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 subject of growing evergreen hedges under the shade of deciduous trees, has been referred to of late in our magazine. Some observers record that they have seen them do very well. We have ourselves seen cases where the evergreens forming the hedge did not seem to mind the trees in the least, and yet it is clear that in a large number of cases the hedges do suffer from large trees over them. But it is not the shade which injures, for evergreens rather like shade; but the trouble is from the drying out of the moisture by the strong roots of the deciduous trees, and to some extent by the poverty of the soil, caused by the numerous fibrous roots of the large trees eating up all the food. The evergreens in the hedge often do not die at once, but their vital powers are injured during summer, and then cold winds or even moderate frost make easy victims of them. Now it sometimes happens that the large trees do not always take all the moisture, or all the food, and then the evergreens will not suffer. Where we feel sure these conditions will be permanent, we may plant evergreen hedges under large forest trees; but as a rule it is not to be commended. Some deciduous plant had better be employed. But there are times when it may be very desirable to have an evergreen hedge under trees.
In this case dig a deep trench - a trench say two feet deep, between the hedge and the trees, cutting off the roots of the trees. Do this about every third year, filling in the earth, of course, after the roots of the strong tree have been cut off, and add a little very well rotted manure once in a while. With this extra trouble an evergreen hedge can be made to do well under large deciduous trees. Of evergreens for hedges, there are few better than the old arbor-vitas, hemlock spruce, and Norway spruce. Scotch pine, white pine and others are sometimes used, and indeed any pine or coniferous tree makes a fair hedge, as they all bear pruning well. The holly makes a remarkably good hedge; but in our country the difficulty of raising the plant is against its cheapness and, consequently extensive use. Many die after transplanting in our country, but if all the leaves are taken off when transplanted, and they are treated as ordinary deciduous trees, they seldom die on removal. It may be said of all trees and shrubs, as of evergreens under trees, that they love cool, rich soil, where water comes to them often and easily drains away. This is the great success of Rhododendron and hardy Azalea culture.
They will do well in almost any soil, or in any aspect, if the soil be made deep so that the water will go down easily below the roots, and then easily drain away. To this end, if the soil be thrown out two feet deep, and a foot deep of brush wood placed at the bottom of the trench before the soil is thrown in again, it will make a cheap under-drain, which will encourage the water to go down through the upper surface easily. Peat is often used for Rhododendrons, but chiefly because it is cool and moist, while still admitting of the free passage of air.
The winter time is a good one to look after the destruction of the eggs and chrysalides of insects. In cities, especially the walls, fences and rough bark of trees afford shelter to them, and they can be easily hunted out. As before noted the bag-worm or drop-worm has been particularly destructive the past season, and especially to arborvitaes and coniferous trees generally. The oval "bags," more than an inch in length, are readily seen and easily collected and destroyed. On opening some of these bags with a sharp pointed scissors, only some of them will be found with eggs. Those without the eggs produce the male moth, which leaves its baglike house in the spring. The female moth never leaves its house from the time it makes it to the time it dies and leaves its eggs behind. It is an anomaly amongst insects, and originated the saying about it, that "its cradle is its grave".
This is a much better season than spring to transplant herbaceous plants. They make their growth now, and the flowers for spring are often formed in the hearts of the buds, just as we can see flowers are formed in the hearts of lily, hyacinth and other bulbs, or as we may see in the large buds of the horse chestnut. The only objection to setting out these little things in the fall is, that they may draw out by frost; but the good cultivator knows how to guard against this by drawing over more earth than is needed, or covering the whole plantation with some material which prevents thawing out rapidly, which is really the cause of plants being drawn out by frost.
Another matter of interest in regard to collecting hardy herbaceous plants is, that there are a large number of rare native plants not yet in cultivation, which many an owner of a first-class collection would give a good deal to possess. A collection from one's own neighborhood would therefore often be really one of the most valuable one could possess, and be the foundation of a series of exchanges with others, which would soon swell a little collection to one of the best.
In the culture of herbaceous plants it is well to remember that generally a part dies every year. They seldom come up in exactly the same place every year, but a bud or runner pushes out and the old part dies. Though all herbaceous plants move in some such manner, they do not all go directly underground, but make bunchy stocks just above ground. In their native places of growth they manage to get covered with decaying leaves from the woods or shifting sands on the plains, but in cultivation nothing of this kind can be naturally accomplished, and unless art comes to aid the plant they soon die away. An Auricula, a Primrose, or a Carnation is good illustration of this. In the two former a new crown is formed on the top of the old one. and as the lower parts in time die away, unless new earth is drawn up, success with such flowers will not be great. The best plan is to take up and replant every few years, or cover the running parts above ground with earth, so that they may have a chance to get new roots from the advancing stocks. This is noticed here at this season to show that earth is the natural covering for herbaceous plants ; and therefore one of the surest ways of preserving them safe through winter is to draw earth over them.
In the spring they can be unearthed and then divided and set a trifle deeper than before, which is all they want. We are often asked how to preserve Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Pansies, Phloxes, Hollyhocks and so forth, safe till spring. The principles here laid down will explain the practice.
Seeds of many herbaceous plants sown in the fall or early spring will flower the same season just as an annual will.