The Wild Garden in America_

Probably many of your readers will ask, “What is a wild garden?” When I came to London, about fifteen years ago, “flower–gardening” had but one mode of expression only, viz. “bedding out,” and that in its harshest form—ribbons, borders, and solid masses of flowers of one colour and one height. The old hardy flowers had been completely swept away; the various and once popular race of so–called florist’s flowers were rarely or never seen. As a consequence, gardens were indescribably monotonous to any person with the faintest notion of the inexhaustible charms of the plant world. This kind of flower–gardening has the same relation to true art in a garden which the daubs of colour on an Indian’s blanket have to the best pictures. In fighting, some years later, in the various journals open to me, the battle of nature and variety against this saddening and blank monotony, I was occasionally met by a ridicule of the old–fashioned mixed border which the bedding plants had supplanted. Now, a well–arranged and varied mixed border may be made one of the most beautiful of gardens; but to so form it requires some knowledge of plants, as well as good taste. Nevertheless, the objection was just as concerned the great majority of mixed borders; they were ragged, unmeaning, and even monotonous.

I next began to consider the various ways in which hardy plants might be grown wholly apart from either way (the bedding plants or that of the mixed border), and the wild garden, or garden formed in the wilderness, grove, shrubbery, copse, or rougher parts of the pleasure garden, was a pet idea which I afterwards threw into the form of a book with this name. In nearly all our gardens we have a great deal of surface wholly wasted—wide spaces in the shrubbery frequently dug over in the winter, plantations, grass–walks, hedgerows, rough banks, slopes, etc., which hitherto have grown only grass and weeds, and on these a rich garden flora may be grown. Hundreds of the more vigorous and handsome herbaceous plants that exist will thrive in these places and do further good in exterminating weeds and preventing the need of digging. Every kind of surface may be embellished by a person with any slight knowledge of hardy plants—ditch–banks, gravel–pits, old trees, hedge–banks, rough, grassy places that are never mown, copses, woods, lanes, rocky or stony ground.

The tendency has always been to suppose that a plant from another country than our own was a subject requiring much attention, not thinking that the conditions that occur in such places as mentioned above, are, as a rule, quite as favourable as those that obtain in nature throughout the great northern regions of Europe, Asia, and America. Here some common plants of the woods of the Eastern States are considered rarities and coddled accordingly to their destruction. It is quite a phenomenon to see a flower on the little Yellow Dog’s–Tooth Violet, which I remember seeing in quantity among the grass in your noble Central Park. When one has but a few specimens of a plant, it is best no doubt to carefully watch them. But an exposed and carefully dug garden border is the worst place to grow many wood and copse plants (I mean plants that grow naturally in such places), and in many uncultivated spots here the American Dog’s–Tooth Violet would flower quite as freely as at home. Your beautiful little May–flower, Epigæa repens, we have never succeeded in growing in our best American nurseries, as they are called, which grow your Rhododendrons and other flowering shrubs so well. If a number of young plants of this were put out in a sandy fir–wood, under the shrubs and pines, as they grow in New Jersey, we should succeed at once. Your beautiful Trillium grandiflorum is usually seen here in a poor state; but I have seen a plant in a shady position in a shrubbery, in rich, moist soil, quite two feet through and two feet high.

Woodruft and Ivy

I mention these things to show that the wild garden may even have advantages from the point of view of cultivation. Another advantage is the facilities it affords us for enjoying representations of the vegetation of other countries. Here, for example, the poorest soil in the most neglected copse will grow a mixture of golden rods and asters, which will give us an aspect of vegetation everywhere seen in American woods in autumn. This to you may appear a very commonplace delight; but as we have nothing at all like it, it is welcome. Besides, we in this way get the golden rods and coarser asters out of the garden proper, in which they used to overrun the choicer plants, and where they did much to disgrace the mixed border. So, in like manner, you may, in New England or New Jersey, make wild gardens of such of our English flowers as you love. For example, the now numerous and very handsome varieties of our Primroses, Polyanthuses, and Oxlips would probably succeed better with you in moist places, in woods, or partially shaded positions, than in the open garden. There can be no doubt in which position they would look best. But let us suppose for a moment that there was no other object for the wild garden in America than growing the many lovely wild flowers that inhabit the land, it is sufficient. Here some of your wildlings are the darlings of our rock–garden growers, though we are far from possessing all the bright flowers and graceful trailers that adorn the bogs and woods and heaths of the Eastern States. It would be most wise, in case of possessing a little bit of wood or copse, adorned naturally with the trailing Partridge Berry, and the rosy Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule), which I noticed growing so plentifully, to preserve the spot as a wild garden, and add to it such home and foreign, free and handsome hardy plants, as one could obtain.

It is impossible in this letter to speak of the various kinds of wild gardens, but the opportunity which the system offers for embellishing cool shady places is one which should make it interesting to the people to whose language belongs the term “shade trees.” Usually flower beds and borders are in the full sun—a very proper arrangement in a cool country. But even in our climate, there are in the warm months many days in which the woodland shade is sought in preference to the open lawn, and when the fully–exposed garden is deserted. Therefore, it is clearly desirable that we have flowers in shady as well as sunny places. Many plants, too, love the shade, and we only require to plant the most suitable of these to enjoy a charming wild garden. It need not be pointed out to Americans that a vast number of herbaceous plants naturally inhabit woods. In America, where shade is such a necessity, the wild garden in the shade will be the most delightful retreat near the country house. In it many of the plants common in the gardens of all northern countries will, without wearisome attention, flower in the spring.

For the early summer months flowers of a somewhat later period will be selected, as, for example, the later Irises—lovely hardy flowers, the tall Asphodel A. ramosus, the Day Lilies (Hemerocallis), the Solomon’s Seal and some of its allies, the Veronicas, tall Phloxes, the great Scarlet Poppy (Papaver bracteatum), Symphytums in variety;—these are all free–growing and admirable plants for the wild wood–garden. Mulleins (Verbascum), Salvias, Harebells (Campanula), Willow herbs, tall Lupines, Geraniums, Spurges, Meadow Rues, Columbines, Delphiniums, and the latest wind flowers (Anemone).

Later still, and in the sunny days, would come the various beautiful everlasting peas, various plants of the Mallow tribe, the Poke Weeds, broad–leaved Sea Lavender, and other vigorous kinds, the Globe Thistles, Acanthuses, the free–flowering Yuccas, such as Y. flaccida and Y. filamentosa, the common Artichoke, with its noble flowers; and in autumn, a host of the Golden Rods and Michaelmas Daisies. These are so common in America that adding them to the wild garden would probably be considered a needless labour; but the substitution of the various really beautiful species of aster for those commonly found and of inferior beauty would well repay. In case it were thought desirable in making a wild garden in a shady position to grow plants that do not attain perfection in such positions, they might be grown in the more open parts at hand, and sufficiently near to be seen in the picture.

W. Robinson_

The Wild Garden_

Eighteen and Eighty One_

Or our Groves and Gardens made beautiful by the Naturalisation of Hardy Exotic Plants; being one way onwards from the Dark Ages of Flower Gardening, with suggestions for the Regeneration of the Bare Borders of the London Parks.


When I began, some years ago, to plead the cause of the innumerable hardy flowers against the few tender ones, put out at that time in a formal way, the answer frequently was, “We cannot go back to the mixed border”—that is to say, the old way of arranging flowers in borders. Knowing, then, a little of the vast world of plant beauty quite shut out of our gardens by the “system,” in vogue, I was led to consider the ways in which it might be introduced to our gardens; and, among various ideas that then occurred to me, was the name and scope of the “wild garden.” I was led to think of the enormous number of beautiful hardy plants from other countries which might be naturalised, with a very slight amount of trouble, in many situations in our gardens and woods—a world of delightful plant beauty that we might in this way make happy around us, in places now weedy, or half bare, or useless. I saw that we could not only grow thus a thousandfold more lovely flowers than are commonly seen in what is called the flower garden, but also a number which, by any other plan, have no chance whatever of being seen around us. This is a system which will give us more beauty than ever was dreamt of in gardens, without interfering with formal gardening in any way.

In this illustrated edition, by the aid of careful drawings, I have endeavoured to suggest in what the system consists; but if I were to write a book for every page that this contains, I could not hope to suggest the many beautiful aspects of vegetation which the wild garden will enable us to enjoy at our doors.

The illustrations are, with a few slight exceptions, the work of Mr. Alfred Parsons, and the drawing and engraving have been several years in execution. They are after nature, in places where the ideas expressed in the first small edition of the book had been carried out, or where accident, as in the case of the beautiful group of Myrrh and white Harebells, had given rise to the combinations or aspects of vegetation sought. I cannot too heartily acknowledge the skill and pains which Mr. Parsons devoted to the drawings, and to the success which he has attained in illustrating the motive of the book, and such good effects as have already been obtained where the idea has been intelligently carried out.

There has been some misunderstanding as to the term “Wild Garden.” It is applied essentially to the placing of perfectly hardy exotic plants in places and under conditions where they will become established and take care of themselves. It has nothing to do with the old idea of the “wilderness,” though it may be carried out in connection with that. It does not necessarily mean the picturesque garden, for a garden may be highly picturesque, and yet in every part the result of ceaseless care. What it does mean is best explained by the winter Aconite flowering under a grove of naked trees in February; by the Snowflake growing abundantly in meadows by the Thames side; by the perennial Lupine dyeing an islet with its purple in a Scotch river; and by the Apennine Anemone staining an English wood blue before the blooming of our blue bells. Multiply these instances a thousandfold, illustrated by many different types of plants and hardy climbers, from countries as cold or colder than our own, and one may get a just idea of the wild garden. Some have erroneously represented it as allowing a garden to run wild, or sowing annuals promiscuously; whereas it studiously avoids meddling with the garden proper at all, except in attempting the improvements of bare shrubbery borders in the London parks and elsewhere; but these are waste spaces, not gardens.

I wish it to be kept distinct in the mind from the various important phases of hardy plant growth in groups, beds, and borders, in which good culture and good taste may produce many happy effects; distinct from the rock garden or the borders reserved for choice hardy flowers of all kinds; from the best phase of the sub–tropical garden—that of growing hardy plants of fine form; from the ordinary type of spring garden; and from the gardens, so to say, of our own beautiful native flowers in our woods and wilds. How far the wild garden may be carried out as an aid to, or in connection with, any of the above in the smaller class of gardens, can be best decided on the spot in each case. In the larger gardens, where, on the outer fringes of the lawn, in grove, park, copse, or by woodland walks or drives, there is often ample room, fair gardens and wholly new and beautiful aspects of vegetation may be created by its means.

May 28, 1881_

The First of Chapters_

In this illustrated edition, by the aid of careful drawings, I have endeavoured to suggest in what the system consists; but if I were to write a book for every page that this contains, I could not hope to suggest the many beautiful aspects of vegetation which the wild garden will enable us to enjoy at our doors.

About a generation ago a taste began to be manifested for placing a number of tender plants in the open air in summer, with a view to the production of showy masses of decided colour. The subjects selected were mostly from sub–tropical climates and of free growth; placed annually in the open air of our genial early summer, and in fresh rich earth, every year they grew rapidly and flowered abundantly during the summer and early autumn months, and until cut down by the first frosts. The showy colour of this system was very attractive, and since its introduction there has been a gradual rooting out of all the old favourites in favour of this “bedding” system. This was carried to such an extent that it was not uncommon, indeed it has been the rule, to find the largest gardens in the country without a single hardy flower, all energy and expense being devoted to the production of the few exotics required for the summer decoration. It should be distinctly borne in mind that the expense for this system is an annual one; that no matter what amount of money may be spent in this way, or how many years may be devoted to perfecting it, the first sharp frost of November announces a yet further expense and labour, usually more heavy than the preceding.

Its highest results need hardly be described; they are seen in all our great public gardens; our London and many other city parks show them in the shape of beds filled with vast quantities of flowers, covering the ground frequently in a showy way, or in a repulsively gaudy manner: nearly every private garden is taken possession of by the same things. I will not here enter into the question of the merits of this system; it is enough to state that even on its votaries it is beginning to pall. Some are looking back with regret to the old mixed–border gardens; others are endeavouring to soften the harshness of the bedding system by the introduction of fine–leaved plants, but all are agreed that a great mistake has been made in destroying all our old flowers, from Lilies to Hepaticas, though very few persons indeed have any idea of the numbers of beautiful subjects in this way which we may gather from every northern and temperate clime to adorn our gardens under a more artistic system.

Large-Flowered Meadow Rue
Large–Flowered Meadow Rue

My object in the Wild Garden is now to show how we may have more of the varied beauty of hardy flowers than the most ardent admirer of the old style of garden ever dreams of, by naturalising innumerable beautiful natives of many regions of the earth in our woods and copses, rougher parts of pleasure grounds, and in unoccupied places in almost every kind of garden.

I allude not to the wood and brake flora of any one country, but to that which finds its home in the vast fields of the whole northern world, and that of the hill–ground that falls in furrowed folds from beneath the hoary heads of all the great mountain chains of the world, whether they rise from hot Indian plains or green European pastures. The Palm and sacred Fig, as well as the Wheat and the Vine, are separated from the stemless plants that cushion under the snow for half the year, by a zone of hardier and not less beautiful life, varied as the breezes that whisper on the mountain sides, and as the rills that seam them. They are the Lilies, and Bluebells, and Foxgloves, and Irises, and Windflowers, and Columbines, and Rock–roses, and Violets, and Cranesbills, and countless Pea–flowers, and mountain Avens, and Brambles, and Cinquefoils, and Evening Primroses, and Clematis, and Honeysuckles, and Michaelmas Daisies, and Wood–hyacinths, and Daffodils, and Bindweeds, and Forget–me–nots, and blue–eyed Omphalodes, and Primroses, and Day Lilies, and Asphodels, and St. Bruno’s Lilies, and the almost innumerable plants which form the flora of the northern and temperate portions of vast continents.

It is beyond the power of pen or pencil to picture the beauty of these plants. Innumerable and infinitely varied scenes occur in the wilder parts of all northern and temperate regions, at many different elevations. The loveliness and ceaselessly varying charms of such scenes are indeed difficult to describe or imagine; the essential thing to bear in mind is that the plants that go to form them are hardy, and will thrive in our climate as well as native plants.

Such beauty may be realised in every wood and copse and shrubbery that screens our “trim gardens.” Naturally our woods and wilds have no little loveliness in spring; we have here and there the Lily–of–the–valley and the Snowdrop, and everywhere the Primrose and Cowslip; the Bluebell and the Foxglove sometimes take nearly complete possession of whole woods; but, with all our treasures in this way, we have no attractions in or near our gardens compared to what it is within our power to create. There are many countries with winters as cold as, or colder than, our own, possessing a rich flora; and by taking the best hardy exotics and establishing them in wild or half–wild spots, we may produce beautiful pictures in such places. To most people a pretty plant in a free state is more attractive than any garden denizen. It is taking care of itself; and, moreover, it is usually surrounded by some degree of graceful wild spray—the green above, and the moss and brambles and grass around.

By the means presently to be explained, numbers of plants of the highest order of beauty and fragrance, and clothed with pleasant associations, may be seen perfectly at home in the spaces now devoted to rank grass and weeds, and by wood walks in our shrubberies and ornamental plantations.


Among my reasons for advocating this system are the following:

First_ because hundreds of the finest hardy flowers will thrive much better in rough and wild places than ever they did in the old–fashioned border. Even comparatively small ones, like the ivy–leaved Cyclamen, a beautiful plant that we rarely find in perfection in gardens, I have seen perfectly naturalised and spread all over the mossy surface of a thin wood.

Secondly_ because they will look infinitely better than ever they did in gardens, in consequence of fine–leaved plant, fern, and flower, and climber, grass and trailing shrub, relieving each other in ways innumerable and delightful. Any one of a thousand combinations will prove as far superior to any aspect of the old mixed border, or the ordinary type of modern flower–garden, as is a lovely mountain valley to a piece of the “black country.”

Mixed Border

Thirdly_ because, arranged as I propose, no disagreeable effects result from decay. The raggedness of the old mixed border after the first flush of spring and early summer bloom had passed was intolerable, bundles of decayed stems tied to sticks, making the place look like the parade–ground of a number of crossing–sweepers. When Lilies are sparsely dotted through masses of shrubs, their flowers are admired more than if they were in isolated showy masses; when they pass out of bloom they are unnoticed amidst the vegetation, and not eyesores, as when in rigid unrelieved tufts in borders, etc. In a wild or semi–wild state the beauty of individual species will proclaim itself when at its height; and when out of bloom they will be succeeded by other kinds, or lost among the numerous objects around.

Fourthly_ because it will enable us to grow many plants that have never yet obtained a place in our “trim gardens.” I allude to the multitudes of plants which, not being so showy as those usually considered worthy of a place in gardens, are never seen therein. The flowers of many of these are of the highest order of beauty, especially when seen in numbers. An isolated tuft of one of these, seen in a formal border, may not be considered worthy of its place, while in some wild glade, in a wood, as a little colony, grouped naturally, or associated with like subjects, its effect may be exquisite. Among the subjects usually considered unfit for garden cultivation may be included a goodly number that, grown in gardens, are no addition to them; subjects like the American Asters, Golden Rods, and like plants, which merely overrun the choicer and more beautiful border–flowers when planted amongst them. These coarse subjects would be quite at home in copses and woody places, where their blossoms might be seen or gathered in due season, and their vigorous vegetation form a covert welcome to the game–preserver. To these two groups might be added subjects like the winter Heliotrope, the handsome British Willow herb, and many other plants which, while attractive in the garden, are apt to spread about so rapidly as to become a nuisance there. Clearly these should only be planted in wild and semi–wild places.

Blue flowered Composite Plant

Fifthly_ because we may in this way settle also the question of spring flowers, and the spring garden, as well as that of hardy flowers generally. In the way I suggest, many parts of every country garden, and many suburban ones, may be made alive with spring flowers, without interfering at least with the geometrical beds that have been the worthless stock–in–trade of the so–called landscape–gardener for centuries. The blue stars of the Apennine Anemone will be seen to greater advantage “wild,” in shady or half–shady bare places, under trees, than in any conceivable formal arrangement, and it is but one of hundreds of sweet spring flowers that will succeed perfectly in the way I propose.

Sixthly_ because there can be few more agreeable phases of communion with nature than naturalising the natives of countries in which we are infinitely more interested than in those of which greenhouse or stove plants are native. From the Roman ruin—home of many flowers, the prairies of the New World, the woods and meadows of all the great mountains of Europe; from Greece and Italy and Spain, from the sunny hills of Asia Minor; from the alpine regions of the great continents—in a word, from almost every interesting region the traveller may bring seeds or plants, and establish near his home the pleasantest souvenirs of the various scenes he has visited.

Moreover, the great merit of permanence belongs to this delightful phase of gardening. Select a wild rough slope, and embellish it with the handsomest and hardiest climbing plants,—say the noble mountain Clematis from Nepal, the sweet C. Flammula from Southern Europe, “Virginian creepers” in variety, the Nootka Bramble (Rubus nutkanus and R. odoratus), various species of hardy vines, Jasmines, Honeysuckles—British and European, and wild Roses. Arranged with some judgment at first, such a colony might be left to take care of itself; time would but add to its attractions, and the happy owner might go away for years, and find it beautiful on his return.

The Second of Chapters_

Knowing, then, a little of the vast world of plant beauty quite shut out of our gardens by the “system,” in vogue, I was led to consider the ways in which it might be introduced to our gardens.

I will now endeavour to illustrate my meaning by showing what may be done with one type of northern vegetation— that of the Forget–me–not order, one far from being as rich as others in subjects suited for the wild garden. Through considering its capabilities in this way, the reader may be able to form some idea of what we may do by selecting from the numerous plants that grow in the meadows and mountain–woods of Europe, Asia, and America.

The Forget–me–not or Borage family is a well–marked and well–known one, containing a great number of coarse weeds, but which, if it possessed only the common Forget–me–not, would have some claims on us. Many persons are not acquainted with more than the Forget–me–nots; but what lovely exotic plants there are in this order that would afford delight if met with creeping about along our wood and shrubbery walks! Nature, say some, is sparing of her deep true blues; but there are obscure plants in this order that possess the truest, deepest, and most delicate of blues, and which will thrive as well in the wild garden as common weeds. The creeping Omphalodes verna even surpasses the Forget–me–not in the depth and beauty of its blue and its other good qualities, and runs about quite freely in any shady or half–shady shrubbery or open wood, or even in turf in moist soil not very frequently mown. Its proper home is the wood or semi–wild spot, where it takes care of itself. Put it in a garden, and probably, unless the soil and region be moist, it soon perishes. Besides, in the border, it would be a not very agreeable object when once the sweet spring bloom had passed; whereas, in the positions spoken of, in consequence of the predominance of trees, shrubs, and tall herbs, the low plants are not noticed when out of flower, but crawl about unobserved till returning spring reminds those fortunate enough to see them how superior is the inexpensive and natural kind of gardening here advocated.

Caucasian Comfrey

Another plant of the order is so suitable and useful for this purpose, that if a root or two of it be planted in any shrubbery, it will soon run about, exterminate the weeds, and prove quite a lesson in wild gardening. I allude to the Caucasian Comfrey (Symphytum caucasicum), which grows about twenty inches high, and bears quantities of the loveliest blue pendulous flowers. It, like many others, does much better in a wood, grove, or any kind of shrubbery, than in any other position, filling in the naked spaces between the trees and shrubs, and has a quick–growing and spreading tendency, but never becomes weedy or objectionable. As if to contrast with it, there is the deep crimson Bohemian Comfrey (S. bohemicum), which is sometimes startling from the depth of its vivid colouring; and the white Comfrey (S. orientale), quite a vigorous–growing kind, blooming early in April and May, with the blue Caucasian C.

These Comfreys, indeed, are admirable plants for rough places—the tall and vigorous ones thriving in a ditch or any similar place, and flowering much better and longer than they ever did in the garden proper, in prim borders. There are about twenty species, mostly from Southern and Central Europe, Asia, and Siberia.

I purposely omit the British Forget–me–nots, wishing now chiefly to show what we may do with exotics quite as hardy as our own wildlings; and we have another Forget–me–not, not British, which surpasses them all—the early Myosotis dissitiflora. This is like a patch of the bluest sky settled down among the moist stones of a rockwork or any similar spot, before our own Forget–me–not has opened its blue eyes, and is admirable for blades or banks in wood or shrubbery, especially in moist districts.

For rocky bare places and sunny sandy banks we have the spreading Gromwell (Lithospermum prostratum), which, when in flower, looks just as if some exquisite alpine Gentian had assumed the form of a low bush, to enable it to hold its own among creeping things and stouter herbs than accompany it on the Alps. The Gromwells are a large and important genus but little known in gardens, some of them, like our native kind, being handsome plants.

The Cretan Borage

Among the fairest plants we have are the Lungworts, Pulmonaria, too seldom seen, and partly destroyed through exposure on bare dug and often dry border. The old Pulmonaria (Mertensia virginica) is one of the loveliest spring flowers ever introduced. It is very rare in gardens, but if placed in a moist place near a stream, or in a peat bottom, it will live; whereas it frequently dies in a garden. The newer and more easily grown Mertensia sibirica is a lovely plant, taller and flowering longer. These two plants alone would repay any one for a trial of the wild garden, and will illustrate the fact that for the sake of culture alone (apart from art, beauty, or arrangement) the wild–garden idea is worth carrying out.

Among the many plants suitable for the wild garden none look more at home than Borage, a few seeds of which scattered over fresh dry ground soon germinate, and form fine patches that will flower during the summer. Although only an annual, once it is introduced there is no fear of losing it, as it comes up somewhere near the same spot each succeeding year, and when in bloom the peculiar Solanum–like shape of the blossoms, and their rich blue colour, make it beautiful.

The Cretan Borage is a curious old perennial, seldom seen in gardens; and deservedly so, for its growth is robust and its habit coarse. It is, however, a capital plant for the wild garden, or for rough places—in copse, or shrubbery, or lane, where the ample room which it requires would not be begrudged, and where it may take care of itself from year to year, showing among the boldest and the hardiest of the early spring flowers.

Flowers of Geneva Bugle

Thus, though I say little of the Alkanet (Anchusa) tribe, several of which could be found worth a place with our own handsome Evergreen Alkanet, and do not mention other important genera, it will be seen that a whole garden of beauty may be reaped from this tribe alone. Any one who doubts the advantages of carrying out the idea of the wild garden could settle the matter to his satisfaction in a couple of years with these plants alone, in a shrubbery, ditch, lane, copse, or wood, always providing that he takes care to adapt each kind to the position and the soil. For instance, the Giant Comfrey will grow six feet high in rich or moist soil in a partially shaded ditch, and therefore, once fairly started, might be trusted to take care of itself in any position. The Caucasian Comfrey, on the other hand, grows from eighteen inches to two feet high, and is at home in the spaces in a copse or shrubbery. The creeping Forget–me–not (Ompalodes verna) is a little plant that creeps about in grass or among vegetation, not over a span high, or forms a carpet of its own—these points must be considered, and then the rest is gardening of the happiest kind only. These Borageworts, richer in blue flowers than even the gentians, are usually poor rusty things in exposed sunny borders, and also much in the way when out of flower, whereas in shady lanes, copses, open parts of not too dry or impoverished shrubberies, in hedgerow–banks, or ditches, we only notice them in their beautiful bloom.

The Third of Chapters --

We will now turn from the Forget–me–not order to a very different type of vegetation—hardy bulbs and other plants dying down after flowering early in the year, like the Winter Aconite and the Blood–root (Sanguinaria). How many of us really enjoy the beauty which a judicious use of a profusion of hardy Spring–flowering Bulbs affords?

The Fourth of Chapters --

Let us next see what may be done with the Buttercup order of plants. It embraces many things widely diverse in aspect from these burnished ornaments of northern meadows and mountains. The first thing I should take from it to embellish the wild wood is the sweet–scented Virgin’s Bower (Clematis flammula), a native of the south of Europe, but as hardy and free in all parts of Britain as the common Hawthorn.

The Fifth of Chapters --

What first suggested the idea of the wild garden, and even the name to me, was the desire to provide a home for a great number of exotic plants that are unfitted for garden culture in the old sense. Many of these plants have great beauty when in flower, and perhaps at other seasons, but they are frequently so free and vigorous in growth that they overrun and destroy all their more delicate neighbours.


My object in the Wild Garden is now to show how we may have more of the varied beauty of hardy flowers than the most ardent admirer of the old style of garden ever dreams of, by naturalising innumerable beautiful natives of many regions of the earth in our woods and copses, rougher parts of pleasure grounds, and in unoccupied places in almost every kind of garden.