THE FIRST DAYS OF SPRING

WHO NEEDS A CALENDAR to tell us when it’s quarter day? Who needs formal notification of the date, when a riot of colour is every day transforming our gardens into an artist’s palette of strong, primary colours? After all, we have hastened the calendar’s long, heavy progress through the dark days of winter, when it was sometimes almost too cold to venture out even to admire the bravely flowering shrubs, the branches thick with flamboyant berries, the hardy little robin claiming his territorial rights – and his early-morning breakfast. Now, the time has come for a fanfare of colour to take over again. Not the muted colours of frost-tinged winter bark, nor wind-lashed branches, nor rain-soaked grass. No, the glowing, vibrant, triumphant colours of brighter days to come. Reds, yellows, pinks, unashamedly boasting of their arrival and, like the Pied Piper, beckoning us out of doors again. If there is a dark corner in your garden, light the lamp of spring by planting a thick clump of bulbs in one colour, enough to make you look, and look again. If there is a patch which catches your eye from a bedroom or the kitchen window, plant bulbs where you can admire them most. Indeed, if there is any patch which, like us, needs a moral uplift after winter, plant bulbs, and then just wait. What a lovely way to greet the first days of spring!

FUCHSIA GROWING TECHNIQUES

FUCHSIAS are fashionable again. And about time, too! In fact I find it difficult to understand why the popularity of these plants waned, because they’re cheap to buy, easy to grow, yet flower for months. There are trailing varieties ideal for window-boxes, hanging baskets and wall containers, and upright kinds you can train into neat bushes in a matter of weeks for pot plants, bedding displays or to put in tubs and urns to decorate a patio or terrace.

The easiest way to start is to buy a collection from a nurseryman early in the year. The plants you receive will be rooted cuttings. Set them individually in small pots and, when they’re large enough, pinch out their tips to leave four pairs of leaves on each plant.

A shoot will quickly grow from the stem where each leaf joins it and these should be pinched back to leave three pairs of leaves. Move the plants into 5in. Pots when the small ones are full of roots. Apart from watering and feeding the plants weekly throughout summer, and supporting the stems, that is all you need to do to make superb pot plants or train fuchsias for bedding out or setting in tubs.

To make a standard with a head of branches at the top of a tall stem, let a plant grow upwards, tie it to a cane, and remove all the side shoots – not the leaves – from the stem until it is 18 – 36in. Tall. Then pinch out the top and treat the shoots that then form as though it were a bush, twice pinching them back to 3-4 pairs of leaves.

Fuchsias can be trained as espaliers, pyramids and other shapes as well, or you can simply have a marvellous display of the different varieties by growing them as bushes. Either way, fuchsias are sure to beautify your home and garden and be as enchanting as a tree with fairy lights a-dance 8 Patio Design Ideas 1. Not so much a home extension, more a roof over the terrace. Heavy softwood timbers overhead support a ‘ceiling’ of transparent plastic which keeps out the wind and rain, but does not obscure the light. Trees set among the paving stones vignette the view 2. If grass growing between flagstones has always been a problem, make a virtue of it. Softer to look at than an all-paved terrace, yet more durable than a lawn, this could be the best of both worlds. Tub- and pot-grown fuchsias would be a worthy focal point – if the beautiful old pump didn’t steal the limelight 3. A touch of the Continent in your own back garden: the circular shapes in the wall panels are repeated, in random sizes and colours, in paving blocks set in cobbles. Ideal for a leisure area, less suitable for a heavy-duty thoroughfare-too tiring on the feet! 4. Look at this verdant corner of a tiny town garden – it’s as refreshing as a cool shower on a hot day. The plants have been chosen so that the foliage contrasts both in scale and texture, and each one is a perfect foil to its neighbour 5. Natural wooden tubs on an old brick path create an impression of timelessness, the suggestion of a cosy thatched cottage beyond. But you can buy a couple of hundred old bricks, and take a leaf out of the history books to give a lived-in look to a new garden. The restraint exercised in the colour scheme of the flowers surrounding the young trees pays handsome dividends 6. A miniature pool and a small clump of bamboo are like a magic carpet for visitors dining in this tiny enclosed yard. Imagination transports them far and away beyond the urban boundaries! 7. Perhaps you have seen a patio like this on holiday, or in a watercoiour somewhere. If your garden gets a reasonable amount of light, it’s an idea worth copying. But don’t expect it to work wonders on a dark corner. Remember, this kind of effect was created for strong Mediterranean sunlight-by Jack Grant-White 8. A well-placed urn or vase can do as much for a garden in terms of dimension as a long herbaceous border. Here, at Sissinghurst Castle, a lead urn is filled with Hclichrysum microphyllum, a brave use of a monochromatic scheme

Tips on growing Camelias

Fine foliage, a lovely succession of exquisite flowers and bushes that look handsome all the year.

EVERGREEN leaves that always look as though they have been polished up for a special occasion, a neat look about the bush that makes it attractive the whole year, flowers of waxen beauty that open in relays over several months – yes. Of course, it’s a camellia! And can you think of any plant more worth having in your garden? But aren’t there any snags? Yes, one, a pretty big one too.

Camellias don’t like lime. In soils that contain any of this very ordinary stuff, at best they languish if it’s only a little. At worst their leaves curl up, turn brown, then the bush dies. Well, if your soil does have lime in it, you can still grow one or two of these remarkable bushes – in tubs of lime-free, peaty soil.

Peat that’s a key word here. Camellias revel in the stuff. Whatever the nature of the soil you always want to add plenty when you are planting one and give it another layer over the rooting area every year after that.

Planting can be done at almost any time of year except when it’s freezing or when the weather is really hot, because for all their exotic appearances camellias are really hardy. Of course, autumn or spring is better, but when you get a fancy to have one of these bushes in your garden you can act on impulse, since nursery firrhs always bring up the small plants in pots so that when they are put in someone’s garden they hardly notice that anything is happening to them.

Tough though they prove to be, the place where you put one does need a little careful choosing. Some place with a western aspect is best. Then the flowers are likely to escape harm from the early morning sun. Shining on them after a frosty night – remembering that camellias bloom through March and April – it soon turns them brown. They will actually endure considerable shade, but you get most flowers if during the summer the bushes do get some sun for part of the day. For the buds are produced in the year previous to flowering.

When it comes to choosing the bushes, this can be a bewildering process. The different varieties are numbered in hundreds. They can be single, each flower with a big boss of golden stames. They can be fully double, like artificial rosettes, and they can have a varying number of petals within these two extremes. Some are ‘anemone-centred’. The flowers can be any of many shades of pink or red, and they can be white. Some varieties are splashed with white, giving them a marbled effect.

But don’t let this worry you. Plant whatever varieties you can get hold of and as many as your garden will hold. Plant them for their own beauty and as a background also for your later flowering plants. You’ll never be anything but simply delighted with them.

GARDENS HELD IN TRUST FOR YOU

The National Trust has in its care some of the most beautiful gardens in the world. They’re full of ideas to adapt in the garden at home after visiting them.

HANCE rather than design has brought into the care of the National Trust a group of celebrated gardens which, if you have eyes to see, tell the story of the development of the garden maker’s art in this country. Like the history of Western music, it is brief by comparison with the other visual arts. It runs from the Tudor enclosure through the idealised landscape of the eighteenth century to the amalgam of many styles seen in the gardens of our own time. But the Trust’s gardens also show a cross section of the differing styles of garden layout which together make up one of the glories of our inheritance.

One man’s garden being another man’s wilderness, personal preferences always set arguments going vigorously when garden lovers discuss their favourite subject. The Trust garden I like best myself is Hidcote, near Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. I feel I can understand the American woman who was seen there every summer at one time. She would cross the Atlantic just to enjoy it, and sat there day after day looking at one after another the many different scenes it offers.

Hidcote has everything. There is a wild garden, there are views, there are roses, there are vistas. There is a rock garden, a vast lawn, a series of imaginatively worked out colour schemes. Above all, though, it is the suite of outdoor rooms which comprise most of the garden that is really intriguing. You progress from one to the other as though you were moving round a fairy palace. The walls are usually hedges, but no ordinary hedges. They are like tapestry, composed of several kinds of plants. Always there is some fresh and intriguing corner or vista in front of you beckoning you forward.

Sissinghurst, in Kent, has something of the same character. Here one of the most fascinating of all the ‘outdoor rooms’ is the white garden, where all the flowers are white and most of the leaves silver. You move entranced through the alleys and from one enclosure to another, and again and again you get a new glimpse of the tower where the poet who made this romantic garden wrote her works.

Or take Tintinhull, in Somerset. This also has its enclosures and its colour schemes, its vistas and its open spaces, its contrasts, tensions and their resolutions. Again this is a garden to enjoy for its own sake but also one to visit and bring home ideas to adapt for your own plot.

Not far away, in Wiltshire, Stourhead offers a totally different style and scale. It is eighteenth century gardening in the grand manner, the paradise created for himself by a wealthy banker. There are many different views here too, all unified by the lake round which they are contrived. Often they are focused on some distant pavilion that adds to the romance.

To see the autumn colour at its most vivid you must visit Sheffield Park in Sussex. Again this is a huge landscape filled with exotic trees cleverly planted so that the collection makes up the whole. Yet there are small scale incidents, like the beds of Chinese gentians, gleaming sapphire in the autumn sunlight.

Not far off, at Wakehurst, in Sussex also, you can see a National Trust garden of such scale and so varied in its plantings that it had to be leased to Kevv Gardens as the best custodians to run it.

Or if you live in the North or the Midlands, you have in North Wales for a day’s visit, Bodnant whose collection of magnolias and rhododendrons and camellias are unrivalled in Europe.

The accompanying pictures show only a few of the delights that await the garden lover in the gardens held ‘on trust for the nation,’ as the slogan goes. They are open to visitors most of the year – at the times given on a leaflet which can be got from the offices of the National Trust, 42 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, S.W.I., by sending them a stamped and addressed envelope.

Preserving the beauty of your garden flowers

Having a box full of dried flowers and seedheads is like having money in the bank – it’s there to draw on, on a rainy day.

WASTE NOT, want not,’ was a favourite expression of my grandmother’s. She would no more have thought of letting flowers, leaves and berries wither and die on the plants than she would have stood by and let raspberries and runner beans rot in their rows. And everyone who has a garden, however small, can take a leaf out of her book.

Broadly, there are two kinds of materials for drying. First, the flowers that retain their colour and enliven the long winter days. In this category are helichrysums (straw daisies), statice, achillea, glixia, love-lies-bleeding, rhodanthe and physalis (Chinese lanterns). Other dried materials, which beautifully complement the brightly coloured flowers, are the grasses, secdheads, cones and leaves with neutral shades and attractive outlines.

Drying flowers

It is as important for you to choose the right time to harvest your flowers as it is for the farmer to bring in his crops. Flowers should be cut just before they reach their peak, and on a dry day. Any moisture in the atmosphere will retard the drying process and might make the flowers lose some of their natural colour.

Remove all foliage from the flowers and tie them into small bundles to hang, heads down, in an airing cupboard or other warm spot where they will catch a warm current of air. It is essential to keep them away from strong sunlight during this period; it would act as an effective bleaching agent.

While the simple drying-by-hanging method is suitable for light and delicate flowers, it is not so successful for the larger dahlias, marigolds, zinnias and so on. For these, the box method is best. Select a strong cardboard box long and deep enough to contain the flowers without resistance and sprinkle all over the bottom a mixture of 2 parts borax to 1 part of dry silver sand. Cover the flower heads completely with this material and leave undisturbed for at least a week.

Crystals of silica gel can be used to dry single, large blooms. Place the crystals in the bottom of a strong polythene bag, gently lower in the flower and cover completely with more drying material, using crystals to four times the weight of the flower. Leave, tightly sealed and hanging headfirst, for up to one week, then carefully shake off every trace of the preservative.

Selecting other suitable materials

There is such an artistry in the formation of many seedheads that it almost seems as if we are blessed with a second flowering season! Notice how beautiful are the seed pods of love-in-a-mist, when the carpels have turned a greenish pink; the bold, bulbous seed capsules of the poppy, with delicate star-shaped crowns; the large, impressive capsules of the tulips, and the long seed combs of the teasel. Honesty seed pods, those translucent, ethereal, silvery-white discs, are much more glorious than the modest mauve flowers, though many an old country gardener just can’t see it and transports them straight to the compost heap.

Seedheads can be dried by hanging in a warm place, free from dust, or by standing, loosely packed, in a deep container. If they are later to be arranged with fresh flowers in water, it is advisable to paint the stems with clear varnish, not forgetting the cut tip of the stem, to prevent water absorption.

Berries can be preserved by painting carefully all over the surface of each one with clear shellac and alcohol in equal proportions. Hang them in bunches upside-down to dry, keeping, of course, well away from any naked flame. Cones and twiggy branches can be painted with clear shellac.

Sometimes one is lucky enough to find perfectly skeletonised leaves in the garden, incredibly lovely cobwebby shapes consisting of just the outline of the leaf and the network of veins. I always look under our holly trees and – wearing a strong pair of gloves, for the prickles are faithfully retained! – collect as many of these leaves as I can find. If Nature is not kind enough to do it for you, you can boil the leaves yourself, and then scrape away the fleshy material carefully. If you wish, the leaves can then be dyed – red and green are popular colours – or bleached to achieve the lovely effect of the magnolia leaves sold commercially.

Keeping leaves

Select the leaves carefully, looking out for good specimens on branches of different shapes – some that are straight, some curving to the left and others curving to the right – you will need all these for your arrangements in the course of time. Beech, oak, eucalyptus and lime are good kinds. Cut the branches while the leaves are still fleshy, and before they start to wither and turn crisp. Hammer the bases of the stems and stand in a tall jug in a solution of glycerine and warm water in equal parts. That’s all. Leave undisturbed until the leaves change colour; and be patient, for it will take up to six weeks before the leaves completely absorb the oily substance that gives them that glistening, coppery lustre.

In praise of old-fashioned ROSES

IT IS SAID, unkindly, of old-fashioned roses that they bloom but once and then the summer is over. Yet who can reproach them if they give us, however briefly, this precious, emotion-filled experience; if we savour it fully, with all our senses alert, then surely we have a memory which is a joy forever – and certainly until next summer. Who, seeing the sun set lingeringly over the cypress groves of Mount Hymettus; catching a glimpse of champagne-coloured light through the translucent leaves of a vineyard; who, standing in a garden amidst a collection of demure, romantic, old-fashioned roses, can demand such pleasures every day of the year. My favourite roses, the Damasks and Bourbons, are a relic of the mid-nineteenth century; like our forebears, they present a fresh-faced, unspoilt yet self-assured appearance. They were the result of a fortunate and blessed union between a repeat-flowering form of the ancient Damask rose, R. damascene bifera and an early China, probably Parsons Pink.

Origin in the Hedgerows

The original plant was discovered around 1817 on the He de Bourbon, now Reunion Island, the French protectorate in the Indian ocean, where both the Damask and China roses were commonly used for hedging. Seeds were taken to France where further plants were propagated and a new race of garden roses was born. They retained the character and fragrance of the then popular European roses, with the addition of the ability to bloom, if not continuously, at least more than once; for this we are indebted to the perpetual flowering Chinas. Let us take a look at some of the varieties we can enjoy in our gardens today, when there are many more.

It is doubtful if any rose possesses a flower more perfect than the cupped symmetry of La Reinc Victoria. Clear pink changing to lilac as they age, the many petals unfurl as if reluctant to reveal their beauty. It is at the half-open stage that they are most satisfying, although the full-blown flower, the purity of its early colour shed, has considerable appeal. The scent is sweet and strong, typical of the old roses, the plant erect to six feet and well done out in light green. Mme. Pierre Oger, its flesh-pinked coloured sport, is similar in its other characteristics.

The flowers of Boule de Neige are demure balls of white, the outer petals reflecting to form an elegant outline around muddled centres. A backcloth of ample dark green leaf sets off their charm. Louise Odier completes

Mixed Grill a refined quartet with her warm pink, unspoilt loveliness borne in a pageant of profusion, the blooms cupped and well shaped. The plant habit is bushy and branching.

Souvenir de La Malmaison is a short grower, little more than four feet, with delicately coloured creamy blush blooms which open large, flat and beautifully quartered, a shape no longer fashionable, more’s the pity.

Commandante Beaurepaire is a veritable confusion of old-rose colours, from the palest pink to maroon, the petals splashed and boldly striped. It is reluctant to repeat, but one great burst of cupped double flowers is reward enough to the devoted gardener. Variagate di Bologna and Honorine de Brabant are other striped forms, the first a stark contrast of purple and white, the latter a mixed grill of pale pink, light purple and lilac; these are less startling, but the muddled blooms have considerable appeal. Rosa gallica versicolor, the famous Rosa Mundi, is heavily striped and as a suckering rose offers one of the few occasions when rose suckers are welcome.

The most fragrant, opulent blooms of all are carried on the most vigorous plant in the group, lusty Mme. Isaac Pereire. The large crimson quartered flowers, freely produced on an arching bush, they come more perfect and in greater profusion in the autumn. Growth is to eight feet high and through; where the space is available this rose will fill it superbly. A pink sport, Mme. Ernst Calvat, is hardly less rewarding.

The best known and best loved is probably the thornless Zephirine Drouhin, a climbing Bourbon with exquisitely scented rose pink blooms, delicate and coy. Admittedly it is susceptible to mildew but the risk is worth

Worth Hunting for taking in such a delightful rose. Kathleen Harrop, a sport, is lighter coloured, a little less vigorous. Train them up pillars, over arbours, on rustic or trellis but preferably not the house wall. This is the position which most encourages mildew and there is little sense in inviting trouble.

Those who have already fallen victims of their charm might like to add some lesser-known varieties to their collection, such as the pale pink Champion of the World, purplish pink Beaute Seduisante, blush Souvenir de St. Annes and the once flowering magenta pink Bourbon Queen, silvery pink Mme. Lauriol de Barny or the crimson purple Prince Charles.

They are not easily obtainable, but are easy to propagate and well worth hunting down.

A century ago the Bourbons were in their heyday: Bouquet de Flore, Le Grenadier, La Quintinie, Manteau de Jeanne d’Arc and a hundred others, most, alas, irretrievably lost to cultivation unless they should languish unnamed and unrecognised in an old garden. Today a mere two dozen remain to delight us, a proud legacy of rose treasures. Veterans they may be, but age has not wearied them. In the right setting amongst other flowering shrubs, or in the company of their own kind, they shine like jewels and are as priceless.

These roses need respectful pruning. They will not relish being chopped to the ground, nor would such churlish treatment contain their exuberance. Shorten back the longer stems by about a third and remove any decadent wood or twiggy stems which will never bear a flower. Most Bourbons are self supporting, but the slender varieties such as La Reine Victoria will appreciate a stake to lean on. Try to find space for one or two. They will almost certainly become your favourites.

Grow the perfect lawn in easy steps

A PERFECT lawn and a living room carpet have points of similarity. Each is composed of thousands of individual tufts ‘rooted’ in an appropriate base. They share an evenness of texture; both are soft to walk upon and pleasing to the eye. The lawn or carpet also provides a foil for the other furnishings of garden and home respectively. But there the similarity ends. A carpet is without life: it will wear out and never replenish itself. The perfect lawn need never wear out. It is the role of the gardener to control the natural process of renewal so that the sward remains in balanced good health all its life.

Lawn maintenance and improvement is a long-term process that will not be accomplished in one year. But with seasonal attention at a relaxed pace, minor miracles can be wrought.

Raking

The first tool to call upon, when growth begins afresh in early spring is not the mower, but the lawn rake. Use one with long wire tines to pull away the accumulation of dead and matted grass that has the effect of suffocating new growth. Scratch the surface vigorously.

To save the effort of raking you can invest in a wheeled scarifier which will rake evenly when pushed or pulled. As you rake the surface, the make-up of the lawn will be exposed more clearly. The stems of coarse grasses will be seen, together with trails of clover and colonies of moss.

Aeration

To promote vigorous growth of plants, soils must be opened to the passage of air and water. This is carried out by spiking the surface, a particularly valuable operation on heavy soil. The most important time for spiking is late autumn, so that winter rains may drain freely through the lawn, but spiking can also be carried out in late winter or early spring. The depth of penetration can be varied according to the soil type. On really heavy land, the top 3 in. should be penetrated, while on light soil it is sufficient if the turf mat is superficially spiked.

As you are trying to ‘open up’ heavy soil, the real answer is to remove the cores with a spiking tool fitted with hollow prongs. These cores or plugs are then swept from the surface and a gritty soil mixture is worked into the holes. In this way the physical nature of the surface few inches is slowly changed and improved.

The next aspect of maintenance follows logically on the last. Top dressing is a term used to cover several materials, and two functions. For the purpose of improving soil structure, a dressing or gritty soil, sand or peat (or a mixture of these) can be worked into the lawn with benefit following spiking. The same term is often used when the dressing applied is primarily nutritional.

For structural improvement, a gritty dressing is used to fill the holes made by hollow-tine spiking and also worked down among the grass stems following less penetrating spiking. This can be done in autumn as well as in spring. A good dressing for most soils consists of six parts by bulk of coarse peat, three parts light loam, and one part sand. It is surprising how easily a fairly thick application of this mixture is absorbed into the turf, and a rate of 2 lb. Per sq. yd. Makes a suitable dressing.

Turf must be fed to replenish the reserves taken away with mowings. Best results are obtained if three feeds are given during the year, and the ideal times have been found to be late March/early April; late May/early June; and September.

For the spring feed choose a general lawn fertiliser. If the maker has labelled a product ‘‘Spring Feed,’ so much the better. Follow strictly the dosage rate stated on the bag, which in fact will always be in the region of 3 oz. Per sq. yd. The best time to apply fertiliser is in showery weather, but the leaves should be dry at the time of application to avoid scorching the leaf tissues. If rain has not fallen two days after treatment, water the lawn to wash in the fertiliser.

The follow-up feed in early summer is of less importance, and may be restricted to a dose of nitrogen in the form of sulphate of ammonia at l oz. Per sq. yd. To promote leaf growth and colour. But if part of the spring supply remains unused, then it can be applied in early summer to maintain lawn vigour. When the time comes for an autumn feed, care must be taken to choose a product with little or no nitrogen. The elements required are phosphates to build up roots, and potash to make growth resistant to unfavourable conditions. As the autumn is also an ideal time to aerate the soil and work in an organic top dressing, the choice of a fertiliser with an organic base will be wise a one.

Moss takes advantage of the lawn when it is at its lowest ebb, to invade and colonise. In spring we notice its spread, perhaps when the wire rake is used. Use a proprietary moss-killer in the form of lawn sand (‘mercurised’ material is most effective) or other recommended compound in the year.

The very act of mowing influences the weed population in various ways. A successful lawn weed is one that hugs the ground and escapes the mower blade. Close mowing will not deter these weeds. On the contrary, if the lawn grasses are shorn very close, the weeds will take advantage of the freedom from competition. The best deterrent is a close-knit, vigorous sward, lightly trimmed once or twice a week, in which weeds can find no bare patches to colonise.

Spring is also the best time for chemical treatment of weeds. When growing actively, weeds are more susceptible to the ‘knock-out’ action of chemicals because young growth is sensitive, and because they expend their energy in trying to make good the damage done. This generally hastens their demise.

An old established treatment is lawn sand, a little crude perhaps, but effective in scorching most broad-leaved weeds, and in halting the advance of moss for a time.

Hormone selective weedkillers do a better job than lawn sand, over a broader spectrum of weed types.

A good time to apply hormone selective weedkiller is 10 to 14 days after the lawn has been given a spring feed. If this opportunity is missed, then you can apply a dilute liquid feed at short notice. The object of this is to help the lawn grasses to recover quickly from any slight check they may receive, and to encourage them to spread quickly into the spaces vacated by weeds.

Ideal conditions for weedkilling are a warm, calm day with no rain threatening. The surface soil should be moist, but the grass blades must be dry.

Read all the instructions on the container carefully, dilute the liquid as directed, and divide the lawn in such a way that the correct volume of solution per sq. yd. Is applied. You can use lengths of string or square wooden frames for this purpose.

Earthworms

It is not surprising that gardeners think twice before using chemicals to reduce the population of worms in lawns. The fault of certain kinds of earthworms in lawns is that they deposit casts on the surface.

These casts consist of fine soil, ‘digested’ by the worms. Under the pressure of foot or machine, the moist casts smear the surface, providing a seed bed for weeds and generally marring the appearance of the perfect lawn.

There are two traditional wormkillers: mowrah meal and derris. Both must be applied in solution, preferably under pressure. The worms come to the surface where they die and must be swept away. The effect of these preparations is not long-lasting. Chlordane is the modern means of worm control, favoured because it is easy to apply, kills the worms below the surface, and is effective over a prolonged period. Several chlordane-containing preparations are available, and should be used strictly according to instructions.

The earthworm may be a nuisance, but the grub of the crane fly (leathcrjacket) is a pest, causing damage to the grass itself. The grubs live and feed among the grass roots. A patch of grass which turns brown and dies may well be the feeding place of a group of grubs. Dig up the patch and look for the inactive, dark grey inch-long larvae. Remove them by hand if the attack is isolated. Widespread trouble may be controlled with DDT dust at 2 oz. Per sq. yd., or BHC dust at half this rate. Damage is most likely to be noticed in the autumn.

Diseases

The diseases which attack lawns do not frequently occur severely, and will be rare if good management is practised through the year. If the site is well-drained, regularly mown and not over-fed, there is a good chance that you will never see the decaying yellow patches of grass caused by fusarium patch disease. However, should they appear in a wet autumn, control is possible with a mercury-based turf fungicide. The same preparation should be used in the event of corticium (red thread) disease appearing in late summer. The grass appears bleached in patches, with pink fungal threads just visible.

To make growth, grass must take a great deal of water from the soil, much of which is lost in transpiration from the leaves. There are few years when it is not essential to apply water artificially to keep a lawn in perfect green mantle from spring to autumn.

Remember that in severe droughts there will be restrictions on the use of the garden hose. In any case, it is advisable to keep the lawn in a moist state so that it can resist a prolonged dry spell. It is much more difficult to restore a lawn to perfection once the turf has begun to show signs of lack of water.

Mowing

And now we come to the major activity in the maintenance of the perfect lawn – mowing. The way that this is performed can make or mar the finished appearance.

Your mower will be your companion from March to October.

Mowing twice a week may sound like a counsel of perfection. But if you have taken the trouble to make a perfect lawn, you will surely not mind keeping it beautiful with frequent light mowings in the summer. If the turf mat is vigorous, with the grass between -J- and 1 in. tall, you will save time and energy by mowing it lightly at least once a week. The mower will glide over the lawn and you will not have to stop frequently to empty the grass box.

It is tempting, if one is in a hurry, to forget the grassbox and let the mowings fly. The only justification for doing this is under drought.

When you mow, work in straight lines with an interrupted forward motion. Overlap the wheelmarks on each run so that narrow strips of grass are not missed. If you work up and down the lawn in this way, it will result in the pleasant striped effect which puts the finishing touch to any lawn, especially if you use a machine with a cylinder roller (one that does not have a wheel at each side). Every couple of weeks, alternate the direction of mowing to make it easier to remove flattened grass stems and to avoid the ‘washboard’ effect that can result from cutting in one direction only. Clean your mower frequently, and service it each winter.

Origin and performance of garden plants

THE true flowering plants in which we are interested in gardening were the last members of the plant kingdom to evolve. The earliest of them is said to appear in the Cretaceous era some 135 million years ago; whereas algae, the earliest of the non-flowering plants, started out in pre-Cambrian times, some 500 million years earlier still. Not surprisingly, flowering plants comprise the smallest class in the plant kingdom, perhaps one fifth of the 360,000 known plant species, but they make up the greater part of the garden’s vegetation, and also of the earth’s.

Just as you are likely to drive with more skill and satisfaction if you understand how your car is made and functions, so you can add to your interest, enjoyment and ability in growing plants by knowing something of their anatomy and botany.

Botanists put the flowering plants into a class called the Angiosperms (from angio – vessel: sperma – seed) or plants which bear their seeds in a vessel or case. Then they sub-divide them into Monocotyledons – plants which on germination from seed produce a single seed leaf or cotyledon, and Dicotyledons, plants which on germination produce two seed leaves. Other distinctions are that monocotyledonous plants develop with a tufted root system and usually parallel-veined leaves and parts of their flowers always in threes; while dicotyledonous plants form a branching tap-rooted underground system, net-veined leaves, and flower parts in fours or fives.

Growth both ways

A typical flowering plant has a well-defined structure of parts or organs which may be divided into two systems – those which develop below the ground, the root system, and those which grow above, the shoot system, and sharing a common axis. The structure is cellular, and is added to in growth by cells increasing in size, dividing and multiplying, with groups of cells becoming specialised as organs.

Thus the root system, which is the first to form, starts with the seed putting forth its radicle or rudimentary root which divides into many roots. Its chief functions are to anchor the plant firmly in the soil, and to absorb water and dissolved mineral salts or nutrients.

Each root has a cap of special tough cells at the end which penetrates through the soil. Immediately behind comes a group of actively dividing cells, known as the meristem, which causes the root tip to grow and extend. A little further back from the tip are a tuft or very fine white root hairs which are largely concerned with absorbing plant nutrients and water. As a root extends, the older part thickens and toughens with a hard, corky layer and simply holds the plant firmly in the soil.

The emerging radicle from a seed is swiftly followed by the upward growth of a shoot (plumule) which becomes the main stem of the aerial growth and in turn may branch. The shoot system differs from the root system in that its green pigment or chlorophyll is activated by light, and it carries parts unlike itself as leaves.

Leaves are specialised organs formed from the outer tissues of a stem at a thickened part known as a node. The bare part of a stem between nodes is an inter node. The angle formed within the leaf stalk (petoile) and the stem is its axil. Leaves vary considerably in size, shape and arrangement on the plant, according to its kind and evolution, but are usually arranged to capture and make the maximum use of the sun’s light rays.

Two kinds of buds

In the leaf axil the stem bears a bud – a juvenile stem which has not grown out. Stems also bear buds at their ends – terminal buds. Buds may be leaf buds which grow out to form branch stems, or flower buds which form flowers and then stop growing. In turn, the flowers which contain the reproductive organs of the plant develop into seed-bearing fruits.

In active growth a plant takes in water and soluble mineral nutrients through its roots. This solution is drawn up through pipe-like vascular channels, known as xylem, and distributed to the leaves and aerial parts of the plant. Excess moisture, used in the process, is then transpired to the atmosphere.

The leaves and green parts of the plant are the food factories, where the simple nutrient

Sheath green structures is composed of sepals, and together they form the calyx, which encloses the flower in bud. Next to the whorl of sepals comes a whoFl of petals, collectively the corolla. The petals may be separate or fused together, and serve to attract pollinating insects (or birds) by their colouring.

Within the petals are the true reproductive organs, first the male stamens; each consisting of a slender stalk or filament bearing a head or anther, which produces the male cells, or pollen grains. Centrally there is the gynoecium or female organ, made up of carpels, separate or fused together. At the base of the carpel is a case, the ovary, in which the female cells, ovules, are produced, and each carpel usually has a slender tube with a sticky head, known as the style, and stigma respectively.

In most flowers there are both stamens and carpels. Flowers which have only stamens or carpels are termed unisexual. When both male and female flowers are borne on the same plant, it is said to be monoecious; when they are on separate plants of the same species, the plants are dioecious.

To reproduce, male pollen grains must be transferred to the stigmas of flowers and thence a male cell or gamete must find its way to the ovary and unite with an ovule and form a seed. And so the plant kingdom is multiplied and continues its process of evolution.

Compounds are converted into the complex organic substances that form the living matter or protoplasm. At the same time the magic of photosynthesis takes place; the chlorophyll of the leaves absorbs and converts the radiant energy of sunlight into chemical energy. This enables the plant to combine carbon, taken from the carbon dioxide in the air, with hydrogen and oxygen, taken from water absorbed from the soil into carbohydrates or sugars, plus free oxygen liberated to the atmosphere.

The sugars so formed, together with other food substances made in the leaves, are then distributed by other vascular channels called phoelm to other parts of the plant to build up its structure and organs and promote growth. It is a highly complex operation in which sun, air, water and soil provide the raw ingredients, while the plant’s use of them is largely determined by temperature and light intensity. So plants have well-defined seasonal growth cycles which culminate in the formation of their special organs of reproduction – flowers, paving the way to seeds.

Flowers vary considerably in shape, texture, colour and size, but have primarily evolved from simpler leaves. The base of the flower is the swollen head of the stem known as the receptacle, from which four sets of organs grow, usually in whorls. The outer whorl of

Gardening for Birds

WE ARE all well aware of our own housing problems, but perhaps we do not realise that garden birds, particularly in areas where much building expansion is taking place, are having their problems too. The destruction of old gardens full of trees, hedges and shrubberies to make way for urban development, has driven away all the original bird inhabitants, except, of course, birds such as starlings and sparrows which nest in houses.

But it is possible for garden birds, such as the thrush family, robins, wrens, the tit family, the finches, flycatchers, warblers and others to be attracted to nest in gardens, however small and wherever situated. We have only to provide the correct type of natural nesting site in the form of trees, shrubs or climbing plants. There is no need to resort to artificial nesting devices, such as nest boxes.

Tree-nesting garden birds have clearly defined requirements in the type of tree they choose for a nesting site; the tree they select will usually have the following characteristics :-

(1) good leaf cover, either evergreen or deciduous, as a protection against heavy storms, hot sun and predators;

(2) Strong and correctly shaped fork structures to hold the nest firmly;

(3) Twig texture which is neither too thick nor too thin, allowing the bird to move about freely within the tree;

(4) A height of between 5 and 10 feet from the ground. Indeed the majority of garden birds prefer this height range.

Most trees which make a vigorous growth when pruned can be made to fulfil these requirements by suitable tree surgery. A laurel, yew or rhododendron, for example, if allowed to grow freely, will produce long, lanky branches without suitable fork structures or closely knit foliage; such trees will not be used for nesting purposes. But if pruned annually, having first been cut well back to strong growth, they will produce the necessary characteristics. Fork structures with angles of about 70° are ideal for nest foundations and will automatically be formed by the side sprouting which occurs when the leading shoot is cut off. Fork structures can also be made artificially in any suitable tree, using a strong pair of branch pruners.

Contrary to popular belief, very large trees such as the elm, sycamore, beech, ash, lime, poplar and Lombardy poplar, are of very little use to nesting garden birds because they do not have the necessary characteristics. They are useful only to larger birds such as magpies, jays and carrion crows, all of which must be discouraged as these create havoc among smaller nesting birds. To the gardener, large trees, particularly ash and sycamore, can be a great nuisance. Perhaps the best way to deal with them, if removal is not seen as an ideal solution, is to pollard them. This would cause thick, bunchy growths to sprout at all levels, =s ..-TV offering good nesting sites for thrushes, blackbirds, mistlethrushes and wrens. A 9 in. band of linoleum tied around the trunk at about shoulder height, will discourage cats and squirrels from investigating further. If a creeper, such as honeysuckle, rose or ivy, is trained round the trunk, an excellent, all-purpose nesting site will be formed.

It is very unfortunate that many kinds of ornamental trees and shrubs and all the weeping varieties are virtually useless for nesting garden birds. There are of course a number of exceptions such as rhododendron, japonica, escallonia, fuchsia, berberis, hedging rose and pink hawthorn.

Many of the conifers such as cupressus leylandii, c. lawsonii and c. macrocarpa are useful to nesting birds as they have the right branch structures and can be lightly pruned. Spruce, larch, deodar and other conifers with a horizontal type of branch growth are much less popular because it is more difficult for the birds to secure their nests adequately.

Climbing plants are most useful to birds when grown against thick trellis on a wall. Examples are: Climbing rose, Polygonum, Jasmine (winter), Loganberry, Clematis, Tree Ivy, Jasmine (white), Blackberry, Honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, Outdoor vine.

One of my own favourite combinations is when a yellow rose is grown with a clematis jackmanii, giving a most pleasing colour effect and, at the same time, increased cover for the nesting bird.

The wall of a house can be made the safest nesting site in a garden, particularly in urban areas. Apart from climbing plants and shrubs such as pyrocanthus, ceanothus and japonica, we can, if we are really keen bird gardeners, break from tradition and plant comparatively quick-growing trees such as beech, holly, rhododendron, myrobalan plum or even the humble hawthorn. All these trees can be neatly trained to the wall and if pruned annually are not likely to cause any structural damage to the house.

Where space allows, a small patch of brambles or domestic blackberry, growing through peasticks on a rough patch of ground, will attract smaller birds such as warblers, linnets and hedge-sparrows.

Special mention must be made about the low, closely clipped hedge, particularly the privet hedge which seems all too popular with gardeners. Such a hedge is absolutely useless for nesting birds, being, among other things, quite impenetrable. To attract birds, hedges must be at least 5 ft. high and IJ to 2 ft. wide and their twig texture must allow nesting birds freedom of movement within.

In conclusion, it can be said that if we provide the right conditions for birds in our gardens, a surprising number and variety will come to breed. Birds are frightened neither by bricks and mortar nor by man, provided he does not persecute them or disturb them, especially at night. And in their feeding habits, they probably do more good than harm. One thing is quite certain: they provide a background of song, colour and movement without which even the most perfectly kept garden would be very dull.

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF A SMALL GARDEN

MANY owners of very small gardens wish they had more scope for their hobby than is offered by the tiny plots that go with so many modern homes. But would they welcome, say, a half acre? There is a definite upper limit to the size of a manageable plot, because of the work and outlay it entails. This is one great advantage of a small plot – often only 25 ft. by 30 ft. – that it makes only modest demands for its maintenance.

People often complain there is little they can do with such a site, because it is so small. But this is a misconception – a miniature can be as attractive in its way as a full-sized composition. True, there are limitations, as tall buildings keep sunlight from the plot, neighbours are all too close, and the whole area can be taken in at a glance. But other snags met with in town gardens – air pollution, poor soil, tree stumps, even old foundations to remove – affect all sizes of garden equally.

When you plan the layout of your small plot, forget all about the flowing lawns and vistas of more expensive gardens. Think of it purely as an extension of the living area, and furnish it as carefully as you would a room indoors. While the pattern of planting on the ground is important, especially as seen from an upstairs window, always think of the furnishing in three dimensions, using sufficient trees and shrubs to provide shape and bulk.

The smaller the garden the less scope there is for variety of ground pattern. So you are wise to keep to simple rectangles or over- lapping squared shapes, as sketch C. This looks rather severe, but has intriguing possibilities when some of the shapes are planted up. And sketch D shows what a layout based almost entirely on interlocking rectangles looks like once it has matured.

The slightly larger plots are designed along the same lines, but with the addition of a curve. The centres of all these gardens are left clear so there is no barrier to movement, but a sense of space instead. If you happen to prefer to be closely surrounded by plants, you could soon fill them, of course.

Various practical considerations could provide hints on how to start planning your garden. You may need a tree or shrub to screen an eyesore or unpleasant view or provide privacy from your neighbours’ windows. You could make more of an existing tree, perhaps.

The position of the sun at the time of day you are likely to sit outdoors will dictate where you place a seat and the paved area it stands on. It will obviously influence the position of a border of sun-loving plants. Of course, you may not be able to carry out all these desirable ideas, but some of them will at least set you going.

Do not plan and plant your tiny plot in miniature throughout or you will feel like a .giant in it. But on the other hand be sure to avoid planting trees that soon outgrow their welcome, such as weeping willows, cedars or