Earthman was last seen in his mud shoes trudging toward his garden, muttering about weeds, dogs and goldfish and defying the skies to open up while he was out. Unitl he returns, here is an earlier column worthy of perennial interest .
AS FAR as gardeners are concerned, it's fall.
The summer, which the gardener always thinks is going to be one long border of glory, has worked out about as usual, so there's no point spending any more thought on it; and the great fall planting season must now occupy out thoughts.
The trouble with gardening, or with gardeners, is that everything really must be planned ahead of time and yet few can be found in August who are all steamed up abot crocuses or tulips or daffodils, let alone virburnums and large shrubs.
And yet, unless we stir ourselves now, we will never get around to those noble effects that (last spring) we promised ourselves we would arrange for "next year."
The gardener should have catalogues. The libraries of the National Arboretum, the American Horticultural Society and the Brookfield Gardens have catalogues that may be examined but the simplest thing is to go to the branch library, get a few gardening magazines and write off for the catalogues offered therein.
Spring bulbs are all planted in the fall or late summer. Daffodils are perfectly well planted in early September, and while they may go into the ground as late as Christmas, there is no real reason (except sloth) for not doing things right. If you send off for bulb catalogues, allow two weeks or so to make a list of the things you want, and two days to cut the list down to manageable size. Then send off your order. It will be October before you get the bulbs, so there is not as much time as you think.
Bulbs can be bought locally, but of course the selection at most stores is painfully limited. Let me suggest that besides daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, the gardener investigate a few of the other bulbs less often seen.
If the winter aconites (Eranthis hemalis ) is just a name to you, try out even a half dozen bulbs in some shady place under heavy trees. They bloom in March or earlier, like golden dollars (perhaps a unique case of increased valuation). If happy, they will seed about so that in a few years there is a bright yellow carpet well before even the daffodils bloom.
Crocuses, strangely, are much neglected. The old one called "Dutch Yellow Mammoth" is very common, very old and very fine. It is one of the few of its kind that is also often very permanent. A grand thing, and often you get it just buying "yellow crocuses" at the hardware store.
But there are so many treasures among crocuses. No gardener should miss C. chrysanthus , a very loose name indeed covering a whole host of early-blooming crocuses in white, lavender-blue, yellow, molasses-bronze and so on.
Among fritillaries, ignoring for the moment the many treasures best left to magicians, the ordinary gardener can certainly grow F. imperialis , the old crown imperial, which was such a favorite in the days of Henry Tudor and his daughter, Elizabeth.
These bells, between golf and tennis balls in size, re produced at the top of a waist-high stalk, with a green tuft of leaves at the very top. A most ingeniously designed flower, and much maligned by references to its scent, which is, of course, rather like a distant skunk. I am fond of the scent myself, and in any case most people's olfactory equipment has been abused or disused to the point that nothing less than a dead elephant would be noticed
Another sort of fritillary, the snakeshead (F. meleagris ) is also known as the toad lily. Gardeners, one is glad to report, tend to like toads and admire them; but beyond that, these hanging bells on slender foot-high stems are checkered like a guinea hen, and few toads can match them in color (white and rose taupe). They like damp meadows, which does not mean plant them in an ill-drained bog. Often if you just tuck six of them in some ordinary place in the garden, they flourish and multiply. They grow in the meadows around Oxford, in case that's any help to Rhodes scholars.
Certain gladioli are hardy outdoors and the one called G. byzantinus , a rich rosy purple, is easy and cheap.
Chionodoxas are sadly neglected, yet there are a few blues in the vegetable kingdom superior to G. sardensis (which comes from Sardis, surprise, surprise), a piercing rich genetian blue -- very pretty with the reddish-rose and white peppermint-striped wild tulip, Tulipa clusiana .
There are opther chionodoxas, all of them pretty, and there are several dozen wild tulips, all of them interesting.
There is much to be said for certain wild irises -- anybody can manage I. bucharica , or . reticulata or histrioides , at least for a few years until they die out -- and there is never space to go into great detail about any of them.
Most of the "minor" spring bulbs are relatively inexpensive, a few pennies each, and it is criminal that so often gardeners deny themselves great pleasure from these small subjects for no reason whatever, except that nobody has hollared long enough at them to plant even six, or else because they start in October to think about them, when it's too late to order and plant.