THE possessor of a garden,large or small, should have a seed-bed, where seeds of perennials and some of the annuals can be sown and grown until large enough to be permanently placed. Not only will this bed give great pleasure in enabling one to watch the plants from the time the first tiny leaf appears, but also when laden with blossoms in fullest beauty. The knowledge that you have raised them gives a thrill of pride in the result which no bought plants, however beautiful, can impart. It is not necessary to prepare the seed-bed over a foot in depth, but the soil must be very light and fine, as well as rich. It is best, if possible, to have a portion of the bed somewhat shaded from the sun for a part of the day. If this combination cannot be had in one bed, there should be a second for plants that want less sun. Biennials must, of course, be sown every year, as they bloom but once, then die.
Every year some perennials will disappear, killed by severe winters, by pests of one kind or another, or dying without apparent cause. To keep up the supply, therefore, some of each variety should be raised every year.
Foxgloves and Sweet Williams, if allowed to go to seed, will sow themselves and increase rapidly. The same with Hollyhocks, but, except on the edges of shrubberies and in wild borders, it is better to cut the stalk just before the seed is ready to fall, and save it to sow in the seed-bed.
In my garden, some seventy miles from New York, and where the spring opens ten days later, I sow my seeds, - the perennials about the tenth of April and the annuals from April twentieth to May first. Buy the seeds, if the garden is large, by the ounce or half-ounce; if small, in the seedsman's packets. I always have the seeds of perennials soaked for twenty-four hours before planting, and find that by so doing they are very sure to germinate. Care must be taken, when soaking a number of different kinds at the same time, to place the name of each variety of seed under the glass or bowl containing the same. When ready for planting, pour off the water and mix the wet seeds carefully with very dry earth, in a cigar-box, which is of the right size and easy to handle. Then sow, not too deeply, in rows about a foot apart in the bed; covering very lightly, according to size. One-half inch is enough for the large seeds. The very fine varieties should simply have the earth sprinkled on them. If planted too deep they will never come up. Seeds of annuals do not require soaking.
Foxgloves - seedlings ready for final transplanting September twenty-ninth.
Pat the earth down firmly with the back of the trowel, sprinkle with a fine sprinkler late every afternoon, and it is not your fault if you do not have hundreds and thousands of young plants to make your own place beautiful and to give to your friends. It is a keen delight, when a friend says that she has not raised such and such plants this year, to run and get your trowel and dig a bunch of this and that from the rows of sturdy little plants. It is a pleasure to know that a bit of your garden has gone to help make another's beautiful.
One of the greatest pleasures of a garden is in giving flowers and plants to your friends. Every October, when arranging the borders and separating plants, I send away great boxes of them, some to fortunate friends with lovely gardens, but without the same varieties; some to humble cottage gardens, and others to friends who have never grown a flower, but would like to try. This year, having made a large new garden, I was able to give away to friends and neighbors only about seven hundred plants, not seedlings but large plants and roots. Generally I can send away far more. Think what a delight this is!
A request for some plants came to me last autumn from the baggage-master of a railroad station some twenty miles from us, who, by the boxes of shrubs and plants that came to me, inferred that I might have some to spare. I learned that all this man's spare time was spent in his little garden plot, so great was his love of flowers. I know, too, a village expressman (another whom nature intended for a gardener), whose little plot of ground is always a mass of beauty. He has a surprising variety of plants, and every one is a fine specimen of its kind. His Anemone Ja-ponica alba are the finest I have ever seen, each one sending up perhaps a dozen slender stalks of the beautiful flowers. I have had great difficulty with this plant and have lost dozens of them. I always drive very slowly by the expressman's garden, burning with envy and wondering how he does it. In fact, it was only last year that I had my first success with these obdurate plants.
They must grow under trees whose branches are sufficiently high to admit the sun half the day. As they bloom in September and October, the tree protects them from the frost, and in winter they should be well covered with stable litter. They are among the few plants to be set out in the spring, for if not well established they are always winter-killed.
It is well not to empty the perennial seedbed entirely in the autumn, but to leave a few plants of each variety to transplant in the spring, to take the place of those which have not survived the winter. When the bed is empty, in the spring, have a good coating of manure spaded in and proceed again with the sowing.
Biennials, and also most perennials, must be raised every year to keep up the supply.
Long grass walk, with Narcinus Poeticus blooming in the border April twenty-sixth.
The following are excellent varieties of Pears: Wilder Early and Manning's Elizabeth, which ripen in August; Bartlett and Flemish Beauty, in September; Duchesse d'Angouleme, Louise Bonne of Jersey, and Seckel, in October; Anjou, Easter Beurre, and Josephine of Malines, very late varieties. The last three should be gathered in October, and will keep in a cool, dry place until January or February.
Peaches to do well in orchards should be on high ground; they seem to prefer a hillside. When grown in a protected situation, the buds swell early in the spring and are often destroyed by late frosts. Peach trees will not be hurt by a low temperature in Winter unless the weather is also damp or foggy, but late Spring frosts are certain to do them great damage. In a garden they should, if possible, be planted where they will be sheltered from the west and south by buildings, evergreens or hedges, that they may not start too early in the Spring.