Garden History and Historic Gardens of the NortheastFlower border - The Path to Gardens Past

February 1930- Better Homes & Gardens Articles

Along the Garden Path


Several months ago perhaps you read in The Atlantic Monthly Prof. James E. Boyle’s statement that a mother plant louse “who lays her eggs the first of April becomes the progenitor of 12 generations by the middle of August. She produces 41 young in one generation. Therefore, by the middle of August, if all the mother-aphid descendants should live, there would be alive at one time some 560 quadrillion aphids! Or, to state it more exactly, 564,087,257,509,154,652 aphids. And they would weigh about eight times as much as all the human inhabitants of this globe.

“This shows rather strikingly what one mother aphid can do in four and one-half months, if she has plenty of food and no enemies. We must also remember the size of the insect’s appetite – especially when in the larva stage. Familiar examples of the larva are the maggots – children of the common house fly – and the caterpillars, grub worms, and so on, children of the butterflies and moths which play like fairies in the sunlight or moonlight. The sole business of the larva is to eat and grow. And so we find that the caterpillar of the common Polyphemus moth consumes, in about 56 days, 86,000 times his original weight. This is rather terrifying!

“Still the balance has been maintained, thus far.”

Spraying, fumigation, drouth, and natural enemies control insects. It is the lady bugs which eat thousands of plant lice each day.

I was amused to receive a letter of Nell Griffith Wilson, Kenwood, California, who asks: “Did it ever occur to you that children have their growing season at the same time that plants have? We discovered this when we kept measurements on our kitchen wall for several years to see how much our two girls were growing. It happened that the first measurement was made in August and the second in February. The record showed, over a period of several years, that each of them grew sometimes as much as 2 ½ inches from February to August, or during the spring and summer season, while during the winter period, they would grow little more than ½ inch. And so this experience shows that sunshine and warmth are as conducive to growth in children as they are to plants.”

I had landed in Seattle in an airplane – it was my first flying experience. I had traveled in view of the snow-capped peaks Mounts Hood, Rainier, and St. Helens. My hosts met me at the landing ground, and I was rushed to a luncheon which was to precede a garden-club meeting. As soon as I entered the room, I was greeted with literally scores of attractive flower arrangement, but nothing compared with the quantities of Viola Jersey Gem. I immediately wrote Mr. Weston, the originator of this viola, and said: “I have today seen more Viola Jersey Gems than you have. There must be bushels of flowers upon the tables here.”

“You know as well as I do,” began one of the editors, “that it’s fun to take your pipe and go to the garden in the evening to watch the beans germinate. Plants grow at night. The crooked arms raise the soil, and before you know it, the beans have germinated before your eyes.”

“No,” said I, “I have never watched a bean germinate, but one of the first cold evenings last fall I came to a garden where the buds of the evening primroses were having a time of it. The air was so chilly that I had to assist the primroses with a match. The warmth of a burning match actually opened the buds right before my eyes.”

In the most authoritative book, by Alex Laurie and J. B. Edmond, “Fertilizers for Greenhouse and Garden Crops,” the writers say: “Plants may actually starve in the presence of the very elements they require, because these elements are in a form in which plants cannot absorb them. All the inorganic materials which enter the plant enter as liquids and are not usable in solid form. Hence, nutrient materials may be designated as quickly available, slowly available, and sometimes ‘hopelessly unavailable.’”

This is a lesson to all gardeners. Fertilizers should be used which have a large percentage of available nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus.

Have you brought milkweed pods indoors and watched them develop day by day? At first they are spindle-shaped pods, cracking along one line like the pods of columbine or larkspur. When they crack open they reveal the folded parachutes, which soon open in the warm dry air of the home. Gradually the downy, soft, spiny follicles roll back to reveal the smooth, satiny lining. They are only weeds, of course, but our interest in them transforms them into objects of beauty.

I have visited a number of state garden-club meetings recently, and I find that many of them have provided four committees which are not usually included in the list: a labeling committee (greater interest always centers on the unlabeled flowers); a committee to think of the pictorial effect in the show; another that will work up a large display of unusual things; a committee for the children’s department; and one to insure educational features, with displays of insects, diseases, tools, and garden practices.

Nancy wrote: “The skies are iron gray today, and are shedding tears now and then, but many unlovely objects are glorified – nothing is prettier than an ice-covered rubbish burner, and a fence of plain chicken netting jus just one piece of delicate lace.” It is the ability to see beauty in common objects which has characterized most great artists.

Some day I shall have a sundial, and on its face I want to carve Tempus fugit. To you it will mean “Time flies,” but to me it recalls the remark of a Scotchman who thought that it was the name of the maker of many sundials and remarked, “The auld fella couldna make one that wud keep time by necht [night].”

Many persons have written to us to ask about Junior Garden Clubs. They can be organized any month of the year. Each boy or girl who accomplishes the first five projects is entitled to a charming garden notebook. Why not organize the boys and girls of your neighborhood? – Editor.

--Better Homes and Gardens, February, 1930

The Roving Gardener
Harry R. O'Brien


This month may well be dedicated to ordering seeds. I like to give plenty of time to it, making out my lists early, reading up on new things I order, and getting my orders off so that all seeds will be on hand by the time spring comes. Some firms give a discount for early ordering, too.

Vegetable seeds and annuals I order from a local firm. The bulk of my perennial seeds I order from one or more of the reliable American firms. I like to get a few things from England, especially delphiniums, pyrethrums, and gaillardias. Then each year I try a few rare rock-garden things that are difficult to get in this country. My seed from these I get from Switzerland. There is no duty on flower seeds, and they come thru in three or four weeks.

Illustration Caption: The Transvaal-daisy (Gerbera), popular in greenhouses and in California, has a wide range of lovely pastel tints – ecru, orange, vermillion, and golden scarlet

The story of where flower seeds come from is a fascinating one. The great bulk of our annuals are now grown in California, where a big industry has sprung up. Germany, too, produces a large amount of seed, especially of annuals and of florist plants. Perennial sees come from all over the world, especially those of rock-garden plants. There are a number of firms that make a specialty of handling these rarer seeds. From two or three men you can get seeds of rare Rocky Mountain alpines. An Ohio seedsman was a pioneer in handling rare seeds in this country. There are two or three of our important seed firms that now carry a large line of rare alpines and two or three English firms do also. The greatest firm in the world for alpine seeds is in Switzerland. There is a country preacher in England who has built up an international business in rare seeds.

Often these rare alpine seeds have to be collected by natives who make trips into wild mountain country for the purpose. The entire world seed crop of some alpines consists of only a few ounces annually, so don’t think you are cheated if you get only a few seeds in your packet. Sometimes the collector gets sick or has an accident and the seed will be off the market, or the crop may fail, but the fact won’t be known until long after seed catalogs are printed. Sometimes the collector is unreliable – and your seed may turn out to be something else.

What a story of some of the seed packets could tell us, if they could only talk!

Illustration Caption: A lath screen is superior to any other method of shading inasmuch as each part of a frame receives alternately sun and shade.

Illustration Caption: The rockspray (Cotoneaster horizontalis) has branches which are arranged like the bones of a fish. The tiny leaves, scarlet fruits, and informal habit hint many uses.

This is the season when we enjoy evergreens most, when deciduous shrubs and trees are bare. Don’t forget the broadleaf evergreens for these are just as attractive as those with needles and cones. Of these, the rhododendrons have been the most popular in recent years. But there are other sorts that ought to be grown more. For instance, there is the Cotoneaster family, most of which belong in the evergreen class. These, in general, resemble the Japanese Barberry. Two of the best of these are Cotoneaster horizontalis and the rockspray (Cotoneaster microphylla). Both of these are dwarf, spreading over the ground in sprays, and are especially suited to rock-garden planting, tho they will do elsewhere. The rockspray is more dwarf and the leaves are smaller. Of the upright forms, one of the best is the Diels Cotoneaster. All three have red berries that persist thru most of the winter. Seldom cataloged, but one of the best sorts, is known as Cotoneaster racemiflora variety soongarica, an upright shrub noted for its profusion of showy white flowers as well as the size and quantity of fruits.

Another choice broadleaf evergreen is the Leatherleaf Viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum). This is a native of Western China and is as yet rare. Not many nurseries carry it. It has large, longish, thick, wrinkled leaves of olive-green color that persist all winter. From a distance in winter, the shrub resembles a rhododendron. The leaves stay fresh until along in February and do not drop off until after the new leaves have come in the spring.

One of the longest-blooming perennials for outdoor growing in southern California is the Gerbera, or Transvaal-daisy. This can now be obtained in many shades of red, orange, and yellow. The secret of its growth is in planting absolutely fresh seed. The seedlings should be left in the seedframe for about four months. Then a season in a nursery-bed is necessary to develop a strong plant suitable for the border. It can be divided readily. Gerberas are grown in the East as greenhouse plants.

If one has the urge to do garden work in February, one job is to look over your tools, and if you failed to do it earlier, polish them clean with emery paper and give them a coat of oil. A mixture of old crankcase oil and kerosene, applied with a paint brush, will protect them from rust. (Continued on page 118)

Illustration Caption: The Leatherleave Viburnum, Viburnum rhytidophyllum, has dark-green, wrinkled leaves which are evergreen. It is hardy except in the most northern and cold climates.

--Better Homes and Gardens, February, 1930

New Perennials
J. G. Bacher

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