soaked with water, and then watered only when necessary. Having tried this plan, I have succeeded in each instance, but destroyed a plant that had been growing eight months, by giving it too much water.
About the 15th of March the Hepatica (Hep-atica triloba), or Liverwort, may be looked for; it also may be found earlier in favorable seasons. The flowers first make their appearance, followed later by the new growth of leaves. It is one of the most beautiful of our native flowers, and even if the flowers were worthless, the plant is worthy of cultivation for the leaf. It is one of the plants easiest to move, and when replanted, it will thrive from the start. The custom of planting bulbs (in the autumn) which is so common, is noticeable from the fact that it totally ignores our native bulbs, many of which are worthy of cultivation. It is urged that the flowers of our native bulbs are too transitory in their character. While this is undoubtedly true, the same may also be said of all the bulbs, the Crocus, the Tulip, etc. And, again, it is urged that the flowers are too inconspicuous, which is also to a certain degree true; but it is not proposed to plant one to the exclusion of the other ; acknowledging the merits of the one, the purpose is to point out some of the merits of the other.
One of the earliest of our bulbous plants, as well as one of the handsomest, is the Sanguin-aria canadensis (Blood-root) of our woods. It is worthy a place in any garden ; the whole plant, the flower, the leaf, and the tubes, is intensely interesting. By a series of observations made in a previous year, I discovered the average duration of the flower to be three days, and as the flowers do not all bloom at the same time, their period of bloom lasts for an extended time ; and after the flower has passed away, the leaf is an ornament to any wild garden. It has only to be planted for it to grow. The plant may be looked for about the 10th of April.
About the 10th of April may also be found the Spring beauty (Claytonia Virginica). It usually will be found growing in rich ground, in woods near creeks ; the bulb will be found from two to three inches below the surface, and to obtain it without injury to it, a trowel is required. Although the foliage of the plant is not especially desirable, the flower is very beautiful, and is desirable on that account. The Thalictrum anemonoides, commonly known as the Anemone, may be found about the same time, and the Anemone nemorosa a little later on; both are worthy of place, and will grow well in a shady place in the garden. About the 4th of April may be found the Houstonia coerulea, known as the Quaker lady, Dwarf pink, Bluetts, and by numerous other names. It is a very delicate little flower, growing in grassy fields and meadows. The color varies from sky-blue to a pure white. It is too well known to need further mention.
The Goodyera pubescens, or Rattlesnake plantain, may be found from the first of April until late in the fall. It is one of the finest of our native leaf plants, few, if any, of our cultivated plants surpassing it in the beauty of its markings. It is somewhat rare in comparison to the plants previously mentioned, but when once ob tained, it may be kept in good condition without any difficulty. The Saxifragaceae come in bloom about April 18th. There are two varieties : the Saxifraga Virginiensis and Pennsylvanicum ; the former is more desirable because of its dwarf manner of growth, but the latter would make a very pretty plant for a rockery. The specimens of the Liliaceae growing about, among which are the Solomon's seal and the Polygonatum multiflo-rum, will be found coming in flower from May 10th to May 25th. They both will be found growing in the woods, and both grow freely when transplanted. The flowers of both varieties are very pretty, and when they have passed away the berries of the Solomon's seal are won derful in their beauty.
Both are plants very desirable in any wild garden.
As the wild garden is the object for which this was written, enough has been said for the purpose mentioned. The foregoing list of our spring plants does not by any means include the whole number, but only a few of the most prominent, and those mentioned are not calculated to impress all with a sense of their beauty. The individual fancy will continually suggest new things in connection herewith, and will be guide in this matter. The great thing in this matter, as in all others, is to start it; it will then grow of itself, and if the writer mistakes not, will become the most attractive part of the garden. When once planted it is permanent, and daily increases in beauty, which, as the poet says, "is a joy forever;" and joys enjoyed "will never pass into nothingness".