The Garden Of Annuals
In preparing the garden for annuals, the first thing to do is to spade
up the soil. This can be done shortly after the frost is out of the
ground. This is about all that can be done to advantage, at this
as the ground must be allowed to remain as it comes from the spade until
the combined effect of sun and air has put it into a condition that will
make it an easy matter to reduce it to proper mellowness with the hoe or
Right here let me say: Most of us, in the enthusiasm which takes
possession of us when spring comes, are inclined to rush matters. We
spade up the soil, and immediately attempt to pulverize it, and of
course fail in the attempt, because it is not in a proper condition to
pulverize. We may succeed in breaking it up into little clods, but that
is not what needs doing. It must be made fine, and mellow,--not a lump
left in it,--and this can only be done well after the elements have had
an opportunity to do their work on it. When one comes to think about
it, there is no need of hurry, for it is not safe to sow seed in the
ground at the north until the weather becomes warm and settled, and that
will not be before the first of May, in a very favorable season, and
generally not earlier than the middle of the month. This being the case,
be content to leave the soil to the mellowing influences of the weather
until seed-sowing time is at hand. _Then_ go to work and get your garden
If the soil is not rich, apply manure from the barnyard or its
substitute in the shape of some reliable fertilizer.
Do this before you set about the pulverization of the soil. Then go to
work with hoe and rake, and reduce it to the last possible degree of
fineness, working the fertilizer you make use of into it in such a
manner that both are perfectly blended.
There is no danger of overdoing matters in this part of garden-work. The
finer the soil is the surer you may be of the germination of the seed
you put into it. Fine seed often fails to grow in a coarse and lumpy
In sowing seed, make a distinction between the very fine and that of
ordinary size. Fine seed should be scattered on the surface, and no
attempt made to cover it. Simply press down the soil upon which you have
scattered it with a smooth board. This will make it firm enough to
retain the moisture required to bring about germination.
Larger seed can be sown on the surface, and afterward covered by sifting
a slight covering of fine soil over it. Then press with the board to
make it firm.
Large seed, like that of the Sweet Pea, Four-o'-Clock, and Ricinus,
should be covered to the depth of half an inch.
I always advise sowing seed in the beds where the plants are to grow,
instead of starting it in pots and boxes, in the house, early in the
season, under the impression that by so doing you are going to "get the
start of the season." In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, plants from
seed sown in the house will be so weak in vital force that they cannot
stand the change which comes when they are transplanted to the open
ground. In the majority of cases, there will be none to transplant, for
seedlings grown under living-room conditions generally die before the
time comes when it is safe to put them out of doors. Should there be any
to put out, they will be so weak that plants from seed sown in the
beds, at that time, will invariably get the start of them, and these are
sure to make the best plants. A person must be an expert in order to
make a success of plant-growing from seed, in the house, in spring.
There will be too much heat, too little fresh air, too great a lack of
moisture in the atmosphere, and often a lack of proper attention in the
way of watering, and unless these matters can be properly regulated it
is useless to expect success. Knowing what the result is almost sure to
be, I discourage the amateur gardener from attempting to grow his own
seedlings under these conditions. If early plants are desired, buy them
of the florists whose facilities for growing them are such that they can
send out strong and healthy stock.
Do not sow the seeds of tender plants until you are quite sure that the
danger from cold nights is over. It is hardly safe to put any kind of
seed into the ground before the middle of May, at the north.
If we wait until all conditions are favorable, the young plants will get
a good start and go steadily ahead, and distance those from seed sown
before the soil had become warm or the weather settled. Haste often
makes waste. If the soil is cold and damp seed often fails to germinate
in it, and this obliges you to buy more seed, and all your labor goes
To the method and time of planting advised above, there is one
exception--that of the Sweet Pea. This should go into the ground as soon
as possible in spring. For this reason: This plant likes to get a good
root-growth before the warm weather of summer comes. With such a growth
it is ready for flowering early in the season, and no time is wasted.
Dig a V-shaped trench six inches deep. Sow the seed thickly. It ought
not to be more than an inch apart, and if closer no harm will be done.
Cover to the depth of an inch, at time of sowing, tramping the soil down
firmly. When the young plants have grown to be two or three inches tall,
draw in more of the soil, and keep on doing this from time to time, as
the seedlings reach up, until all the soil from the trench has been
returned to it. This method gives us plants with roots deep enough in
the soil to make sure of sufficient moisture in a dry season. It also
insures coolness at the root, a condition quite necessary to the
successful culture of this favorite flower.
Weeds will generally put in an appearance before the flowering plants
do. As soon as you can tell "which is which" the work of weeding must
begin. At this stage, hand-pulling will have to be depended on. But a
little later, when the flowering plants have made an inch or two of
growth, weeding by hand should be abandoned. Provide yourself with a
weeding-hook--a little tool with claw-shaped teeth--with which you can
uproot more weeds in an hour than you can in all day by hand, and the
work will be done in a superior manner as the teeth of the little tool
stir the surface of the soil just enough to keep it light and open--a
condition that is highly favorable to the healthy development of young
plants. I have never yet seen a person who liked to pull weeds by hand.
Gardens are often neglected because of the dislike of their owners for
this disagreeable task. The use of the weeding-hook does away with the
drudgery, and makes really pleasant work of the fight with weeds.
If seedlings are to be transplanted, do it after sundown or on a cloudy
day. Lift the tender plants as carefully as possible, and aim to not
expose their delicate roots. Get the place in which you propose to plant
them ready before you lift them, and then set them out immediately. Make
a hole as deep as their roots are long, drop the plants into it, and
press the soil firmly about them with thumb and finger. It may be well
to water them if the season is a dry one. Shade them next day, and
continue to do so until they show that they have made new feeding roots
by beginning to grow. I make use of a "shader" that I have "evolved from
my inner consciousness" that gives better satisfaction than anything
else I have ever tried. I cut thick brown paper into circular shape,
eight inches across. Then I cut out a quarter of it, and bring the edges
of this cut together, and run a stick or wire through them to hold them
together. This stick or wire should be about ten inches long, as the
lower end of it must go into the soil. When my "shader" is ready for use
it has some resemblance to a paper umbrella with a handle at one side
instead of in the middle. This handle is inserted in the soil close to
the plant, and the "umbrella" shades it most effectively, and does this
without interfering with a free circulation of air, which is a matter of
If thorough work in the way of weeding is done at the beginning of the
season, it will be an easy matter to keep the upper hand of the enemy
later on. But if you allow the weeds to get the start of you, you will
have to do some hard fighting to gain the supremacy which ought never to
have been relinquished. After a little, the hoe can be used to
advantage. If the season happens to be a dry one, do not allow the soil
to become hard, and caked on the surface, under the impression that it
will not be safe to stir it because of the drouth. A soil that is kept
light and open will absorb all the moisture there is in the air, while
one whose surface is crusted over cannot do this, therefore plants
growing in it suffer far more than those do in the soil that is stirred
constantly. Aim to get all possible benefit from dews and slight showers
by keeping the soil in such a sponge-like condition that it can take
advantage of them.
It is a good plan to use the grass-clippings from the lawn as a mulch
about your plants in hot, dry weather.
Do not begin to water plants in a dry season unless you can keep up the
practice. Better let them take the chances of pulling through without
the application than to give it for a short time and then abandon it
because of the magnitude of the task.
Furnish racks and trellises for such plants as need them as soon as they
are needed. Many a good plant is spoiled by neglecting to give attention
to its requirements at the proper time.
Make it a rule to go over the garden at least twice a week, after the
flowering season sets in, and cut away all faded flowers. If this is
done, no seed will come to development, and the strength of the plants
will be expended in the production of other flowers. By keeping up this
practice through the season, it is possible to keep most of them
blossoming until late in the summer, as they will endeavor to perpetuate
themselves by the production of seed, and the first step in this process
is the production of flowers.
What flowers would you advise us to grow? many readers of this chapter
will be sure to ask, after having read what I have said above about the
garden of annuals.
In answering this question here, it will be necessary, in a measure, to
repeat what has been, or will be, said in other chapters, where various
phases of gardening are treated. But the question is one that should be
answered in this connection, at the risk of repetition, in order to
fully cover the subject now under consideration.
There are so many kinds of flowers offered by the seedsmen that it is a
difficult matter to decide between them, when all are so good. But no
one garden is large enough to contain them all. Were one to attempt the
cultivation of all he would be obliged to put in all his time at the
work, and the services of an assistant would be needed, besides. Even
then the chances are that the work would be done in a superficial
fashion. Therefore I shall mention only such kinds as I consider the
very best of the lot for general use, adding this advice:
Don't attempt too much. A few good kinds, well grown, will afford a
great deal more pleasure than a great many kinds only half grown.
This list is made up of such kinds as can properly be classed as
"stand-bys," kinds which any amateur gardener can be reasonably sure of
success with if the instructions given in this chapter are carefully
_Alyssum._--Commonly called Sweet Alyssum, because of its pleasing
fragrance. Of low growth. Very effective as an edging. Most profuse and
_Aster._--This annual disputes popularity with the Sweet Pea. Very many
persons would prefer it to any other because of its sturdy habit, ease
of culture, profusion of bloom, and great variety of color. It is one of
_Antirrhinum_ (Snapdragon).--Plant of profuse flowering habit. Flowers
of peculiar shape, mostly in rich colors. Very satisfactory for autumn.
_Balsam._--Splendid plant for summer flowering, coming in many colors,
some of these exceedingly delicate and beautiful. Flowers like small
Roses, very double, and set so thickly along the stalks that each branch
seems like a wreath of bloom. It is often necessary to trim off many of
the leaves in order to give the blossoms a chance to display themselves.
Some varieties are charmingly variegated. Being quite tender it should
not be sown until one is sure of warm weather.
_Calliopsis_ (Coreopsis).--A very showy plant, with rich yellow flowers,
marked with brown, maroon and scarlet at the base of the petal. A most
excellent plant where great masses of color are desired. Fine for
combining with scarlet and other strong-toned flowers. An all-the-season
_Candytuft._--A free and constant bloomer, of low habit. Very useful for
edging beds and borders. Comes in pure white and purplish red.
_Celosia_ (Cockscomb).--A plant with most peculiar flowers. What we
_call_ the flower is really a collection of hundreds of tiny individual
blossoms set so close together that they seem to compose one large
blossom. The prevailing color is a bright scarlet, but we have some
varieties in pink and pale yellow. Sure to please.
_Cosmos._--A plant of wonderfully free flowering habit. Flowers mostly
pink, white, and lilac. A tall grower, branching freely, therefore well
adapted to back rows, or massing. Foliage fine and feathery. Excellent
for cutting. One of our most desirable fall bloomers. We have an early
Cosmos of rather dwarf habit, but the large-growing late varieties are
far more satisfactory. It may be necessary to cover the plants at night
when the frosts of middle and late September are due, as they will be
severely injured by even the slightest touch of frost. Well worth all
the care required.
_Four-o'-Clock_ (Marvel of Peru--Mirabilis).--A good, old-fashioned
flower that has the peculiarity of opening its trumpet-shaped blossoms
late in the afternoon. Bushy, well branched, and adapted to border use
as a "filler."
_Escholtzia_ (California Poppy).--One of the showiest flowers in the
entire list. A bed of it will be a sheet of richest golden yellow for
_Gaillardia_ (Blanket-flower).--A profuse and constant bloomer, of rich
and striking color-combinations. Yellow, brown, crimson, and maroon.
Most effective when massed.
_Gypsophila_ (Baby's Breath).--A plant of great daintiness, both in
foliage and flowers. Always in demand for cut-flower work. White and
_Kochia_ (Burning Bush--Mexican Fire-plant).--A very desirable plant, of
symmetrical, compact habit. Rich green throughout the summer, but
turning to dark red in fall. Fine for low hedges and for scattering
through the border wherever there happens to be a vacancy.
_Larkspur._--Another old-fashioned flower of decided merit.
_Marigold._--An old favorite that richly deserves a place in all gardens
because of its rich colors, free blooming qualities and ease of culture.
_Nasturtium._--Too well known to need description here. Everybody ought
to grow it. Unsurpassed in garden decoration and equally as valuable for
cutting. Blooms throughout the entire season. Does well in a rather poor
soil. In a very rich soil it makes a great growth of branches at the
expense of blossoms.
_Pansy._--Not an annual, but generally treated as such. A universal
favorite that almost everybody grows. If flowers of a particular color
are desired I would advise buying blooming seedlings from the florist,
as one can never tell what he is going to get if he depends on seed of
his own sowing. The flowers will be as fine as those from selected
varieties, but there will be such a medley of colors that one sometimes
tires of the effect. I have always received the most pleasure from
planting distinct colors, like the yellows, the blues, the whites, and
the purples, and the only way in which I can make sure of getting just
the colors I want is to tell the florist about them, and instruct him to
send me those colors when his seedlings come into bloom.
_Petunia._--Another of the "stand-bys." A plant that can always be
depended on. Very free bloomer, very profuse, and very showy. If the old
plants that have blossomed through the summer begin to look ragged and
unsightly, cut away the entire top. In a short time new shoots will be
sent out from the stump of the old plant, and almost before you know it
the plant will have renewed itself, and be blooming as freely as when it
was young. Fine for massing.
_Phlox Drummondi._--One of our most satisfactory annuals. Any one can
grow it. It begins to bloom when small, and improves with age. Comes in
a wide range of colors, some brilliant, others delicate--all beautiful.
Charming effects are easily secured by planting the pale rose, pure
white, and soft yellow varieties together, either in rows or circles.
The contrast will be fine, and the harmony perfect. Other colors are
desirable, but they do not all combine well. It is a good plan to use
white varieties freely, as these heighten the effect of the strong
colors. I always buy seed in which each color is by itself, as a mixture
of red, crimson, lilac, and violet in the same bed is never pleasing to
_Poppy._--Brilliant and beautiful. Unrivalled for midsummer show. As
this plant is of little value after its early flowering period is over,
other annuals can be planted in the bed with it, to take its place. Set
these plants about the middle of July, and when they begin to bloom pull
up the Poppies. The Shirley strain includes some of the loveliest colors
imaginable. Its flowers have petals that seem cut from satin. The
large-flowered varieties are quite as ornamental as Peonies, as long as
_Portulacca._--Low grower, spreading until the surface of the bed is
covered with the dark green carpet of its peculiar foliage. Flowers both
single and double, of a great variety of colors. Does well in hot
locations, and in poor soil. Of the easiest culture.
_Scabiosa._--Very fine. Especially for cutting. Colors dark purple,
maroon, and white.
_Salpiglossis._--A free-blooming plant, of very brilliant coloring and
striking variegation. Really freakish in its peculiar markings.
_Stock_ (Gillyflower).--A plant of great merit. Flowers of the double
varieties are like miniature Roses, in spikes. Very fragrant. Fine for
cutting. Blooms until frost comes. Red, pink, purple, white, and pale
yellow. The single varieties are not desirable, and as soon as a
seedling plant shows single flowers, pull it up.
_Sweet Pea._--This grand flower needs no description. It is one of the
plants we _must_ have.
_Verbena._--Old, but none the worse for that. A free and constant
bloomer, of rich and varied coloring. Habit low and spreading. One of
the best plants we have for low beds, under the sitting-room windows.
Keep the faded flowers cut off, and at midsummer cut away most of the
old branches, and allow the plant to renew itself, as advised in the
case of the Petunia.
_Wallflower._--Not as much grown as it ought to be. Delightfully
fragrant. Color rich brown and tawny yellow. General habit similar to
that of Stock, of which it is a near relative. Late bloomer. Give it one
season's trial and you will be delighted with it. Not as showy as most
flowers, but quite as beautiful, and the peer of any of them in
_Zinnia._--A robust plant of the easiest possible culture. Any one can
grow it, and it will do well anywhere. Grows to a height of three feet
or more, branches freely, and close to the ground, and forms a dense,
compact bush. On this account very useful for hedge purposes.
Exceedingly profuse in its production of flowers. Blooms till frost
comes. Comes in almost all the colors of the rainbow.
Because I have advised the amateur gardener to make his selection from
the above list, it must not be understood that those of which I have not
made mention, but which will be found described in the catalogues of the
florist, are not desirable. Many of them might please the reader quite
as well, and possibly more, than any of the kinds I have spoken of. But
most of them will require a treatment which the beginner in gardening
will not be able to give them, and, on that account, I do not include
them in my list. After a year or two's experience in gardening, the
amateur will be justified in attempting their culture--which, after all,
is not difficult if one has time to give them special attention and a
sufficient amount of care. The kinds I have advised are such as
virtually take care of themselves, after they get well under way, if
weeds are kept away from them. They are the kinds for "everybody's
Let me add, in concluding this chapter, that it is wisdom on the part of
the amateur to select not more than a dozen of the kinds that appeal
most forcibly to him, and concentrate his attention on them. Aim to grow
them to perfection by giving them the best of care. A garden of
well-grown plants, though limited in variety, will afford a hundredfold
more pleasure to the owner of it than a garden containing a little of
everything, and nothing well grown.
In purchasing seed, patronize a dealer whose reputation for honesty and
reliability is such that he would not dare to send out anything inferior
if he were inclined to do so. There are many firms that advertise the
best of seed at very low prices. Look out for them. I happen to know
that our old and most reputable seedsmen make only a reasonable profit
on the seed they sell. Other dealers who cut under in price can only
afford to do so because they do not exercise the care and attention
which the reliable seedsman does in growing his stock, hence their
expenses are less. Cheap seed will be found cheap in all senses of the
I want to lay special emphasis on the advisability of purchasing seed
in which each color is by itself. The objection is often urged that one
person seldom cares to use as many plants of one color as can be grown
from a package of seed. This difficulty is easily disposed of. Club with
your neighbors, and divide the seed between you when it comes. In this
way you will secure the most satisfactory results and pay no more for
your seed than you would if you were to buy "mixed" packages. Grow
colors separately for a season and I am quite sure you will never go
back to mixed seed.
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