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The New Zealand Evangelist

Christian Amusements — Notes on Gardening.

Christian Amusements.

Notes on Gardening.


We must perface our notices this month with a little criticism. It is now some eight years ago that a Gardener's Calendar, was drawn up by some one, not very profoundly versed in such matters, but which from the lack of others, has hitherto been a regular stock article with the compilers of our New Zealand Almanacks up to this day. Every body sees it is full of errors, yet nobody had taken the trouble to write a better. Considering we have a Horticultural Society, which is likewise called a Botanical one, it really does not redound to our credit, that not one of the members has put forth a better code of Gardening than that we allude to. It is so full of the most ridiculous blunders, that a young gardener, desirous of following its instructions, would very soon end in having no garden produce at all. We are told for instance, in February to “plant potatoes! and sow peas.” We find these instructions, indeed, for an English garden in the same month; but that they should be also applicable to New Zealand would indeed be a most extraordinary occurrence; seeing that with us the seasons are reversed. Again, in March, we are page 321 directed to “take up bulbs that have done flowering,” whereas, this is the month for planting them; or at least the majority, after having taken them up in December and January. We merely allude to these instances of defective information to show the necessity of discontinuing the publication of such nonsense. December is the very last month in which the late or second crop of potatoes in this district, is ever planted; while peas, sown after that time, will be blighted by the gales of autumn; and produce—nothing.*

Let us now proceed to the business of the month; which, in respect to the flower garden, is very light. So soon as the young leaves of the Primrose tribe (Primulacæ.) begin to sprout, the roots may be parted. The same may be done with all perennial plants that have done flowering. All bulbous plants (excepting tulips and Ranunculuses) should be planted early this month; by this means, the leaves have all the winter to perfect themselves; and as on these being fully developed, depends the growth and perfection of the flowers, this is obviously the best time for committing the bulbs to the earth, that the operations of nature may not be delayed without necessity.

In this mild climate, transplanting may be successfully performed nine months in the year, particularly if the change of the moon brings rain. This operation, which inexperienced persons think very easy, is yet one that generally requires great care and delicacy.

* The compilers of Almanacks generally have no blame in this matter; all they can do is to avail themselves of the best materials to be found. But if, having gardens themselves, they are too inobservant or too indolent to notice errors they repeatedly publish, almost year after year, the case becomes different. Mr. Stokes, the Editor of the Cook's Straits Almanack, has, it is said, a fine garden, under the management of our good neighbour Mr. Trotter. Would it not be as well—after that expert operator has “cut out” the “fore-rights, rambling branches,” “water shoots,” worthless spray, and other excrescences of the worthy editors fruit-trees—to request he would do the same with his Gardener's Calendar? No doubt he would gladly “cut over” the whole. As Mr. Trotter will understand these terms of our art well enough; we shall not stop to explain them to the “profane vulgar.”

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It is the slender fibres, and not the thicker branches of the roots of a plant by which it is chiefly nourished; and the more these are preserved uninjured, the less will the plant itself be affected by its removal; this is the cause why a ball of earth should invariably be preserved round all choice plants, more especially those of Australia and New Zealand; as these, more than all others, are the most difficult to to remove, as the numerous failures in and round Wellington bear ample witness. On the other hand, if proper care is taken, success is almost certain. To form a shrubbery early in the spring of this year, we transplanted more than 200 shrubs and young trees; some of them 12 feet high, not five of which failed to flourish. In general it may be taken as a rule, that the younger the trees, intended for removal, the better they will succeed. Native shrubs for this purpose, therefore in ordinary hands, should never be more than three inches high, and a ball of earth must be left around each, sufficient to enclose all the tender fiberous roots. We recommended this plan to one of our friends two years ago, but his gardener assured him it was unnecessary; he accordingly was at the expence of removing near 10,000 three or four year old trees and shrubs from the “bush,” at no ordinary expence. For a time they made a very showy appearance; but alas! they soon verified the Scriptural saying “Having no roots, they soon withered away,” not one in 50 survived, and even those lost all their beauty: so that now, after the loss of time and money, the gentleman has begun to adopt the plan above detailed.

It may be as well to notice, however, that these remarks are not applicable to the Karaka tree, or native laurel; whose broad shining, beautiful leaves form such an ornament to the shrubbery. The vitality of this plant is so great, that the natives, being remarkably fond of the fruit (now quite ripe) make plantations of it, in many parts of the northern districts, by cuttings of the old wood, not thinner than the little finger. We heard that this custom was very page 323 prevalent at Taranaki, and having made some experiments last year, we can vouch for its correctness.

Another exception is the native tree, Fuchsia excorticata, as well as all the arborescent species introduced here: thick cuttings of two year old wood take root so rapidly, that if they are used only for markers in the spring, they will become young trees in the autumn. While writing of Fuchsia's, * it is not generally known that there are three species, natives of this part of New Zealand, one of which is a climbing plant with a profusion of very slender stems, and a long petiole or stalk to the leaf; its flowers (rarely seen) are nearly the same as those of F. excorticata, but smaller and greener; the third species, still more rare, we have never seen in flower. The two latter will only grow in sheltered situations, and in a rich soil.

It is much to be regretted that the Committee of the Wellington Horticultural Society do not time their exhibitions so, that there should be one in February instead of March, when the Dahlias, Chrysanthemums, Turks-cap Lilies, (of which we possess four superb species,) Pelargoniums, and several African shrubs, are in flower; and the stone fruits, as well as apples and pears, are also ripe. These, together, would form a select, but a very magnificent exhibition, and stimulate their cultivators to further exertions. Melons, Pumpkins, and Cucumbers would supply the useful portion, and set off the ornamental.

All docks in pastures, or fields, whose seed stems have been cut off in the operations of mowing and reaping, should now be taken up, with the dock fork; an instrument made here and in England for the express purpose. When this most pernicious of all our weeds, has only began to make its appearance, and a solitary root or two appears here and there, it may be eradicated, or at least prevented from spreading;

* This genus was named in honor of Leonardus Fuchius, a celebrated botanist and professor of the sixteenth century. He was born in Bavaria in 1501, and died when holding the Botanical Chair at Tuebingen, in 1566.

page 324 but if the ground, from neglect is covered with it in patches, it will set at defiance all such partial methods. We have paid much attention to this subject, and the result is as follows. If the plants in these patches are each pulled up by the roots, the ground dug, and fresh grass-seed sown, the old seeds of the dock laying in the ground, (but prevented from springing up by being covered over with the larger ones just pulled up,) will at once start into life, and come up so thick, that the young grass is smothered, and there are ten times as many docks as there was before the old ones were rooted up! The only hope, therefore, that remains, is to dig or hoe the ground thoroughly, three or four or even five times, to destroy the young plants as they successively appear; and then, when no more come up, sow the grass-seed. When an entire field is thus infected, the whole should be deeply ploughed up, three or four times; going over the ground after each ploughing with a harrow, to get rid of the roots; the least fragment of which, if not removed, will take root and increase. A crop of potatoes may then be put in, as the most cleansing crop of any; after the last earthing up, the rows should be regularly weeded of any docks that remain. This appears to us the only method by which dock lands may be reclaimed; and even then it will be a more expensive operation to the farmer, than if he had to cut down and burn off, a piece of heavy timbered bush. No experienced settler would ever think of purchasing, far less renting, such cleared lands as these. The foolish method which many people have of cutting the seed stems, and then leaving them scattered on the ground, is the most efficacious mode they could adopt for increasing the evil.

We have already extended our remarks to such a length, that we must postpone those upon inferior subjects of Horticulture, proper for the autumn and winter, until next month.

Printed at the Office of the "Wellington Independent," corner of Willis Street and Lambton Quay.