AUTUMN is the great planting time. While the soil is still warm from the summer sun, and sap Is active in leaf and stem, roots very quickly take hold of fresh soil. In addition, the chills of autumn prevent too rapid evaporation of moisture from the leaves, a frequent cause of trouble when plants are moved during hot weather.
The gardener has a busy timo if he takes full advantage of showery autumn woather, for fruits, flowers, shrubs and trees all need to be planted before the severe frosts arrive.
Autumn planting falls into two categories. There is the substitution of bulbs and spring-flowering seedlings for annuals and other bedding plants that have done duty during the summer. There is also the more permanent planting of herbaceous borders, shrubberies, and ornamental trees. The latter is more important, and requires planning beforehand. The actual planting can be carried out during October and early November, but though it is well to rush it, this must not be an excuse for slackneas in soil preparation.
Perfection in the flower border does not exist. It is a thing all gardeners strive for, and never attain. The aim is to produce a border of flowers, of all kinds and colours, that will be full of bloom at all times of the year, and at the same timo so carefully chosen that there is a symphony in colour.
Jet us consider first the new border, for this is a problem to which too much thought cannot be given. The best position for a mixed flower border is facing south. But all borders cannot face south, and it sometimes happens that one border at least must face direct north. This means that almost no sunshine will reach the plants, and only those plants which definitely prefer shady positions should be grown there. In any case, the first work is the same. That is, the border must be deeply dug, and the soil properly prepared.
The next point is to select the plants that will (a) flower in succession from early until late in the year, (b) vary in size from dwarf edging kinds to tall plants suitable for the back of the border, and (c) harmonize with neighbours in the border if both flower at the same time.
The first and last of these points can be met by what is becoming a popular way of dealing with borders in small gardens, where empty bare beds and borders are specially undesirable at any time of the year. That is, plant the border with a backbone of shrubs. The skeleton of the border then remains even during the winter months. Lavender, marjoram, santolina and veronica are very useful shrubs for the purpose.
They not only clothe the winter border, but add variety in the different colours of their foliage, and when the flowers are in bloom, the grey of lavender and the deep green of veronica can be used to prevent possible colour clashes.
When you have spent some hours poring over catalogues, you will probably have a good-sized list of plants that you consider indispensable. Before any order is placed, fit these plants into a roughly drawn plan of the border, remembering that there is the minimum number of plants of one kind that should be planted. Isolated specimens, except in the case of shrubs, look patchy and fail to satisfy. Groups of six or a dozen in the case of small plants such as Christmas roses, will look better than the same number of plants dotted all along the border.
As you plan, try to bring a few taller plants into the foreground here and there to form bays. This prevents the whole of the border being seen at one glance, and so adds interest by the discovery of fresh blooms as the visitor passes along it. In the sunny border group the most vivid colours in the middle rather than at the end. In the shady border let the ends be light, and allow plenty of white, pale yellow and cream, with mauve and purple and pink as a relief. These generally show up better in poor light than the warm reds and oranges.
Some of the plants in the mixed border will be there solely for their foliage. For instance, the Mock Maidenhair and the favourite Old Man would noithor of them appeal on account of their flowers, which are inconspicuous, but both are welcome as a foil to other flowering plants.
There is another point about the arrange-ment of plants in the border which is worth consideration. That is the form of the plant and type of foliage. Gladiolas, irises, montbretias, day lilies, all have distinctive sword-like leaves, which make a decided change when growing between bushy plants of different habit. Since the period when a plant has foliage above the soil is much longor than its actual blooming period, this point is well worth thought, for beauty of form and colour can be given to the mixed border even when flowers are almost absent.
When the plants arrive, the first step is to make sure the roots of each plant are kept moist until they are actually in the soil.
Before you put the plants out, write a label for each (if you plant a group, label it thus: Anemone – ). Take the labels to the border, and insert them where the plants are to be set. Then there will be no mistake about distances apart for the various groups.
Plant firmly : more plants die through failure over this than from any other cause. The soil should be level from back to front, not banked up, or some of the plants will lack moisture. It is best to plant the larger plants first. For instance, if it has been decided to use small ornamental trees as a background, with shrubs immediately in front, put these in first.
Plant trees and shrubs as you would roses, with a hole large enough to take the roots well spread out horizontally, and with a stout stake for support put in at the same time.
The old Border. Renovation of an old border is much the same as planting a new one, except that the variety of plants is limited. The owner of an old-established border is in a happy position, for he knows from experience how much he can keep in condition. If his experience has taught him that mixed borders are too exacting in the matter of time he will perhaps welcome the opportunity of changing his herbaceous plants for something more labour saving.
The substitution of flowering shrubs, which by a judicious selection can be made to cover every month of the year with beauty of flowers or fruit, will reduce the work of border management to a minimum.