A BOOK FOR THE HOME-MAKER AND GARDEN LOVER
BY EBEN E. REXFORD
WITH 34 ILLUSTRATIONS
PHILADELPHIA & LONDON J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 1912
COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
PUBLISHED FEBRUARY, 1912
PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY AT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.
The home that affords the most pleasure to its owner is the one which is largely the result of personal effort in the development of its possibilities. The "ready-made home," if I may be allowed the expression, may be equally as comfortable, from the standpoint of convenience,—and possibly a great deal more so,—but it invariably lacks the charm which invests the place that has developed under our own management, by slow and easy stages, until it seems to have become part of ourselves.
Home-making is a process of evolution. We take up the work when everything connected with it is in a more or less chaotic condition, probably without any definite plan in mind. The initial act in the direction of development, whatever it may be, suggests almost immediately something else that can be done to advantage, and in this way we go on doing little things from day to day, until the time comes when we suddenly discover what wonderful things have been accomplished by our patient and persistent efforts, and we are surprised and delighted at the result. Were we to plan it all out before beginning it, very likely the undertaking would seem so formidable that it would discourage us. But the evolutionary process takes place so gradually, as we work hand in hand with that most delightful of all companions, Nature, that work becomes play, and we get more enjoyment out of it, as it goes along, than it is possible to secure in any other way if we are lovers of the beauty that belongs about the ideal home. The man or woman who sees little or nothing to admire in tree, or shrub, or flower, can have no conception of the pleasure that grows out of planting these about the home—our home—and watching them develop from tiny plant, or seed to the fruition of full maturity. The place casts off the bareness which characterizes the beginning of most homes, by almost imperceptible degrees, until it becomes a thing of beauty that seems to have been almost a creation of our own, because every nook and corner of it is vital with the essence of ourselves. Whatever of labor is connected with the undertaking is that of love which carries with it a most delightful gratification as it progresses. In proportion as we infuse into it a desire to make the most of any and everything that will attract, and please, and beautify, we reap the reward of our efforts. Happy is the man who can point his friends to a lovely home and say—"I have done what I could to make it what it is. I have done it—not the professional who goes about the country making what he calls homes at so much a day, or by the job." The home that somebody has made for us never appeals to us as does the one into which we have put ourselves. Bear that in mind, and be wise, O friend of mine, and be your own home-maker.
Few of us could plan out the Home Beautiful, at the beginning, if we were to undertake to do so. There may be a mind-picture of it as we think we would like it to be, but we lack the knowledge by which such results as we have in mind are to be secured. Therefore we must be content to begin in a humble way, and let the work we undertake show us what to do next, as it progresses. We may never attain to the degree of knowledge that would make us successful if we were to set ourselves up as professional gardeners, but it doesn't matter much about that, since that is not what we have in mind when we begin the work of home-making. We are simply working by slow and easy steps toward an ideal which we may never realize, but the ideal is constantly before us to urge us on, and the home-instinct actuates us in all our efforts to make the place in which we live so beautiful that it will have for those we love, and those who may come after us, a charm that no other place on earth will ever have until the time comes when they take up the work of home-making for themselves.
The man or woman who begins the improvement and the beautifying of the home as a sort of recreation, as so many do, will soon feel the thrill of the delightful occupation, and be inspired to greater undertakings than he dreamed of at the beginning. One of the charms of home-making is that it grows upon you, and before you are aware of it that which was begun without a definite purpose in view becomes so delightfully absorbing that you find yourself thinking about it in the intervals of other work, and are impatient to get out among "the green things growing," and dig, and plant, and prune, and train. You feel, I fancy, something of the enthusiasm that Adam must have felt when he looked over Eden, and saw what great things were waiting to be done in it. I am quite satisfied he saw chances for improvement on every hand. God had placed there the material for the first gardener to work with, but He had wisely left it for the other to do with it what he thought best, when actuated by the primal instinct which makes gardeners of so many, if not the most, of us when the opportunity to do so comes our way.
I do not advocate the development of the aesthetic features of the home from the standpoint of dollars and cents. I urge it because I believe it is the duty of the home-owner to make it as pleasant as it can well be made, and because I believe in the gospel of beauty as much as I believe in the gospel of the Bible. It is the religion that appeals to the finer instincts, and calls out and develops the better impulses of our nature. It is the religion that sees back of every tree, and shrub, and flower, the God that makes all things—the God that plans—the God that expects us to make the most and the best of all the elements of the good and the beautiful which He has given into our care.
In the preparation of this book I have had in mind the fact that comparatively few home-owners who set about the improvement of the home-grounds know what to do, and what to make use of. For the benefit of such persons I have tried to give clear and definite instructions that will enable them to work intelligently. I have written from personal experience in the various phases of gardening upon which I have touched in this book. I am quite confident that the information given will stand the test of most thorough trial. What I have done with the various plants I speak of, others can do if they set about it in the right way, and with the determination of succeeding. The will will find the way to success. I would not be understood as intending to convey the impression that I consider my way as the way. By no means. Others have accomplished the same results by different methods. I simply tell what I have done, and how I have done it, and leave it to the home-maker to be governed by the results of my experience or that of others who have worked toward the same end. We may differ in methods, but the outcome is, in most instances, the same. I have written from the standpoint of the amateur, for other amateurs who would make the improvement of the home-grounds a pleasure and a means of relaxation rather than a source of profit in a financial sense, believing that what I have to say will commend itself to the non-professional gardener as sensible, practical, and helpful, and strictly in line with the things he needs to know when he gets down to actual work.
I have also tried to make it plain that much of which goes to the making of the home is not out of reach of the man of humble means—that it is possible for the laboring man to have a home as truly beautiful in the best sense of the term as the man can have who has any amount of money to spend—that it is not the money that we put into it that counts so much as the love for it and the desire to take advantage of every chance for improvement. Home, for home's sake, is the idea that should govern. Money can hire the work done, but it cannot infuse into the result the satisfaction that comes to the man who is his own home-maker.
But not every person who reads this book will be a home-maker in the sense spoken of above. It will come into the hands of those who have homes about which improvements have already been made by themselves or others, but who take delight in the cultivation of shrubs and plants because of love for them. Many of these persons get a great deal of pleasure out of experimenting with them. Others do not care to spend time in experiments, but would be glad to find a short cut to success. To such this book will make a strong appeal, for I feel confident it will help them to achieve success in gardening operations that are new to them if they follow the instruction to be found in its pages. I have not attempted to tell all about gardening, for there is much about it that I have yet to learn. I expect to keep on learning as long as I live, for there is always more and more for us to find out about it. That's one of its charms. But I have sought to impart the fundamental principles of it as I have arrived at a knowledge of them, from many years of labor among trees, and shrubs, and flowers—a labor of love—and it is with a sincere hope that I have not failed in my purpose that I give this book to
THE HOME-MAKER AND THE GARDEN-LOVER.
THE LAWN: HOW TO MAKE IT AND HOW TO TAKE CARE OF IT 17
PLANTING THE LAWN 34
THE HARDY BORDER 81
THE GARDEN OF ANNUALS 97
THE BULB GARDEN 116
THE ROSE: ITS GENERAL CARE AND CULTURE 128
THE ROSE AS A SUMMER BEDDER 149
THE DAHLIA 156
THE GLADIOLUS 166
PLANTS FOR SPECIAL PURPOSES 176
ARBORS, SUMMER-HOUSES, PERGOLAS, AND OTHER GARDEN FEATURES 189
FLOWERING AND FOLIAGE PLANTS FOR EDGING BEDS AND WALKS 216
PLANNING THE GARDEN 223
THE BACK-YARD GARDEN 220
THE WILD GARDEN 234
THE WINTER GARDEN 243
WINDOW AND VERANDA BOXES 250
SPRING WORK IN THE GARDEN 257
SUMMER WORK IN THE GARDEN 264
FALL WORK IN THE GARDEN 268
BY WAY OF POSTSCRIPT 272
"NOT WHOLLY IN THE BUSY WORLD, NOR QUITE BEYOND IT, BLOOMS THE GARDEN THAT I LOVE" Frontispiece
PILLAR-TRAINED VINES 8
IVY, CLIMBING ROSES, AND COLORADO BLUE SPRUCE 34
A BIT OF INFORMAL BORDER 37
SHRUBS ALONG THE DRIVEWAY 44
AMERICAN IVY AND GERANIUMS 60
JAPAN IVY GROWING ON WALL 75
SHRUBS AND PERENNIALS COMBINED IN BORDER 83
OLD-FASHIONED HOLLYHOCKS 88
THE PEONY AT ITS BEST 90
A BIT OF THE BORDER OF PERENNIAL PLANTS 92
A BED OF ASTERS 106
BED OF WHITE HYACINTHS BORDERED WITH PANSIES 125
HYBRID PERPETUAL ROSE 130
ROSE TRELLIS 136
RAMBLER ROSES 142
DOROTHY PERKINS ROSE—THE BEST OF THE RAMBLERS 145
TEA ROSE 152
CACTUS DAHLIA 160
A GARDEN GLIMPSE 170
AURATUM LILY 174
THE ODDS AND ENDS CORNER 180
SUMMER HOUSE 191
A PERGOLA SUGGESTION 195
A SIMPLE PERGOLA FRAMEWORK 198
GARDENER'S TOOL-HOUSE 200
A BORDER OF CREEPING PHLOX 220
IN SUMMER 224
IN WINTER 224
PORCH BOX 238
PORCH BOX 254
PLANTING TO HIDE FOUNDATION WALLS 272
The Illustrations are reproduced from photographs by J. F. Murray.
* * * * *
THE LAWN: HOW TO MAKE IT AND HOW TO TAKE CARE OF IT
The owner of the average small home seldom goes to the expense of employing the professional gardener to do the work of lawn-making. Sometimes he cannot afford to do so. Sometimes skilled labor is not obtainable. The consequence is, in the majority of cases, the lawn,—or what, by courtesy, is called by that name,—is a sort of evolution which is an improvement on the original conditions surrounding the home, but which never reaches a satisfactory stage. We see such lawns everywhere—rough, uneven, bare in spots, anything but attractive in a general way, and but little better than the yard which has been given no attention, were it not for the shrubs and plants that have been set out in them. The probabilities are that if you ask the owner of such a place why he has no lawn worth the name, he will give one or the other of the reasons I have made mention of above as his excuse for the existing condition of things about the home. If you ask him why he has not undertaken the work himself, he will most likely answer that he lacks the knowledge necessary to the making of a fine lawn, and rather than experiment with it he has chosen to let it alone.
Now the fact is—lawn-making has nothing mysterious about it, as so many seem to think. It does not call for skilled labor. It need not be an expensive undertaking. Any man who owns a home that he desires to make the most of can make himself a lawn that will be quite as satisfactory, in nearly every instance, as the one made by the professional gardener—more so, in fact, since what we make for ourselves we appreciate much more than that which we hire made for us. The object of this paper is to assist home-makers in doing just this kind of work. I shall endeavor to make it so plain and practical that anyone so inclined can do all that needs doing in a satisfactory manner. It may not have that nicety of finish, when completed, that characterizes the work of the professional, but it will harmonize with its surroundings more perfectly, perhaps, and will afford us quite as much pleasure as the work of the expert.
If the house has just been built, very likely everything about it is in a more or less chaotic condition. Odds and ends of lumber, mortar, brick, and all kinds of miscellaneous building material scattered all over the place, the ground uneven, treeless, shrubless, and utterly lacking in all the elements that go to make a place pleasing and attractive. Out of this chaos order must be evolved, and the evolution may be satisfactory in every way—if we only begin right.
The first thing to do is to clear away all the rubbish that clutters up the place. Do not make the mistake of dumping bits of wood into hollows with the idea that you are making a good foundation for a lawn-surface. This wood will decay in a year or two, and there will be a depression there. Fill into the low places only such matter as will retain its original proportions, like brick and stone. Make kindling-wood of the rubbish from lumber, or burn it. Get rid of it in some way before you begin operations. What you want, at this stage of the proceedings, is a ground entirely free from anything that will interfere with grading the surface of it.
If the lot upon which the house stands is a comparatively level one—or rather, was, before the house was built—it is generally easy to secure a slope from the house on all sides, by filling in about the building with the soil thrown up from the cellar or in making excavation for the walls. If no excavation of any kind has been made—and quite often, nowadays, foundation walls are built on the ground instead of starting a foot or two below the surface,—a method never to be advised because of the risk of injury to the building from the action of frost in the soil,—it may be necessary to make the lot evenly level, unless one goes to the expense of filling in. A slight slope away from the house-walls is always desirable, as it adds vastly to the general effect. Enough soil to secure this slope will not cost a great deal, if it does not happen to be at hand, and one will never regret the outlay.
If the ground is very uneven, it is well to have it ploughed, and afterward harrowed to pulverize the soil and secure a comparatively level surface. Do not be satisfied with one harrowing. Go over it again and again until not a lump or clod remains in it. The finer the soil is before seed is sown the better will be the sward you grow on it.
If the surface of the yard is not uneven, all the grading necessary can be done by spading up the soil to the depth of a foot, and then working it over thoroughly with, first, a heavy hoe to break apart the lumps, and then an iron rake to pulverize it.
I say nothing about drainage because not one lot-owner in a hundred can be prevailed on to go to the trouble and expense of arranging for it. If I were to devote a dozen pages to this phase of the work, urging that it be given careful attention, my advice would be ignored. The matter of drainage frightens the home-maker out of undertaking the improvement of the yard, nine times out of ten, if you urge its importance upon him. If the location is a rather low one, however, it is a matter that ought not to be overlooked, but it is not so important if the lot is high enough for water to run off speedily after a shower. If any system of drainage is arranged for, I would advise turning the work over to the professionals, who thoroughly understand what ought to be done and how to do it. This is a matter in which the amateur must work to a disadvantage when he undertakes to do it for himself.
If there are hollows and depressions, fill them by levelling little hummocks which may be found on other parts of the ground, or by having soil drawn in from outside. In filling low places, beat the soil down solidly as you add it. Unless this is done—and done well—the soil you add will settle, after a little, and the result will be a depression—not as deep as the original one, of course, but still a depression that will make a low place that will be very noticeable. But by packing and pounding down the earth as you fill it in, it can be made as solid as the soil surrounding it, and in this way all present and future unevenness of the soil can be done away with. It is attention to such details as these that makes a success of the work, and I would urge upon the amateur lawn-maker the absolute necessity of working slowly and carefully, and slighting nothing. Undue haste and the lack of thoroughness will result in a slovenly job that you will be ashamed of, before it is done, and so disgusted with, on completion, that you will not feel like doing the work over again for fear another effort may be more unsatisfactory than the first one. Therefore do good work in every respect as you go along, and the work you do will be its own reward when done.
It is impossible to put too much work on the soil. That is—you cannot make it too fine and mellow. The finer it is the finer the sward will be. A coarse, lumpy soil will always make an unsatisfactory lawn-surface.
Most soils will need the addition of considerable manure, and poor ones will need a good deal. To secure a strong, luxuriant stand of grass it is very essential that it should be fed well. While grass will grow almost anywhere, it is only on rich soils that you see it in perfection, and the ideal lawn demands a sward as nearly perfect as possible.
But I would not advise the use of barnyard manure, for this reason: It contains the seeds of the very weeds you must keep out of your lawn if you would have it what it ought to be,—weeds that will eventually ruin everything if not got rid of, like Dandelion, Burdock, and Thistle, to say nothing of the smaller plants that are harder to fight than those I have made mention of. We cannot be too careful in guarding against these trespassers which can be kept out much easier than they can be put to rout after they have secured a foothold. Therefore I would urge the substitution of a commercial fertilizer for barnyard manure in every instance. Scatter it liberally over the soil as soon as spaded, or ploughed, and work it in with the harrow or the hoe or rake, when you are doing the work of pulverization.
If you do not understand just what kind of fertilizer to make use of, tell the dealer as nearly as you can the nature of the soil you propose to use it on, and he will doubtless be able to supply you with the article you require. It is always safe to trust to the judgment of the man who knows just what a fertilizer will do, as to the kind and quantity to make use of. Soils differ so widely that it is not possible to advise a fertilizer that will give satisfaction everywhere. This being the case, I advise you to consult local authorities who understand the adaptation of fertilizers to soils before making a choice.
April is a good month in which to seed the lawn. So is May, for that matter, but the sooner the grass gets a start the better, for early starting will put it in better condition to withstand the effects of midsummer heat because it will have more and stronger roots than later-sown grass can have by the time a demand is made upon its vitality.
Sowing lawn-grass seed evenly is an undertaking that most amateurs fail in. The seed is light as chaff, and every puff of wind, no matter how light, will carry it far and wide. Choose a still day, if possible, for sowing, and cross-sow. That is—sow from north to south, and then from east to west. In this way you will probably be able to get the seed quite evenly distributed. Hold the hand close to the ground, filled with seed, and then, as you make a circular motion from right to left, and back again, let the seed slip from between your fingers as evenly as possible. A little experimenting along this line will enable you to do quite satisfactory work. You may use up a good deal of seed in experimenting, but that will not matter. One common mistake in lawn-making is to use too little seed. A thinly-seeded lawn will not give you a good sward the first season, but a thickly-seeded one will. In fact, it will have that velvety look which is one of the chief charms of any lawn, after its first mowing. I would advise you to tell the dealer of whom you purchase seed the size of your lot, and let him decide on the quantity of seed required to make a good job of it.
In buying seed get only the very best on the market. But only of reliable dealers. By "reliable dealers" I mean such firms as have established a reputation for honesty and fair dealing all along the line. Such dealers have to live up to their reputations, and they will not work off upon you an inferior article as the dealer who has, as yet, no reputation to live up to may, and often does, charging you for it a price equal to, or beyond, that which the honest dealer would ask for his superior grade of seed. In order to have a fine sward it is absolutely necessary that you must have good seed. Cheap seed—and that means poor seed, always—does not contain the varieties of grasses necessary to the making of a rich, deep, velvety sward, and it almost always does contain the seeds of noxious weeds which will make your lawn a failure. Therefore patronize the dealers in whose honesty you have ample reason to have entire confidence, and buy the very best seed they have in stock.
After sowing, roll the surface of the lawn to imbed the seed in the soil, and make the ground firm enough about it to retain sufficient moisture to insure germination. In three or four days the tiny blades ought to begin to show. In a week the surface will seem covered with a green mist, and in a fortnight's time you will be able to see, with a little exercise of the imagination, the kind of lawn you are going to have. If the season is a dry one it may be well to sprinkle the soil every day, after sundown. Use water liberally, and keep on doing so until rain comes or the plants have taken hold of the moister soil below with their delicate feeding-roots.
I would not advise mowing until the grass is at least three inches high. Then clip lightly with a sharp-bladed mower. Just cut away the top of the grass. To mow close, while the grass is getting a start, is the worst thing you can do. When it begins to thicken up by stooling out, then, and not till then, will you be warranted in setting the mower so that it will cut closely. But never shear the sward, as some do. You will never have a turf like velvet if you do that. Let there be an inch and a half or two inches of the grass-blade left.
The importance of having good tools to work with, in taking care of the lawn, ought not to be overlooked. A mower whose blades are dull will tear the grass off, and make it look ragged, as if gnawed away by animals feeding on it, while the mower whose blades are of the proper sharpness will cut it as evenly and as neatly as if a razor had been applied to it. You cannot appreciate the difference until you have seen a specimen of each, and compared them.
Some persons advocate raking the lawn after each mowing. Others advise leaving the clippings to act as a sort of mulch. If the clippings are allowed to remain, they wilt, and this will detract from the appearance of the sward for a short time, but by the next day they will not be noticeable. Raking as soon as mowed makes the lawn more immediately presentable. I have never been able to see any great deal of difference in the two methods, except as to appearance, therefore I would advise the lawn-owner to try both methods and adopt the one that pleases him most. If a rake is used, let it be one with blunt teeth that will not tear the sward. There is such a rake on the market, its teeth being made of bent wire. On no account use a sharp-toothed iron rake. That is sure to injure the sward.
Be regular in your attention to the lawn. Do not let the grass get so tall that the mower will not do a good job in cutting it. This necessitates mowing at regular intervals. If you mow only once a week, I would advise the use of the rake, as long grass-clippings are always unsightly because they remain on top of the sward, while short clippings from frequent mowing sink into it, and are soon out of sight.
In case the lawn is neglected for a week or more, once going over it with the mower will not make it very presentable. Mow, and then rake, and then go over it again, cutting across the first swaths. The second cutting will result in an even surface, but it will not be as satisfactory as that secured by regular mowings, at intervals of two or three days.
It is a most excellent plan to scatter bonemeal over the surface of the lawn in midsummer, and again in fall. Use the fine meal, as the coarse article is not readily assimilated by the soil. There is little danger of using enough to injure the sward. Injury generally results from not using any.
Many lawn-owners, with a mistaken idea of neatness, rake up the leaves that scatter themselves over the sward in fall, thus removing the protection that Nature has provided for the grass. Do not do this. Allow them to remain all winter. They will be entirely hidden by the snow, if any falls, and if there is none they are not unsightly, when you cease to think of them as litter. You will appreciate the difference between a fall-raked lawn and one on which leaves have been allowed to remain over winter, when spring comes. The lawn without protection will have a brown, scorched look, while the other will begin to show varying tints of green as soon as the snow melts. Grass is hardy, and requires no protection to prevent winter-killing, but a covering, though slight, saves enough of its vitality to make it well worth while to provide it.
The ideal lawn is one in which no weeds are found. But I have never seen such a lawn, and never expect to. It is possible to keep weeds from showing much if one has a thick, fine sward, but keen eyes will discover them without much trouble. Regular and careful mowings will keep them within bounds, and when the leaves of large-foliaged plants like the Burdock and Thistle are not allowed to develop they do not do a great deal of harm except in the drain they make upon the soil. Generally, after repeated discouragements of their efforts to assert themselves, they pine away and finally disappear. But there will be others always coming to take their places, especially in the country, and their kindred growing in the pastures and by the roadside will ripen seed each season to be scattered broadcast by the wind. This being the case, the impossibility of entirely freeing a lawn from weeds by uprooting them or cutting them off will be readily apparent. One would have to spend all his time in warfare against them, on even a small lawn, if he were to set out to keep them from growing there. Therefore about all one can do to prevent large weeds from becoming unsightly is to constantly curb their aspirations by mowing them down as soon as they reach a given height.
The Dandelion and the Plantain are probably the worst pests of all, because their seeds fill the air when they ripen, and settle here, there, and everywhere, and wherever they come in contact with the ground they germinate, and a colony of young plants establishes itself. Because the Burdock and Thistle attempt to develop an up-reaching top it is an easy matter to keep them down by mowing, but the Dandelion and Plantain hug the soil so closely that the mower slips over them without coming in contact with their crowns, and so they live on, and on, and spread by a multiplication of their roots until they often gain entire possession of the soil, in spots. When this happens, the best thing to do is to spade up the patch, and rake every weed-root out of it, and then reseed it. If this is done early in spring the newly-seeded place will not be noticeable by midsummer.
We frequently see weed-killers advertised in the catalogues of the florist. Most, if not all, of them will do all that is claimed for them, but—they will do just as deadly work on the grass, if they get to it, as they do on the weed, therefore they are of no practical use, as it is impossible to apply them to weeds without their coming in contact with the sward.
Ants often do great damage to the lawn by burrowing under the sward and throwing up great hummocks of loose soil, thus killing out large patches of grass where they come to the surface. It is a somewhat difficult matter to dislodge them, but it can sometimes be done by covering the places where they work with powdered borax to the depth of half an inch, and then applying water to carry it down into the soil. Repeat the operation if necessary. Florists advertise liquids which are claimed to do this work effectively, but I have had no occasion to test them, as the borax application has never failed to rout the ant on my lawn, and when I find a remedy that does its work well I depend upon it, rather than experiment with something of whose merits I know nothing. "Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good."
Fighting the ant is an easier matter than exterminating weeds, as ant-hills are generally localized, and it is possible to get at them without injuring a large amount of sward as one cannot help doing when he applies liquids to weeds. The probabilities are, however, that ants cannot be entirely driven away from the lawn after they have taken possession of it. They will shift their quarters and begin again elsewhere. But you can keep them on the run by repeated applications of whatever proves obnoxious to them, and in this way you can prevent their doing a great deal of harm. To be successful in this you will have to be constantly on the lookout for them, and so prompt in the use of the weapons you employ against them that they are prevented from becoming thoroughly established in new quarters.
PLANTING THE LAWN
When the lawn is made we begin to puzzle over the planting of trees and shrubbery.
What shall we have?
Where shall we have it?
One of the commonest mistakes made by the man who is his own gardener is that of over-planting the home-grounds with trees and shrubs. This mistake is made because he does not look ahead and see, with the mind's eye, what the result will be, a few years from now, of the work he does to-day.
The sapling of to-day will in a short time become a tree of good size, and the bush that seems hardly worth considering at present will develop into a shrub three, four, perhaps six feet across. If we plant closely, as we are all inclined to because of the small size of the material we use at planting time, we will soon have a thicket, and it will be necessary to sacrifice most of the shrubs in order to give the few we leave sufficient room to develop in. Therefore do not think, when you set out plants, of their present size, but of the size they will have attained to five or six years from now. Do not aim at immediate effect, as most of us do in our impatience for results. Be content to plant—and wait. I shall give no diagrams for lawn-planting for two reasons. The first one is—no two places are exactly alike, and a diagram prepared for one would have to be so modified in order to adapt it to the needs of the other that it would be of little value, save in the way of suggestion, and I think suggestions of a general character without the diagram will be found most satisfactory. The second reason is—few persons would care to duplicate the grounds of his neighbor, and this he would be obliged to do if diagrams were depended on. Therefore I advise each home-owner to plant his lawn after plans of his own preparation, after having given careful consideration to the matter. Look about you. Visit the lawns your neighbors have made, and discover wherein they have made mistakes. Note wherein they have been successful. And then profit by their experience, be it that of success or failure.
Do not make the mistake of planting trees and shrubs in front of the house, or between it and the street. Place them somewhere to the side, or the rear, and leave a clear, open sweep of lawn in front of the dwelling. Enough unbroken space should be left there to give the sense of breadth which will act as a division between the public and the private. Scatter shrubs and flower-beds over the lawn and you destroy that impression of distance which is given by even a small lawn when there is nothing on it to interfere with the vision, as we look across it.
Relegate shrubs to the sides of the lot, if you can conveniently do so, being careful to give the larger ones locations at the point farthest from the street, graduating them toward the front of the lot according to their habit of growth. Aim to secure a background by keeping the big fellows where they cannot interfere with the outlook of the little ones.
If paths are to be made, think well before deciding where they shall be. Some persons prefer a straight path from the street to the house. This saves steps, but it gives the place a prim and formal look that is never pleasing. It divides the yard into two sections of equal importance, where it is advisable to have but one if we would make the most of things. In other words, it halves things, thus weakening the general effect greatly. A straight path is never a graceful one. A curving path will make you a few more steps, but so much will be gained by it, in beauty, that I feel sure you will congratulate yourself on having chosen it, after you have compared it with the straight path of your neighbor. It will allow you to leave the greater share of the small lawn intact, thus securing the impression of breadth that is so necessary to the best effect.
I have spoken of planting shrubs at the sides of the home-lot. If this is done, we secure a sort of frame for the home-picture that will be extremely pleasing. If the shrubs near the street are small and low, and those beyond them increase in breadth and height as they approach the rear of the lot, with evergreens or trees as a background for the dwelling, the effect will be delightful. Such a general plan of planting the home-grounds is easily carried out. The most important feature of it to keep in mind is that of locating your plants in positions that will give each one a chance to display its charms to the best effect, and this you can easily do if you read the catalogues and familiarize yourself with the heights and habits of them.
If your lot adjoins that of a neighbor who has not yet improved his home-grounds, I would advise consulting with him, and forming a partnership in improvement-work, if possible. If you proceed after a plan of your own on your side of the fence, and he does the same on his side, there may be a sad lack of harmony in the result. But if you talk the matter over together the chances are that you can formulate a plan that will be entirely satisfactory to both parties, and result in that harmony which is absolutely necessary to effective work. Because, you see, both will be working together toward a definite design, while without such a partnership of interests each would be working independently, and your ideas of the fitness of things might be sadly at variance with those of your neighbor.
Never set your plants in rows. Nature never does that, and she doesn't make any mistakes. If you want an object-lesson in arrangement, go into the fields and pastures, and along the road, and note how she has arranged the shrubs she has planted there. Here a group, there a group, in a manner that seems to have had no plan back of it, and yet I feel quite sure she planned out very carefully every one of these clumps and combinations. The closer you study Nature's methods and pattern after them the nearer you will come to success.
Avoid formality as you would the plague if you want your garden to afford you all the pleasure you can get out of it. Nature's methods are always restful in effect because they are so simple and direct. They never seem premeditated. Her plants "just grow," like the Topsy of Mrs. Stowe's book, and no one seems to have given any thought to the matter. But in order to successfully imitate Nature it is absolutely necessary that we familiarize ourselves, as I have said, with her ways of doing things, and we can only do this by studying from her books as she opens them for us in every field, and by the roadside, and the woodland nook. The secret of success, in a word, lies in getting so close to the heart of Nature that she will take us into her confidence and tell us some of her secrets.
One of the best trees for the small lawn is the Cut-Leaved Birch. It grows rapidly, is always attractive, and does not outgrow the limit of the ordinary lot. Its habit is grace itself. Its white-barked trunk, slender, pendant branches, and finely-cut foliage never fail to challenge admiration. In fall it takes on a coloring of pale gold, and is more attractive than ever. In winter its delicate branches show against a background of blue sky with all the delicacy and distinctness of an etching. No tree that I know of is hardier.
The Mountain Ash deserves a place on all lawns, large or small. Its foliage is very attractive, as are its great clusters of white flowers in spring. When its fruit ripens, the tree is as showy as anything can well be. And, like the Cut-Leaved Birch, it is ironclad in its hardiness. It is an almost ideal tree for small places.
The Japanese Maples are beautiful trees, of medium size, very graceful in habit, and rapid growers. While not as desirable for a street tree as our native Maple, they will give better satisfaction on the lawn.
The Purple-Leaved Beech is exceedingly showy, and deserves a place on every lawn, large or small. In spring its foliage is a deep purple. In summer it takes on a crimson tinge, and in fall it colors up like bronze. It branches close to the ground, and should never be pruned to form a head several feet from the ground, like most other trees. Such treatment will mar, if not spoil, the attractiveness of it.
Betchel's Crab, which grows to be of medium size, is one of the loveliest things imaginable when in bloom. Its flowers, which are double, are of a delicate pink, with a most delicious fragrance.
The White-Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) will give excellent results wherever planted. Its white blossoms are produced in great abundance early in spring—before its leaves are out, in fact—and last for a long time. Its foliage is a gray-green, glossy and handsome in summer, and in fall a deep, rich red, making it a wonderfully attractive object at that season.
The Judas Tree (Redbud) never grows to be large. Its lovely pink blossoms appear in spring before its heart-shaped leaves are developed. Very desirable.
Salisburia (Maiden-Hair). This is an elegant little tree from Japan. Its foliage is almost fern-like in its delicacy. It is a free grower, and in every respect desirable.
Among our larger trees that are well adapted to use about the house, the Elm is the most graceful. It is the poet of the forest, with its wide-spreading, drooping branches, its beautiful foliage, and grace in every aspect of its stately form.
As a street-tree the Maple is unexcelled. It is of rapid growth, entirely hardy anywhere at the north, requires very little attention in the way of pruning, is never troubled by insects, and has the merit of great cleanliness. It is equally valuable for the lawn. In fall, it changes its summer-green for purest gold, and is a thing of beauty until it loses its last leaf.
The Laurel-Leaved Willow is very desirable where quick results are wanted. Its branches frequently make a growth of five and six feet in a season. Its leaves are shaped like those of the European Laurel,—hence its specific name,—with a glossy, dark-green surface. It is probably the most rapid grower of all desirable lawn trees. Planted along the roadside it will be found far more satisfactory than the Lombardy Poplar which is grown so extensively, but which is never pleasing after the first few years of its life, because of its habit of dying off at the top.
The Box Elder (Ash-Leaved Maple) is another tree of very rapid growth. It has handsome light-green foliage, and a head of spreading and irregular shape when left to its own devices, but it can be made into quite a dignified tree with a little attention in the way of pruning. I like it best, however, when allowed to train itself, though this would not be satisfactory where the tree is planted along the street. It will grow anywhere, is hardy enough to stand the severest climate, and is of such rapid development that the first thing you know the little sapling you set out is large enough to bear seed.
I like the idea of giving each home a background of evergreens. This for two reasons—to bring out the distinctive features of the place more effectively than it is possible to without such a background, and to serve as a wind-break. If planted at the rear of the house, they answer an excellent purpose in shutting away the view of buildings that are seldom sightly. The best variety for home-use, all things considered, is the Norway Spruce. This grows to be a stately tree of pyramidal habit, perfect in form, with heavy, slightly pendulous branches from the ground up. Never touch it with the pruning-shears unless you want to spoil it. The Colorado Blue Spruce is another excellent variety for general planting, with rich, blue-green foliage. It is a free-grower, and perfectly hardy. The Douglas Spruce has foliage somewhat resembling that of the Hemlock. Its habit of growth is that of a cone, with light and graceful spreading branches that give it a much more open and airy effect than is found in other Spruces. The Hemlock Spruce is a most desirable variety for lawn use where a single specimen is wanted. Give it plenty of room in which to stretch out its slender, graceful branches and I think it will please you more than any other evergreen you can select.
It must not be inferred that the list of trees of which mention has been made includes all that are desirable for planting about the home. There are others of great merit, and many might prefer them to the kinds I have spoken of. I have made special mention of these because I know they will prove satisfactory under such conditions as ordinarily prevail about the home, therefore they are the kinds I would advise the amateur gardener to select in order to attain the highest degree of success. Give them good soil to grow in, and they will ask very little from you in the way of attention. They are trees that anybody can grow, therefore trees for everybody.
In planting a tree care must be taken to get it as deep in the ground as it was before it was taken from the nursery. If a little deeper no harm will be done.
Make the hole in which it is to be planted so large that all its roots can be spread out evenly and naturally.
Before putting it in place, go over its roots and cut off the ends of all that were severed in taking it up. Use a sharp knife in doing this, and make a clean, smooth cut. A callus will form readily if this is done, but not if the ends of the large roots are left in a ragged, mutilated condition.
When the trees are received from the nursery they will be wrapped in moss and straw, with burlap about the roots. Do not unpack them until you are ready to plant them. If you cannot do this as soon as they are received, put them in the cellar or some other cool, shady place, and pour a pailful of water over the wrapping about the roots. Never unpack them and leave their roots exposed to the air for any length of time. If they must be unpacked before planting, cover their roots with damp moss, wet burlap, old carpet, or blankets,—anything that will protect them from the air and from drying out. But—get them into the ground as soon as possible.
When the tree is in the hole made for it, cover the roots with fine soil, and then settle this down among the roots by jarring the trunk, or by churning the tree up and down carefully. After doing this, and securing a covering for all the roots, apply a pailful or two of water to firm the soil well. I find this more effective than firming the soil with the foot, as it prevents the possibility of loose planting.
Then fill the hole with soil, and apply three or four inches of coarse manure from the barnyard to serve as a mulch. This keeps the soil moist, which is an important item, especially if the season happens to be a dry one. If barnyard manure is not obtainable, use leaves, or grass-clippings—anything that will shade the soil and retain moisture well.
Where shall we plant our trees?
This question is one that we often find it difficult to answer, because we are not familiar enough with them to know much about the effect they will give after a few years' development. Before deciding on a location for them I would advise the home-maker to look about him until he finds places where the kinds he proposes to use are growing. Then study the effect that is given by them under conditions similar to those which prevail on your own grounds. Make a mental transfer of them to the place in which you intend to use them. This you can do with the exercise of a little imagination. When you see them growing on your own grounds, as you can with the mind's eye, you can tell pretty nearly where they ought to be planted. You will get more benefit from object-lessons of this kind than from books.
On small grounds I would advise keeping them well to the sides of the house. If any are planted in front of the house they will be more satisfactory if placed nearer the street than the house. They should never be near enough to the dwelling to shade it. Sunshine about the house is necessary to health as well as cheerfulness.
Trees back of the dwelling are always pleasing. Under no circumstances plant them in prim rows, or just so many feet apart. This applies to all grounds, large or small, immediately about the house. But if the place is large enough to admit of a driveway, a row of evergreens on each side of it can be made an attractive feature.
The reader will understand from what I have said that no hard-and-fast rules as to where to plant one's trees can be laid down, because of the wide difference of conditions under which the planting must be made. Each home-owner must decide this matter for himself, but I would urge that no decision be made without first familiarizing yourself with the effect of whatever trees you select as you can see them growing on the grounds of your neighbors.
Do not make the mistake of planting so thickly that a jungle will result after a few years. In order to do itself justice, each tree must have space enough about it, on all sides, to enable it to display its charms fully. This no tree can do when crowded in among others. One or two fine large trees with plenty of elbow-room about them will afford vastly more satisfaction than a dozen trees that dispute the space with each other. Here again is proof of what I have said many times in this book, that quality is what pleases rather than quantity.
If any trees are planted in front of the house, choose kinds having a high head, so that there will be no obstruction of the outlook from the dwelling.
Every yard ought to have its quota of shrubs. They give to it a charm which nothing else in the plant-line can supply, because they have a greater dignity than the perennial and the annual plant, on account of size, and the fact that they are good for many years, with very little care, recommends them to the home-maker who cannot give a great deal of attention to the garden and the home-grounds. It hardly seems necessary to say anything about their beauty. That is one of the things that "goes without saying," among those who see, each spring, the glory of the Lilacs and the Spireas, and other shrubs which find a place in "everybody's garden." On very small ground the larger-growing shrubs take the place of trees quite satisfactorily. Indeed, they are preferable there, because they are not likely to outgrow the limits assigned them, as trees will in time, and they do not make shade enough to bring about the unsanitary conditions which are almost always found to exist in small places where trees, planted too thickly at first, have made a strong development. Shade is a pleasing feature of a place in summer, but there is such a thing as having too much of it. We frequently see places in which the dwelling is almost entirely hidden by a thicket of trees, and examination will be pretty sure to show that the house is damp, and the occupants of it unhealthy. Look at the roof and you will be quite sure to find the shingles covered with green moss. The only remedy for such a condition of things is the thinning out or removal of some of the trees, and the admission of sunlight. Shrubs can never be charged with producing such a state of things, hence my preference for them on lots where there is not much room. Vines can be used upon the walls of the dwelling and about the verandas and porches in such a way as to give all the shade that is needed, and, with a few really fine specimens of shrubs scattered about the grounds, trees will not be likely to be missed much.
I would not be understood as discouraging the planting of trees on grounds where there is ample space for their development. A fine tree is one of the most beautiful things in the world, but it must be given a good deal of room, and that is just what cannot be done on the small city or village lot. Another argument in favor of shrubs is—they will be in their prime a few years after planting, while a tree must have years to grow in. And a shrub generally affords considerable pleasure from the start, as it will bloom when very small. Many of them bloom the first season.
In locating shrubs do not make the mistake of putting them between the house and the street, unless for the express purpose of shutting out something unsightly either of buildings or thoroughfare. A small lawn loses its dignity when broken up by trees, shrubs, or flower-beds. Left to itself it imparts a sense of breadth and distance which will make it seem larger than it really is. Plant things all over it and this effect is destroyed. I have said this same thing in other chapters of this book, and I repeat it with a desire to so impress the fact upon the mind of the home-maker that he cannot forget it, and make the common mistake of locating his shrubbery or his flower-gardens in the front yard.
The best location for shrubs on small lots is that which I have advised for hardy plants—along the sides of the lot, or at the rear of it, far enough away from the dwelling, if space will permit, to serve as a background for it. Of course no hard-and-fast rule can be laid down, because lots differ so widely in size and shape, and the houses we build on them are seldom found twice in the same place. I am simply advising in a general way, and the advice will have to be modified to suit the conditions which exist about each home.
Do not set your shrubs out after any formal fashion—just so far apart, and in straight rows—as so many do. Formality should be avoided whenever possible.
I think you will find the majority of them most satisfactory when grouped. That is, several of a kind—or at least of kinds that harmonize in general effect—planted so close together that, when well developed, they form one large mass of branches and foliage. I do not mean, by this, that they should be crowded. Give each one ample space to develop in, but let them be near enough to touch, after a little.
If it is proposed to use different kinds in groups, one must make sure that he understand the habit of each, or results will be likely to be most unsatisfactory. The larger-growing kinds must be given the centre or the rear of the group, with smaller kinds at the sides, or in front. The season of flowering and the peculiarities of branch and foliage should also be given due consideration. If we were to plant a Lilac with its stiff and rather formal habit among a lot of Spireas, all slender grace and delicate foliage, the effect would be far from pleasing. The two shrubs have nothing in common, except beauty, and that is so dissimilar that it cannot be made to harmonize. There must be a general harmony. This does not mean that there may not be plenty of contrast. Contrast and harmony are not contradictory terms, as some may think.
Therefore read up in the catalogues about the shrubs you propose to make use of before you give them a permanent place in the yard.
Also, take a look ahead.
The plant you procure from the nursery will be small. So small, indeed, that if you leave eight or ten feet between it and the next one you set out, it will look so lonesome that it excites your pity, and you may be induced to plant another in the unfilled space to keep it company. But in doing this you will be making a great mistake. Three or four years from now the bushes will have run together to such an extent that each plant has lost its individuality. There will be a thicket of branches which will constantly interfere with each other's well being, and prevent healthy development. If you take the look ahead which I have advised, you will anticipate the development of the shrub, and plant for the future rather than the immediate present. Be content to let the grounds look rather naked for a time. Three or four years will remedy that defect. You can plant perennials and annuals between them, temporarily, if you want the space filled. It will be understood that what has been said in this paragraph applies to different kinds of shrubs set as single specimens, and not to those planted on the "grouping" system.
In planting shrubs, the rule given for trees applies quite fully. Have the hole for them large enough to admit of spreading out their roots naturally. You can tell about this by setting the shrub down upon the ground after unwrapping it, and watching the way in which it disposes of its roots. They will spread out on all sides as they did before the plant was taken from the ground. This is what they should be allowed to do in their new quarters. Many persons dig what resembles a post-hole more than anything else, and crowd the roots of the shrub into it, without making any effort to loosen or straighten them out, dump in some lumpy soil, trample it down roughly, and call the work done. Done it is, after a fashion, but those who love the plants they set out—those who want fine shrubs and expect them to grow well from the beginning—never plant in that way. Spread the roots out on all sides, cover them with fine, mellow soil, settle this into compactness with a liberal application of water, then fill up the hole, and cover the surface with a mulch of some kind. Treated in this way not one shrub in a hundred will fail to grow, if it has good roots. What was said about cutting off the ends on injured roots, in the chapter on planting trees, applies with equal pertinence here. Also, about keeping the roots covered until you are ready to put the plant into the ground. A shrub is a tree on a small scale, and should receive the same kind of treatment so far as planting goes. These instructions may seem trifling, but they are really matters of great importance, as every amateur will find after a little experience. A large measure of one's success depends on how closely we follow out the little hints and suggestions along these lines in the cultivation of all kinds of plants.
Among our best large shrubs, suitable for planting at the rear of the lot, or in the back row of a group, is the Lilac. The leading varieties will grow to a height of ten or twelve feet, and can be made to take on bush form if desired, or can be trained as a small tree. If the bush form is preferred, cut off the top of the plant, when small, and allow several branches to start from its base. If you prefer a tree, keep the plant to one straight stem until it reaches the height where you want the head to form. Then cut off its top. Branches will start below. Leave only those near the top of the stem. These will develop and form the head you want. I consider the Lilac one of our very best shrubs, because of its entire hardiness, its rapid development, its early flowering habit, its beauty, its fragrance, and the little attention needed by it. Keep the soil about it rich, and mow off the suckers that will spring up about the parent plant in great numbers each season, and it will ask no more of you. The chief objection urged against it is its tendency to sucker so freely. If let alone, it will soon become a nuisance, but with a little attention this disagreeable habit can be overcome. I keep the ground about my plants free from suckers by the use of the lawn-mower. They can be cut as easily as grass when young and small.
If there is a more beautiful shrub than the white Lilac I do not know what it is. For cut-flower work it is as desirable as the Lily of the Valley, which is the only flower I can compare it with in delicate beauty, purity, and sweetness.
The Persian is very pleasing for front positions, because of its compact, spreading habit, and its slender, graceful manner of branching close to the ground. It is a very free bloomer, and a bush five or six feet high, and as many feet across, will often have hundreds of plume-like tufts of bloom, of a dark purple showing a decided violet tint.
The double varieties are lovely beyond description. At a little distance the difference between the doubles and singles will not be very noticeable, but at close range the beauty of the former will be apparent. Their extra petals give them an airy grace, a feathery lightness, which the shorter-spiked kinds do not have. By all means have a rosy-purple double variety, and a double white. No garden that lives up to its privileges will be without them. If I could have but one shrub, I think my choice would be a white Lilac.
Another shrub of tall and stately habit is the old Snowball. When well grown, few shrubs can surpass it in beauty. Its great balls of bloom are composed of scores of individually small flowers, and they are borne in such profusion that the branches often bend beneath their weight. Of late years there has been widespread complaint of failure with this plant, because of the attack of aphides. These little green plant-lice locate themselves on the underside of the tender foliage, before it is fully developed, and cause it to curl in an unsightly way. The harm is done by these pests sucking the juices from the leaf. I have had no difficulty in preventing them from injuring my bushes since I began the use of the insecticide sold by the florists under the name of Nicoticide. If this is applied as directed on the can in which it is put up, two or three applications will entirely rid the plant of the insects, and they will not return after being driven away by anything as disagreeable to them as a nicotine extract. Great care must be taken to see that the application gets to the underside of the foliage where the pests will establish themselves. This is a matter of the greatest importance, for, in order to rout them, it is absolutely necessary that you get the nicotine where they are. Simply sprinkling it over the bush will do very little good.
The Spirea is one of the loveliest of all shrubs. Its flowers are exquisite in their daintiness, and so freely produced that the bush is literally covered with them. And the habit of the bush is grace itself, and this without any attention whatever from you in the way of training. In fact, attempt to train a Spirea and the chances are that you will spoil it. Let it do its own training, and the result will be all that you or any one else could ask for. There are several varieties, as you will see when you consult the dealers' catalogues. Some are double, some single, some white, some pink. Among the most desirable for general culture I would name Van Houteii, a veritable fountain of pure white blossoms in May and June, Prunifolia, better known as "Bridal Wreath," with double white flowers, Billardi, pink, and Fortunei, delicate, bright rose-color.
The Spireas are excellent shrubs for grouping, especially when the white and pink varieties are used together. This shrub is very hardy, and of the easiest culture, and I can recommend it to the amateur, feeling confident that it will never fail to please.
Quite as popular as the Spirea is the Deutzia, throughout the middle section of the northern states. Farther north it is likely to winter-kill badly. That is, many of its branches will be injured to such an extent that they will have to be cut away to within a foot or two of the ground, thus interfering with a free production of flowers. The blossoms of this shrub are of a tasselly bell-shape, produced thickly all along the slender branches, in June. Candidissima is a double white, very striking and desirable. Gracilis is the most daintily beautiful member of the family, all things considered. Discolor grandiflora is a variety with large double blossoms, tinted with pink on the reverse of the petals.
The Weigelia is a lovely shrub. There are white, pink, and carmine varieties. The flowers, which are trumpet-shaped, are borne in spikes in which bloom and foliage are so delightfully mixed that the result is a spray of great beauty. A strong plant will be a solid mass of color for weeks.
An excellent, low-growing, early flowering shrub is Pyrus Japonica, better known as Japan Quince. It is one of our earliest bloomers. Its flowers are of the most intense, fiery scarlet. This is one of our best plants for front rows in the shrubbery, and is often used as a low hedge.
One of our loveliest little shrubs is Daphne Cneorum, oftener known as the "Garland Flower." Its blossoms are borne in small clusters at the extremity of the stalks. They are a soft pink, and very sweet. The habit of the plant is low and spreading. While this is not as showy as many of our shrubs, it is one that will win your friendship, because of its modest beauty, and will keep a place in your garden indefinitely after it has once been given a place there.
Berberis—the "Barberry" of "Grandmother's garden"—is a most satisfactory shrub, for several reasons: It is hardy everywhere. The white, yellow, and orange flowers of the different varieties are showy in spring; in fall the foliage colors finely; and through the greater part of winter the scarlet, blue and black berries are extremely pleasing. Thunbergii is a dwarf variety, with yellow flowers, followed by vivid scarlet fruit. In autumn, the foliage changes to scarlet and gold, and makes the bush as attractive as if covered with flowers. This is an excellent variety for a low hedge.
Exochorda grandiflora, better known as "Pearl Bush," is one of the most distinctively ornamental shrubs in cultivation. It grows to a height of seven to ten feet, and can be pruned to almost any desirable shape. The buds, which come early in the season, look like pearls strung on fine green threads—hence the popular name of the plant—and these open into flowers of the purest white. A fine shrub for the background of a border.
Forsythia is a splendid old shrub growing to a height of eight to ten feet. Its flowers appear before its leaves are out, and are of such a rich, shining yellow that they light up the garden like a bonfire. The flowers are bell-shaped, hence the popular name of the plant, "Golden Bell."
Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora is a very general favorite because of its great hardiness, profusion of flowers, ease of cultivation, and habit of late blooming. It is too well known to need description.
Robinia hispida, sometimes called Rose Acacia, is a native species of the Locust. It has long, drooping, very lovely clusters of pea-shaped flowers of a soft pink color. It will grow in the poorest soil and stand more neglect than any other shrub I have knowledge of. But because it can do this is no reason why it should be asked to do it. Give it good treatment and it will do so much better for you than it possibly can under neglect, that it will seem like a new variety of an old plant.
The Flowering Currant is a delightful shrub, and one that anyone can grow, and one that will flourish anywhere. It is very pleasing in habit, without any attention in the way of training. Its branches spread gracefully in all directions from the centre of the bush, and grow to a length of six or seven feet. Early in the season they are covered with bright yellow flowers of a spicy and delicious fragrance. In fall the bush takes on a rich coloring of crimson and gold, and is really much showier then than when in bloom, in spring.
Sambucus aurea—the Golden Elder—is one of the showiest shrubs in cultivation, and its showy feature is its foliage. Let alone, it grows to be a very large bush, but judicious pruning keeps it within bounds, for small grounds. It makes an excellent background for such brilliantly colored flowers as the Dahlia, Salvia splendens, or scarlet Geraniums. It deserves a place in all collections. Our native Cut-Leaved Elder is one of the most beautiful ornaments any place can have. It bears enormous cymes of delicate, lace-like, fragrant flowers in June and July. These are followed by purple berries, which make the bush as attractive as when in bloom.
The Syringa, or Mock Orange, is one of our favorites. It grows to a height of eight and ten feet and is therefore well adapted to places in the back row, or in the rear of the garden. Its flowers, which are borne in great profusion, are a creamy white, and very sweet-scented.
The double-flowered Plum is a most lovely shrub. It blooms early in spring, before its leaves are out. Its flowers are very double, and of a delicate pink, and are produced in such profusion that the entire plant seems under a pink cloud.
Another early bloomer, somewhat similar to the Plum, is the Flowering Almond, an old favorite. This, however, is of slender habit, and should be given a place in the front row. Its lovely pink-and-white flowers are borne all along the gracefully arching stalks, making them look like wreaths of bloom that Nature had not finished by fastening them together in chaplet form.
It is not to be understood that the list given above includes all the desirable varieties of shrubs suited to amateur culture. It does, however, include the cream of the list for general-purpose gardening. There are many other kinds that are well worth a place in any garden, but some of them are inclined to be rather too tender for use at the north, without protection, and others require a treatment which they will not be likely to get from the amateur gardener, therefore I would not advise the beginner in shrub-growing to undertake their culture.
Many an amateur gardener labors under the impression that all shrubs must be given an annual pruning. He doesn't know just how he got this impression, but—he has it. He looks his shrubs over, and sees no actual necessity for the use of the knife, but—pruning must be done, and he cuts here, and there, and everywhere, without any definite aim in view, simply because he feels that something of the kind is demanded of him. This is where a great mistake is made. So long as a shrub is healthy and pleasing in shape let it alone. It is not necessary that it should present the same appearance from all points of view. That would be to make it formal, prim—anything but graceful. Go into the fields and forests and take lessons from Nature, the one gardener who makes no mistakes. Her shrubs are seldom regular in outline, but they are beautiful, all the same, and graceful, every one of them, with a grace that is the result of informality and naturalness. Therefore never prune a shrub unless it really needs it, and let the need be determined by something more than mere lack of uniformity in its development. Much of the charm of Nature's workmanship is the result of irregularity which never does violence to the laws of symmetry and grace. Study the wayside shrub until you discover the secret of it, and apply the knowledge thus gained to the management of your home garden.
Shrubs can be set in fall or spring. Some persons will tell you that spring planting is preferable, and give you good reasons for their preference. Others will advance what seem to be equally good reasons for preferring to plant in fall. So far as my experience goes, I see but little difference in results.
By planting in spring, you get your shrub into the ground before it begins to grow.
By planting in fall, you get it into the ground after it has completed its annual growth.
You will have to be governed by circumstances, and do the best you can under them, and you will find, I feel quite sure, that good results will come from planting at either season.
If you plant in spring, do not defer the work until after your plants have begun growing. Do it as soon as the frost is out of the ground.
If in fall, do it as soon as possible after the plant has fully completed the growth of the season, and "ripened off," as we say. In other words, is in that dormant condition which follows the completion of its yearly work. This will be shown by the falling of its leaves.
Never starve a shrub while it is small and young, under the impression that, because it is small, it doesn't make much difference how you use it. It makes all the difference in the world. Much of its future usefulness depends on the treatment it receives at this period. What you want to do is to give it a good start. And after it gets well started, keep it going steadily ahead. Allow no grass or weeds to grow close to it and force it to dispute with them for its share of nutriment in the soil about its roots.
It is a good plan to spread a bushel or more of coarse litter about each shrub in fall. Not because it needs protection in the sense that a tender plant needs it, but because a mulch keeps the frost from working harm at its roots, and saves to the plant that amount of vital force which it would be obliged to expend upon itself if it were left to take care of itself. For it is true that even our hardiest plants suffer a good deal in the fight with cold, though they may not seem to be much injured by it. Mulch some of them, and leave some of them without a mulch, and notice the difference between the two when spring comes. If you do this, I feel sure you will give all of them the mulch-treatment every season thereafter.
A home without vines is like a home without children—it lacks the very thing that ought to be there to make it most delightful and home-like.
A good vine—and we have many such—soon becomes "like one of the family." Year after year it continues to develop, covering unsightly places with its beauty of leaf and bloom, and hiding defects that can be hidden satisfactorily in no other way. All of us have seen houses that were positively ugly in appearance before vines were planted about them, that became pleasant and attractive as soon as the vines had a chance to show what they could do in the way of covering up ugliness.
There are few among our really good vines that will not continue to give satisfaction for an indefinite period if given a small amount of attention each season. I can think of none that are not better when ten or twelve years old than they are two and three years after planting—healthier, stronger, like a person who has "got his growth" and arrived at that period when all the elements of manhood are fully developed. Young vines may be as pleasing as old ones, as far as they go, but—the objection is that they do not go far enough. The value of a vine depends largely on size, and size depends largely on age. During the early stage of a vine's existence it is making promise of future grace and beauty, and we must give it plenty of time in which to make that promise good. We must also give such care as will make it not only possible but easy to fulfil this promise to the fullest extent.
While many vines will live on indefinitely under neglect, they cannot do themselves justice under such conditions, as any one will find who plants one and leaves it to look out for itself. But be kind to it, show it that you care for it and have its welfare at heart, and it will surprise and delight you with its rapidity of growth, and the beauty it is capable of imparting to everything with which it comes in contact. For it seems impossible for a vine to grow anywhere without making everything it touches beautiful. It is possessor of the magic which transforms plain things into loveliness.
If I were obliged to choose between vines and shrubs—and I am very glad that I do not have to do so—I am quite sure I would choose the former. I can hardly explain how it is, but we seem to get on more intimate terms with a vine than we do with a shrub. Probably it is because it grows so close to the dwelling, as a general thing, that we come to think of it as a part of the home.
Vines planted close to the house walls often fail to do well, because they do not have a good soil to spread their roots in. The soil thrown out from the cellar, or in making an excavation for the foundation walls, is almost always hard, and deficient in nutriment. In order to make it fit for use a liberal amount of sand and loam ought to be added to it, and mixed with it so thoroughly that it becomes a practically new soil. At the same time manure should be given in generous quantity. If this is done, a poor soil can be made over into one that will give most excellent results. One application of manure, however, will not be sufficient. In one season, a strong, healthy vine will use up all the elements of plant-growth, and more should be supplied to meet the demands of the following year. In other words, vines should be manured each season if they are expected to keep in good health and continue to develop. If barnyard manure cannot be obtained, use bonemeal of which I so often speak in this book. I consider it the best substitute for barnyard fertilizer that I have ever used, for all kinds of plants.
The best, all-round vine for general use, allowing me to be judge, is Ampelopsis, better known throughout the country as American Ivy, or Virginia Creeper. It is of exceedingly rapid growth, often sending out branches twenty feet in length in a season, after it has become well established. It clings to stone, wood, or brick, with equal facility, and does not often require any support except such as it secures for itself. There are two varieties. One has flat, sucker-like discs, which hold themselves tightly against whatever surface they come in contact with, on the principle of suction. The other has tendrils which clasp themselves about anything they can grasp, or force themselves into cracks and crevices in such a manner as to furnish all the support the vine needs. So far as foliage and general habit goes, there is not much difference between these two varieties, but the variety with disc-supports colors up most beautifully in fall. The foliage of both is very luxuriant. When the green of summer gives way to the scarlet and maroon of autumn, the entire plant seems to have changed its leaves for flowers, so brilliant is its coloring. There is but one objection to be urged against this plant, and that is—its tendency to rampant growth. Let it have its way and it will cover windows as well as walls, and fling its festoons across doorway and porch. This will have to be prevented by clipping away all branches that show an inclination to run riot, and take possession of places where no vines are needed. When you discover a branch starting out in the wrong direction, cut it off at once. A little attention of this kind during the growing period will save the trouble of a general pruning later on.
Vines, like children, should be trained while growing if you would have them afford satisfaction when grown.
The Ampelopsis will climb to the roof of a two-story house in a short time, and throw out its branches freely as it makes its upward growth, and this without any training or pruning. Because of its ability to take care of itself in these respects, as well as because of its great beauty, I do not hesitate to call it the best of all vines for general use. It will grow in all soils except clear sand, it is as hardy as it is possible for a vine to be, and so far as my experience with it goes—and I have grown it for the last twenty years—it has no diseases.
For verandas and porches the Honeysuckles will probably afford better satisfaction because of their less rampant habit. Also because of the beauty and the fragrance of their flowers. Many varieties are all-summer bloomers. The best of these are Scarlet Trumpet and Halleana. The vines can be trained over trellises, or large-meshed wire netting, or tacked to posts, as suits the taste of the owner. In whatever manner you train them they lend grace and beauty to a porch without shutting off the outlook wholly, as their foliage is less plentiful than that of most vines. This vine is of rapid development, and so hardy that it requires very little attention in the way of protection in winter. The variety called Scarlet Trumpet has scarlet and orange flowers. Halleana has almost evergreen foliage and cream-white flowers of most delightful fragrance. Both can be trained up together with very pleasing effect. There are other good sorts, but I consider that these two combine all the best features of the entire list, therefore I would advise the amateur gardener to concentrate his attention on them instead of spreading it out over inferior kinds.
Every lover of flowers who sees the hybrid varieties of Clematis in bloom is sure to want to grow them. They are very beautiful, it is true, and few plants are more satisfactory when well grown. But—there's the rub—to grow them well.
The variety known as Jackmani, with dark purple-blue flowers, is most likely to succeed under amateur culture, but of late years it has been quite unsatisfactory. Plants of it grow well during the early part of the season, but all at once blight strikes them, and they wither in a day, as if something had attacked the root, and in a short time they are dead. This has discouraged the would-be growers of the large-flowered varieties—for all of them seem to be subject to the same disease. What this disease is no one seems able to say, and, so far, no remedy for it has been advanced.
But in Clematis paniculata, we have a variety that I consider superior in every respect to the large-flowered kinds, and to date no one has reported any trouble with it. It is of strong and healthy growth, and rampant in its habit, thus making it useful where the large-flowered kinds have proved defective, as none of them are of what may be called free growth. They grow to a height of seven or eight feet—sometimes ten,—but have few branches, and sparse foliage. Paniculata, on the contrary, makes a very vigorous growth—often twenty feet in a season—and its foliage, unlike that of the other varieties, is attractive enough in itself to make the plant well worth growing. It is a rich, glossy green, and so freely produced that it furnishes a dense shade. Late in the season, after most other plants are in "the sere and yellow leaf" it is literally covered with great panicles of starry white flowers which have a delightful fragrance. While this variety lacks the rich color of such varieties as Jackmani and others of the hybrid class, it is really far more beautiful. Indeed, I know of no flowering vine that can equal it in this respect. Its late-flowering habit adds greatly to its value. It is not only healthy, but hardy—a quality no one can afford to overlook when planting vines about the house. Like Clematis flammula, a summer-blooming relative of great value both for its beauty and because it is a native, it is likely to die pretty nearly to the ground in winter, but, because of rapid growth, this is not much of an objection. By the time the flowers of either variety are likely to come in for a fair share of appreciation, the vines will have grown to good size.
For the middle and southern sections of the northern states the Wistaria is a most desirable vine, but at the north it cannot be depended on to survive the winter in a condition that will enable it to give a satisfactory crop of flowers. Its roots will live, but most of its branches will be killed each season.
Ampelopsis Veitchii, more commonly known as Boston or Japan Ivy, is a charming vine to train over brick and stone walls in localities where it is hardy, because of its dense habit of growth. Its foliage is smaller than that of the native Ampelopsis, and it is far less rampant in growth, though a free grower. It will completely cover the walls of a building with its dark green foliage, every shoot clinging so closely that a person seeing the plant for the first time would get the idea that it had been shorn of all its branches except those adhering to the wall. All its branches attach themselves to the wall-surface, thus giving an even, uniform effect quite unlike that of other vines which throw out branches in all directions, regardless of wall or trellis. In autumn this variety takes on a rich coloring that must be seen to be fully appreciated.
Our native Celastrus, popularly known as Bittersweet, is a very desirable vine if it can be given something to twine itself about. It has neither tendril nor disc, and supports itself by twisting its new growth about trees over which it clambers, branches—anything that it can wind about. If no other support is to be found it will twist about itself in such a manner as to form a great rope of branches. It has attractive foliage, but the chief beauty of the vine is its clusters of pendant fruit, which hang to the plant well into winter. This fruit is a berry of bright crimson, enclosed in an orange shell which cracks open, in three pieces, and becomes reflexed, thus disclosing the berry within. As these berries grow in clusters of good size, and are very freely produced, the effect of a large plant can be imagined. In fall the foliage turns to a pure gold, and forms a most pleasing background for the scarlet and orange clusters to display themselves against. The plant is of extremely rapid growth. It has a habit of spreading rapidly, and widely, by sending out underground shoots which come to the surface many feet away from the parent plant. These must be kept mowed down or they will become a nuisance.
Flower-loving people are often impatient of results, and I am often asked what annual I would advise one to make use of, for immediate effect, or while the hardy vines are getting a start. I know of nothing better, all things considered, than the Morning Glory, of which mention will be found elsewhere.
The Flowering Bean is a pretty vine for training up about verandas, but does not grow to a sufficient height to make it of much value elsewhere. It is fine for covering low trellises or a fence.
The "climbing" Nasturtiums are not really climbers. Rather plants with such long and slender branches that they must be given some support to keep them from straggling all over the ground. They are very pleasing when used to cover fences, low screens, and trellises, or when trained along the railing of the veranda.
The Kudzu Vine is of wonderful rapidity of growth, and will be found a good substitute for a hardy vine about piazzas and porches.
Aristolochia, or Dutchman's Pipe, is a hardy vine of more than ordinary merit. It has large, overlapping leaves that furnish a dense shade, and very peculiar flowers—more peculiar, in fact, than beautiful.
Bignonia will give satisfaction south of Chicago, in most localities. Where it stands the winter it is a favorite on account of its great profusion of orange-scarlet flowers and its pretty, finely-cut foliage. Farther north it will live on indefinitely, like the Wistaria, but its branches will nearly always be badly killed in winter.
It is a mistake to make use of strips of cloth in fastening vines to walls, as so many are in the habit of doing, because the cloth will soon rot, and when a strong wind comes along, or after a heavy rain, the vines will be torn from their places, and generally it will be found impossible to replace them satisfactorily. Cloth and twine may answer well enough for annual vines, with the exception of the Morning Glory, but vines of heavy growth should be fastened with strips of leather passed about the main stalks and nailed to the wall securely. Do not use a small tack, as the weight of the vines will often tear it loose from the wood. Do not make the leather so tight that it will interfere with the circulation of sap in the plant. Allow space for future growth. Some persons use iron staples, but I would not advise them as they are sure to chafe the branches they are used to support.
The question is often asked if vines are not harmful to the walls over which they are trained. I have never found them so. On the contrary, I have found walls that had been covered with vines for years in a better state of preservation than walls on which no vines had ever been trained. The explanation is a simple one: The leaves of the vines act in the capacity of shingles, and shed rain, thus keeping it from getting to the walls of the building.
But I would not advise training vines over the roof, unless it is constructed of slate or some material not injured by dampness, because the moisture will get below the foliage, where the sun cannot get at it, and long-continued dampness will soon bring on decay.
On account of the difficulty of getting at them, vines are never pruned to any great extent, but it would be for the betterment of them if they were gone over every year, and all the oldest branches cut away, or thinned out enough to admit of a free circulation of air. If this were done, the vine would be constantly renewing itself, and most kinds would be good for a lifetime. It really is not such a difficult undertaking as most people imagine, for by the use of an ordinary ladder one can get at most parts of a building, and reach such portions of the vines as need attention most.
THE HARDY BORDER
The most satisfactory garden of flowering plants for small places, all things considered, is one composed of hardy herbaceous perennials and biennials.
This for several reasons:
1st.—Once thoroughly established they are good for an indefinite period.
2d.—It is not necessary to "make garden" annually, as is the case where annuals are depended on.
3d.—They require less care than any other class of plants.
4th.—Requiring less care than other plants, they are admirably adapted to the needs of those who can devote only a limited amount of time to gardening.
5th.—They include some of the most beautiful plants we have.
6th.—By a judicious selection of kinds it is possible to have flowers from them from early in spring till late in fall.
I have no disposition to say disparaging things about the garden of annuals. Annuals are very desirable. Some of them are absolutely indispensable. But they call for a great deal of labor. It is hard work to spade the ground, and make the beds, and sow the seed, and keep the weeds down. This work must be done year after year. But with hardy plants this is not the case. Considerable labor may be called for, the first year, in preparing the ground and setting out the plants, but the most of the work done among them, after that, can be done with the hoe, and it will take so little time to do it that you will wonder how you ever came to think annuals the only plants for the flower-garden of busy people. That this is what a great many persons think is true, but it is because they have not had sufficient experience with hardy plants to fully understand their merits, and the small amount of care they require. A season's experience will convince them of their mistake.
In preparing the ground for the reception of these plants, spade it up to the depth of a foot and a half, at least, and work into it a liberal amount of good manure, or some commercial fertilizer that will take the place of manure from the barnyard or cow-stable. Most perennials and herbaceous plants will do fairly well in a soil of only moderate richness, but they cannot do themselves justice in it. They ought not to be expected to. To secure the best results from them—and you ought to be satisfied with nothing less—feed them well. Give them a good start, at the time of planting, and keep them up to a high standard of vitality by liberal feeding, and they will surprise and delight you with the profusion and beauty of their bloom.
Perennials will not bloom till the second year from seed. Therefore, if you want flowers from them the first season, it will be necessary for you to purchase last season's seedlings from the florist.
In most neighborhoods one can secure enough material to stock the border from friends who have old plants that need to be divided, or by exchanging varieties.
But if you want plants of any particular color, or of a certain variety, you will do well to give your order to a dealer. In most gardens five or six years old the original varieties will either have died out or so deteriorated that the stock you obtain there will be inferior in many respects, therefore not at all satisfactory to one who is inclined to be satisfied with nothing but the best. The "best" is what the dealer will send you if you patronize one who has established a reputation for honesty.
The impression prevails, to a great extent, that perennials bloom only for a very short time in the early part of the season. This is a mistake. If you select your plants with a view to the prolongation of the flowering period, you can have flowers throughout the season from this class of plants. Of course not all of them will bloom at the same time. I would not be understood as meaning that. But what I do mean is—that by choosing for a succession of bloom it is possible to secure kinds whose flowering periods will meet and overlap each other in such a manner that some of them will be in bloom most of the time. Many kinds bloom long before the earliest annuals are ready to begin the work of the season. Others are in their prime at midsummer, and later ones will give flowers until frost comes. If you read up the catalogues and familiarize yourself with the habits of the plants which the dealer offers for sale, you can make a selection that will keep the garden gay from May to November.
On the ordinary home-lot there is not much choice allowed as to the location of the border. It must go to the sides of the lot if it starts in front of the house, or it may be located at the rear of the dwelling. On most grounds it will, after a little, occupy both of these positions, for it will outgrow its early limitations in a few years. You will be constantly adding to it, and thus it comes about that the border that begins on each side of the lot will overflow to the rear.
I would never advise locating it in front of the dwelling. Leave the lawn unbroken there. While there is not much opportunity for "effect" on small grounds, a departure from straight lines can always be made, and formality and primness be avoided to a considerable degree. Let the inner edge of the border curve, as shown in the illustration accompanying this chapter, and the result will be a hundredfold more pleasing than it would be if it were a straight line. Curves are always graceful, and indentations here and there enable you to secure new points of view that add vastly to the general effect. They make the border seem larger than it really is because only a portion of it is seen at the same time, as would not be the case if it were made up of straight rows of plants, with the same width throughout.
By planting low-growing kinds in front, and backing them up with kinds of a taller growth, with the very tallest growers in the rear, the effect of a bank of flowers and foliage can be secured. This the illustration clearly shows.
Shrubbery can be used in connection with perennials with most satisfactory results. This, as the reader will see, was done on the grounds from which the picture was taken. Here we have a combination which cannot fail to afford pleasure. I would not advise any home-maker to confine his border to plants of one class. Use shrubs and perennials together, and scatter annuals here and there, and have bulbs all along the border's edge.
I want to call particular attention to one thing which the picture under consideration emphasizes very forcibly, and that is—the unstudied informality of it. It seems to have planned itself. It is like one of Nature's fence-corner bits of gardening.
For use in the background we have several most excellent plants. The Delphinium—Larkspur—grows to a height of seven or eight feet, in rich soil, sending up a score or more of stout stalks from each strong clump of roots. Two or three feet of the upper part of these stalks will be solid with a mass of flowers of the richest, most intense blue imaginable. I know of no other flower of so deep and striking a shade of this rather rare color in the garden. In order to guard against injury from strong winds, stout stakes should be set about each clump, and wound with wire or substantial cord to prevent the flowering stalks from being broken down. There is a white variety, Chinensis, that is most effective when used in combination with the blue, which you will find catalogued as Delphinium formosum. If several strong clumps are grouped together, the effect will be magnificent when the plants are in full bloom. By cutting away the old stalks as soon as they have developed all their flowers, new ones can be coaxed to grow, and under this treatment the plants can be kept in bloom for many weeks.