Buying plants is a fairly simple matter and I shall deal with that in detail later on. But there are hundreds of kindly disposed garden owners who are only too glad to give small pieces of perennials to those who are starting de novo or even to friends who are short of a particular variety or type. In some districts, garden Clubs or Societies arrange for the exchange and distribution of herbaceous plants in I the winter time. Under such circumstances there is no begging in that sense of the word. It is a gift gladly given. There is always a danger, however, in acceptingof herbaceous from wellwishers. It is invariably the rampant grower that can be most easily spared because it spreads prodigiously. Accept with care then, those bits and pieces which are so often offered lavishly by those who ought to know better! Find the true name of what is being offered to you. Look up the plant in a catalogue or encyclopaedia, or even better if you can see how it is growing for yourself, in the garden of the owner who has made you such a ‘kind’ offer.
I should like, therefore to warn you against a few which have what I call ‘Wanderlust’. They are all right if they can be kept in order, but can you guarantee to do this? They may find a niche in a very large garden. The plants are in no particular order but just as they come to mind. The list is a warning in itself.
Thermopsis montana Travels subterraneously for yards.
Physalis alkekengi The Chinese Lantern flower – and what a spreader! Campanula persicifolia Throw too few flowers.
Polygonum cuspidatum Spreads and spreads like mad.
Petasites fragrans Winter heliotrope. Deliriously scented in January, but its largesmother the ground later on and exclude other plants.
Cerastium tomentosum Rhizomes will penetrate anywhere and ruin a rock garden.
Euphorbia cyparissias Cypress spurge. Spreads with thread-like roots which are very difficult to eradicate.
ruber Such a nuisance because it itself badly.
Oenothera biennis The Evening, another one which flings about everywhere.
Linaria cymbalaria Another trailing spreader which seeds prolifically.
japonica Beautiful, though it can become a perfect menace.
These plants will serve to show what I mean. Beware of them as well as some of the very common rampageous Michaelmas daisies, which seem to spread like couch grass and pop up at unexpected places.
The Right Time
Another mistake that is so often made in begging is that the plants are given – or rather portions thereof – at the wrong time. Most herbaceous plants do best when put into the new borders early in the autumn. There are exceptions to the rule, and it can be said, where gardens are situated in smoky towns or cities, that March planting is to be preferred. The great thing with spring planting is to make certain that the plants do not suffer from drought. They are planted late and have to grow, and flower, and form new roots at approximately the same time, and they cannot do this in dry soils. They are helped tremendously if they get a good mulching (this means top dressing) of damped sedge peat, well composted vegetable refuse or similar material. This is put around the plants in April or early May and acts as a barrier between the sunshine and the soil, keeping the moisture in below and incidentally providing the organic matter which is so much needed.
Be very careful from whom you accept plants. Many gardeners have cursed the day when they received the gift, from a so-called friend, for within the clump or clumps so gladly provided there lay one of these insidious perennial weeds like convolvulus or ground elder. Once the plants are inthe weeds grow and before long the new gardener is hard put to know what to do. It is always better to be safe than sorry. See the garden from which you will receive the plants and if there is any sign of perennial weeds about, say quite frankly, ‘Thank you very much but I’m * not having any!’
BUYING THE BEST
‘For me there is nothing better than the best.’ That is a good motto to start with. Pay a fair price for a good article and be quite sure what you are buying. Do not try and buy clumps (though I have used that word when dealing with gifts). Remember that a clump is an old plant. Small pieces are what you need, a good vigorous young plant with a goodsystem. Buy a plant that will transplant well. You would not think of buying an old horse or an old cat. Don’t therefore consider getting an old herbaceous perennial.
Remember that you yourself will be able tomany of the plants you buy in a year or two’s time, so don’t mind buying only ones or twos and thus have the joy of increasing your ones and twos to sixes and sevens.
A large number of reliable nurserymen up and down the country can supply your needs. Write to them for a catalogue. Peruse this at leisure, making up your mind beforehand how much you can spend and then marking this plant and that plant until the sum you set aside has been expended. Some nurserymen specialize in certain types of flowers.
As a rule, at the start the flower grower will be content with getting all the plants he needs from some nursery on which he can rely, perhaps in the vicinity. He should go along and then see the plants blooming – not just one visit but a visit in July, another in August, and another in September, and so on, so that he covers the flowering periods of the season. On each occasion he can mark down in the catalogue the plants that he fancies and so his selection can be made from sight. Many parks have good herbaceous borders, with the plants well labelled. Regular visits will _ be well repaid. The Parks Superintendent or one of his 1 assistants will often be willing to discuss perennials and their uses. Knowing the district, he may prove a valuable friend who can make helpful suggestions.
Flower growers who live in the south may like to visit the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gardens at Wisley. Many go to the gardens of The Good Gardeners Association at Arkley Manor, Arkley, Nr. Barnet, Herts, and look at the plants in the big herbaceous borders there and in the cut flower borders. Those who are within reach of London will want to go to the fortnightly shows at the Royal Horti cultural Society’s Hall to see the flowers onthere, while those who live in the north may go to their Northern Flower Shows like those at Harrogate, Altrincham, the Roundhay Show at Leeds and so on. Those hardy border plants are going to cost you money. So spend that money wisely and carefully, and know what you are buying every time. 3
BULBS AND CORMS
You will be lucky to get any bulbs and corms given you even if you beg for them! But the danger of a gift is of course disease, and for that matter, pests. Sometimes a nurseryman who forces flowers under glass is willing to give away or sell cheaply some of the bulbs after theand marketing has been done. These often take years to recover from this treatment. They are grown for market, the foliage is often cut as well as the bloom and so there is little food to be passed back by the into the bulb itself. Many would say that they are not worthing anything at all, but I have known amateurs who have them and have planted them and nursed them, and in three or four years’ time have got quite respectable blooms from them. It is a question of waiting.
When buying bulbs, you will do well to order them from a reliable seedsman and see that you are supplied with firm, good specimens at the right time.
It is doubtful if anyone will have rose bushes to spare. The only time it is likely that they will be offered you as a gift is when someone is leaving the garden or when some estate is being broken up. In these cases the roses offered are invariably old and it is seldom they transplant well. My experience is that it is always better to plant a young rose bush with a really goodsystem, such as you can get from a first-class nurseryman.
SHRUBS AND CLIMBERS
Some amateurs are very keen on propagating shrubs and a number of shrubs can be raised fromand seeds without much difficulty. It is not surprising to hear of garden owners who had little shrubs given to them from time to time but the danger of such gifts is threefold – (1) That you are given the most rampant plants which will take up a tremendous amount of room. (2) That you are given the very common varieties and types and (3) That you will be given those which are not so popular, perhaps. You want to be very careful in accepting such gifts. I know of a garden in Kent that accepted a gift of a plant twenty years ago, and now it is the gardener’s bane! It has spread everywhere and the owner cannot even grow onions in the vegetable garden without it rearing its ugly head. Accept gifts, therefore, with reservation. Make certain you know their name, for instance, and then you can look the plants up ½ in a good shrub catalogue or in an encyclopaedia and see what you are getting.
When buying shrubs, look out for a good root system. Too many beginners want to buy a big top and that is a great mistake. What you really want is a big bottom! By that I mean that the part below ground should be the part that is really well developed. See that you buy young shrubs because they more quickly acclimatize to your soil. Don’t ask for old ones. See that they come to you named and 3 be sure you make a plan or keep a list of the names because the labels soon get worn or tear off. Take a great deal of trouble over buying and ordering shrubs. Buy those that will not grow too large for your garden, that will need15; little looking after, and that will give you colour over as | long a period as possible. In most gardensare preferable to a whole lot of evergreens.