The Twelfth 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.

Japan Sedum and Autumn Crocuses

In addition to Longleat, and other cases previously mentioned, a few of the results obtained, where the system was tried, and so far as known to me, may not be without interest. How much a wild garden intelligently and tastefully carried out may effect for a country seat is fairly well shown in a garden in Oxfordshire. 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. It may serve to throw light on the possibilities of garden embellishment in one way at a season when there is a great blank in many gardens—the time of “bedding out.” The maker of this had no favourable or inviting site with which to deal; no great variety of surface, which makes attempts in this direction so much easier and happier; no variety of soil, which might enable plants of widely different natural habitats to be grown; only a neglected plantation, with rather a poor gravelly soil and a gentle slope in one part, and little variety of surface beyond a few gravel banks thrown up long before. The garden is, for the most part, arranged on each side of a Grass drive among rather open ground, few trees on the one hand and rather shady ground on the other. The most beautiful aspect at the end of May of a singularly ungenial spring, which had not allowed the Pæonies to unfold, was that of the German Irises, with their great Orchid–like blossoms seen everywhere through the wood, clear above the Grass and other herbage, stately and noble flowers that, like the Daffodils, fear no weather, yet with rich and delicate hues that could not be surpassed by tropical flowers. If this wild garden only should teach this effective way of using the various beautiful and vigorous kinds of Iris now included in our garden flora, it would do good service. The Irises are perfectly at home in the wood and among the Grass and wild flowers. By–and–by, when they go out of flower, they will not be in the way as in a “mixed border,” tempting one to remove them, but grow and rest quietly among the grass until the varied blossoms of another year again repay the trouble of substituting these noble hardy flowers for some of the familiar weeds and wild plants that inhabit our plantations.

Crane’s Bill Wild in Grass

In the wild garden the fairest of our own wild flowers may be happily associated with their relatives from other countries. Here the sturdy Bell–flowered Scilla (S. campanulata) grows wild with our own Bluebell (S. nutans); the white and pink forms also of the last–named look beautiful here associated with the common well–known form. The earlier Scillas are of course past; they are admirably suited for the wild garden, especially S. bifolia, which thrives freely in woods. The Lily of the Valley did not inhabit the wood before; therefore it was pleasant to thin out some of its over–matted tufts and carry them to the wild garden, where they are now in fullest beauty. It is associated with its tall and stately relation the Solomon’s Seal. The Solomon’s Seal, which is usually effective when issuing forth from fringes of shrubberies, is here best arching high over the Woodruff and other sweet woodland flowers, among which it seems a giant, with every leaf, and stem, and blossom lines of beauty. The additional vigour and beauty shown by this plant when in rich soil well repays one for selecting suitable spots for it. The greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus) and its double form are very pretty here with their tufts of golden flowers; they grow freely and take all needful care of themselves. The same may be said of the Honesty, the common forms of Columbine, and Allium Moly, an old–fashioned plant, and one of the many subjects at home in the wild garden, and which are better left out of the garden proper. The myriads of Crocus leaves dying off without the indignity of being tied into bundles as is common in gardens, the dense growth of Aconite and Snowdrop leaves, of coloured and common Primroses and Cowslips, suggest the beauty of this wild garden in spring. The yet unfolded buds on the many tufts and groups of the numerous herbaceous Pæonies, promise noble effects early in June; so do the tufts of the splendid Eastern Poppy (Papaver orientale) and the Lilies, and Sweet Williams, and Adam’s Needles, and many other subjects, that will show their blossoms above or among the summer Grass in due time. Among the best of the Borageworts here at present, are the Caucasian Comfrey (Symphytum caucasicum), an admirable wood or copse plant, and red–purple or Bohemian Comfrey (S. bohemicum), which is very handsome here. And what lovely effects from the Forget–me–nots—the wood Forget–me–not, and the Early Forget–me–not (M. dissitiflora) are here! where their soft little clouds of blue in the Grass are much prettier than tufts of the same kind surrounded by the brown earth in a prim border. Here the pushing of the delicate Grass blades through the blue mass and the indefinite way in which the fringes of the tufts mingle with the surrounding vegetation are very beautiful.

Large–Leafed Saxifrage

The only noticeable variation of surface is that of some gravel banks, which are properly covered with Stonecrops, Saxifrages, and the like, which would, as a rule, have a poor chance in the Grass. Surfaces that naturally support a very sparse and dwarf vegetation are valuable in a garden, as they permit of the culture of a series of free–growing alpine androck plants that would not be able to hold their own among Grass and ordinary weeds and wild flowers. One of the happiest features of this wild garden results from the way in which dead trees have been adorned. Once dead, some of the smaller branches are lopped off, and one or more climbers planted at the base of the tree. Here a Clematis, a climbing Rose, a new kind of Ivy, a wild Vine, or a Virginian Creeper, have all they require, a firm support on which they may arrange themselves after their own natural habit, without being mutilated, or without trouble to the planter, and fresh ground free to themselves. What an admirable way, too, of growing the many and varied species of Clematis! as beautiful as varieties with flowers as large as saucers. Even when an old tree falls and tosses up a mass of soil and roots the wild gardener is ready with some subject from his mixed border to adorn the projection, and he may allow some choice Bramble or wild Vine to scramble over the prostrate stem. A collection of Ivies grown on old tree–stems would be much more satisfactory than on a wall, and not liable to robe each other at the roots, and interfere with each other in the air. Ferns are at home in the wild garden; all the strong hardy kinds may be grown in it, and look better in it among the flowers than in the “hardy Fernery” properly so called. Even more graceful than the Ferns, and in some cases more useful, because they send up their plume–like leaves very early in the year, are the giant Fennels (Ferula), which grow well here, and hold their own easily among the strongest plants. The common Fennel is also here, but it seeds so freely that it becomes a troublesome weed, and shows a tendency to overrun plants of greater value. This reminds us of certain subjects that should be introduced with caution into all but the remotest parts of the wild garden. Such plants as Heracleum, Willow Herb, and many others, that overcome all obstacles, and not only win but destroy all their fellows in the struggle for life, should only be planted in outlying positions, islands, hedges, small bits of isolated wood or copse, where their effects might be visible for a season, and where they might ramble without destroying. In short, they never should be planted where it is desired to encourage a variety of beautiful subjects. Rabbits—dreaded vermin to the wild gardener—are kept out here effectually by means of wire fencing. The presence of these pests prevents all success in the wild garden. The encouragement of creatures that feed on slugs is desirable, as these are the most potent cause of mischief to hardy flowers. To succeed with the wild garden, one should have a good collection of hardy flowers from which it can be supplied. Here one has been formed, consisting of about 1100 species, mostly arranged in borders. From these, from time to time, over–vigorous and over–abundant kinds may be taken to the wilderness. In a large collection one frequently finds species most suited for full liberty in woods. The many subjects good in all positions, may increase in these borders till plentiful enough for planting out in some quantity in the wild garden. The wild garden here has been wholly formed by the owner, who planted with his own hands the various subjects that now adorn it throughout the year. It has been done within four or five years, and therefore many of the climbers have not as yet attained full growth.

Tew Park will long be interesting, from the fact that it was there J. C. Loudon practised agriculture before he began writing the works which were such a marked addition to the horticultural literature of England. The Grove there is a plantation of fine trees, bordering a wide sweep of grass, which varies in width. This grove, unlike much of the rest of the ground, does not vary in surface, or but very little, so that one of the greatest aids is absent. Originally this now pleasant grove was a dense wood, with Gout–weed mainly on the ground, and troublesome flies in the air. A few years ago the formation of a wild garden was determined upon, and the first operation was the thinning of the wood; light and moving air were let into it, and weak or overcrowded trees removed. This, so far, was a gain, quite apart from the flowers that were in good time to replace the few common weeds that occupied the ground. Of these the unattractive Gout–weed was the most abundant, and the first thing to do was to dig it up. It was found that by deeply digging the ground, and sowing the wood Forget–me–not in its place, this weed disappeared. Who would not exchange foul weeds for Lilies of the Valley and Wood Forget–me–nots! The effect of broad sheets of this Wood Forget–me–not (Myosotis sylvatica) beyond, and seen above the long waving Grass gradually receding under the trees, was very beautiful; now (June) its beauty is not so marked as earlier, when the colour was fuller, from the plants being more compact; but one charm of the wild garden is that the very changes of plants from what may be thought their most perfect state, may be in itself the source of a new pleasure instead of a warning, such as so often occurs in the garden, that we must cut them down or replace them.

Tiger Lilies at Great Tew

Not to mow is almost a necessity in the wild garden: considering that there is frequently in large gardens much more mown surface than is necessary, many will not regret this need. Here the Grass is designedly left unmown in many places, and thereby much labour is saved. Of course it may be cut when ripe, and most of the spring flowers have past and their leaves are out of danger; even in parts where no flowers are planted the Grass is left till long enough to cut as meadow. Except where actually required as a carpet, Grass may often be allowed to grow even in the pleasure ground; quite as good an effect is afforded by the unmown as the mown Grass—indeed, better when the long Grass is full of flowers. Three–fourths of the most lovely flowers of cold and temperate regions are companions of the Grass—like Grasses in hardiness, like Grasses in summer life and winter rest, like them even in stature. Whatever plants may seem best to associate with in gardens, an immense number—more than two thousand species of those now cultivated—would thrive to perfection among our meadow Grasses, as they do on the Grassy breast of the mountain in many lands. Some, like the tall Irises or Columbines, will show their heads clear above the delicate bloom of the Grass; others, like the Cerastiums, will open their cups below it, in this way multiplying the variety of effects that may be obtained. The varieties of Columbine in the Grass were perhaps the prettiest flowers at the time of my visit. The white, purplish, and delicately–variegated forms of this charming old plant, just seen above the tops of the long Grass, growing singly, in little groups, or in spreading colonies, were sufficient in themselves to form a wild garden for June. Established among the Grass, they will henceforward, like it, take care of themselves. The rosy, heart–shaped blooms of the Dielytra spectabilis are recognised at some distance through the Grass, and, so grown, furnish a bright and peculiarly pretty effect. Tree Pæonies succeed admirably, and their great heads of flower quite light up this charming wilderness. Plants of the Goat’s Beard Spiræa (S. Aruncus) are very stately and graceful, even now, before their flowering, being quite 6 ft. high. In a few weeks, when the numerous flowers are open, they will present quite another aspect. In the wild garden, apart from the naturalisation of free–growing exotics, the establishment of rare British flowers is one of the most interesting occupations; and here, under a Pine tree, the modest, trailing Linnæa borealis of the northern Fir–woods is beginning to spread. The Foxglove was not originally found in the neighbourhood; now the ordinary kind and the various other forms of this fine wild flower adorn the woods. In this way also the Lily of the Valley has been introduced and is spreading rapidly. Many climbing Roses and various other climbers have been planted at the bases of trees and stumps, but, though thriving, the plantation is as yet too young to show the good effect that these will eventually produce. There is no finer picture at present to be seen in gardens than a free–growing flowering creeper, enjoying its own wild way over an old tree or stump, and sending down a rain of flower–laden shoots. A Clematis montana here, originally trained on a wall, sent up some of its shoots through a tree close at hand, where, fortunately, they have been allowed to remain, and now the long shoots hang from the tree full of flowers. The large plumes of the nobler hardy Ferns are seen here and there through the trees and Grass, and well they look—better here among the Grass and flowers, partially shaded by trees, than in the hardy Fernery, which is so often a failure, and when a success, often “too much of a muchness,” so to say. The wild garden of the future will be also the true home of all the more important hardy Ferns. The rivals of the Ferns in beauty of foliage, the Ferulas, and various other umbelliferous plants with beautifully cut foliage, have also their homes in the wild garden. The Welsh Poppy thrives, as might be expected, admirably in the grove, its rich yellow cups just showing above the meadow.

Large–Flowered Clematis

In another part of the grounds there is a raised walk quite away from trees, open and dry, with sloping banks on each side. This may be called a sun–walk, and here quite a different type of vegetation is grown; Scotch Roses, Brooms, Sun Roses, Rock Roses, etc. It is quite recently formed, and will probably soon accommodate a more numerous and interesting flora. Such an open sunny walk, with dry banks near, is a capital position in which to carry out various phases of the wild garden. Peculiarly suitable, however, in such a position is a good illustration of the vegetation of the hot, rocky, and gravelly hill–sides of the Mediterranean region, and this is quite easily represented, for the various leguminous plants and dwarf Pea–flowered shrubs, such as the Spanish Broom, many of the beautiful Rock Roses (Cistus), the Sun Roses (Helianthemum), and the Lavenders, will, with a host of companions, for the most part thrive quite as well on a sunny sandy bank in England as in Italy or Greece. In the wild garden it is easy to arrange aspects of vegetation having a geographical interest, and a portion of such a sunny bank as I allude to might be worthily furnished with the various aromatic plants (nearly all hardy) which one meets with on the wild hill–sides of Southern France, and which include Thyme, Balm, Mint, Rosemary, Lavender, and various other old garden favourites.

True taste in the garden is unhappily much rarer than many people suppose. No amount of expense, rich collections, good cultivation, large gardens, and plenty of glass, will suffice; all these and much more it is not difficult to see, but a few acres of garden showing a real love of the beautiful in Nature, as it can be illustrated in gardens, is rare, and when it is seen it is often rather the result of accident than design. This is partly owing to the fact that the kind of knowledge one wants in order to form a really beautiful garden is very uncommon. No man can do so with few materials. It is necessary to have some knowledge of the enormous wealth of beauty which the world contains for the adornment of gardens; and yet this knowledge must not have a leaning, or but very partially, towards the Dryasdust character. The disposition to “dry” and name everything, to concern oneself entirely with nomenclature and classification, is not in accordance with a true gardening spirit—it is the life we want. The garden of the late Mr. Hewittson, at Weybridge, contained some of the most delightful bits of garden scenery which I have ever seen. Below the house, on the slope over the water of Oatlands Park, and below the usual lawn beds, trees, etc., there is a piece of heathy ground which, when we saw it, was charming beyond any power of the pencil to show. The ground was partially clad with common Heaths with little irregular green paths through them, and abundantly naturalised in the warm sandy soil were the Sun Roses, which are shown in the foreground of the plate. Here and there among the Heaths, creeping about in a perfectly natural–looking fashion, too, was the Gentian blue Gromwell (Lithospermum prostratum), with other hardy plants suited to the situation. Among these naturalised groups were the large Evening Primroses and Alstrœmeria aurea, the whole being well relieved by bold bushes of flowering shrubs, so tastefully grouped and arranged as not to show a trace of formality. Such plants as these are not set out singly and without preparation, but carefully planted in beds of such naturally irregular outline, that when the plants become established they seem native children of the soil, as much as the Bracken and Heath around. It is remarkable how all this is done without in the least detracting from the most perfect order and keeping. Closely–shaven glades and wide Grass belts wind about among such objects, while all trees that require special care and attention show by their health and size that they find all they require in this beautiful garden. It is more free from needless or offensive geometrical–twirling, barren expanse of gravelled surface, and all kinds of puerilities—old–fashioned and new–fangled—than any garden I have seen for years.

Sun Roses

The following, from a correspondent, shows what may be done with few advantages as to space or situation:—

We have a dell with a small stream of spring water running through it. When I first came to Brockhurst I found this stream carried underground by a tile culvert, and the valley sides covered with Rhododendrons, the soil between carefully raked and kept free from weeds, so that it was only during springtime that flowers relieved the sombre effect of this primness. After five years this has all been changed into what I think you would call a wild garden, and we have cheerfulness and beauty all the year round.

Wood and Herbaceous Meadow–Sweets

In the first place the brooklet was brought to the surface, and its course fringed with marsh plants, such as Marsh Marigolds, Forget–me–nots, Celandines, Irises, Primroses, and Ranunculuses, together with Osmundas, Hart’s–tongues, and other Ferns. Many large–growing Carexes and ornamental Rushes are also here. Little flats were formed and filled with peat, in which Cypripediums, Trilliums, Orchises, Solomon’s Seal, and many rare bog plants find a home. In the valley we have planted bulbs by thousands—Crocuses, Snowdrops, Daffodils, Narcissi, etc. The Rhododendrons were thinned and interspersed with Azaleas, Aucubas, and other handsome–foliaged shrubs, to give brightness to the spring flowering, and rich colour to the foliage in autumn. In the spaces between we introduced wild Hyacinths everywhere, and in patches amongst these the Red Campion, together with every other pretty wild flower we could obtain—Forget–me–nots, Globe–flowers, Columbines, Anemones, Primroses, Cowslips, Polyanthuses, Campanulas, Golden Rods, etc. All the bulbs which have bloomed in the greenhouses are planted out in these spaces, so that there are now large clumps of choice sorts of Crocus, Tulip, Narcissus, and Hyacinth. We have also planted bulbs very extensively, and as they have been allowed to grow on undisturbed we have now large patches of Daffodils, Narcissi, and other spring flowers in great beauty and exuberance. When we trim the garden all the spare plants are brought here, where they form a reserve, and it is thus gradually getting stocked, and all the bare ground covered with foliage and flowers. Lastly, for autumn blooming we raised large quantities of Foxgloves in every colour, and the larger Campanulas, and these were pricked out everywhere, so that we have a glorious show of Foxglove flowers to close the year worth all the trouble. A wild garden of this sort is a very useful reserve ground, where many a plant survives after it has been lost in the borders. Such spare seedlings as the Aquilegias, Campanulas, Primulas, Trolliuses, and other hardy plants can here find space until wanted elsewhere, and one can frequently find blooms for bouquets in the dell when the garden flowers are over. The Lily of the Valley and Sweet Violet also flourish here, creeping over heaps of stones, and flower more freely than they do in more open situations. Visitors often say that the dell beats all the rest of the garden for beauty, and it certainly gives less trouble in the attainment.

Brockhurst, Didsbury.

Wm. Brockbank.

The Thirteenth 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.

In the winter season, or indeed at any other season, one of the most melancholy things to be seen in our parks and gardens are the long, bare, naked shrubberies, extending, as along the Bayswater Road, more or less for a mile in a place; the soil greasy, black, seamed with the mutilated roots of the poor shrubs and trees; which are none the better, but very much the worse, for the cruel annual attention of digging up their young roots without returning any adequate nourishment or good to the soil. Culturally, the whole thing is suicidal, both for trees and plants. The mere fact of men having to pass through one of those shrubberies every autumn, and, as they fancy, “prune” and otherwise attend to unfortunate shrubs and low trees, leads to this, and especially to the shrubs taking the appearance of inverted besoms. Thus a double wrong is done, and at great waste of labour. Any interesting life that might be in the ground is destroyed, and the whole appearance of the shrubbery is made hideous from the point of view of art; all good culture of flowering or evergreen shrubs destroyed or made impossible. This system is an orthodox one, that has descended to us from other days, the popular idea being that the right thing to do in autumn is to dig the shrubbery. The total abolition of this system, and the adoption of the one to be presently described, would lead to the happiest revolution ever effected in gardening, and be a perfectly easy, practicable means for the abolition of the inverted besoms, and the choke–muddle shrubbery, and these awful wastes of black soil and mutilated roots.

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. This last improvement could easily be effected by forming a natural fringe, so to say, by breaking up the usual hard edge from good planting; by letting, in fact, the edge be formed by well–furnished shrubs projected beyond the hard line, and running in and out as they do on a hill copse, or as the box bushes sometimes do on a Sussex down. Here care, variety in selection, taste and skill in grouping, so as to allow different subjects, whether placed singly or in groups, or little groves, being in a position where they may grow well and be seen to advantage, would lead to the most charming results in the open–air garden. With sufficient preparation at first, such shrubberies would be the cause of very little trouble afterwards.

Now, such beauty could be obtained without any further aid from other plants; and in many cases it might be desirable to consider the trees and shrubs and their effect only, and let the turf spread in among them; but we have the privilege of adding to this beautiful tree and shrub life another world of beauty—the bulbs and herbaceous plants, and innumerable beautiful things which go to form the ground flora, so to say, of northern and temperate countries, and which light up the world with loveliness in meadow or copse, or wood or alpine pasture in the flowering season. The surface which is dug and wasted in all our parks, and in numbers of our gardens, should be occupied with this varied life; not in the miserable old mixed border fashion, with each plant stuck up with a stick, but with the plants in groups and colonies between the shrubs. In the spaces where turf would not thrive, or where it might be troublesome to keep fresh, we should have irises, or narcissi, or lupines, or French willows, or Japan anemones, or any of scores of other lovely things which people cannot now find a place for in our stiff gardens. The soil which now does little work, and in which the tree–roots every year are mercilessly dug up, would support myriads of lovely plants. The necessity of allowing abundant space to the shrubs and trees, both in the young and the adult stage, gives us some space to deal with, which may be occupied with weeds if we do not take care of it. The remedy, then, is to replace the weed by a beautiful flower, and to let some handsome hardy plant of the northern world occupy each little space; keeping it clean for us, and, at the same time, repaying us by abundant bloom, or fine foliage or habit. This system in the first place allows the shrubs themselves to cover the ground to a great extent. In the London parks now every shrub is cut under so as to allow the digger to get near it; and this leads to the most comical and villainous of shapes ever assumed by bushes. Even the lilac bushes, which we see so horribly stiff, will cover the ground with their branches if allowed room enough; therefore, to a great extent, we should have the branches themselves covering the ground instead of what we now see. But open spaces, little bays and avenues running in among the shrubs, are absolutely essential, if we want to fully enjoy what ought to be the beautiful inhabitants of our shrub garden. Such openings offer delightful retreats for hardy flowers, many of which thrive better in semi–shady spots than they do in the open, while the effect of the flowers is immeasurably enhanced by the foliage of the shrubs around. To carry out this plan well, one should have, if possible, a good selection of the shrubs to begin with, although the plainest shrubbery, which is not overgrown or overcrowded, may be embellished with hardy plants on the ground. The plan may be adopted in the case of new shrubberies being formed, or in the case of old ones; though the old ones are frequently so dried up and overcrowded that great alterations would have to be made here and there. In the case of young shrubberies it is, of course, necessary at first to keep the surface open for a while until the shrubs have taken hold of the ground; then the interesting colonies to which we alluded may be planted.

Colony of the Snowdrop–Anemone

An essential thing is to abolish utterly the old dotting principle of the mixed border, as always ugly and always bad from a cultural point of view. Instead of sticking a number of things in one place, with many labels, and graduating them from the back to the front, so as to secure the stiffest imaginable kind of arrangement, the true way is to have in each space wide colonies or groups of one kind, or more than one kind. Here is a little bay, for example, with the turf running into it, a handsome holly feathered to the turf forming one promontory, and a spreading evergreen barberry, with its fine leaves also touching the ground, forming the other. As the turf passes in between those two it begins to be colonised with little groups of the pheasant’s–eye Narcissus, and soon in the grass is changed into a waving meadow of these fair flowers and their long grayish leaves. They carry the eye in among the other shrubs, and perhaps carry it to some other colony of a totally different plant behind—an early and beautiful boragewort, say, with its bright blue flowers, also in a spreading colony. Some might say, Your flowers of narcissi only last a certain time; how are you going to replace them? The answer is, that they occupy, and beautifully embellish, a place that before was wholly naked, and worse than naked, and in this position we contend that our narcissi should be seen in all their stages of bud and bloom and decay without being hurried out of the world as soon as their fair bloom is over, as they are on the border or in the greenhouse. They are worth growing if we only secure this one beautiful aspect of vegetation where before all was worse than lost. We also secure plenty of cut flowers without troubling the ordinary resources of the garden.

We might then pass on to another, of the German iris, occupying not only a patch, but a whole clump; for these enormous London parks of ours have acres and acres on every side of this greasy dug earth which ought to sparkle with flowers; and, therefore, a very fine plant might be seen to a large extent. And how much better for the gardener or cultivator to have to deal with one in one place than be tormented with a hundred little “dots” of flowers—alpine, rock, wood, copse, or meadow plants—all mixed up in that usually wretched soup called the “mixed border”! No plants that require staking ought to be used in the way we are speaking of. Day lilies, for example, are good plants. In some bold opening what a fine effect we could get by having a spreading colony of these therein; scores of plants might be named, that want no sticking, for such places. Each plant having a sufficient space and forming its own colony, there is much less doubt in case of alterations as to what should be done. In fact, in the case of an intelligent cultivator, there should be no doubt. Observe the advantage of this plan. Instead of seeing the same plants everywhere, we should pass on from narcissi to iris, from iris to bluebell, and thus meet with a different kind of vegetation in each part of the park or garden, instead of the eternal monotony of privet and long dreary line of “golden–feather” everywhere. The same kind of variety, as suggested for the flowers, should be seen among the shrubs. The sad planter’s mixture—privet, laurel, etc.—taking all the colour and all the life and charm out of the shrubbery, should be avoided; so, too, the oppressive botanical business, with everything labelled, and plants classified out of doors as they are in an herbarium. They should be put where they would look well and grow best. Well carried out, such a system would involve labour, and, above all things, taste at first; but it would eventually resolve itself into the judicious removal of interloping weeds. The labour that is now given to dig and mutilate once a year and keep clean at other times of the year would easily, on the plan proposed, suffice for a much larger area. More intelligence would certainly be required. Any ignorant man can dig around and mutilate a shrub and chop up a white lily if he meets it! But any person taught to distinguish between our coarse native weeds and the beautiful plants we want to establish, passing round now and then, would keep all safe.

Colony of the Summer Snowflake

On a large scale, in the London parks, such a plan would be impossible to carry out without a nursery garden; that is to say, the things wanted should be in such abundance, that making the features of the kind we suggest would be easy to the superintendent. The acres and acres of black surface should themselves afford here and there a little ground where the many hardy plants adapted for this kind of gardening might be placed and increased. This, supposing that a real want of the public gardens of London—a large and well–managed nursery in the pure air—is never carried out: the wastefulness of buying everything they want—even the commonest things—is a costly drawback to our London public gardens. At the very least we should have 100 acres of nursery gardens for the planting and replanting of the London parks. So, too, there ought to be intelligent labour to carry out this artistic planting; and with the now–awakened taste for some variety in the garden, one cannot doubt that a few years will give us a race of intelligent young men, who know a little of the plants that grow in northern countries, and whose mental vision is not begun and ended by the ribbon border.

The treatment of the margin of the shrubbery is a very important point here. At present it is stiff—the shrubs cut in or the trees cut in, and an unsightly border running straight along, perhaps with a tile edging. Well, the right way is to have a broken margin, to let the shrubs run in and out themselves, and let them form the margin; let them come to the ground in fact, not stiffly, and here and there growing right outside the ordinary boundary, in a little group. Throw away altogether the crowded masses of starved privet and pruned laurel, and let the turf pass right under a group of fine trees where such are found. This turf itself might be dotted in spring with snowdrops and early flowers; nothing, in fact, would be easier than for any intelligent person, who knew and cared for trees and shrubs, to change the monotonous wall of shrubbery into the most delightful of open–air gardens; abounding in beautiful life, from the red tassels on the topmost maples to flowers in the grass for children.

The Fourteenth of Chapters--

The sources of supply are these nurseries; seed houses, who have lists of hardy plant seeds—many kinds may be easily raised from seed; botanic gardens, in which many plants are grown that hitherto have not found a place in our gardens, and were not fitted for any mode of culture except that herein suggested; orchards and cottage gardens in pleasant country places may supply desirable things from time to time; and those who travel may bring seeds or roots of plants they meet with in cool, temperate, or mountain regions.


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.