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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.

These little babies of the plant world need us and depend upon our care. If we neglect them, they languish; if we desert them, they perish; we must feed them, protect them from cold or extreme heat, nurse them if assailed by disease, and watching carefully their growth provide, when it is needed, a wider sphere in which they may expand and develop. Wherever there are young and tender things looking to us for support, there are we apt to be deeply interested, and herein lies the fascination of the plant nursery. A garden is as incomplete without this adjunct as a home, and no gardener knows the full joy of his craft who does not care for his plants from seedhood to maturity, making them his own as no bought plants can ever be. To buy plants already past the dangers of infancy is a convenience and sometimes wise, but besides being very expensive, one is depriving one’s self of one of the most beautiful and illuminating of experiences.

A 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 gardener, from a small seed bed to a large tract of land designed to raise great numbers of plants for a very large garden. As striking a happy medium between these two, and answering satisfactorily the needs of a modest garden, I will describe our own nursery and its uses. It lies in two exactly similar squares at the back of the walled garden, and on either side of the Herb garden. A Privet hedge encloses it on two sides, the low wall and trellis fence of the Herb garden the third, and the high wall of the flower garden on the fourth, which also protects it from the north and provides a sheltered situation for certain tender things. 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 into six 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 varying lengths, with gravel paths between. The little beds are enclosed by board edgings firmly pegged into the ground at the corners and painted white, as is all the woodwork in the nurseries. There are a number of hose outlets, that all may be kept sweet and fresh, the hedges are sharply clipped, the paths trim and free from weeds, and the straight rows of lusty young plants in the beds speak eloquently of their entire comfort and well-being. This is the fountain head of the whole garden and as such cannot be too carefully conducted. The border that follows the boundaries is used as a hospital for sick or sulky plants brought from the gardens, as a temporary abode for some which have been crowded out of 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 and cultivated, are mainly used to house the young perennials raised in the frames, but here also are brought bulbs and plants new to us, that they may be tested and understood before being introduced to the choice circle beyond the garden wall. The soil in these beds is light and only moderately rich, that the young plants may find no obstacle to their tender rootlets, and that they may not be rushed on to a too precocious development through overfeeding. The soil in the outside borders, as devoted to the more mature, is somewhat heavier and richer.

The propagation of 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 get over the wonder of my early gardening days, that seeds come up at all, and that they fulfil very nearly their catalogue descriptions. But they do, in the main, and while some are not quite so gorgeous and accommodating as their sponsors would have us believe, others are lovely and sweet, quite beyond the power of the cataloguist to describe.

Hawthorne wrote: “It 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 peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.” And how much 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 Lathyrus, may be soaked in warm water for a few hours before planting, and sown in drills a half inch deep. For seeds of medium size, Delphiniums, Pinks, or Geums, we prepare a place by pressing a lath (cut to fit the width of the frame or bed) firmly into the soil, and sow the seed upon this flat surface, covering it to about twice its own depth with sandy soil. Seeds of the light and feathery character of Gaillardias, Centaureas, and Armeria profit by a greater depth of covering than the heavier seeds.

Thin 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 the seed is mixed with a little silver sand before sowing, it is more easily and evenly distributed. Fine seed needs no covering, but should be sown on the loose surface of the soil and pressed in with a flat board. Many alpines have fine seed, and as some of them are also very slow in germinating, we sow them in shallow pots of prepared soil which are placed in the frames but can be moved about at will. The soil should be thoroughly moist before seed is sown upon it, and the watering thereafter should be done through a fine rose spray, for the seeds are easily washed from the earth, and nothing so disturbs a tiny plant as a rude stream of water.

Seeds vary much in the time they take to germinate. Annuals are, as a rule, much more expeditious than perennials, the average time required by most of them being from three to five days, while perennials take anywhere from ten days to a year or two. Thus, sometimes when we think we have met with failure, it is not so, but simply that the psychological moment for germination has not yet arrived. Finks, Poppies, Wallflowers, Foxgloves, and Hollyhocks germinate in a short time, while Adonis, Hepatica, Dictamnus, Christmas Rose, Eremurus, and 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 raise these slow-coaches from seed, and buy them ready grown — but if growing them from seed is undertaken, they should be planted somewhat deeper than would ordinarily be the case, in some spot where they may take their time, secure from disturbance — and carefully labelled.

Until the little green backs are seen to hump up along the straight rows, the seed bed is best entirely protected from the sun, and should thereafter have full sunshine for part of the day only, and the soil must never dry out. One good drying out may mean death to a whole frame full of green babies — a calamity not to be borne with resignation.

Seeds 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 frames so invaluable for raising tender annuals and perennials that we use no other means, save when the frames are overcrowded and we must resort to the hot beds in the kitchen garden, or entrust such reliable folk as Sweet William, Coreopsis, and Foxgloves to the open air. In the frames the little plants are much more easily protected from all the blights that lay in wait for infant plant life — frost and sun, drought and beating rains, weeds, insects, and all forms of destructive animal life. We sow tender annuals late in March, keeping the lights down save for an occasional airing on fine days and covering them with mats at night. The perennials we sow in late April. To protect the seedlings from the too fierce attentions of the sun we use a light framework of inch strips nailed an inch apart to a somewhat heavier bottom and top strip. These are made to fit the frame sections, and remain on after the glass is permanently lifted upon the arrival of warm weather. Thus the seedlings are always protected from the sun, which would otherwise cause the speedy evaporation of the moisture, and also from the beating of our heavy spring and summer rains.

When the seedlings have stretched themselves to a size requiring more room, other quarters must be given them. The tender annuals are thinned out and transplanted to another frame, but the more deliberate perennials are not moved until they may be set out in the nursery, which is usually some time in June. A cloudy day is the best for this task, and we use a small mason’s trowel to dig up the tiny plants, depositing them in a lard pail of water to prevent drying of the tender rootlets. Small holes are dug with the mason’s trowel, deep enough to take the little plants without bending, and are filled part way with soil, well watered, and the rest filled up with dry earth. If the weather is hot and dry, we cover choice, or difficult seedlings with inverted flower pots during the heat of the day and water well after sundown, while to protect the sturdier stock, we use slat frames similar to those before described but made to fit and rest upon the board enclosures of the nursery beds. The young plants remain in 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 garden.

Plants apt to be frail in youth, such as Lavender and Wallflowers, are given the protection of a frame over their first winter. Pansies and Snapdragons are also carried safely over, and seedlings born too late in the season to be trusted to a winter in the open air.

The following is a list of perennials we have raised from seed in the manner described. One packet each of the kinds named will give thousands of little plants, enough to stock a very large garden, and will cost under $15. Consider the cost of a thousand plants bought at ten, fifteen, or twenty-five cents each, and the advantage of the nursery is obvious!

Those marked * in the list are alpines and require a little more care.

Achilleas, in var.
Aconitum Napellua and Wilsonii.
Aethionema coridifolium*
and grandiflorum*.
vars. saxatile compactum and rostratum.
Anchusa italica
Droprnore Variety.
Aquilegia chrysantha, caerulea
and californica.
Arabis albida
and alpina.
Arenaria montana.
Armeria maritima
and latifolia.
Asters, Hardy, in var.
in var.
Agrostemma coronaria.
Baptisia australis.
Calandrinia umbellata.
Campanula carpatica, glomerata, lactiftora, latifolia, pusilla*,
persicifolia and pyramidalis.
Callirhoe involucrata.

Canterbury Bells.
Catananche caerulea.
Centaurea macrocephala
and montana.
s coccineus.
Cerastium tomentosum.
Chrysanthemum maximum,
in var.
Clematis davidiana
and recta.
Corydalis lutea
and cheilanthifolia.
Coreopsis grandif
Crucinella stylosa.
Cytisus scoparius
in var.
Dianthus arenarius*,
caesius*, deltoides, fragrans, neglectus*, superbus, sylvestris*, plumarius.
Digitalis alba, purpurea
and ambigua.
Draba aizoides*.
Erigeron speciosus
and aurantiacus.
Erinus alpinus*.
Eryngium alpinum, maritimum
and giganteum.
Erysimum rupestre*
(syn. pulchellum).
Gaillardia grandiflora.
Galega officinalis.
m Heldreichii.
Gypsophila paniculata
and repens*.
Helenium, in var.
Helianthemum, in var.
Helianthus, in var.
Heuchera sanguinea
and brizoides.
Hypericum calycinum
and repens*.
iberis sempervirens.

Iris, in var.
yrus luteus var. aureus.
Lavendula, in var.
Linaria alpina*,
and dalmatica.
Linum alpinum*, flavum, narbonense, pere
Lunaria biennis.
Lupinus polyphyllus,
in var.
Lychnis alpina*, chalcedonica, Viscaria splendens.
Malva mos
chata var. rosea.
Myosotis, in var.
Papaver orientale, nudicaule,
and pilosum.
Platycodon grandiflorum
and Mariessi.
Potentilla, in var.
Pyrethrum roseum.
Rudbeckia purpurea
and Newmani.
Salvia azurea
and pratensis.
Saponaria ocymoides
var. splendens.
Scabiosa caucasica
and japonica
Silene acaulis*, alpestris*, Asterias*, Schafta*.
Sweet Rocket.
Sweet William.
Thymus, in var.
Tunica saxifraga.

Verbascum, in var.
Veronica incana, spicata, saxatilis*.


     Much of the success in growing biennials from seed lies in starting them early so that we shall have large plants by the time we are ready to put them in permanent places. If sowing is put off until July, as is often recommended, we seldom have plants that are strong enough to bloom the following season. The best results accrue from sowing in the frames in early April or in an outdoor seed bed not later than the first of May. True Perennials 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, Sweet Rocket, and Forget-me-not.

Plants of large leaves and sturdy growth, such as Campanulas, Hollyhocks, Mulleins, Foxgloves, and Anchusas, should be sown in a frame to themselves, as they would quickly overpower small plants and tiny alpines.

It is interesting 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 kinds from seed and to get half a dozen unfamiliar plants from a nursery. In this way one soon makes a very large circle of acquaintances, many of which become permanent friends. Sometimes we grow all the kinds of Pinks we can get hold of, sometimes 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 growth is starting, or in September, when growth is practically accomplished. Spring flowering plants are best divided in September, but summer and fall flowering plants may be done at either season. Division is necessary to many kinds of hardy perennials, for if allowed to grow into large clumps, they seem to lose vitality, bloom in an inferior manner, and frequently winter kill. Most plants are benefited by division every year after they are three years old. This is particularly true of such lusty growers as Boltonias, Phlox, Heleniums, Helianthus, Pyrethrums, Monarda, Nepeta Mussini, Doronicums, Rudbeckias, Perennial Asters, Chrysanthemums, Moonpenny Daisies, Achilleas, Primroses, Anthemis, Aconites, and Valeriana.

Oriental Poppies, Baptisias, Gypsophila 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 grace and beauty. Small tufted plants, with bunches of fibrous roots, are easily pulled apart with the fingers, while such thick-rooted subjects as Flag Irises are managed with a sharp knife or hatchet. Plants having roots like the Phlox and Heleniums may be simply cut up with a spade. Old clumps may be cut up into many promising plants that will far outshine the old ones in perfection of bloom.



Propagating plants by means of cuttings is not so much practised by the amateur, as the two other methods answer nearly every purpose. Roses, however, are best increased by cuttings, and Pinks are easily multiplied in this manner. When one has something particularly nice in the way of an alpine Pink, or some pretty garden variety, it is best not to trust to its seed, for Pinks cross so easily that they cannot be depended upon to come true to type. After the Pink has flowered and new growth has started, take a nice new shoot three or four inches long and cut it off just below the point where a pair of leaves clasps the stem — this is a joint. These two leaves should be removed and the cutting is then ready to plant. It should be inserted in wet sand which must never be allowed to dry out, and the cutting should be carefully shaded from the sun. There will be roots in a week or ten days, and in a few days more the little 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.

Plants 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 taken at any time of the growing year, but for amateurs the best time is in summer, when a young shoot has developed a flower-bud to about the size of a pea. The shoot may be several inches long and the flower-bud is, of course, removed. Insert in damp sand in the same manner as Pinks. Some Roses root with difficulty — the lovely Moss Roses for instance, but Teas and Chinas and many of the climbers root readily enough. Many shrubs may be increased in this same way, using young shoots, but it should be borne in mind that if cuttings wilt from lack of water, or from too great exposure to the sun, they seldom revive.



A well-stocked 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 good order and kept in a dry place, easy of access. The tool-house should be fitted with shelves and a work bench, and I find a comfortable chair is not to be despised. Upon the shelves, hanging on the walls, or otherwise disposed about the little room, will be found:  

Two 25-foot lengths of light cotton-covered hose; two wheelbarrows — one large, the other small and light; one spade, one shovel, two rakes, light and heavy; two hoes, light and heavy; turf cutter, lawn mower, sickle, grass shears, potato fork, pick, one broad trowel, one narrow transplanting trowel, small mason’s trowel, weeders, one long-nosed and one short-nosed watering can, powder and spray bellows, one heavy broom, heavy and light pruning shears, a pair of large scissors and a sharp knife, dibble, several sized baskets, a garden reel with balls of twine and raffia, a fine sieve, plenty of green stakes varying from the slender one and a half foot ones to the tall, strong Dahlia stakes; several hundred wooden labels of different sizes, and indelible pencils; wall hooks, brads and nails, a hammer and a light saw.  

Also I like to keep several pots of green and white paint to hand, with brushes in good order and ready for use.

Besides these tools, the tool-house should be stocked with a few insecticides and commercial fertilizers, so that when the occasion arises the proper remedy or tonic will be at hand and time will not be lost in procuring it. Directions for use come with the packages. The material and its application 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.
Wood ashes.
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.

A “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 which is kept a record of all plants and seeds purchased and from whom, and all expenses 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 at a convenient season. Memory is short in the garden, the beauty of one season blots out the mistakes of the last, and one may easily forget the pink Sweet William growing beside the flaming Oriental Poppies and discords of a like nature, if one does not “put it down.” It is easy to see possibilities of new beauties when the garden is in full bloom, but very difficult when it is bare and brown, or when one has only a paper plan to go by. So as each season comes to full development we try to work out the improvements, making note of such plants as mar the general effect, as well as those that we feel would enhance it, or create some especially lovely picture. In this book also may be found a careful description of every growing thing in the garden, derived, not from catalogues or books, but from personal observation in our own garden — its height, colour, habit of growth, time and length of blooming, and any facts concerning it worthy of note. All this is most invaluable data, constantly turned to.

Another book, which we call the “Country Miscellany,” is kept, and is probably more interesting than useful. It is the repository for all sorts of facts and fancies concerning gardens, plants, and country matters generally. Old recipes for home-made remedies, perfumes, wines, and cordials; local superstitions regarding plants and their uses, quotations from the flower-loving poets, accounts of gardens visited, quaint flower names and much more.

Both 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 witness to 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 love for this beautiful and beloved craft.

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