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Labour is the House that Love dwells in.
— Russian Proverb.
ALL nurseries summon our interest and sympathy whether they shelter human babies or those of the animal kingdom, and the nursery which guards seedling plants is not by any means the least in its appeal to our tender protectiveness and maternal solicitude.
of the plant world need us and depend upon our care.
If we neglect them, they languish; if we desert them, they perish; we
them, protect them from cold or extreme heat, nurse them if assailed by
and watching carefully their growth provide, when it is needed, a wider
in which they may expand and develop. Wherever there are young and
looking to us for support, there are we apt to be deeply interested,
lies the fascination of the plant nursery. A garden is as incomplete
this adjunct as a home, and no gardener knows the full joy of his craft
not care for his plants from seedhood to maturity, making them his own
bought plants can ever be. To buy plants already past the dangers of
a convenience and sometimes wise, but besides being very expensive, one
depriving one’s self of one of the most beautiful and illuminating of
nursery may be a
pot or box of earth in a sunny window, or it may be a
piece of ground of any size to suit the convenience and desire of the
from a small seed bed to a large tract of land designed to raise great
of plants for a very large garden. As striking a happy medium between
and answering satisfactorily the needs of a modest garden, I will
own nursery and its uses. It lies in two exactly similar squares at the
the walled garden, and on either side of the Herb garden. A Privet
encloses it on two sides, the low wall and trellis fence of the Herb
third, and the high wall of the flower garden on the fourth, which also
it from the north and provides a sheltered situation for certain tender
On the lower section this space along the wall is occupied by a small
tool-house, a row of covered bins to hold silver sand, coarse sand, and
leaf-mold, and the cold frames which are four feet deep and divided
sections. A four-foot border extends all round the two nurseries and
the rest is
parcelled out into rectangular beds three and four feet wide and of
lengths, with gravel paths between. The little beds are enclosed by
edgings firmly pegged into the ground at the corners and painted white,
all the woodwork in the nurseries. There are a number of hose outlets,
may be kept sweet and fresh, the hedges are sharply clipped, the paths
free from weeds, and the straight rows of lusty young plants in the
eloquently of their entire comfort and well-being. This is the fountain
the whole garden and as such cannot be too carefully conducted. The
follows the boundaries is used as a hospital for sick or sulky plants
from the gardens, as a temporary abode for some which have been crowded
one place and not yet assigned to another, and as a cutting garden. The
rectangular beds, which by reason of their narrowness are easily weeded
cultivated, are mainly used to house the young perennials raised in the
but here also are brought bulbs and plants new to us, that they may be
and understood before being introduced to the choice circle beyond the
wall. The soil in these beds is light and only moderately rich, that
plants may find no obstacle to their tender rootlets, and that they may
rushed on to a too precocious development through overfeeding. The soil
outside borders, as devoted to the more mature, is somewhat heavier and
plants is the chief business carried on in the nursery.
This is done by means of seeds, cuttings, and the division of roots.
There is no
more absorbing occupation than raising plants from seed. I never quite
the wonder of my early gardening days, that seeds come up at all, and
fulfil very nearly their catalogue descriptions. But they do, in the
while some are not quite so gorgeous and accommodating as their
have us believe, others are lovely and sweet, quite beyond the power of
cataloguist to describe.
is one of the most bewitching sights in the world
to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a row of early
peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.” And how
more bewitching, when we can follow in imagination this delicate green
embroidery to its final realization of colour and fragrance, rather
than to the
predestined material end of Hawthorne’s peas and beans.
Occasionally we have rebelliously to realize that “often out of fifty seeds great Nature brings but one to bear,” but while this is probably true of the seed of wild plants, left to the mercy of all sorts of adverse conditions, it need very seldom be true in the garden, if a few simple and sensible laws are observed. In the first place, it is all important to procure good, sound seed, and so we should apply to the best seed houses only, and be willing to pay a fair price. Next to the vitality of, or power of the seed to reproduce itself, the soil is the important matter. It should be light, moderately rich, and pervious to moisture, and whether the seeds are to be raised in a frame, in the open ground, or in a flat in doors, the preparation of the soil and the treatment of the seeds is in the main identical. The prepared soil for the seed bed need not be deeper than five inches, and a good composition is two parts good garden soil, one part leaf-mold, and one part coarse sand, with a good sprinkling of wood ashes. This should be chopped and raked smooth, and upon the top should be spread an inch of good soil, or leaf-mold and fine sand, in equal parts, put through a moderately fine sieve. We use the frames almost entirely for raising seeds, it is so much safer than the open ground, and we find infant mortality greatly lessened if manure, either fresh or old, is not used, as it frequently harbours insects, or their eggs, which ravenously feed upon the tender seedlings. That they may be easily weeded and otherwise cared for, seeds are best sown in straight rows five or six inches apart, and not scattered broadcast, and each row should have at its head a wooden label, bearing the name of the plant and the date of sowing written with an indelible pencil.
Large seeds such as those of Lupines, Iris, or
may be soaked in
warm water for a few hours before planting, and sown in drills a half
For seeds of medium size, Delphiniums, Pinks, or Geums, we prepare a
pressing a lath (cut to fit the width of the frame or bed) firmly into
and sow the seed upon this flat surface, covering it to about twice its
depth with sandy soil. Seeds of the light and feathery character of
Centaureas, and Armeria profit by a greater depth of covering than the
sowing of all
seed is important, but particularly so in the case of
very fine seed like that of Verbascums which grow into huge plants. If
is mixed with a little silver sand before sowing, it is more easily and
distributed. Fine seed needs no covering, but should be sown on the
surface of the soil and pressed in with a flat board. Many alpines have
seed, and as some of them are also very slow in germinating, we sow
shallow pots of prepared soil which are placed in the frames but can be
about at will. The soil should be thoroughly moist before seed is sown
and the watering thereafter should be done through a fine rose spray,
seeds are easily washed from the earth, and nothing so disturbs a tiny
a rude stream of water.
vary much in
the time they take to germinate. Annuals are, as a
rule, much more expeditious than perennials, the average time required
of them being from three to five days, while perennials take anywhere
days to a year or two. Thus, sometimes when we think we have met with
it is not so, but simply that the psychological moment for germination
yet arrived. Finks, Poppies, Wallflowers, Foxgloves, and Hollyhocks
a short time, while Adonis, Hepatica, Dictamnus, Christmas Rose,
the beautiful California Tree Poppy (Romneya
Coulteri) may be a year or more in rousing their little
green souls to
energy and action. Being rather impatient for results, I do not care to
these slow-coaches from seed, and buy them ready grown — but if growing
from seed is undertaken, they should be planted somewhat deeper than
ordinarily be the case, in some spot where they may take their time,
disturbance — and carefully labelled.
green backs are seen to hump up along the straight rows,
the seed bed is best entirely protected from the sun, and should
full sunshine for part of the day only, and the soil must never dry
good drying out may mean death to a whole frame full of green babies —
calamity not to be borne with resignation.
may be sown
indoors in a box in January, February, and March, and
pricked out into other boxes when large enough to handle. An outdoor
seed bed is
best not started until May. Here we have found the use of the cold
invaluable for raising tender annuals and perennials that we use no
save when the frames are overcrowded and we must resort to the hot beds
kitchen garden, or entrust such reliable folk as Sweet William,
Foxgloves to the open air. In the frames the little plants are much
protected from all the blights that lay in wait for infant plant life —
and sun, drought and beating rains, weeds, insects, and all forms of
animal life. We sow tender annuals late in March, keeping the lights
for an occasional airing on fine days and covering them with mats at
perennials we sow in late April. To protect the seedlings from the too
attentions of the sun we use a light framework of inch strips nailed an
apart to a somewhat heavier bottom and top strip. These are made to fit
frame sections, and remain on after the glass is permanently lifted
arrival of warm weather. Thus the seedlings are always protected from
which would otherwise cause the speedy evaporation of the moisture, and
from the beating of our heavy spring and summer rains.
have stretched themselves to a size requiring more
room, other quarters must be given them. The tender annuals are thinned
transplanted to another frame, but the more deliberate perennials are
until they may be set out in the nursery, which is usually some time in
cloudy day is the best for this task, and we use a small mason’s trowel
up the tiny plants, depositing them in a lard pail of water to prevent
the tender rootlets. Small holes are dug with the mason’s trowel, deep
to take the little plants without bending, and are filled part way with
well watered, and the rest filled up with dry earth. If the weather is
dry, we cover choice, or difficult seedlings with inverted flower pots
the heat of the day and water well after sundown, while to protect the
stock, we use slat frames similar to those before described but made to
rest upon the board enclosures of the nursery beds. The young plants
the nursery until the autumn or following spring, when they have
reached a size
enabling them to make their appearance in the great world of the flower
apt to be
frail in youth, such as Lavender and Wallflowers, are
given the protection of a frame over their first winter. Pansies and
are also carried safely over, and seedlings born too late in the season
trusted to a winter in the open air.
following is a
list of perennials we have raised from seed in the
manner described. One packet each of the kinds named will give
little plants, enough to stock a very large garden, and will cost under
Consider the cost of a thousand plants bought at ten, fifteen, or
cents each, and the advantage of the nursery is obvious!
marked * in the list are
alpines and require a little more care.
Achilleas, in var.
Much of the success in growing biennials from seed lies
in starting them early so that we shall have large plants by the time
ready to put them in permanent places. If sowing is put off until July,
often recommended, we seldom have plants that are strong enough to
following season. The best results accrue from sowing in the frames in
April or in an outdoor seed bed not later than the first of May. True
are Foxgloves, Canterbury Bells, Verbascum
olympicum, Campanula pyramidalis, Lunaria biennis, and
Anchusa Italica. A number of
plants, not true biennials, are
much more satisfactory when treated as such. Of
these are Sweet William, Hollyhock, Wallflower, Columbine, Lupines,
Rocket, and Forget-me-not.
leaves and sturdy growth, such as Campanulas, Hollyhocks,
Mulleins, Foxgloves, and Anchusas, should be sown in a frame to
they would quickly overpower small plants and tiny alpines.
and helpful to make the acquaintance of a certain number
of new plants every year. We usually try to grow at least a dozen new
seed and to get half a dozen unfamiliar plants from a nursery. In this
soon makes a very large circle of acquaintances, many of which become
friends. Sometimes we grow all the kinds of Pinks we can get hold of,
it is Campanulas, and this year we grew a number of Silenes and a fine
collection of Aubrietias.
All herbaceous plants having spreading, fibrous roots
are easily propagated by division done either in early spring, just as
starting, or in September, when growth is practically accomplished.
flowering plants are best divided in September, but summer and fall
plants may be done at either season. Division is necessary to many
hardy perennials, for if allowed to grow into large clumps, they seem
vitality, bloom in an inferior manner, and frequently winter kill. Most
are benefited by division every year after they are three years old.
particularly true of such lusty growers as Boltonias, Phlox, Heleniums,
Helianthus, Pyrethrums, Monarda, Nepeta Mussini, Doronicums,
Perennial Asters, Chrysanthemums, Moonpenny Daisies, Achilleas,
Anthemis, Aconites, and Valeriana.
paniculata and Anemone Japonica, do
not require such frequent division, while Paeonies, Fraxinella, and Statice
latifolia are best left untouched year after year to grow in
beauty. Small tufted plants, with bunches of fibrous roots, are easily
apart with the fingers, while such thick-rooted subjects as Flag Irises
managed with a sharp knife or hatchet. Plants having roots like the
Heleniums may be simply cut up with a spade. Old clumps may be cut up
promising plants that will far outshine the old ones in perfection of
by means of cuttings is not so much practised by the
amateur, as the two other methods answer nearly every purpose. Roses,
are best increased by cuttings, and Pinks are easily multiplied in this
When one has something particularly nice in the way of an alpine Pink,
pretty garden variety, it is best not to trust to its seed, for Pinks
easily that they cannot be depended upon to come true to type. After
has flowered and new growth has started, take a nice new shoot three or
inches long and cut it off just below the point where a pair of leaves
the stem — this is a joint. These two leaves should be removed and the
is then ready to plant. It should be inserted in wet sand which must
allowed to dry out, and the cutting should be carefully shaded from the
There will be roots in a week or ten days, and in a few days more the
plant may be shifted to better soil, either in small pots, a frame, or
in a spot
in the nursery, not fully exposed to the sun.
of a woody
character take longer to root, thus, Rose cuttings will
be from four to five weeks putting forth roots. Rose cuttings may be
any time of the growing year, but for amateurs the best time is in
a young shoot has developed a flower-bud to about the size of a pea.
may be several inches long and the flower-bud is, of course, removed.
damp sand in the same manner as Pinks. Some Roses root with difficulty
lovely Moss Roses for instance, but Teas and Chinas and many of the
root readily enough. Many shrubs may be increased in this same way,
shoots, but it should be borne in mind that if cuttings wilt from lack
or from too great exposure to the sun, they seldom revive.
tool-house is not only a necessity but a great pleasure. We
do not need a great many implements, but those we do have should be in
order and kept in a dry place, easy of access. The tool-house should be
with shelves and a work bench, and I find a comfortable chair is not to
despised. Upon the shelves, hanging on the walls, or otherwise disposed
the little room, will be found:
of light cotton-covered hose; two wheelbarrows — one
large, the other small and light; one spade, one shovel, two rakes,
heavy; two hoes, light and heavy; turf cutter, lawn mower, sickle,
potato fork, pick, one broad trowel, one narrow transplanting trowel,
mason’s trowel, weeders, one long-nosed and one short-nosed watering
powder and spray bellows, one heavy broom, heavy and light pruning
pair of large scissors and a sharp knife, dibble, several sized
garden reel with balls of twine and raffia, a fine sieve, plenty of
varying from the slender one and a half foot ones to the tall, strong
stakes; several hundred wooden labels of different sizes, and indelible
wall hooks, brads and nails, a hammer and a light saw.
I like to keep
several pots of green and white paint to hand, with
brushes in good order and ready for use.
the tool-house should be stocked with a few
insecticides and commercial fertilizers, so that when the occasion
proper remedy or tonic will be at hand and time will not be lost in
it. Directions for use come with the packages. The material and its
is shown here:
Bordeaux Mixture (liquid) — for fungous diseases. (One gallon makes a barrel of liquid.)
Bordeaux Mixture (dry) — for mildew and fungous diseases.
Hellebore — all sucking insects.
Kerosene emulsion — plant lice and aphis, scale.
Slug-shot — good general insecticide.
Paris green — for “eating” insects.
Sulphur (powdered) — for mildew.
Tobacco Dust — for aphis.
Whale-oil soap — good wash for Roses.
Lime-sulphur solution — spray for flowering fruit trees.
Bone meal — splendid food for Roses and other plants.
Nitrate of soda — good tonic, but must be carefully used.
Sheep manure — an effective and easily applied dry manure.
Lime (slaked) — for sweetening the soil.
“Day Book,” kept
in connection with the garden and nursery, will be
found an invaluable aid to memory. Mine is rather a stout ledger, in
kept a record of all plants and seeds purchased and from whom, and all
connected with the garden. Note is made of all experiments under way,
of all new
flowers under observation. Careful note is made of changes to be made
convenient season. Memory is short in the garden, the beauty of one
out the mistakes of the last, and one may easily forget the pink Sweet
growing beside the flaming Oriental Poppies and discords of a like
one does not “put it down.” It is easy to see possibilities of new
when the garden is in full bloom, but very difficult when it is bare
or when one has only a paper plan to go by. So as each season comes to
development we try to work out the improvements, making note of such
mar the general effect, as well as those that we feel would enhance it,
create some especially lovely picture. In this book also may be found a
description of every growing thing in the garden, derived, not from
or books, but from personal observation in our own garden — its height,
colour, habit of growth, time and length of blooming, and any facts
it worthy of note. All this is most invaluable data, constantly turned
we call the “Country Miscellany,” is kept, and is
probably more interesting than useful. It is the repository for all
facts and fancies concerning gardens, plants, and country matters
recipes for home-made remedies, perfumes, wines, and cordials; local
superstitions regarding plants and their uses, quotations from the
poets, accounts of gardens visited, quaint flower names and much more.
books are well
thumbed and smeared with soil; between the pages lie
sprigs of Thyme and the long, sweet leaves of Costmary, and both bear
being in constant use. They are the records of many years of joyful,
health-giving work, and each year adds to their value, as it does to my
this beautiful and beloved craft.