This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Judging from the appearance of their grounds, many people are laboring under the impression that the season for work is past, now that the frost has destroyed the foliage on the trees, and the bright, cheerful flowers in their beds. Not so at all. It is just as incumbent upon us to tidy up our out-door surroundings as ever; and there is a great deal of necessary work to be performed which is not unfrequently neglected.
Although we are not in favor of trimming at this season of the year, yet there is occasionally an old branch that requires to be cut away, either on account of disease, or else to open up some distant view. In case we do trim, always protect the wound by coating it over with a solution of gum-shellac, or clay, so that the scar will quickly heal over, before the exposed part shall have become diseased. Do not delay planting too late in the season; as this should be termed winter-setting, and not autumn. Roots that have time to prepare for cold weather by the formation of new fibres, and that have the finely pulverized soil well settled about them by the fall rains, will inevitably stand the winter better than those removed very late. Be sure to stake up every tree so removed, whether early or late, as well as any other specimen that is inclined to sway about in the wind; this shaking by the wind causing trouble in many instances.
Around each tree on the lawn shake one or two forkfuls of long-stable manure. This serves not only as an excellent mulch, but the soluble matter will be carried down to the roots, ready for the new growth of next spring.
Any young trees of small size, especially Conifers, should have a few evergreen boughs tied neatly and loosely around them. It is better to keep off the sun during winter than to endeavor to keep the plants warm. Never heed the advice of over-nice friends, who say rye straw is so clean-looking, and forms such a smooth, regular cone. We can't help that.
Appearance is all very well; but it is only a secondary consideration beside utility. A close-confined air around living plants is almost sure death to them, as it is to the animal world.
Our flower beds need attention at this season. Those that have been filled with Coleus and other tender plants must be cleaned out, and the surface neatly raked over. Apply a good coat of rich manure, and let it lay until next spring. Of course, bulbs should have been planted long since. These must have a covering of manure; but be very careful that, as soon as the warm days appear, this is gradually removed, to prevent the plants from drawing-up - pale and yellow.
Bulbs should occupy beds that have a warm, sunny aspect; and after the bloom is over, and the foliage has matured, they are then suitable for sowing with annuals, such as Phlox Drummondi, Portulacca etc.; or, if the taste of the proprietor runs that way, for laying out in the new "tapestry" style. But whatever is used, let it be small, and not large rooted, as the now dormant bulbs below may suffer. In the less frequented portion of the grounds lay out and plant beds of hardy, herbaceous plants. We say less frequented, because, although showy when in bloom, this does not last long, and then they have a neglected look. But our readers should not feel discouraged on this account; for this hardy and valuable class are among the most interesting of our cultivated flora. This is the proper season to divide them, as many of the species start into active growth very early in spring. The smallest piece of most kinds grow readily, provided each piece of root has a bud at the top.
The taller-growing sorts should be at the back, and the dwarfs near the front edge, to preserve the symmetry. After planting, give the whole surface of the bed either a slight dressing with coarse manure or leaves, after cutting down all the unsightly old stems.
Hake the lawn carefully over after the leaves have ceased to fall, and apply a dressing of short, well-rotted manure, to be followed with a coat of ground plaster next J spring; and if you do not have an extra richness to the turf, then charge us with being false prophets. A coat of ground bones is also to be recommended highly. Some people do not like to cut their grass very late in the season; preferring to allow it to rot down on the surface and protect the roots. Others, again, say cut it off and let it lay, as it will protect as well in one instance as the other. Doubtless it will; but we fear the cutting late in the autumn has a tendency to hurt all vegetation.
Gravel walks and drives should receive some attention before they become sticky and soft. The edges must be neatly trimmed, and all holes or depressions carefully leveled up, and thoroughly rolled hard. Coal ashes and coarse cinders make as firm a walk as anything else; and, when once firm and well packed, they remain so for years. It is perfect nonsense to expect to have a hard road without a deep bed of broken stones; and yet some people try to delude themselves into forming such, under the fallacy of economy. This is poor economy indeed.
And as soon as winter is upon us, with all its severity, then the real value of evergreens is fully apparent. As we sit by the side of a very warm fire, and look out over the lawn, these green reminders of summer days appear doubly valuable in our eyes. They are the one link that binds us to green trees and bright flowers, that for the present have passed away; but which will assuredly reappear with the advent of our feathered friends.
Winter has its uses, let grumblers say what they will; for at no other season have we more leisure, or can we better appreciate the necessities of our lawn than now. Suggestions of our friends, and ideas of our own, should have due weight in our plans for the future. A place is never completed, or else there are very many of us who would be unhappy indeed. A small change here, or a little addition there, will, in many instances, give a new and improved character to a place, that somehow did not appear quite the thing, although very beautiful.
There are dozens of insignificant articles that we know we shall require next season; and during the cold, stormy days of Winter is just the time to prepare them; for there is plenty to be done as soon as spring starts the vegetation. Stakes, labels, and other like assistants, close to one's hand, are of the greatest use when very busy.
Seeds should be collected, dried, and put away in a dry place; and cuttings of shrubbery may be made into suitable lengths, and buried to the topmost bud in the soil. Examine the hedge to see that no dead weeds or leaves have accumulated to entice the ground-mouse. See that no loosened twig of your favorite vine is flapping about in the wind. A minute or two devoted to this work may be rewarded by extra bloom in the future.