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 is the best time to prune my overgrown bushes? asks a correspondent. The worst time to prune is just after the new growth has pushed for the season. It has been said, prune whenever the knife is sharp, but even this generally true remark does not hold good when a tree is covered with a mass of immature foliage. Nothing weakens a plant more than to be shorn at that time. In some parts of the country, vegetation will have pushed by the time this has reached our readers, but if pruning has been neglected, a thinning out of the branches, to induce a good shape, may be resorted to, if indeed such trimming may not be called a form of pruning. Elsewhere, any species of pruning that may be desirable may yet go on, and pruning should be completed as soon as possible. Some judgment is required in pruning flowering shrubs, roses, etc, although it is usual to act as if it were one of the most common-place operations. One of the most clumsy of the hands is commonly set with a shears, and he "goes through" the whole place, clipping off everything indiscriminately.
Distinction should be made between those flowering shrubs that make a vigorous growth, and those which grow weakly; and between those which flower on the old wood of last year, and those which flower on the new growth of next season, as the effect of pruning is to force a strong and vigorous growth. Those specimens that already grow too strong to flower well, should be only lightly pruned; and, in the same individual, the weakest shoots should be cut-in more severely than the stronger ones. Some things, like the mock oranges, lilacs, and others, flower on the wood of last year. To prune these much now, therefore, destroys the flowering; while such as Altheas, which flower on the young wood, cannot be too severely cut-in, looking to that operation alone.
Hedges that have not had their winter dressing should be attended to. If the remarks we have before made on hedges have been of service through the summer, there will be very little now to do. We have said that pruning in summer weakens a plant, while pruning in winter strengthens it; and so, as hedges naturally get spoiled by growing vigorously at the top, and weakly at the sides, they should be severely summer-pruned at the apex, and winter-pruned near the base. Now will be the time to see to the latter, taking care not to make it too narrow. A good hedge should be nearly four feet wide at the base, and be cut into a point at the top.
In pruning roses, the fall-blooming kinds, which flower on the new growth, may be pruned as severely as we wish; in fact, the "harder" they are cut-in the better. In this class are the Noisette, Bourbon, Tea, China and Hybrid Perpetual and Perpetual Moss. Without considerable experience, it is difficult for the amateur to distinguish these classes. The best way to get over the difficulty is to obtain the catalogues of the principal rose-growers, in which each kind is usually classified. Amateurs should pay more attention to the scientific - we may so term it - study of the rose, and its classification and general management. No class of flowers is more easily understood, and no one affords so rich a fund of perpetual interest.
For making hedges the whole world has not produced anything so cheap and on the whole so valuable as the Osage Orange and Honey Locust. By running a few strands of wire through as the hedge grows, it will be very easy to make it easily protective. At Salt Lake City, the past summer, the Editor saw the garden hedge of Mayor Jennings so treated, and though the Osage plants were kept quite low, the hedge seemed a perfect protection to the plants within. There are many deciduous shrubs which make good hedges, and arc very beautiful, though none near as cheap as the two named. Any strong growers which stool well make good hedges. The Silver Thorn, a species of Elaeagnus, introduced by the writer of this some years ago, still gives entire satisfaction, as also does Berberry and Pyrus Japonica. They are natural self-thickeners, continually sending up shoots from the collar, or near the ground. For evergreen hedges, there are many good things, but among the cheap and effective ones Arbor Vitae, Hemlock Spruce and Norway Spruce stand in about the order named.
Hyacinths, or other hardy bulbous roots that may not have yet been planted, may still be put in where the ground continues open. The beds of all such bulbs should be slightly protected with manure or litter, and be carefully watched for mice and vermin, which are likely to avail themselves of the shelter and feed on the roots.
Lawns that are impoverished by several seasons' mowing, will be improved by a good top-dressing. This may be applied any time after the leaves are gathered up, and before the snow falls. Soot, wood-ashes, guano, or any prepared manure, is best for this purpose. Barnyard manure is objectionable, as generally containing many seeds of weeds.
Manure for flower-beds, borders, & c., may be hauled convenient to where it is likely to be wanted in spring; many spread it on at once; but if the soil is frozen very thick, it prevents the early thawing of the soil in the spring, and so no time is gained.
Very small plants in borders or on the lawn, or larger plants that may have been set out the past season, should be mulched with anything that will prevent the ground thawing, and so, the plant "drawing out." Most readers have done this in the fall, but there is good to be done by it yet by those who have neglected it till now. Keep a sharp look-out for mice under the litter, however, where it is wise from the value of the specimen to run no risk; brown paper, afterwards tarred, may be wrapped around the stems as far as the litter covers them.