This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
When King James undertook to write a book against the use of tobacco, no doubt many loyal people thought smoking would soon be a habit of the past, but still people smoke and chew to a degree which must make the manes of the good old king glad that its body is no longer of this tobacco stained world. The invectives launched at the bedding system of arranging summer flowers, seem likely to meet a similar fate. The old and lovely herbaceous plant, and the mixed flower border, still take a back place, and the carpet bed and mosaic fashion, still have the post of honor. There must be some want which the carpet bed supplies to render it so popular. It must have some underlying principle more than the mere love of following fashion to render its hold on the people secure. We believe we can see what this is, and that the natural love of art in man, that is to say, the love of making nature do for us what she will not do for herself, is no mean element in the popularity of the bedding practice. For our part we see no more reason why we should not force nature to give us carpet beds and mosaic flower gardens, than that flowers should be arranged in baskets or bouquets, or sprinkled around in certain places on dinner tables or as festival ornaments.
But we should love to see the beautiful mixed flower border less forgotten than it seems to be. The hardy herbaceous plant, which asks little favor, and takes care of itself with but small encouragement, is capable of giving pleasure at least equal to any mosaic flower bed, and we should be glad to see the taste for these revived. With a few fine days in February, we saw a large mass of the winter Aconite in full flower in a mixed border; and in March, before the snow was wholly gone, the bees were at work on the deliciously scented, though not showy, flowers of the Pachy-sandra procumbens - a hard name - but no acceptable common one has yet got the popular heart. Then the Snowdrop, and its early competitor the yellow Frittilary, Anemones, Crowfoot, and such like visitors in the earliest spring day; who would be without them who has once enjoyed their company? A few people who love flowers, take delight in getting some one thing with which they know they can have thorough success, and make a special feature of it on their ground.
Suppose, for instance, one could learn to grow well the Trailing Arbutus, and, after thus learning, made a special feature of it? What would excite the envy more, if there is a pleasure in making one's neighbor envious, than in having a huge mass of this lovely spring flower, arranged in some unique and tasteful plan? We do this now with some few things. We do it with roses, rhododendrons, azaleas, and some other plants; and some of us go a hundred miles to see some wonderful pictures of beauty which these lovely things present ardent admirers of Flora. We should be glad to see more done in this line, though in no degree desiring to discourage the now prevalent taste for massing of leaf plants in summer gardening.
In planting new places, the landscape gardener usually has an eye to what the place will be when, some twenty years' hence, the trees shall have grown. But few of us think of that picture. To us these unfinished pictures need more filling now.
We approve of thick planting. Trees grow faster for one another's company, and a place well filled at once, saves many years of time to sec them grow. Those not wanted after the place has grown some, can be transplanted to other parts of the ground. Where thick planting is to be adopted, of course care must be taken in locating those permanently to remain. But the trouble usually is that a thickly planted place is rarely thinned. People hate to see a tree cut down. In the public squares of Philadelphia the trees are crowding each other till the whole square looks like a crow's nest. Grass will not grow, first, because of the shade; secondly, because of the poverty of the soil, and thirdly, because of the drought from so many tree roots; and though the city of Philadelphia appropriates $25,000 a year to improve the squares, one each year in succession, it would be as much as the commissioner's place is worth to "cut down a tree." And this is an example of what is often seen. The only remedy is, to educate the public to plant thickly at first; but to thin every few years till they are of judicious width apart.
April is a good planting month. There is not much art in planting trees, though it is often much of a mystery. Not to let the roots dry for an instant between taking up and planting, everybody knows, but everybody don't do it; in fact everybody deceives himself. We have seen this distinguished individual leave the tops of trees exposed to the sun, with a mat or straw thrown over the roots, and think all was right - or heel in for a day or two, by just throwing a little dirt over the roots. This is a little good; but everybody's fault is, that although this may be ten minutes of good, he expects to get ten hours, or even ten days' value out of it, and thus he suffers more than if he had done nothing; because he forgets that the branches evaporate moisture from the roots in a dry wind, and the juices go from the roots through the branches, very nearly as well as directly to the air from the roots themselves. So with heeling in. The soil is thrown in lightly, or at most just "kicked" down. "It is only temporary," very few of the roots come in contact with the soil. They can draw in no moisture to supply the waste of evaporation, and thus they stay day after day- everybody satisfied because he sees the roots covered; really worse than if they had been exposed.
We have no doubt that more trees are lost from imperfect heeling in than from any other cause whatever. Of course, if the tops be covered as well as the roots, there is less waste of moisture and more chance of success.