The Sixth 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.
Men usually seek sunny positions for their gardens, so that even those obliged to be contented with the north side of the hill would scarcely appreciate some of the above–named positions. What, the gloomy and weedy dyke as a garden! Yes, there are ditches, dry and wet, in every district, that may readily be made more beautiful than many a “modern flower–garden.” But what would grow in them? Many of the beautiful wood and shade–loving plants of our own and similar latitudes—things that love not the open sunny hill–sides or wide meadows, but take shelter in the stillness of deep woods or in dark valleys, are happy deep between riven rocks, and gaily occupy the little dark caves beneath the great boulders on many a horror–stricken mountain gorge, and which garland with inimitable grace the vast flanks of rock that guard the dark courses of the rivers on their paths through the hills. And as these dark walls, ruined by ceaseless pulse of the torrent, are beautiful exceedingly, how much more may we make all the shady dykes and narrow lanes that occur everywhere! For while the nymph–gardener of the ravine may depend for her novelties on the stray grains of seeds brought in the moss by the robin when building her nest, or on the mercy of the hurrying wave, we may place side by side the snowy white wood lily (Trillium grandiflorum), whose home is in the shades of the American woods, with the twin flower of Scotland and northern Europe, and find both thrive on the same spot in happy companionship. And so in innumerable instances. And not only may we be assured of numbers of the most beautiful plants of other countries thriving in deep ditches and in like positions, but also that not a few of them, like the white wood lily, will thrive much better in them than in any position in garden borders. This plant, when in perfection, has a flower as fair as any white lily, while it is seldom a foot high; but, in consequence of being a shade–loving and wood plant, it usually perishes in the ordinary garden bed or border, while in a shady dyke or any like position it will be found to thrive as well as in its native woods; and if in deep, free, sandy, or vegetable soil, to grow so as not to be surpassed in loveliness by anything seen in our stoves or greenhouses.
Our wild flowers take possession of the stiff, formal, and shorn hedges that seam the land, often draping them with such inimitable grace that half the conservatories in the country, with their collections of small red pots and small mean plants are stiff and poor compared with a few yards’ length of their blossomy verdure. The Wild Roses, Purple Vetch, Honeysuckle, and the Virgin’s Bower, clamber above smaller, but not less pretty, wildlings, and throw a veil of graceful life over the mutilated shrubs, reminding us of the plant–life in the nest–like thickets of dwarf shrubs that one often meets on the high Alpine meadows. In these islets of bushes in a sea of grass one may gather flowers after they have been all browsed down on the turf. Next to the most interesting aspects of Alpine vegetation, there is perhaps nothing in the world of plant–life more lovely than the delicate tracery of low–climbing things wedded to the bushes in all northern and temperate regions of the earth. Perishing like the grass, they are happy and safe in the earth’s bosom in winter; in spring they come up as the buds swell, and soon after, finding the bushes once more enjoyable, rush over them as joyously as children from school over a meadow of cowslips. Over bush, over brake, on mountain or lowland copse, holding on with delicate but unyielding grasp, they engrave themselves on the mind as the central type of grace. In addition to climbing Pea–flowers, Convolvuluses, etc., of which the stems perish in winter, we have the great tribes of wild vines, noble in foliage and often in fruit, the numerous Honeysuckles, from coral red to pale yellow, all beautiful; and the Clematidæ, rich, varied, and lovely beyond description, from those of which each petal reminds one of the wing of some huge tropical butterfly, to those with small flowers borne in showers like drops from a fountain jet, and often sweet as Hawthorn blossoms.
This climbing vegetation may be trained and tortured into forms in gardens, but never will its beauty be seen until we entrust it to the garlanding of shrub, and copse, or hedgerow, fringes of dwarf plantation, or groups of shrubs and trees. All to be done is to put in a few tufts of any desired kind, and leave them alone, adapting the kind to the position. The large, flesh–coloured Bindweed, for example, would be best in rough places, out of the pale of the pleasure–ground or garden, so that its roots would not spread where they could do harm, while a delicate Clematis might be placed beneath the choicest specimen Conifer, and allowed to paint its rich green with fair flowers. In nature we frequently see a Honeysuckle clambering up through an old Hawthorn tree, and then struggling with it as to which should produce the greatest profusion of blossoms—but in gardens not yet. Some may say that this cannot be done in gardens; but it can be done infinitely better in gardens than it has ever been done in nature; because, for gardens we can select plants from many countries. We can effect contrasts, in which nature is poor in any one place in consequence of the comparatively few plants that naturally inhabit one spot of ground. People seldom remember that “the art itself is nature;” and foolish old laws laid down by landscape–gardeners are yet fertile in perpetuating the notion that a garden is a “work of art, and therefore we must not attempt in it to imitate nature.”
Sometimes, where there are large and bare slopes, an excellent effect may be obtained by planting the stouter climbers, such as the Vines, Mountain Clematis, and Honeysuckles, in groups or masses on the grass, away from shrubs or low trees; while, when the banks are precipitous or the rocks crop forth, we may allow a curtain of climbers to fall over them.
Endless charming combinations may be made in this way in many spots near most country houses. The following genera are among the climbing and clinging hardy plants most suitable for garlanding copses, hedges, and thickets:—Everlasting Peas (many kinds), the hardy exotic Honeysuckles, Clematis (wild species mainly), the common Jasmine, the double Bramble, Vines (American and the common varieties), single Roses, the Virginian creepers (Ampelopsis), the large Bindweed (Calystegia dahurica), Aristolochia Sipho, and A. tomentosa, and several of the perennial Tropæolums, T. pentaphyllum, speciosum, and tuberosum. The hardy Smilax, too, are very handsome, and the Canadian Moonseed, only suitable for this kind of gardening.
Among the families of plants that are suitable for the various positions enumerated at the head of this chapter may be named—Acanthus, any variety, Viola, both the sweet varieties and some of the large scentless kinds, the Periwinkle, Speedwells, Globe Flowers, Trilliums, Plume Ferns (Struthiopteris), and many other kinds, the Lily of the Valley and its many varieties and allies, the Canadian Bloodwort, the Winter Greens (Pyrola), Solomon’s Seal, and allied exotic species, the May Apple, Orobus in variety, Narcissi, many, the Common Myrrh, the perennial Lupin, hardy common Lilies, the Snowflakes, all kinds of Everlasting Peas and allied plants, admirable for scrambling through low hedges and over bushes, Windflowers, the taller and stronger kinds in lanes and hedgerows, the various Christmas Roses which will repay for shelter, the European kinds of Gladiolus, such as segetum and Colvilli, the taller and more vigorous Cranes Bills (Geranium), the Snake’s Head (Fritillaria) in variety, Strawberries of any variety or species, the beautiful Plume–leaved Giant Fennel, Dog’s Tooth Violets in bare spots or spots bare in spring, the Winter Aconite, the Barren Worts, for peaty spots or leaf soil, the May Flower, for sandy poor soil under trees, the Dentaria, the coloured and showier forms of Primroses, Oxslips, Polyanthus, the hardy European Cyclamens in carefully chosen spots, Crocuses in places under branches and trees not bearing leaves in Spring, the yellow and pink Coronilla (C. montana and C. varia), the larger forms of Bindweed, many of the taller and finer Harebells, Starworts (Aster), for hedgerows, and among the taller plants the Italian Cuckoo Pint (Arum), and also the Dragons, for warm sandy soils, the Monkshoods which people fear in gardens and which do admirably in many positions; the different species of Onion, also unwelcome in gardens, some of which are very beautiful, as, for example, the White Provence kind and the old yellow garden Allium (Moly). With the above almost exclusively exotic things and our own wild flowers and ferns beautiful colonies may be made.
The Seventh 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.
The numerous hardy climbers which we possess are very rarely seen to advantage, owing to their being stiffly trained against walls. Indeed, the greater number of hardy climbers have gone out of cultivation mainly for this reason. One of the happiest of all ways of using them is that of training them in a free manner over trees; in this way many beautiful effects may be secured. Established trees have usually exhausted the ground near their base, which may, however, afford nutriment to a hardy climbing shrub. In some low trees the graceful companion may garland their heads; in tall ones the stem only may at first be adorned. But some vigorous climbers could in time ascend the tallest trees, and there can be nothing more beautiful than a veil of such a one as Clematis montana suspended from the branch of a tall tree. A whole host of lovely plants may be seen to great advantage in this way, apart from the well–known and popular climbing plants. There are, for example, many species of Clematis which have never come into cultivation, but which are quite as beautiful as any climbers. The same may be said of the Honeysuckles, wild Vines, and various other families of which the names may be found in catalogues. Much of the northern tree and shrub world is garlanded with creepers, which may be grown in similar ways, as, for example, on banks and in hedgerows. The trees in our pleasure–grounds, however, have the first claim on our attention in planting garlands. There would seldom be need to fear injury to established trees.
Some time ago I saw a Weeping Willow, on the margin of a lake, that had its trunk clothed with Virginian Creeper, and the effect in autumn, when the sun shone through the drooping branches of the Willow—whose leaves were just becoming tinged with gold—upon the crimson of the creeper–covered trunk was very fine. The Hop is a very effective plant for draping a thin specimen Arbor–vitæ, or Yew tree, but the shoots should be thinned out in spring, and not more than three or four allowed to climb up to the tree. When the leader emerges from the top of the bush, and throws its long, graceful wreaths of Hops over the dark green foliage, the contrast is most effective. The Wistaria, if planted before its support has become old, will combine with excellent effect with any single specimen of not too dense a habit.
A correspondent, who has added largely to the charms of a place in Suffolk by means of the wild garden, writes as follows:—
“Some time ago I discovered and had removed from the woods to the pleasure–grounds a robust round–headed Holly tree, which had been taken entire possession of by a wild Honeysuckle, which, originating at the root of the tree, had scrambled up through the branches to the top, and there, extending itself in all directions, had formed a large head and hung in festoons all round—a highly ornamental object indeed. The Holly had endured the subjection for many years, and still seemed to put forth sufficient shoots and leaves annually to ensure a steady support to its climbing companion. The birds also had discovered that the dense and tangled thicket created by the Honeysuckle was a suitable home for their young, for inside of it was a regular settlement of nests of various kinds; and, since the tree has been moved it has been taken complete possession of again by the bird tribe.” The Honeysuckle in question is an example of what might be done with such handsome and free growing climbers and scrambling Roses. What could be more effective, for instance, than a lofty tree–like mass of the purple and white Clematis mixed, or either of these alone, or, better still, a gigantic head of Roses? I throw out these hints for those who choose to act upon them. Draped trees, such as I have described, may soon be had. I do not know that a better tree than the Holly could be selected for a support. Where the trees are not in the place in which they are wanted, they should be moved about the end of August to the desired situation, and if some good rich soil—loam and decayed manure—is furnished to the roots at the same time, it will be in proper condition for climbers in spring. The latter should be planted pretty closely to the stem of the tree, and a start should be made with good vigorous plants, whether of Honeysuckle, Roses, or Clematis. The Roses and other things will want a little leading off at first till they get hold of their supporters, but afterwards no pruning or interference should be attempted.
Mr. Hovey, in a letter from Boston, Mass., wrote as follows, on certain interesting aspects of tree drapery:— Some ten or fifteen years ago we had occasion to plant three or four rows of popular climbers in nursery rows, about 100 feet long; these consisted of the Virginian creeper, the Moonseed (Menispermum), Periploca græca, and Celastrus scandens; subsequently, it happened accidentally that four rows of rather large Tartarian (so–called) Arbor–vitæs were planted on one side, and about the same number of rows of Smoke trees, Philadelphus, and Cornus florida, on the other. For three or four years many of these climbers were taken up annually until rather too old to remove, and year by year the Arbor–vitæs and shrubs were thinned out until what were too large to safely transplant remained. But the land was not wanted then, and the few scattered trees and climbers grew on while cultivation was partially neglected, a large specimen being occasionally taken out until the climbers had fairly taken possession of the trees, and are now too beautiful to disturb. It forms the most unique specimen of tree drapery I have ever seen. Some of the Arbor–vitæs are entirely overrun with the Moonseed (Menispermum), whose large, slightly–scalloped leaves overlap one another from the ground to the top like slates on a roof. Over others, the gloomy leaves of the Periploca scramble, and also the Celastrus, and on still others the deep green leaves of the Ampelopsis completely festoon the tree; of some trees all four and other climbers have taken possession; and from among the tops of the Sumach the feathery tendrils of the Ampelopsis, and, just now, its deep blue berries hold full sway. And these are not all. The Apios tuberosa is indigenous, and springs up everywhere as soon as our land is neglected. This has also overrun several trees, and coils up and wreaths each outstretching branch with its little bunches of fragrant brownish coloured flowers. It is the Arbor–vitæs which give the peculiar beauty of this description of tree drapery. On the deciduous trees the new growth lengthens rapidly, and the branches soon get far apart; but with Arbor–vitæs, which always present a round compact head, the effect is entirely different; they are covered so densely that it is impossible, in some instances, to say what the tree is that supports the climbers. One Hemlock Spruce (Abies canadensis) has every branch loaded with the Apios and profuse with blossoms; but this one sees happen with other trees. The Smoke tree looks interesting just now, while its flowers are fresh, but soon they will fade, and the dry tops will be a disadvantage; but the Arbor–vitæ will remain clothed with the foliage, flowers, and berries too, of the Celastrus until the autumn frosts have shorn them of their beauty, and no falling leaves are scattered around. The Arbor–vitæ is the tree I would recommend when it is desirable to produce such effects as I have described. When such strong–growing climbers as Begonias and Wistarias take possession of a shrub they generally injure it; but the very slender stems of Menispermum and Apios die entirely to the ground after the first sharp frost, and the slender stems of the others do not appear to arrest the growth of the Arbor–vitæs, which are restored when the climbers are down, and, after full eight months’ rest, are again ready to aid in sustaining their more dependent companions. The Honeysuckle, the Clematis, and similar plants might, no doubt, be added to the list, and give more variety, as well as fragrance and beauty, but I have only detailed the effects of what has been done, leaving what might be effected for some future trial.
But the noblest kind of climbers forming drapery for trees are not so often seen as some of the general favourites mentioned above. A neglected group are the wild Vines, plants of the highest beauty, and which, if allowed to spring through the tall trees, which they would quickly do, would soon charm by their bold grace. Some of them are fine in colour of foliage in autumn. With these might be associated, though not so fine in form, certain free–growing species of Ampelopsis, grown in some nurseries. The Wistaria is also well worth growing on trees, in districts where it flowers freely away from walls. In visiting the garden of MM. Van Eden, at Haarlem, I was surprised to see a Liane, in the shape of the well–known Aristolochia or Dutchman’s Pipe, which had clambered high into a fine old deciduous Cypress. Being much interested in this long–established companionship, I was able to procure, through the kindness of Messrs. Van Eden, photographs of the tree and its Liane, from which this illustration was engraved. When I saw it early in spring the leaves had not appeared on either the tree or its companion, and the effect of the old rope–like stems was very picturesque. The Aristolochia ascends to a height of 35 ft. 6 in. on the tree.
The tree was a superb specimen, and was not in the least injured by the growth of the climber. What a beautiful effect a graceful flowering climber would afford in a similar case! Imagine one of the white–flowered Clematis (which may be seen as many as over forty feet in height under suitable conditions) garlanding such a tree, or any tree, with wreaths of fragrant blossoms. Strange and lovely aspects of vegetation may be created in our pleasure–grounds by the judicious use of these climbers, varying according to the trees and their position, and also as to their being evergreen or summer–leafing. Even where one might fear to injure a valuable tree by a vigorous climber, trees may easily be found of little value, and much may be done even with the old or dead trees.
The Eighth of Chapters_
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.
It must not be thought that the wild garden can only be formed in places where there is some extent of rough pleasure–ground. Excellent results may be obtained from the system in comparatively small gardens, on the fringes of shrubberies and marginal plantations, open spaces between shrubs, the surface of beds of Rhododendrons, where we may have plant–beauty instead of garden–graveyards. I call garden–graveyards the dug shrubbery borders which one sees in nearly all gardens, public or private. Every shrubbery and plantation surface that is so needlessly and relentlessly dug over by the gardener every winter, may be embellished in the way I propose, as well as wild places. The custom of digging shrubbery borders prevails now in every garden, and there is in the whole course of gardening no worse or more profitless custom. When winter is once come, almost every gardener, although animated with the best intentions, simply prepares to make war upon the roots of everything in his shrubbery border. The generally–accepted practice is to trim, and often to mutilate the shrubs, and to dig all over the surface that must be full of feeding roots. Delicate half–rooted shrubs are disturbed; herbaceous plants are destroyed; bulbs are displaced and injured; the roots as well as the tops of shrubs are mutilated; and a sparse depopulated aspect is given to the margins, while the only “improvement” that is effected by the process is the annual darkening of the surface by the upturned earth.
Illustrations of these bad practices occur by miles in our London parks in winter. Walk through any of them at that season, and observe the borders around masses of shrubs, choice and otherwise. Instead of finding the earth covered, or nearly covered, with vegetation close to the margin, and each individual plant developed into something like a fair specimen of its kind, we find a spread of recently–dug ground, and the plants upon it with an air of having recently suffered from a whirlwind, or some calamity that necessitated the removal of mutilated branches. Rough–pruners precede the diggers, and bravely trim in the shrubs for them, so that nothing may be in the way; and then come the diggers, plunging their spades deeply about plants, shrubs, or trees. The first shower that occurs after this digging exposes a whole network of torn–up roots. There is no relief to the spectacle; the same thing occurs everywhere—in botanic gardens as well as in our large West–end parks; and year after year is the process repeated.
While such is the case, it will be impossible to have an agreeable or interesting margin to a shrubbery or plantation. What secrets one might have in the central hidden portions of these now dug and bare shrubberies—in the half–shady spots where little colonies of rare exotic wildlings might have their first introduction to our wild garden! Of course all the labour required to produce this miserable result of dug borders is worse than thrown away, as the shrubberies would do better if let alone, and by utilising the power thus wasted, we might highly beautify the positions that are now so ugly.
If we resolve that no annual manuring or digging is to be permitted, nobody will grudge a thorough preparation at first. When a plantation of shrubs is quite young it is well to keep the ground open by lightly stirring it for a year or two. Then the planting should be so arranged as to defeat the digger. To graduate the vegetation from the taller subjects behind to the very margin of the grass is of much importance, and this could be done best by the greater use of dwarf evergreens. Happily, there is quite enough of these to be had suitable for every soil. Light, moist, peaty, or sandy soils, where such things as the sweet–scented Daphne Cneorum would spread forth its dwarf cushions, would be somewhat more desirable than, say, a stiff clay; but for every position suitable plants might be found. Look, for example, at what we could do with the dwarf–green Iberises, Helianthemums, Aubrietias, Arabises, Alyssums, dwarf shrubs, and little conifers like the creeping Cedar (Juniperus squamata), and the Tamarix–leaved Juniper, in spreading groups and colonies. All these are green, and would spread out into dense wide cushions, covering the margin, rising but little above the grass, and helping to cut off the formal line which usually divides margin and border. Behind them we might use other shrubs, deciduous or evergreen, in endless variety; and of course the margin should be varied also as regards height.
In one spot we might have a wide–spreading tuft of the prostrate Savin pushing its graceful evergreen branchlets out over the grass; in another the dwarf little Cotoneasters might be allowed to form the front rank, relieved in their turn by pegged–down Roses; and so on without end. Herbaceous plants, that die down in winter and leave the ground bare afterwards, should not be assigned any important position near the front. Evergreen Alpine plants and shrubs, as before remarked, are perfectly suitable here; but the true herbaceous type, and the larger bulbs, like Lilies, should be in groups between spreading shrubs. By so placing them, we should not only secure a far more satisfactory general effect, but highly improve the aspect of the herbaceous plants themselves. To carry out such planting properly, a little more time at first and a great deal more taste than are now employed would be required; but what a difference in the result! All that the well–covered borders would require would be an occasional weeding or thinning, and, in the case of the more select spots, a little top–dressing with fine soil. Here and there, between and amongst the plants, such things as Forget–me–nots and Violets, Snowdrops and Primroses, might be scattered about, so as to give the borders interest even at the dullest seasons; and thus we should be delivered from digging and dreariness, and see our once ugly borders alive with flowers. The chief rule should be—never show the naked earth: clothe it, and then allow the taller plants to rise in their own way through the turf or spray. Here is a little sketch of what is meant. A colony of the white Arabis carpets the ground in which strong hardy Lilies are growing; and the Lilies are pushing up their bold unfolding shoots. The latter are none the worse in winter for this light carpet of foliage over the border; and then for a long time in spring it is bedecked with white flowers. Indeed, in fairly good seasons it blooms in winter too. It would take a big book to tell all the charms and merits belonging to the use of a variety of small plants to carpet the ground beneath and between those of larger growth. It need hardly be said that this argument against digging applies to two or three beds of shrubs, and places where the “shrubbery” is little larger than the dining–room, as much as to the large country seat, public park, or botanic garden.
There are great cultural advantages too, in leaving the whole of the leaves to nourish the ground and protect it from frost or heat. I append a note from a correspondent inquiring about what he supposes practical difficulties, and an answer to them:—
You draw a pretty picture of what a shrubbery border should be and how it should be kept in winter. There should be no digging, and the fallen leaves should be left. I fully agree, except as to the leaves. Theoretically, it seems quite right to allow the leaves to lie and decay amidst the surrounding plants, but in practice it does not answer. There are, for instance, in most gardens such things as slugs and snails. These delight in a leafy covering, and, protected from frost by the shelter, will prey upon the perennial green leafage and the starting crowns of the herbaceous plants, and do an immense amount of mischief. Then there are usually in gardens in winter, especially in hard weather, blackbirds and thrushes, which in their efforts to obtain food set all notions of tidiness at defiance. A troop of fowls would hardly turn a flower border more topsy–turvy than would a few of these birds. The first storm that came would whirl the disturbed leaves all over the place, much to the disgust of the cultivator, and the hardy plants would find that the theory of a natural dressing of leaf manure had broken down. I detest the forking of borders so common in winter. A moderate stirring of the surface first with a two or three–tined rake is good, then a dressing of soot or guano, or both, and over all a thin surfacing of old pot soil, or the rough screened produce of the rubbish heap, or, in fact, any kind of refuse soil that may offer. I think that most cultivators will agree that such a plan would answer better than the natural, but very inoperative leaf–dressing. —A.
How do the swarming herbs of the woods and copses of the world exist in spite of the slugs? A good protection for them is hard gravel walks and paths, where they lay their eggs without danger. Against the door one may do what one likes, but not one leaf would I ever allow removed from a clump of shrubs or trees on my lawn or in my pleasure ground. I would prefer the leaves all over the place to a dug border, but I would, if need be, meet that difficulty by scattering a light dressing of soil over them. In what I should call a properly managed shrubbery or clump, with the bushes well spaced, and their branches resting on the ground, with low shrubs between, and evergreen and other herbs, there are natural impediments to the leaves rushing about in the way you suppose. This is a subject of the greatest interest and the utmost practical importance. Our annual digging mutilation, scraping away of leaves, and exposing on bare sloppy borders plants that in Nature shelter each other, and are shielded from bitter frost and burning heat by layers of fallen leaves, gradually sinking into excellent light surface soil for the young roots, are ignorant and brutal practices that must be given up by all who really look into the needs of our hardy garden flora.
With reference to this point, I print this letter from an observer of what goes on in the woods of New England. Our own woods are full of lessons, and so it is in all countries. Mr. Falconer’s letter is very suggestive of the revolution in method which must be carried out in the gardens of the future:—
I go into the woods in the spring time, and find them carpeted with Dog’s–tooth Violets, Wood Anemones, blue and purple Hepaticas, Spring beauty, Trilliums, Blood–root, Star–flowers, False Solomon’s Seal, Gold Thread, trailing Arbutus, wild Ginger, and a host of other pretty little flowers, all bright and gay, arising from their bed of decaying herbage and tree leaves, and many of them are in perfection, too, before a tree has spread a leaf; and thus they glow and revel in their cosy bed, fed and sheltered by their tree friends. When their petals drop and their leaves are mature, the trees expand their leafy canopy and save the little nurslings from the torture of a scorching sun. And early as the earliest, too, the outskirts of the woods and meadows with hosts of Violets are painted blue and white, and speckled everywhere with Bluets, or little Innocents, as the children call them. Woodsias, tiny Aspleniums, and other Ferns are unfolding their fronds along the chinks among the stones; the common Polypody is reaching over blocks and boulders; and even the exposed rocks, with their rough and Lichen–bearded faces, are aglow in vernal pride. Every nook and cranny among them, and little mat of earth upon them are checkered with the flowery print of the Canada Columbine, the Virginia Saxifrage, and the glaucous Corydalis. But to the carpet. What can be prettier or more appropriate than the Partridge–berry (Mitchella repens), the Twin–flower (Linnæa borealis—does well with us), Creeping Winter Green (Gaultheria procumbens), Bearberry (Arctostaphylos Uva–Ursi), Cowberry (Vaccinium Vitis–idæa), Dwarf Cornel (Cornus canadensis), Fringed Polygala (P. paucifolia), the Common Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) with its shining deep green leaves, the Spotted Pipsissewa (C. maculata), the sombre–hued Pyrola and Galax, and that bright and easily–grown Club Moss (Lycopodium lucidulum)? Add to these such plants as Winter Aconite, Apennine Anemone, Creeping Forget–me–not, and the like, together with a few of the most suitable kinds of the host of bulbous ornamental plants which we now possess, and our shrubbery carpets may be replete with garden jewels. It is now generally conceded that shrubs thrive better in beds whose surface is undisturbed than where it is annually loosened by digging or pointing. This, coupled with a yearly top–dressing of decayed leaf–soil or light rich vegetable heap compost, is equally beneficial for the shrubs and their carpet.
“One day last spring, when strolling through the Medford wood, I came upon an open meadow with a high bank—cleared timber land—on one side. Adown this bank in a rough and rocky course, came a little stream of water, bordered on both sides with streaks and patches of Blood–root in its gayest state. The large and showy blossoms, clasped erect in their own leaf–vases and sparkling in the sun, while the sward and other vegetation around were yet dormant, had a cheerful influence indeed. True, near by in the hollow, the malodorous Skunk Cabbage was rank in leaf and flower, and the Indian Poke was rushing out its plaited, broadly oval leaves, and away in the streamlet a few Marsh Marigolds glittered on the water. But the Blood–root is neither an aquatic nor a bog plant, but most at home in the leaf–mould beds and linings of rich woodlands.”
“Hereabout, a little wild flower (Erythronium americanum) more commonly known as Dog’s–tooth Violet, is a charming plant, with variegated handsome leaves, and comely flowers in earliest spring. In low copses in rich deposits of vegetable mould it grows around here in the utmost profusion. In one place by the side of a wood is a sort of ditch, which is filled with water in winter but dry in summer, and wherein is collected a mass of leaf–soil. Here the Erythronium runs riot, and forms the densest kind of matted sod, all bespeckled with yellow blossoms before a bush or tree has spread a leaf. Then blackberry bushes get a growing and sprawling everywhere, the trees expand their leafy shade, and Grass and weeds grow up and cover the surface of the earth. But all too late for evil, the Adder’s–tongue’s mission for a year is ended; it has blossomed, matured, and retired. The next densest mass I know of is in a low piece of cleared timber land, where, besides the profusion in the hollow, the carpet extends, thinner as it ascends, for many yards up the slope of the hill. As garden plants they are at home anywhere, underneath bushes, or in any out of–the–way corner, merely praying to be let alone. But what I desire to urge is their naturalisation in your rich woodlands, where Anemones and Primroses, Buttercups and Violets, grow up and flower together.”
I cannot better conclude this chapter than by showing one of the most interesting aspects of vegetation I have ever seen. It was in an ordinary shrubbery, forming a belt round a botanic garden. In the inner parts, hidden from the walk probably from want of labour, the digging had not been carried out for some years. Some roots of the common Myrrh (Myrrhis odorata), thrown out of the garden in digging, had rooted by accident and spread into a little colony. The plant grows freely in any soil. Among the graceful tufts of Myrrh were tall white Harebells, and the effect of these, standing above the elegant spreading foliage of the Myrrh in the shade of the trees, was very beautiful. Note particularly that the front of the shrubbery in which this exquisite scene was discovered was as stiff and hideous as usual in winter—raw earth, full of mutilated roots, and shrubs cut in for the convenience and according to the taste of the diggers. The beds in the botanical arrangement near were ugly beyond description.
Longleat is one of the first places in which the idea of the wild garden was practically carried out and ably by the forester, Mr. Berry. With such a fine variety of surface and soil, the place naturally offers numerous positions in which the plants of other countries as cold or colder than our own could be naturalised, or so planted that they would increase and take care of themselves in the woods. A forester’s duties and opportunities are generally such as make it extremely difficult for him to carry out such an idea. To know the plants even that are likely to succeed is, in itself, a species of knowledge which every planter does not possess; however, the idea was clearly understood and carried out well, so far as possible in the face of rabbits, which are the great destroyers of almost all flowering ground vegetation. To get the necessary quantities of subjects necessitated a little nursery in which a sufficient number could be raised of the more vigorous perennials, bulbs, and climbers. If this new idea in gardening be carried out on the old dotting principle of the herbaceous border, its great value and its charming effects cannot be realised. To do it rightly we must group and mass as Nature does. Though we may enjoy a single flower or tuft here and there, the true way is natural fringes and masses of plants, one or two species prevailing in a given spot; in that way we may secure several important ends—distinct effects in different places, a variety as we walk along, and better means of meeting the wants of a plant, inasmuch as, dealing with a group, or mass, or carpet, we can best observe the result of our judgment in putting them in any soil or place. Therefore, although the quantity of vigorous hardy flowers essential for making good effects in a place of this size has not yet been planted out, some very charming effects have been obtained. Among the features that Mr. Berry is working to introduce are vigorous hardy exotic creepers on old and inferior trees, Thorn, and other bushes of little value. Many are already planted, but will be some time before they show their full beauty—among them Japanese and other Honeysuckles, Virginian Creepers, Clematis, Wistarias, and others. A part of the arboretum is more particularly devoted to this kind of decoration, and will eventually form a very wild wood and wild garden, where the Poet’s Narcissus may be found among Sweet Briers, Lilacs, and many kinds of fragrant–flowering shrubs and vigorous perennials. While carrying out the scheme of wild gardening, pure and simple, that is to say, the naturalisation of foreign hardy plants, opportunity has been taken to establish beautiful native kinds where they do not happen to be present in sufficient abundance. Thus the Lily of the Valley has been brought in quantities and planted in wide–spreading colonies along the drives, and so have the Meadow Saffron and the Snowflakes and Daffodils. To group and scatter these in a natural and easy way has required considerable care, the tendency of the men being invariably, and almost in spite of themselves, to plant in stiff and set or too regular masses.
Few things are more delightful to anybody who cares about hardy plants than naturalising the Lily of the Valley in pleasant spots about a country house. It is in every garden, of course, and very often so crowded and so starved that it seldom flowers well. A bare garden border is not so suitable for it as that in which it may be found in a thin wood, or in little openings in a copse, where it enjoys enough light, and gets shelter too. Frequently the fresh wood soil would be more welcome to it than the worn–out soil in a garden; also by planting it in various positions and soils, we may secure an important difference as regards blooming. In a cool woody place it would bloom ten days later than in an exposed warm garden border, and this difference could be increased by carefully selecting the position. Apart altogether from the wild garden and its charms, this difference in the time of blooming of the Lily of the Valley would be a great advantage to all who have to provide cut flowers, inasmuch as it would give them late bloom in plenty without trouble. However, giving reasons for the naturalisation of the Lily of the Valley is surely unnecessary. The only surprising thing is that it has not been done to a large extent already, because it is so very easy and so very delightful. Recently a good many different varieties of Lily of the Valley—nearly as many as twenty—have been collected, and are beginning to be cultivated by some of our growers of herbaceous plants. The difference in these is not owing to soil or situation. When grown in the same place they manifest differences in length of spike and size of foliage; and also in time of blooming. In some the spike is short, and in others nearly one foot long. This important fact should, of course, be noted by any who would, in places where the Lily of the Valley does not grow wild, interest themselves in establishing it.
There are advantages in wood–culture for many hardy plants—the shelter, shade, and soil affording for some things conditions more suitable than our gardens. The warmth of the wood, too, is an advantage, the fallen leaves helping to protect the plants in all ways. In a hot country plants that love cool places could be grown in a wood where they would perish if exposed. Mr. G. F. Wilson has made himself a remarkably interesting and successful wild garden in a wood, from which he sent me in the autumn of last year (1880) a flowering stem of the American Swamp Lily (L. superbum) eleven feet high. No such result has ever been seen in any garden or border of the ordinary type. These Lilies of his grow in a woody bottom where rich dark soil has gathered, and where there is shelter and shade.
Placing every plant in one border with the same conditions as to soil and exposure was a great mistake. A great many beautiful plants haunt the woods, and we cannot change their nature easily. Even if we should grow them in open places their bloom will not be so enduring as in the wood. A curious instance of the advantage of planting in a wood is at Bodorgan in Anglesey, where a much later bloom was gathered off a colony of the popular Hoteia japonica, owing to planting it in a cool wood. A little woodland planting may indeed be worth doing for the sake of a prolonged or later bloom, even from plants that thrive in sunny places.
The Orchard Wild Garden_
Although three years have elapsed since the illustrations of this book were commenced, I regret to issue it without a satisfactory one showing the beauty which may be obtained in the orchard from flowers in the grass or fences around. In our orchard counties—pity it is that all our counties are not worthy of the name within the possibilities of their position and climate—one may now and then see a cloud of Daffodils or a tuft of Summer Snowflake, enough to suggest what happy places they would be for many bulbous flowers in the grass.
A Wild Orchard_
A correspondent of the “Garden” writes:—
After reading in the “Garden” of November 16, about the Bullace there named, and the Cranberries, the idea struck me of adding unto our Orchard in Sussex “a wild Orchard,” with fruit trees such as follows, viz.—Quince, Medlar, Mulberry, Bullace, Crab, Pyrus Maulei, Barberries, Blackberries (the large kinds for preserving), Filberts, and in a suitable place, Cranberries. All these, besides the interest of cultivating them, would yield fruit for preserving, etc. For instance, we have old–fashioned receipts for making an excellent Bullace cheese, Crab jelly, Quince jelly, etc. I venture to trouble you with a view to asking if you can suggest any other similar fruit–bearing trees or shrubs, as we should like to carry out our idea well. Our house is in Sussex, between Midhurst and Haslemere. —C. S. R.
[An excellent idea! There are many fruits which could be grown this way that people do not usually give space to, and this applies to the varieties of cultivated fruits, as well as species that are never cultivated. The natural order to which most of our fruit trees belong contains many other species, not without merit as fruits, scattered throughout the temperate regions of the northern world. These trees and shrubs happen also to be most beautiful of flowering trees and shrubs in spring, and are well worthy of culture on that account alone. In Japan, North America, and even the continent of Europe, one frequently sees fruits that are never seen in our gardens; such fruits will be quite at home in the wild orchard. For the sake of growing one family of fruiting bushes alone—the fruiting brambles of America and other countries—a considerable piece of ground might be profitably devoted. Even amongst the English wild Blackberries there is considerable variety and a good deal of unrecognised merit. Such plants can only be grown fairly where there is considerable space. If so much beauty and interest, and even good fruit, may be found in one neglected family, it suggests how interesting the subject is when considered in relation to the great number of our hardy fruit trees and shrubs. A good feature of such a garden would be plantations of such Apples and Pears as are most remarkable for the beauty of their flowers and fruit, some being much more striking in that respect than others.]
Nearly all landscape gardeners seem to have put a higher value on the lake or fish–pond than on the brook as an ornament to the garden; but, while we allow that many places are enhanced in beauty and dignity, by a broad expanse of water, many pictures might be formed by taking advantage of a brook as it meanders through woody glade or meadow.
The wild Roses of the world, had we no other plants, would alone make beautiful wild gardens. The unequalled grace of the Wild Rose is as remarkable as the beauty of bloom for which the Rose is grown in gardens. The culture is mostly of a kind which tends to conceal or suppress the grace of shoot and foliage of the Rose.
There are many hundred species of mountain and rock plants which will thrive much better on an old wall, a ruin, a sunk fence, a sloping bank of stone, with earth behind, than they do in the most carefully prepared border, and therefore their culture may be fittingly considered here, particularly, as once established in such positions they increase and take care of themselves unaided.
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.