Our leaves are shaken from the tree,
And hopes laid low,
That after our spring nurslings, we
May long to go.
– Gerald Massey.
"A CHRISTIAN," says some old quaint writer, "must be very careful to keep his spirits up when his condition in the world goes down." The words came to me this morning, when I thought of the present condition of things in my Fairyland. There is no time, the season through, when the garden should take such heed to its personal appearance as now. The spring promise makes you forget much; the summer fulness makes you overlook more. .Even the blankness of winter brings its excuse, for what can you expect then? But the fall is a time of struggle and change and new relations, which may be very rich, or will be very desolate.
Leave it to itself; let the weeds flourish and the flowers blow down; let the frost-bitten plants lean hopelessly upon their hardier neighbours, and the fallen leaves cover the ground with their damp mat; and your garden will be dreary with the forlornness of unblessed sorrow. Loss and disappointment and death have taken so much, let them even have the whole! –
Ah that is a wonderful mistake, in either case.
Look around, and see what the frost has spared. Make the most of it, cherish it. Gather away the wreck and rubbish of dead associations and useless regrets; especially unearth the weeds – those "roots of bitterness" which spring up but to trouble and defile. Remove with a smooth clean cut the broken branches, the hanging shreds of summer glory; clip off the dry flowers that blossomed when so much else was fair; and look bravely at the ground which God has cleared. There is always work for you to do.
It is astonishing how much can be done, – what transformations spring up under the wise hand of the fall gardener. Whole beds of mignonette, that were choked with decaying leaves, shine out and bloom with more than summer fragrance. Late roses, blown from their support, and trailing their delicate buds in soil and ruin, once lifted up and bound securely, shew tear-washed faces as lovely as any June-kissed darling of them all.
The heartsease revels in the cooler, fresher winds, with eyes so large and happy and quiet, that you cannot even miss the gay gladiolus and the dainty tuberose that once lived near by. And though zinnias are withered, and balsams are brown, and a hundred little beauties of the summer are sent into long, cold exile, yet there are white wreaths on the honeysuckle, and a few glowing pinks, while chrysanthemums are in their glory. How strong they look! how warm in their bright colours! Even the pale and white-robed ones lift up brave faces to the wind. And if there is a sigh and a thought in your heart for the more delicate spring blossoms, that decked the world
"When feelings were young and the world was new,"
still give thanks for these; for the glory of work and character and endurance, when the flush and promise of first things has passed away.
You will find it sweet work to make the most of these late beauties; training them up, displaying them to the sun. For chrysanthemums, one or two barrel hoops, resting on crotched sticks, make a very good support. Have hoops enough, and then let the flower stems lie loosely and at ease. They should not be tied up stiffly, with stems bound close together so as to crowd the flowers.
In the house, keep all your potted plants as cool as possible. They have but just come from the fresh air, and may easily "get a headache" – as Dr. Kane and some other people used to tent life have done, when first obliged to sleep indoors again.
There are something less than a thousand and one ways recommended for the planting of your hardy bulbs. In ribband lines of different colours; in separate clumps of one; in regular one, two, three order, wherein red, yellow, blue and white follow each other without even a chance of escape: all these and many more are directed, advised, and practised. A general helter-skelter style finds favour with some, and also the expensive fashion of having whole beds filled with a single colour and a single name. This may do well in great places, but I confess I should think the passed Ami du Cœur bed would look mournful, with the La Cheries not yet in bud. However, where ways are so many, and opinions so countless, it is a doubtful matter to put forth one's own. Indeed for the great bulb owners, who have everything and can do anything, I have nothing to say. If they can plant Tuba Flora broadcast, and have a half acre of named crocuses, and an avenue of Lilium auratum, they may be safely left to their own devices. But we, with just a handful of beauties, how shall we dispose them to the best advantage?
I will tell you some rules that have wrought fine effects in my own garden.
First, not planting too many together. For it is not a mere grand sweep of colour that we small florists want, but to study and enjoy the special individual plant. Not broad waves and stripes of tinted glory, a part of the great whole of our country seat; but groups of lovely, fragrant tufts and bells, each one a friend, each known by sight; making home more like home. and helping with their quiet grace to soothe and hush and charm away the small roughnesses and weary breaths that come in the course of one's everyday life. A few hyacinths together will do this far better than a crowd. Therefore plant in small groups.
But next, make your groups different. Have no stiff arrangement of colours, yet have an arrangement. You will find a grouping of pink and white hyacinths quite delicious in its harmony and contrast; while the dark blues go excellently well with the pale yellow and lemon tints. The reds and paler blues are rich together; or the medium blues with the blush whites; and so on. You will find work enough for your fancy, if you give it a chance.
It rarely has a good effect to mix different sorts of bulbs in the same clump. The beauty of tulips, for instance, is so unlike that of hyacinths that they just put each other out. You lose the clear tints of the one, and the gay, dashing hues of the other. Snowdrops are too pale to stand among crocuses, and the Persian iris gets small credit for its lovely markings, if planted near the deep blue scilla or the bright purple bulbocodium. Give each sort a setting of space and brown earth, if you can; and then you may pass from group to group with ever new refreshment and delight.
Another thing must be borne in mind. Some of your hyacinths are "tall," others "low;" some are marked "early," and some bloom late. Now you want to have the clumps always symmetrical and shapely; therefore study the placing of your bulbs from this new point of view. If all the early ones are at one side, if all the tall ones are in front, it is easy to see that the effect will not be good. I generally give the matter a good deal of study.
When the ground is all prepared, and planting day has come, choose from your basket the bulbs for your first clump, and lay them out in order upon the bed – if hyacinths, six or eight inches apart, and tulips a little less, and crocuses not more than three. Then consider the arrangement, keeping each bulb in its labelled wrapper until you are ready to plant. And as fast as you plant each one, set by it a good label with the name. Hyacinths should be set at least four inches deep, lilies somewhat more – say five or six; and smaller bulbs somewhat less. Two inches is depth enough for a crocus. Lilies (the hardy ones) should be placed where they can be left several years without stirring, and crocuses and snowdrops will also thrive best to be let alone – Tulips and hyacinths do better taken up.
As the frost will sometimes throw out your labels, and as it is also possible that some of them may be raked off with the covering of the bed in spring, I have found it save trouble to make a sort of map of each bed and group; numbering each bulb on my list, and writing down the numbers in their proper place on my map; so that if a label is missing, I shall still know what bulb was planted in that place. Until you have learned to know all your pets by name, it is a very good way. After planting, smooth the earth neatly down, but put no covering on as yet.
I see it said by some advisers that it is not worth while to try to save your own bulbs. Take the good of them this year, then throw them away and buy more, for they will never be good for anything again. This is a mistake. Tuberoses indeed will not bloom a second season, unless in their beloved Italian climate; but all other bulbs that I have ever tried will live and flower admirably from year to year. If any of them see fit to abdicate at the summer's end, they always leave a successor so like themselves that you cannot tell the difference.
Much depends, of course, upon the care you take. The first spike of blossoms you have from a new bulb, is due, somebody says, to other care than yours. A bulb makes most of its preparations a year beforehand. But while this is true in a measure, its bloom of next year depends – by the same rule – upon you. Cultivate carelessly and you may well fling away your roots at the year's end. But if you plant right and manage right; if when the red and blue glory of the flowers is departed you give the green leaves their turn; fostering them with no less care, and giving them every facility for perfecting their growth, that the bulb also may mature and ripen; then you will have a rich reward for your trouble and patience. Then you will find (as I have done) your tulip roots growing larger instead of smaller, from year to year. You will find none to buy so large, none more solid. Then, besides the little handful which you can afford to get new every fall, you will soon have roots by the basket, – enough to fill all your spare places, and with some to bestow upon rooms and gardens more vacant, perhaps, than yours have ever been. This is a great pleasure: to place a single tuft of sweetness in a sick room; to furnish a bright glow of beauty for a room full of nothing but toil; a spot of freshness for weary eyes; a reminder of the Lord's good hand for hearts bowed down with sadness. No one knows but those who have been too poor to buy one hyacinth, what even one hyacinth can do.
Therefore, for every reason, take the best care of your bulbs. Save even the little offsets. Well planted and cared for, they will make fine flowering roots in a year or two, and may yield a good deal even before that. I have got much pleasure from them in this way: If mixed in among the full grown bulbs, they would look insignificant; therefore I plant them by themselves, as they come, with not much arranging, but in good soil and at proper distances. And they make a sort of small world by themselves. Little spikes and little bulbs, but the clearest, fairest colours; not looking much like hyacinths, nor much like anything else, unless a fairy garden. Planted so, you may fill a bed with them, or let them be one of the features in a large bed, – a lovely little variety, a cluster of baby blooms. Or they will make a pretty edging to a border. Only give them all care, treat them with all respect, and they will pay you well.
There are many common garden bulbs and tubers, quite hardy, that may be left unstirred from year to year – indeed do best so. The daffodil, of blessed childhood memory, with the Poet's narcissus and Orange Phonis of the same family, and Double White and Incomparable. Then there are peonies – great masses of colour or of whiteness; and dicentra; and amaryllis longiflora, a very fine hardy bulb. In fact, I always want every thing I can get! – and some that I can not.