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"O Spring, I know thee! Seek for sweet surprise
In the young children's eyes.
But I have learnt the years, and know the yet
Leaf-folded violet.
                                                      
In these young days you meditate your part;
I have it all by heart."

  "In Early Spring," ALICE MEYNELL.

 

VI
COLOR HARMONIES IN THE SPRING GARDEN

IN these words, Spring Flowers, there is very music. There is a delicious harmony in all of Nature's colors, and particularly in the colors of all native spring flowers, as they appear with each other in their own environment. If any one doubts what I say, let him look at such pictures as are found in Flemwell's "Flowers of the Alpine Valleys"; let take up Mrs. Allingham's "Happy England"; or let him in May wander in the nearest woodlot and see a lovely tapestry of pale color woven of the pink of spring beauties, the delicate lavenders of hepatica, and the faint yellow of the dogtooth violet thousands (If tiny blooms crowding each other for space, but all very good.

Perhaps, next to the snowdrop, crocus is the earliest of the cultivated bulbs to bloom in our wintry region. The matter of color mixtures here comes to the fore. I admit this to be a question of personal taste; but it is one on which discussion should be agreeable and fruitful. It happens that I object to a mixture of colors in crocus, or, for that matter, in anything. Not long ago a well-known landscape gardener, a woman, remarked that a border of mixed Darwin tulips was one of the most successful of her many plantings. In such a hand, I am sure this was so. If such planting were done exactly as it should be, with sufficient boldness, a sure knowledge of what was wanted, and great variety of colors and tones of those colors, the result would surely show a tapestry again thrown along the earth a tapestry grander in conception and more glorious in kind than the one woven of the tiny blossoms mentioned above. But with the average gardener a mixture, so called, is a thing of danger. What more hopeless than a timid one! "Be bold, be bold, but not too bold" Spenserian advice holds/here.

To return to crocus. Awhile ago, in the borders of this small Michigan place of ours, there was in one place a most lovely carpet of colonies of pale-lavender crocus Maximilian, with grape hyacinth (Muscari asureum) running in and out in peninsulas, bays, and islands. Tall white crocus Reine Blanche, in large numbers, was near by, its translucent petals shining in the sun beyond its more delicately colored neighbors.

I believe I have before expatiated in these pages on the great beauty of Crocus purpurea, var. grandiflora, carpeting large spaces of bare ground beneath shrubbery, principally used in connection with great sheets of Scala Sibirica, which blooms so very little later than the crocus as to make the two practically simultaneous. These, in order to get a telling effect, should be planted by the thousands, and this, I beg to assure the reader, is a less serious financial observation than it sounds!

Hepatica that year bloomed with Iris reticulata. As an experiment I arranged the following spring some groups of this smart little iris, with hepatica plants threading their way among the grasslike leaves of the iris, and near by a few hundreds of Muscari azureum. The cool, delicate pinks of the hepatica were in most lovely accord with the rich violet of the iris, yet affording a striking contrast in form and a full octave apart in depth and height of tone. Is there a valid objection to thus using imported and native plants side by side? I know Ruskin would have hated it, but the great mid-Victorian man probably never had a chance to see the thing well done. You recall what he wrote of English flower gardens:

"A flower garden is an ugly thing, even when best managed; it is an assembly of unfortunate beings, pampered and bloated above their natural size; stewed and heated into diseased growth; corrupted by evil communication into speckled and inharmonious colors; torn from the soil which they loved, and of which they were the spirit and the glory, to glare away their term of tormented life among the mixed and incongruous essences of each other, in earth that they know not, and in air that is poison to them."

I should like to bring Mr. Ruskin back to life again, show him some color achievements in flower gardening in England and America to-day, and hear him say, "A new order reigneth."

But back to the crocus! Where drifts of Crocus purpureus, var. grandiflorus, were blooming under leafless Japanese quince, blooming quite by themselves, a fine show of color of the same order was had, really only a transition from one key to another, by flinging along the ground, planting where they fell, heavy bulbs of hyacinth Lord Derby. The full trusses of this superb flower made the most lovely companions for the justabout-to-fade crocus. How can I adequately describe the color of Lord Derby! Never, no never, in the words of one of the Dutch growers, who calmly says, "Porcelain blue, back heavenly blue." May I venture to ask the reader what impression these words convey to him? To me they are as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. They mean nothing. From my own observation of the hyacinth, I should say that its blue, in the early stages of development, has a certain iridescent quality which makes it uncommonly interesting, almost dazzling when seen beyond the green of the fresh grass of May; and in full bloom it shines out with a half-deep tone of purplish blue. Crocus purpureus, var. grandiflorus, blooms with this hyacinth; the two tones of purple are distinct from each other and extremely interesting together.

Is, or is not, Puschkinia little known? How distinct it is from most of the smaller spring things, and how lovely in itself with its tiny bluish-white bells, pencilled with another deeper tone of blue! And so rewarding, coming up valiantly year after year, without encouragement of the compost or replanting! A little colony of it is here shown (page 80) very badly because rather too tightly planted. Puschkinia could be associated with Iris reticulata most beautifully; or its slender bluish bells would be delightful growing near Tulip Kaufmanniana. The bloom of all these bulbous things may be quite confidently expected at the same time.

 


PUSCHKINIA BELOW SHRUBS
 

TULIP KAUFMANNIANA IN BORDER

 Another illustration shows practically nothing but crowds of the fine white crocus Reine Blanche, grown as naturally as possible below Pyrus Japonica. Here they dwell calmly and seem to sleep year after year, except for the time when. they show their shining faces to the sun of April. The most dreaded enemy of the crocus, to my mind, is a wet snow. The petals, once soaked and weighted, never recover their beautiful texture, and when, one fatal April, as my note-book shows, our hectic climate brought in one hour upon these charming but tender flowers rain, hail, and snow, the wreckage may be left to the imagination of the tender-hearted.

Nothing, to my thinking, can exceed for beauty the picture made by the majestic Tulipa Vitellina, with its beautifully held cups of palest lemon color, when supported by the lavender trusses of Phlox divaricata and the stems of that, in turn, almost hidden by the fine Phlox subulata, var. lilacina. Long reaches of these three flowers happily planted, or a tiny corner against shrubbery it matters not one whit which "and then my heart with pleasure fills!" What a wonderful thing to see below the glowing buds and blossoms of the Japanese quince clusters of tulip La Merveille or but not and tulip Couleur Cardinal. La Merveille, with its tremendously telling orange-red hues, puts dash into the picture; Couleur Cardinal, sombreness, richness. No one could think for one moment of allowing these tulips to appear near each other. Crocus and early-flowering things below and among the shrubs, to bloom when the quince is leafless; tulips toward the grass, to show when tiny points of green and the red quince blossoms make a fiery mist above them.

The lucky householder or gardener who has sometime placed a group of the glorious shrub, Mahonia, on his ground, may like a planting which has seemed good to me against the shining dark-green of its low branches. Narcissus poetaz, var. Elvira, to bloom with the lavender hyacinth Lord Derby or Holbein; with the gay tulip Vermilion Brilliant near by, and some groups or colonies of tulip Couleur Cardinal associated with these. The fine Darwin tulip Fanny, used with masses of Phlox divaricata and Phlox subulata, var. lilacina, below it, is a marvel of color. Mr. Hunt's description of Fanny I give: "Clear, rosy pink, with white centre marked blue. Not a large flower but one of exquisite color and form." I have never yet made a May pilgrimage to Montclair, but I know I should be a wiser gardener if I might, for Mr. Hunt's blooming tulips must be worth many a league's journey.

Nothing I have ever had upon our small place has given me more spring pleasure than the planting which I next describe. A shrub, two tulips, and a primula. The shrub was Spircea Thunbergii, with its delicate white sprays of flowers. Below and among these spireas are the great tulip La Merveille, orange-scarlet, and the old double Count of Leicester, in tawny-orange shades and before the tulips lay low masses of the Munstead primrose. On this primrose, which fares so well with me, I have enlarged so often and so volubly that I fear the reader is weary of my praises. But' to me it is an essential of the spring. With this primrose, with the hardy forget-me-nots, and arabis, the lemon-colored alyssum, the lavender creeping phloxes, and with a charming low-growing thing whose name is Lamium maculatum (the gray-green leaves have a rather vague whitish marking upon them, and the flowers are of a soft mauve grow tulip Wouverman back of these, I beg!) the most delightful effects may be had.

As for tulips, again, the loveliest of combinations under lilacs, or immediately before them, would surely ensue if groups of tulips Fanny, Carl Becker, Giant, and KOnigin Emma were planted in such spots. And speaking of tulips the ones just mentioned I got of the Dutch, the originators of the Darwin and Rembrandt tulips and who thereby have made all bulb-growers their eternal debtors. The photograph of tulips which accompanies these notes shows how exhibition beds may be made beautiful it is a picture of the Haarlem (Holland) Jubilee Show in the spring of 1910.

In the illustration, page 86, the blackish group of tulips in the right-hand middle distance is La Tulipe Noire "the blackest of all the tulips." The circular group in the centre distance is Edmee, a bright cherry-rose color, also Darwin; and at the extreme left L'Ingenue, a fine white Darwin, slightly suffused with pale rose.

Mr. Krelage gave last autumn to one of his English friends a list of the Darwin tulips he considers the best. These are the ones: Clara Butt, salmon-pink; Crepuscule, pinky lilac; Faust, deep violet; Giant, deep purplish-crimson; La Candeur, ivory-white; La Tristesse, slaty blue; Madame Krelage, rosy pink; Margaret, soft pink, almost blush; Mr. Farncombe Sanders, rosy crimson; Prince of the Netherlands, cerise-carmine; Raphael, purplish violet; and Haarlem, a giant salmony orange-red. Five of these I have grown. The man to whom this list was given, a distinguished judge of flowers, comments on the evident partiality of Mr. Krelage for the rich deep-purples, as shown by these choices of his own.

Last spring Miss Jekyll wrote of her pleasure in some beautiful varieties of tulips, Darwins and Cottage both, sent her as cut blooms by a well-known grower. And I was so charmed with her description of these, especially with what she said of the purple and bronze tones of some of them, that I cleared out a lot of shrubbery to make room, and planted last fall the following groups: Ewbank and Morales together, Faust, Grand Monarque, Purple Perfection, and D. T. Fish; Bronze King, Bronze Queen, Golden Bronze, Dom Pedro, Louis XIV; Salmon Prince, Orange King, Panorama, Orange Globe, and La Merveille.

I am not a collector; but how readily, save for one reason, could I become one, in ten different directions in the world of flowers! Tulips should be one of my choices; the narcissus another; no one could pass by the iris. The collecting of tulips is, I fancy, simple beside, say, that of daffodils. The varieties of the daffodil are so many, the classes not as yet quite clearly defined; while the tulip is simplicity itself, except when it comes to tulip species there the botanist comes to the front and no unlearned ones need apply. Tulips are unfailing, certain to appear. No coaxing is necessary, nor do they require special positions. They may, for instance, grow among peonies; they are delightful among grapes. While the narcissus may not flourish among peonies, because of the amount of manure needed by the latter, tulips come gloriously forth. The question was put to me some time since by Doctor Miller as to the probability of injury to or failure of narcissus when planted among peonies, on account of the amount of manure generally used among such roots the statement made originally, I believe, by some English writer. May I give here the opinion of an English authority on daffodils in his own words?

 


CROCUS MONT BLANC


DARWIN TULIPS AT THE HAARLEM (HOLLAND) JUBILEE SHOW, 1910
 

"As to daffodils among peonies well, if you don't get manure (new) among their roots, and only top-dress with farmyard or stable manure, using bonemeal underground, I think many daffodils would do very well; but you should try them from more places than one when you buy. Like humans and others, a rich diet coming on top of a long-drawn-out poor one upsets matters."

Crocus-collecting, judging from what Mr. E. Augustus Bowles writes of it, must have charms indeed. I confess to the germ of the fever in the shape of several of Mr. Bowles's delightfully readable articles safely put away in a letter-file. Each time I take these out to reread them, I grow a little weaker; and by next July when fresh lists of crocus species lay their fatal hand upon me, I expect to be a crocus-bed-ridden invalid indeed!


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