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Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a Working Amateur

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<SPAN name="Page_122" id="Page_122"></SPAN>[122]</span>scent I delight in; it grows into a thick bush-like plant full of purple flower in the late summer, when it attracts quantities of bumble-bees. It is a capital wall-plant, and has sown its own seed, till there is a large patch on the top and some in its face, and a broadly-spreading group in the border below. It is one of the plants that was used in the old Tudor gardens for edgings; the growth is close and woody at the base, and it easily bears clipping into shape.</p> <p>The fierce gales and heavy rains of the last days of September wrought sad havoc among the flowers. Dahlias were virtually wrecked. Though each plant had been tied to three stakes, their masses of heavy growth could not resist the wrenching and twisting action of the wind, and except in a few cases where they were well sheltered, their heads lay on the ground, the stems broken down at the last tie. If anything about a garden could be disheartening, it would be its aspect after such a storm of wind. Wall shrubs, only lately made safe, as we thought, have great gaps torn out of them, though tied with tarred string to strong iron staples, staples and all being wrenched out. Everything looks battered, and whipped, and ashamed; branches of trees and shrubs lie about far from their sources of origin; green leaves and little twigs are washed up into thick drifts; apples and quinces, that should have hung till mid-October, lie bruised and muddy under the trees. Newly-planted roses and hollies have a funnel-shaped hole worked in the ground <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_123" id="Page_123"></SPAN>[123]</span>at their base, showing the power of the wind to twist their heads, and giving warning of a corresponding disturbance of the tender roots. There is nothing to be done but to look round carefully and search out all disasters and repair them as well as may be, and to sweep up the wreckage and rubbish, and try to forget the rough weather, and enjoy the calm beauty of the better days that follow, and hope that it may be long before such another angry storm is sent. And indeed a few quiet days of sunshine and mild temperature work wonders. In a week one would hardly know that the garden had been so cruelly torn about. Fresh flowers take the place of bruised ones, and wholesome young growths prove the enduring vitality of vegetable life. Still we cannot help feeling, towards the end of September, that the flower year is nearly at an end, though the end is a gorgeous one, with its strong yellow masses of the later perennial Sunflowers and Marigolds, Goldenrod, and a few belated Gladioli; the brilliant foliage of Virginian Creepers, the leaf-painting of <i>Vitis Coignettii</i>, and the strong crimson of the Claret Vine.</p> <p>The Water-elder (<i>Viburnum opulus</i>) now makes a brave show in the edge of the copse. It is without doubt the most beautiful berry-bearing shrub of mid-September. The fruit hangs in ample clusters from the point of every branch and of every lateral twig, in colour like the brightest of red currants, but with a translucent lustre that gives each separate berry a <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_124" id="Page_124"></SPAN>[124]</span>much brighter look; the whole bush shows fine warm colouring, the leaves having turned to a rich red. Perhaps it is because it is a native that this grand shrub or small tree is generally neglected in gardens, and is almost unknown in nurserymen's catalogues. It is the parent of the well-known Guelder-Rose, which is merely its double-flowered form. But the double flower leaves no berry, its familiar white ball being formed of the sterile part of the flower only, and the foliage of the garden kind does not assume so bright an autumn colouring.</p> <p>The nights are growing chilly, with even a little frost, and the work for the coming season of dividing and transplanting hardy plants has already begun. Plans are being made for any improvements or alterations that involve ground work. Already we have been at work on some broad grass rides through the copse that were roughly levelled and laid with grass last winter. The turf has been raised and hollows filled in, grass seed sown in bare patches, and the whole beaten and rolled to a good surface, and the job put out of hand in good time before the leaves begin to fall.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /><div class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_125" id="Page_125"></SPAN>[125]</div> <h2>CHAPTER XI</h2> <h4>OCTOBER</h4> <blockquote><p>Michaelmas Daisies &mdash; Arranging and staking &mdash; Spindle-tree &mdash; Autumn colour of Azaleas &mdash; Quinces &mdash; Medlars &mdash; Advantage of early planting of shrubs &mdash; Careful planting &mdash; Pot-bound roots &mdash; Cypress hedge &mdash; Planting in difficult places &mdash; Hardy flower border &mdash; Lifting Dahlias &mdash; Dividing hardy plants &mdash; Dividing tools &mdash; Plants difficult to divide &mdash; Periwinkles &mdash; Sternbergia &mdash; Czar Violets &mdash; Deep cultivation for <i>Lilium giganteum</i>.</p></blockquote> <p><br />The early days of October bring with them the best bloom of the Michaelmas Daisies, the many beautiful garden kinds of the perennial Asters. They have, as they well deserve to have, a garden to themselves. Passing along the wide path in front of the big flower border, and through the pergola that forms its continuation, with eye and brain full of rich, warm colouring of flower and leaf, it is a delightful surprise to pass through the pergola's last right-hand opening, and to come suddenly upon the Michaelmas Daisy garden in full beauty. Its clean, fresh, pure colouring, of pale and dark lilac, strong purple, and pure white, among masses of pale-green foliage, forms a contrast almost startling after the warm colouring of nearly everything else; and the sight of a region where the flowers are <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_126" id="Page_126"></SPAN>[126]</span>fresh and newly opened, and in glad spring-like profusion, when all else is on the verge of death and decay, gives an impression of satisfying refreshment that is hardly to be equalled throughout the year. Their special garden is a wide border on each side of a path, its length bounded on one side by a tall hedge of filberts, and on the other side by clumps of yew, holly, and other shrubs. It is so well sheltered that the strongest wind has its destructive power broken, and only reaches it as a refreshing tree-filtered breeze. The Michaelmas Daisies are replanted every year as soon as their bloom is over, the ground having been newly dug and manured. The old roots, which will have increased about fourfold, are pulled or chopped to pieces, nice bits with about five crowns being chosen for replanting; these are put in groups of three to five together. Tall-growing kinds like <i>Novi Belgi</i> Robert Parker are kept rather towards the back, while those of delicate and graceful habit, such as <i>Cordifolius elegans</i> and its good variety Diana are allowed to come forward. The fine dwarf <i>Aster amellus</i> is used in rather large quantity, coming quite to the front in some places, and running in and out between the clumps of other kinds. Good-sized groups of <i>Pyrethrum uliginosum</i> are given a place among the Asters, for though of quite another family, they are Daisies, and bloom at Michaelmas, and are admirable companions to the main occupants of the borders. The only other plants admitted are white Dahlias, the two differently striped <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_127" id="Page_127"></SPAN>[127]</span>varieties of <i>Eulalia japonica</i>, the fresh green foliage of Indian Corn, and the brilliant light-green leafage of <i>Funkia grandiflora</i>. Great attention is paid to staking the Asters. Nothing is more deplorable than to see a neglected, overgrown plant, at the last moment, when already half blown down, tied up in a tight bunch to one stake. When we are cutting underwood in the copse in the winter, special branching spray is looked out for our Michaelmas Daisies and cut about four feet or five feet long, with one main stem and from two to five branches. Towards the end of June and beginning of July these are thrust firmly into the ground among the plants, and the young growths are tied out so as to show to the best advantage. Good kinds of Michaelmas Daisies are now so numerous that in selecting those for the special garden it is well to avoid both the ones that bloom earliest and also the very latest, so that for about three weeks the borders may show a well-filled mass of bloom.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/126top_a.jpg" width="400" height="301" alt="Borders of Michaelmas Daisies." title="" /> </div> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/126bottom_a.jpg" width="400" height="294" alt="Borders of Michaelmas Daisies." title="" /> <span class="caption">Borders of Michaelmas Daisies.</span> </div> <p>The bracken in the copse stands dry and dead, but when leaves are fluttering down and the chilly days of mid-October are upon us, its warm, rusty colouring is certainly cheering; the green of the freshly grown mossy carpet below looks vividly bright by contrast. Some bushes of Spindle-tree (<i>Euonymus europ´┐Żus</i>) are loaded with their rosy seed-pods; some are already burst, and show the orange-scarlet seeds&mdash;an audacity of colouring that looks all the brighter for the even, lustreless green of the leaves and of the green-barked twigs and stems.</p> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_128" id="Page_128"></SPAN>[128]</span>The hardy Azaleas are now blazing masses of crimson, almost scarlet leaf; the old <i>A. pontica</i>, with its large foliage, is as bright as any. With them are grouped some of the North American Vacciniums and Andromedas, with leaves almost as bright. The ground between the groups of shrubs is knee-deep in heath. The rusty-coloured withered bloom of the wild heath on its purplish-grey masses and the surrounding banks of dead fern make a groundwork and background of excellent colour-harmony.</p> <p>How seldom does one see Quinces planted for ornament, and yet there is hardly any small tree that better deserves such treatment. Some Quinces planted about eight years ago are now perfect pictures, their lissome branches borne down with the load of great, deep-yellow fruit, and their leaves turning to a colour almost as rich and glowing. The old English rather round-fruited kind with the smooth skin is the best both for flavour and beauty&mdash;a mature tree without leaves in winter has a remarkably graceful, arching, almost weeping growth. The other kind is of a rather more rigid form, and though its woolly-coated, pear-shaped fruits are larger and strikingly handsome, the whole tree has a coarser look, and just lacks the attractive grace of the other. They will do fairly well almost anywhere, though they prefer a rich, loamy soil and a cool, damp, or even swampy place. The Medlar is another of the small fruiting trees that is more neglected than it should be, as it well deserves a place <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_129" id="Page_129"></SPAN>[129]</span>among ornamental shrubs. Here it is a precious thing in the region where garden melts into copse. The fruit-laden twigs are just now very attractive, and its handsome leaves can never be passed without admiration. Close to the Medlars is a happy intergrowth of the wild Guelder-Rose, still bearing its brilliant clusters, a strong-growing and far-clambering garden form of <i>Rosa arvensis</i>, full of red hips, Sweetbriar, and Holly&mdash;a happy tangle of red-fruited bushes, all looking as if they were trying to prove, in friendly emulation, which can make the bravest show of red-berried wild-flung wreath, or bending spray, or stately spire; while at their foot the bright colour is repeated by the bending, berried heads of the wild Iris, opening like fantastic dragons' mouths, and pouring out the red bead-like seeds upon the ground; and, as if to make the picture still more complete, the leaves of the wild Strawberry that cover the ground with a close carpet have also turned to a crimson, and here and there to an almost scarlet colour.</p> <p>During the year I make careful notes of any trees or shrubs that will be wanted, either to come from the nursery or to be transplanted within my own ground, so as to plant them as early as possible. Of the two extremes it is better to plant too early than too late. I would rather plant deciduous trees before the leaves are off than wait till after Christmas, but of all planting times the best is from the middle of October till the end of November, and the same <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_130" id="Page_130"></SPAN>[130]</span>time is the best for all hardy plants of large or moderate size.</p> <p>I have no patience with slovenly planting. I like to have the ground prepared some months in advance, and when the proper time comes, to do the actual planting as well as possible. The hole in the already prepared ground is taken out so that the tree shall stand exactly right for depth, though in this dry soil it is well to make the hole an inch or two deeper, in order to leave the tree standing in the centre of a shallow depression, to allow of a good watering now and then during the following summer. The hole must be made wide enough to give easy space for the most outward-reaching of the roots; they must be spread out on all sides, carefully combing them out with the fingers, so that they all lay out to the best advantage. Any roots that have been bruised, or have broken or jagged ends, are cut off with a sharp knife on the homeward side of the injury. Most gardeners when they plant, after the first spadeful or two has been thrown over the root, shake the bush with an up and down joggling movement. This is useful in the case of plants with a good lot of bushy root, such as Berberis, helping to get the grains of earth well in among the root; but in tree planting, where the roots are laid out flat, it is of course useless. In our light soil, the closer and firmer the earth is made round the newly-planted tree the better, and strong staking is most important, in order to save the newly-placed root from disturbance by dragging.</p> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_131" id="Page_131"></SPAN>[131]</span>Some trees and shrubs one can only get from nurseries in pots. This is usually the case with Ilex, Escallonia, and Cydonia. Such plants are sure to have the roots badly matted and twisted. The main root curls painfully round and round inside the imprisoning pot, but if it is a clever root it works its way out through the hole in the bottom, and even makes quite nice roots in the bed of ashes it has stood on. In this case, as these are probably its best roots, we do not attempt to pull it back through the hole, but break the pot to release it without hurt. If it is possible to straighten the pot-curled root, it is best to do so; in any case, the small fibrous ones can be laid out. Often the potful of roots is so hard and tight that it cannot be disentangled by the hand; then the only way is to soften it by gentle bumping on the bench, and then to disengage the roots by little careful digs all round with a blunt-pointed stick. If this is not done, and the plant is put in in its pot-bound state, it never gets on; it would be just as well to throw it away at once.</p> <p>Nine years ago a hedge of Lawson's Cypress was planted on one side of the kitchen garden. Three years later, when the trees had made some growth, I noticed in the case of three or four that they were quite bare of branches on one side all the way up for a width of about one-sixth of the circumference, leaving a smooth, straight, upright strip. Suspecting the cause, I had them up, and found in every case that the <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_132" id="Page_132"></SPAN>[132]</span>root just below the bare strip had been doubled under the stem, and had therefore been unable to do its share of the work. Nothing could have pointed out more clearly the defect in the planting.</p> <p>There are cases where ground cannot be prepared as one would wish, and where one has to get over the difficulty the best way one can. Such a case occurred when I had to plant some Yews and Savins right under a large Birch-tree. The Birch is one of several large ones that nearly surround the lawn. This one stands just within the end of a large shrub-clump, near the place of meeting of some paths with the grass and with some planting; here some further planting was wanted of dark-leaved evergreens. There is no tree more ground-robbing than a Birch, and under the tree in question the ground was dust-dry, extremely hard, and nothing but the poorest sand. Looking at the foot of a large tree one can always see which way the main roots go, and the only way to get down any depth is to go between these and not many feet away from the trunk. Farther away the roots spread out and would receive more injury. So the ground was got up the best way we could, and the Yews and Savins planted. Now, after some six years, they are healthy and dark-coloured, and have made good growth. But in such a place one cannot expect the original preparation of the ground, such as it was, to go for much. The year after planting they had some strong, lasting manure just pricked in over the roots&mdash;stuff from the shoeing-forge, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_133" id="Page_133"></SPAN>[133]</span>full of hoof-parings. Hoof-parings are rich in ammonia, and decay slowly. Every other year they have either a repetition of this or some cooling cow manure. The big Birch no doubt gets some of it, though its hungriest roots are farther afield, but the rich colour of the shrubs shows that they are well nourished.</p> <p>
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