The Ninth 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.
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. No such beauty is afforded by a pond or lake, which gives us water in repose—imprisoned water, in fact; and although we obtain breadth by confining water, still, in many cases, we prefer the brook, or water in motion, as it ripples between mossy rocks or flower–fringed banks. The brook–margin, too, offers opportunities to lovers of hardy flowers which few other situations can rival. Hitherto we have only used in and near such places aquatic or bog plants, and of these usually a very meagre selection; but the improvement of the brook–side will be most readily effected by planting the banks with hardy flowers, making it a wild garden, in fact. A great number of our finest herbaceous plants, from Irises to Globe–flowers, thrive best in the moist soil found in such positions; numbers of hardy flowers, also, that do not in nature prefer such soil, would exist in perfect health in it. The wild garden illustrated by the water–side will give us some of the most charming garden pictures. Land plants would have this advantage over water ones, that we could fix their position, whereas water plants are apt to spread everywhere, and sometimes one kind exterminates the rest; therefore it might, in many cases, be better not to encourage the water or water–side vegetation, but to form little colonies of hardy flowers along the banks. The plants, of course, should be such as would grow freely among Grass and take care of themselves. If different types of vegetation were encouraged on each side of the water, the effect would be all the better. The common way of repeating a favourite plant at intervals would spoil all: groups of free hardy things, different in each place as one passed, would be best; Day Lilies; Phloxes, which love moisture; Irises, mainly the beardless kinds, which love wet places, but all the fine Germanica forms will do; Gunnera; Aster; American swamp Lilies in peaty or boggy soil; the deep rose–coloured variety of the Loosestrife; Golden Rods; the taller and stouter Bell–flowers (Campanula); the Spider Wort (Tradescantia virginica), of which there are a good many forms, differing in colour; the Broad–leaved Saxifrages; the Compass plants (Silphium); Everlasting Peas; Monkshood; the Goats Rues (Galega); Baptisia; the free–flowering Yuccas; the hardiest flame–flowers (Tritoma); the stouter kinds of Yarrow (Achillea); the common perennial Lupin—these are some of many types of hardy flowers which would grow freely near the water–side apart wholly from the plants that naturally frequent such places or which are usually placed there. With these hardy plants too, a variety of the nobler hardy ferns would thrive, as the Struthiopteris; the finer types of the Umbellate order (Ferula and others) would also come in well here. We will now consider the plants that naturally belong to such situations so to say.
Water–plants of northern and temperate regions, associated with those of our own country, add much beauty to a garden if well selected and well grown. A great deal of variety may be added to the margins, and here and there to the surface, of ornamental water, by the use of a good collection of hardy aquatics arranged with taste; but this has not yet been fairly attempted. Usually we see the same monotonous vegetation all round the margin if the soil be rich; in some cases, where the bottom is of gravel, there is little or no vegetation, but an unbroken ugly line of washed earth between wind and water. In others, water–plants accumulate till they are only an eyesore—not submerged plants like Anacharis, but such as the Water Lilies when matted together. A well–developed plant or group of plants of the queenly Water Lily, with its large leaves and noble flowers, is an object not surpassed by any other in our gardens; but when it increases and runs over the whole of a piece of water—thickening together and being in consequence weakened—and water–fowl cannot make their way through it, then even this plant loses its charms. No garden water, however, should be without a few fine plants or groups of the Water Lily. Where the bottom does not allow of the free development of the plant, earth might be accumulated in the spot where it was desired to encourage the growth of the Nymphæa. Thus arranged it would not spread too much. But it is not difficult to prevent the plant from spreading; indeed I have known isolated plants, and groups of it, remain of almost the same size for years. The Yellow Water Lily, Nuphar lutea, though not so beautiful as the preceding, is well worthy of a place; and also the little N. pumila, a variety or sub–species found in the lakes of the north of Scotland.
Then there is the fine and large N. advena, a native of America, which pushes its leaves boldly above the water, and is very vigorous in habit. It is very plentiful in the Manchester Botanic Garden, and will be found to some extent in most gardens of the same kind. The American White Water Lily (Nymphæa odorata) is a noble species, which would prove quite hardy in Britain. It is a pity this noble aquatic plant is not more frequently seen, as it is quite as fine as our own Water Lily. Rose–coloured varieties are spoken of, but are not yet in cultivation here.
One of the prettiest effects I have ever observed was afforded by a sheet of Villarsia nymphæoides belting round the margin of a lake near a woody recess, and before it, more towards the deep water, a group of Water Lilies. The Villarsia is a charming little water–plant, with its Nymphæa–like leaves and numerous golden–yellow flowers, which furnish a beautiful effect on fine days, under a bright sun. It is not very commonly distributed as a native plant, though, where found, generally very plentiful.
Not rare—growing, in fact, in nearly all districts of Britain—but beautiful and singular, is the Buckbean or Marsh Trefoil (Menyanthes trifoliata), with its flowers deeply fringed on the inside with white filaments, and the round unopened buds blushing on the top with a rosy red like that of an Apple–blossom. It will grow in a bog or any moist place, or by the margin of any water. For grace, no water–plant can well surpass Equisetum Telmateia, which, in deep soil, in shady and sheltered places near water, often grows several feet high, the long, close–set, slender branches depending from each whorl in a singularly graceful manner. It will grow on the margins of lakes and streams, especially among water–side bushes, or in boggy spots in the shade.
For a bold and picturesque plant on the margin of water, nothing equals the great Water Dock (Rumex Hydrolapathum), which is rather generally dispersed over the British Isles; it has leaves quite sub–tropical in aspect and size, becoming of a lurid red in the autumn. It forms a grand mass of foliage on rich muddy banks, and, unlike many water–plants, has the good quality of not spreading too much. The Cat’s–tail (Typha) must not be omitted, but it should not be allowed too much liberty. The narrow–leaved one (T. angustifolia) is more graceful than the common one (T. latifolia). Carex pendula is excellent for the margins of water, its elegant drooping spikes being quite distinct in their way. It is rather common in England, more so than Carex pseudocyperus, which grows well in a foot or two of water or on the margin of a muddy pond. Carex paniculata forms a strong and thick stem, sometimes 3 ft. or 4 ft. high, somewhat like a tree Fern, and with luxuriant masses of drooping leaves, and on that account is transferred to moist places in gardens, and cultivated by some, though generally these large specimens are difficult to remove and soon perish. Scirpus lacustris (the Bulrush) is too distinct a plant to be omitted, as its stems, sometimes attaining a height of more than 7 ft. and even 8 ft., look very imposing; and Cyperus longus is also a desirable plant, reminding one of the aspect of the Papyrus when in flower. It is found in some of the southern counties of England. Poa aquatica might also be used. Cladium Mariscus is another distinct and rather scarce British aquatic which is worth a place.
If one chose to enumerate the plants that grow in British and European waters, a very long list might be made, but those which possess no distinct character or no beauty of flower would be useless, for it is only by a judicious selection of the very best kinds that gardening of this description can give satisfaction; therefore, omitting a host of inconspicuous water–weeds, we will endeavour to indicate others of real worth for our present purpose.
Those who have seen the flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus) in blossom, are not likely to omit it from a collection of water–plants, as it is conspicuous and distinct. It is a native of the greater part of Europe and Russian Asia, and is dispersed over the central and southern parts of England and Ireland. Plant it not far from the margin, and it likes rich muddy soil. The common Arrow Head (Sagittaria), very frequent in England and Ireland, but not in Scotland, might be associated with this; but there is a very much finer double exotic kind, which is really a handsome plant, its flowers white, and resembling, but larger than, those of the old white Double Rocket. This used to be grown in abundance in the pleasure gardens at Rye House, Broxbourne, where it filled a sort of oblong basin, or wide ditch, and was very handsome in flower. It forms large egg–shaped tubers, or rather receptacles of farina, and in searching for these, ducks destroyed the plants occasionally. Calla palustris is a beautiful bog–plant, and I know nothing that produces a more pleasing effect over rich, soft, boggy ground. It will also grow by the side of water. Calla æthiopica, the well–known and beautiful Lily of the Nile, is hardy enough in some places if planted rather deep, and in nearly all it may be placed out for the summer; but, except in quiet waters, in the south of England and Ireland, it will not thrive. However, as it is a plant so generally cultivated, it may be tried without loss in favourable positions. Pontederia cordata is a stout, firm–rooting, and perfectly hardy water–herb, with erect and distinct habit, and blue flowers, not difficult to obtain from botanic garden or nursery. The Sweet–flag will be associated with the Water Iris (I. Pseudacorus), and a number of exotic Irises will thrive in wet ground, i.e. I. sibirica, ochreleuca, graminea, and many others. Aponogeton distachyon is a native of the Cape of Good Hope, a singularly pretty plant, which is hardy enough for our climate, and, from its sweetness and curious beauty, a most desirable plant to cultivate. It frequently succeeds in water not choked by weeds or foulness, and wherever there are springs that tend to keep the water a little warmer than usual it seems to thrive in any part of the country. The Water Ranunculuses, which sheet over our pools in spring and early summer with such silvery beauty, are not worth an attempt at cultivation, so rambling are they; and the same applies to not a few other things of interest. Orontium aquaticum is a scarce and handsome aquatic for a choice collection, and as beautiful as any is the Water Violet (Hottonia palustris). It occurs most frequently in the eastern and central districts of England and Ireland. The best example of it that I have seen was on an expanse of soft mud near Lea Bridge, in Essex, where it covered the surface with a sheet of dark fresh green, and must have looked better in that position than when in water, though doubtless the place was occasionally flooded. A suitable companion for the Marsh Marigold (Caltha) and its varieties is the very large and showy Ranunculus Lingua, which grows in rich ground to a height of three feet or more.
If with this water–garden we combine the wild garden of land plants—herbaceous, trailers, etc.—some of the loveliest effects possible in gardens will be produced. The margins of lakes and streams are happily not upturned by the spade in winter; and hereabouts, just away from the water–line, almost any vigorous and really hardy flower of the thousands now in our gardens may be grown and will afterwards take care of itself. The Globe–flowers alone would form beautiful effects in such positions, and would endure as long as the Grass. Near the various Irises that love the water–side might be planted those that thrive in moist ground, and they are many, including the most beautiful kinds. Among recently introduced plants the singular Californian Saxifraga peltata is likely to prove a noble one for the water–side, its natural habitat being beside mountain watercourses, dry in the autumn when it is at rest; both flowers and foliage are effective, and the growth very vigorous when in moist ground. It would require a very long list to enumerate all the plants that would grow near the margins of water, and apart from the aquatics proper; but enough has been said to prove that, given a strip of ground beside a stream or lake, a garden of the most delightful kind could be formed. The juxtaposition of plants inhabiting different situations—water–plants, water–side plants, and land–plants thriving in moist ground—would prevent what would, in many cases, be so undesirable—a general admixture of the whole. Two distinct classes of effects could be obtained, the beauty of the flowers seen close at hand, and that of the more conspicuous kinds in the distance, or from the other side of the water of a stream or lakelet.
An interesting point in favour of the wild garden is the succession of effects which it may afford, and which are suggested by the illustrations on the next pages, both showing a succession of life on the same spot of ground. In gardens in early summer at present the whole of the portion devoted to flower–gardening is dug up raw as a ploughed field, just when the earth is naturally most thickly strewn with flowers. A very little consideration and observation will suffice to make it clear that a succession of effects may be secured without this violent disfigurement of our gardens in the fairest days of early summer. These are not the days for digging or planting either, and the system that necessitates them is pernicious in its effects on our gardens.
It is equally an enemy of all peace or rest for the gardener, who, having trenched, dug, enriched, planted, and sown, through the autumn, winter, and spring, might certainly begin to look for the fruits and flowers of his labour, when he has to face the most trying effort of all—the planting of the flower–garden in May and June with a host of flowers too tender to be committed to the earth at an earlier season.
The bog–garden is a home for the numerous children of the wild that will not thrive on our harsh, bare, and dry garden borders, but must be cushioned on moss, and associated with their own relatives in moist peat soil. Many beautiful plants, like the Wind Gentian and Creeping Harebell, grow on our own bogs and marshes, much as these are now encroached upon. But even those acquainted with the beauty of the plants of our own bogs have, as a rule, but a feeble notion of the multitude of charming plants, natives of northern and temperate countries, whose home is the open marsh or boggy wood. In our own country, we have been so long encroaching upon the bogs and wastes that some of us come to regard them as exceptional tracts all over the world. But when one travels in new countries in northern climes, one soon learns what a vast extent of the world’s surface was at one time covered with bogs. In North America day after day, even by the margins of the railroads, one sees the vivid blooms of the Cardinal–flower springing erect from the wet peaty hollows. Far under the shady woods stretch the black bog–pools, the ground between being so shaky that you move a few steps with difficulty. One wonders how the trees exist with their roots in such a bath. And where the forest vegetation disappears the American Pitcher–plant (Sarracenia), Golden Club (Orontium), Water Arum (Calla palustris), and a host of other handsome and interesting bog–plants cover the ground for hundreds of acres, with perhaps an occasional slender bush of Laurel Magnolia (Magnolia glauca) among them. In some parts of Canada, where the painfully long and straight roads are often made through woody swamps, and where the few scattered and poor habitations offer little to cheer the traveller, he will, if a lover of plants, find conservatories of beauty in the ditches and pools of black water beside the road, fringed with the sweet–scented Buttonbush, with a profusion of stately ferns, and often filled with masses of the pretty Sagittarias.
Southwards and seawards, the bog–flowers become tropical in size and brilliancy, as in the splendid kinds of herbaceous Hibiscus, while far north, and west and south along the mountains, the beautiful and showy Mocassin–flower (Cypripedium spectabile) grows the queen of the peat bog. Then in California, all along the Sierras, there are a number of delicate little annual plants growing in small mountain bogs long after the plains have become quite parched, and annual vegetation has quite disappeared from them. But who shall record the beauty and interest of the flowers of the wide–spreading marsh–lands of this globe of ours, from those of the vast wet woods of America, dark and brown, and hidden from the sunbeams, to those of the breezy uplands of the high Alps, far above the woods, where the little bogs teem with Nature’s most brilliant flowers, joyous in the sun? No one worthily; for many mountain–swamp regions are as yet as little known to us as those of the Himalaya, with their giant Primroses and many strange and lovely flowers. One thing, however, we may gather from our small experiences—that many plants commonly termed “alpine,” and found on high mountains, are true bog–plants. This must be clear to anyone who has seen our pretty Bird’s–eye Primrose in the wet mountain–side bogs of Westmoreland, or the Bavarian Gentian in the spongy soil by alpine rivulets, or the Gentianella (Gentiana acaulis) in the snow ooze.
Bogs are neither found or desired in or near our gardens now–a–days, but, wherever they are, there are many handsome flowers from other countries that will thrive in them as freely as in their native wastes.
The Tenth 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 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. Therefore the wild garden may do good work in bringing before the many who love gardens, but have fewer chances of seeing the Roses in their native haunts, the native grace of the well–loved Rose, which even in its obesity, and trained into the form of a mop, still charms us. The Rev. H. N. Ellacombe writes:
I have here a very large and thick Box bush, in the centre of which there has been for many years an Ayrshire Rose. The long branches covered with flowers, and resting on the deep green cushion, have a very beautiful effect. Other Roses may be used in the same way. The Musk Rose of Shakespeare and Bacon would be particularly well suited for this, and would climb up to a great height. Rosa scandens or sempervirens, Rosa multiflora, and perhaps some others, might be grown in the same way; and it would be worth while to experiment with other garden forms, such as Aimée Vibert, purple Boursault, etc. If grown against a tree of thin foliage, such as a Robinia, they would grow quicker and flower sooner; but this is not necessary, for even if grown near a thick–foliaged tree they will soon bring their branches to the outside for the light. But besides climbing Roses, there is another way in which Roses may be combined with trees to great advantage, viz. by planting some of the taller–growing bushes in rough grassy places. These would grow from 6 feet to 10 feet high, and would flower well in such a position. For such a purpose the old Dutch Apple Rose (Rosa villosa var. pomifera) would be very suitable, and so would R. cinnamomea, R. fraxinifolia, R. gallica, R. rubifolia, and the common monthly China. And if growers would rear the perpetual and other Roses by autumnal cuttings instead of by budding, they might have hundreds and thousands of fine Roses which would do well planted in the woods and plantations.
Another correspondent, Mr. Greenwood Pim, writes referring to the preceding note:
I have two large exotic Hawthorns—round–headed standards, growing close together, so that their edges touch, forming, as it were, two gentle hills with a valley between, and sloping down to within about 6 ft. of the lawn. Of these one is Cratægus Crus–galli; the other C. tanacetifolia. Behind, and partly through these, climbs a very old Noisette Rose—all that now remains of an arched trellis—producing a vast number of bunches of white flowers, six or eight together, and about 1½ in. or 2 in. across. The old gnarled stem of the Rose is scarcely noticeable amongst those of the Thorns till it reaches the top of them, whence it descends between the trees in a regular torrent of blossom, in addition to occupying the topmost boughs of the Cockspur Thorn. The general effect is almost that of a large patch of snow between two bright green hills—a combination very common in the higher districts of Switzerland. A smaller plant of the same Rose has recently been trained up a large Arbor–vitæ which, from moving, has lost its lower branches for some 4 ft. or 5 ft., and has its stem clothed with Ivy. It is now festooned with snowy flowers hanging down from and against the dark green of the Arbor–vitæ and Ivy, forming a charming contrast. It seems a great pity that we do not oftener thus wed one tree to another—a stout and strong to a slender and clinging one, as Virgil in the “Georgics” talks of wedding the Vine to the Elm, as is, I believe, done to this day in Italy.
“We have,” says a correspondent, “a pretty extensive collection of Roses, but one of the most attractive specimens on the place is an old double white Ayrshire Rose, growing in a group of common Laurel in the shrubberies. We cannot tell how old the plant may be, but it has probably been in its present situation for thirty years, struggling the best way it could to keep its place among the tall–growing Laurels, sometimes sending out a shoot of white flowers on this side and sometimes on that side of the clump of bushes, and sometimes scrambling up to the tops of the tallest limbs and draping them with its blossoms throughout June and July. Nearly three years ago we had the Laurels headed down to within six feet of the ground, leaving the straggling limbs of the Rose which were found amongst them, and since then it has grown and thriven amazingly, and now fairly threatens to gain the mastery. We had the curiosity to measure the plant the other day, and found it rather over seventy feet in circumference. Within this space the plant forms an irregular undulating mound, nearly in all parts so densely covered with Roses that not so much as a hand’s breadth is left vacant anywhere, and the Laurel branches are quite hidden, and in fact are now dying, smothered by the Rose. A finer example of luxuriant development we never saw. The plant has been a perfect sheet of bloom for a month or more, and there are thousands of buds yet to expand, and hundreds of bunches of buds have been cut just at the opening stage—when they are neater and whiter than a Gardenia—to send away. The tree has never received the least attention or assistance with the exception of the removal of the Laurel tops before mentioned, to let the light into it. It is growing in a tolerably deep and strong dry loam, and this, together with head room, seems to be all it requires. We record this example simply to show of what the Rose is capable without much cultural assistance. No doubt, in order to produce fine individual blooms certain restricted culture is necessary; but almost any variety of Rose will make a good–sized natural bush of itself, and as for the climbing or pillar Roses, the less they are touched the better. Of course we are not alluding to the Rosery proper, but of Roses in their more natural aspect, as when planted to hide fences, cover rockeries, or as striking objects on lawns. Except against walls, and in similar situations, there is no occasion to prune climbing Roses. Left to themselves, they make by far the grandest display, and to insure this it is only necessary to provide them with a good, deep, strong soil at the beginning, and to let them have a fair amount of light on all sides. Whether planting be carried out with the object above described, or for the purpose of covering naked tree stumps or limbs, or for draping any unsightly object whatever, liberal treatment in the first instance is the main thing. A good soil makes all the difference in time and in the permanent vigour of the tree, and were we desirous of having a great Rose tree (whether it be a common Ayrshire or a Gloire de Dijon, that we expected to produce thousands of blooms in a few years), we should, if the soil were not naturally strong and deep, provide a well–drained pit and fill it with two or three good cartloads of sound loam and manure; thus treated, the result is certain, provided an unrestricted growth be permitted.”
Roses on grass are a pleasant feature of the wild garden. No matter what the habit of the rose, provided it be free and hardy, and growing on its own roots, planting on the grass will suit it well. So treated, the more vigorous climbers would form thickets of flowers, and graceful vigorous shoots. They will do on level grass, and be still more picturesque on banks or slopes.
The following description, by Mr. E. Andre, of Roses in the Riviera is suggestive of what we may obtain in our own climate later, by using the free kinds on their own roots, or on stocks equally hardy and not less vigorous, as in the case of the Banksian Roses mentioned below:
On my last excursion from Marseilles to Genoa, I was greatly struck, as any one seeing them for the first time would be, with the magnificence of the Roses all along the Mediterranean shores. The Rose hedges, and the espalier Roses, especially, offer an indescribably gorgeous sight. Under the genial influence of the warm sun of Provence, from the Corniche to the extremity of the Riviera di Ponente, that is as far as the Gulf of Genoa, and protected to the north by the mountains, which gradually slope down to the sea–coast, Roses attain the size of Pæonies, and develop a depth and brilliancy of colour and fragrance of unusual intensity. But this is in part due to another cause, or rather two other causes, which lead to the same result, the main point being the choice of suitable subjects for stocks to graft upon. These stocks are, Rosa Banksiæ and Rosa indica major. The Banksian Rose presents three varieties, namely, White Banksian, producing a profusion of small white flowers, scarcely so large as those of the double–flowered Cherry, and of a most delicious fragrance; Yellow Banksian, with still larger clusters of small nankeen–yellow scentless flowers; Chinese Thorny Banksian, flowers less numerous and about three times as large as in the two preceding, and of the most grateful odour. These three forms attain an unsurpassable vigour in this region. In two years one plant will cover an immense wall, the gable of a house, or climb to the top of a tall tree, from which its branches hang like flowery cascades, embalming the air around with a rich perfume during the months of April and May. Now, if these be taken for stocks upon which to bud some of the choicer Teas, Noisettes, and Bourbons, the growth of the latter will be prodigious. The stock should be two years old, having well ripened, though still smooth, wood. In this way such varieties as Gloire de Dijon, Maréchal Niel, Lamarque, Safrano, Chromatella, Aimée Vibert, le Pactole, and all the Teas, attain such dimensions as to be no longer recognisable.
Rosa indica major is almost naturalised throughout the whole of this region. It possesses the additional claim to favour of flowering nearly all the winter, forming beautiful hedges of dark green shining foliage, from which thousands of clusters of lovely flowers rise, of a tender delicate transparent pink, or almost pure white, with a brighter tinge in the centre and at the tips of the petals. This Rose is an evergreen, and makes an excellent stock for grafting or budding. It is either planted in nursery beds, where it quickly throws up a stem suitable for standards in the same way as we employ the Dog Rose, or in hedges, and left to its naturally luxuriant growth to produce its own charming flowers in rich profusion, or rows of cuttings are put in where it is intended to leave them, and subsequently budded with some of the varieties of the diverse tribes we have named.
The Eleventh 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.
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. Indeed, many an alpine plant which may have perished in its place in the garden, would thrive on any old wall near at hand, as, for example, the pretty Pyrenean Erinus, the silvery Saxifrages of the Alps, pinks like the Cheddar Pink, established on the walls at Oxford, many Stonecrops and allied plants, the Aubrietia and Arabis.
A most interesting example of wall gardening is shown on the opposite page. In the gardens at Great Tew, in Oxfordshire, this exquisite little alpine plant, which usually roots over the moist surface of stones, established itself high up on a wall in a small recess, where half a brick had been displaced. The illustration tells the rest. It is suggestive, as so many things are, of the numerous plants that may be grown on walls and such unpromising surfaces.
A mossy old wall, or an old ruin, would afford a position for many rock–plants which no specially prepared situation could rival; but even on well–preserved walls we can establish some little beauties, which year after year will abundantly repay for the slight trouble of planting or sowing them. Those who have observed how dwarf plants grow on the tops of mountains, or on elevated stony ground, must have seen in what unpromising positions many flourish in perfect health—fine tufts sometimes springing from an almost imperceptible chink in an arid rock or boulder. They are often stunted and diminutive in such places, but always more long–lived than when grown vigorously upon the ground. Now, numbers of alpine plants perish if planted in the ordinary soil of our gardens, and many do so where much pains is taken to attend to their wants. This results from over–moisture at the root in winter, the plant being rendered more susceptible of injury by our moist green winters inducing it to make a lingering growth. But it is interesting and useful to know that, by placing many of these delicate plants where their roots can secure a comparatively dry and well–drained medium, they remain in perfect health. Many plants from latitudes a little farther south than our own, and from alpine regions, may find on walls, rocks, and ruins, that dwarf, ripe, sturdy growth, stony firmness of root medium, and dryness in winter, which go to form the very conditions that will grow them in a climate entirely different from their own.
In many parts of the country it may be said with truth that opportunities for this phase of gardening do not exist; but in various districts, such as the Wye and other valleys, there are miles of rock and rough wall–surface, where the scattering of a few pinches of Arabis, Aubrietia, Erinus, Acanthus, Saxifrage, Violas, Stonecrops, and Houseleeks, would give rise to a garden of rock blossoms that would need no care from the gardener. Growing such splendid alpine plants as the true Saxifraga longifolia of the Pyrenees on the straight surface of a wall is quite practicable. I have seen the rarest and largest of the silvery section grown well on the face of a dry wall: therefore there need be no doubt as to growing the more common and hardy kinds.
A few seeds of the Cheddar Pink, for example, sown in a mossy or earthy chink, or even covered with a dust of fine soil, would soon take root, living for years in a dwarf and perfectly healthful state. The seedling roots vigorously into the chinks, and gets a hold which it rarely relaxes. A list of many of the plants which will grow on walls will be found among the selections near the end of the book.
Here is one of the earliest, and probably one of the largest wild gardens existing, and which, visiting it on the 27th May, I found full of novel charms. No old–fashioned garden yields its beauty so early in the year, or over a more prolonged season, than the wild garden, as there is abundant evidence here; but our impressions shall be those of the day only.
Two ideas should be fixed in the mind of the improver, the one being to allow all the beautiful shrubs to assume their natural shapes, either singly or in groups, with sufficient space between to allow of their fair development, so that the shrubbery might, in the flowering season, or indeed at all seasons, be the best kind of conservatory—a beautiful winter garden even, with the branches of most of the shrubs touching the ground, no mutilation whatever visible, and no hard dug line outside the shrubs.
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.