Monday, January 28, 2013

The Feeling For Plants

     One does not make a good library till one has a feeling for books, nor a good collection of pictures without a feeling for pictorial art. Neither does one make a good garden of any kind without a feeling for plants. This does not mean that the feeling must be born with the person. It would be a hopeless world if we could not acquire new sentiments and enthusiasms. One can cultivate a feeling for plants by carefully observing them, growing them, reading about them, and particularly by choosing the company of persons who know and love them. As soon as one begins to distinguish the different kinds closely, one acquires the feeling of acquaintanceship; every kind then has its own qualities, and every kind is admirable in itself. Plants have personality.
    The interest in plants is primarily, I suppose, in their forms. They are endlessly diverse. Vine, herb, tree, shrub, aquatic, they inhabit the earth and clothe it, and give significance to scenery. The greenery of vegetation is the mantle and the garnish of the planet. Leaf-forms, flower-forms, fragrances, shapes and colors and odors in fruits, twig-habit and bark and buds are all perfect of their kind. To admire a plant is to be keen in observation, appreciative of nature, responsive in sympathy and suggestion.
    The plant-grower has a special intimacy with his plants. They respond to his care; they come up slowly from the seed or the cutting; they take on new forms and adapt themselves to the conditions he provides. Often will one see a gardener run his fingers over the stem or branches and pass his hand over the foliage as if caressing the plant.
     The lover of plants enjoys them in their surroundings, in the places where they grow. When they seem to fit the place, or become a part of the general composition, they have the added beauty of association, one plant complementing another. The growth-form of one differs from the form of another; the color and fashion of bark are different; the foliage effects are distinct; yet they may not be inharmonious.
    The plant-lover responds to the plants as they grow in the wild. The bush by the roadside interests him; he looks for it as he comes and goes. The fence-row has its charm, even though he must cut it out to make room for crops. The herbs and the trees, the plant-forms in the marsh, all awaken a pleasurable response. He wants to transfer them to his grounds. It is well to have a nursery plot at one side, out of sight and out of the way, to which all kinds of things from the wild may be transferred. As they grow, some of them may be wanted for the grounds, and in any case, there is the pleasure of anticipation, of experiment.
    Much of the interest in plants is conditioned on the seasonal changes. In this are they unlike animals, and hereby do they have a special charm. The swelling of the buds in spring marks an epoch: the birds come back; the creeks are overflowing; a new odor rises from the earth; the sky is soft; the men and teams take to the fields. Then the buds burst, the leaves unfold and grow, the branches lengthen, the foliage is complete, the flowers come and fade, fruit appears; then comes the yellowing of the leaf, the dropping one by one as the autumn moves on, and finally the bare twigs go well prepared and secure into the great test of winter. Next year, will the miracle be repeated? We know it will!
    After a time one expresses one's knowledge and skill in the raising of plants. The kinds come to be familiar. The books and catalogues have a new meaning. Acquisitions are prized. Experiment is fascinating. One is proud of one's workmanship. Then does the growing of plants become a real enthusiasm.
    No modern home that has a yard is meeting its best opportunities unless it exhibits a discriminating feeling for plants. One owes it to oneself to cultivate an appreciation of plants, of gardens, and of landscapes. One owes it to one's family and to the children. -L.H. Bailey, Home Grounds: Their Planning and Planting

Monday, January 14, 2013

L.H. Bailey on the Oak Tree

OAK: Strength, solidity, durability are symbolized in the Oak. The tree is connected with the traditions of the race, and it is associated with literature. It is a tree of strong individuality, with bold, free growth and massive framework. Its longevity appeals to every person, even though he has no feeling for trees. It connects the present with the past. It spans the centuries.
    This feeling that the Oak represents a long span of years is itself the reason why we should consider the tree with veneration and let it live its full time; and this is the particular lesson which the writer would impress. Spare the isolated Oak trees! Of whatever kind or species, a mature Oak is beyond price. To allow it to remain bespeaks culture and kindly feeling.
-L.H. Bailey, Cyclopedia of American Horticulture

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Winter Wildlife Gardening

Ernie Allison loves nature. More specifically, he loves birds and wants to teach others how to appreciate them, too. To help further this mission, he writes for the bird feeder accessories provider,
It is pretty well-known that gardening can be great for your health. It offers stress relief, exercise, improves mental health, and provides you with fresh food to eat and beautiful plants to look at. It is also good for the environment. By making specific choices, you can provide native plants that are great for the local wildlife to thrive off of, especially in the winter.
Many people assume that you need to cut down all your plants and kill your garden before winter does. This is a lot of unnecessary work. By leaving your garden as is, you allow nature to take its course, which gives shelter and food sources for native animals. Here are some benefits of leaving your garden be for the winter.
·         Snow is known to bend large plants. This of course eliminates perches for birds, but creates pathways for them as well as other creatures to utilize.
·         Piles of leaves provide a warm shelter for small animals.
·         Cutting the tops off plants can actually cause them to die completely due to the cold.
·         Worms and other bugs may take shelter also, which will attract birds for your viewing pleasure, especially in the spring when everyone warms up and comes out to feed.
·         By skipping the needless landscaping, you save yourself a lot of stress, which is what gardening is all about! Why clean up your garden in the fall and the spring, when you can get away with doing it once, and have better results!
·         You can use your extra time to watch the wildlife and plan your garden strategy for the spring
Here are some extras you can do in order to provide for the winter wildlife in your area. After all, not everyone sleeps all winter, and freezing temperatures can make food difficult to find.
·         Choose seed and berry producing plants that can stand up to the winter cold. Some options are:
o        Bayberry
o        Dogwood
o        Virginia Creeper
o        See what’s native to your area 
·         If you choose to supplement with a bird feeder, be sure to get your seed from a source that is guaranteed not to use pesticides or other harmful ingredients.
·         Minimize the mullet, and remember that bread is bad for birds. Stick with nuts, seeds, and other unprocessed foods. For more information on what food to choose, check out this resource page about feeding birds.
By using your gardening habit to benefit the wildlife around you, you are spreading the health benefits that gardening brings to you. That should help you sleep easier at night, on top of everything else.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Vegetable-Gardening Tools

     There is a tool for every labor. Many of these tools are the products of necessity. Others satisfy the inventive fancy of the American. Foreign writers wonder at the variety of tools pictured in our rural books, but the number of tools which are in actual use far exceeds those which are described in books. To an important degree it is true that the successful American farmer is known by the number and variety of his tools. The man who has many useful implements emphasizes brain above brawn. He is tactful and resourceful. He means to be master of the situation. He is to accomplish the given result with the least expenditure of mere physical energy. He will do his work better and more expeditiously than the man who depends on his hands and his muscles. Good tools educate the man. Their use cultivates ingenuity. They teach him to think.
     On the other hand, the man who is rich in agricultural implements has less intimate contact with his plants than the hand-worker has. The machine is between him and the plant. He depreciates the value of painstaking human care in the growing and the training of the plant.
     In selecting a tool, the buyer should know (a) what labor is to be performed, (b) what implement will best perform it. Many farmers buy a tool because it is perfect as a mechanism or merely because it is an improvement on what they already have. This is well; but it should be borne in mind, after all, that the tool is not the first consideration,—it is not the unit. The unit is the work to be done or the condition to be attained. A farmer may not ask, therefore, whether he shall buy a spading-harrow: he should consider his soil and what he wants to do with it, and then search for the tool which will do the work best. -L.H. Bailey, The Principles of Vegetable Gardening