Kellscraft Studio, 1999
(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Click Here to return to
the previous section
FLOWERS IN THEIR SEASON
THE main thing in our garden-making, is not the shape of the beds, nor even the arrangement of what is put into them: it is the plants and flowers we grow there, not forgetting the grass. And in respect of flowers, one has a wide and delightful choice. There is an almost irresistible temptation, on the part of beginners in yard gardening, to overdo the matter and to put more plants into the ground than the ground will feed, and more than suffices for appearance. The canny seedsmen understand this willingness to be tempted; they feed it and reap an exceeding great reward. They realize that every catalogue they publish, with its gaudy colored plates of cannas, such as never grew for any human coaxing, and verbenas that stand up with military consequence, putting up massive heads of gorgeous blues and crimsons, instead of straggling helplessly over the bed, looking for a place to lie down and go to seed, and of cosmos that springs to a six-foot measure in a couple of nights and flaunts around the premises in clouds of pink and red and white--they realize that the man who receives these eternal blazons will brood over them, in a state of increasing helplessness, falling deeper and deeper into the toils of his own and the seedsmen's imagination as he does so, until, wholly victim, he opens his desk and composes a check, in return for which he receives certain envelopes of seed, and sundry unpromising fragments of root or cuttings and various withered bulbs, all of which may, yet now and then, do not, explode into floral fireworks a few weeks later. Commercialism is a dreadful thing, and when flowers get into it they do not appear to exercise any more restraint on the moral habits of their growers than if they were pig-iron, or sausages.
Yet, do not suppose that the seedsman is a natural enemy of small gardeners. Far from it. Some of the things I have bought from him were better than he advertised, especially as they acquainted me with the pleasures of hope. For, after all, it is not the product in which we take the greatest joy: it is in the producing. We owe daily thanks to Adam for our garden practise and our habit of work. A man who has made things grow has been pleasantly and healthfully occupied, his imagination has been enlarged, but he does not believe in print to the same extent as before he began to read floral catalogues. Still, there is no doubt that the people who write catalogues, and more particularly, illustrate them, wish that flowers did grow just as they do on their pages. Why shouldn't they wish it? As compared with usual blossoms of the same names, theirs are as watermelons to mangel-wurzels.
In choosing flowers for the little garden you will pick out enough at the beginning to fill something less than three acres. The array you contemplate is as magnificent as any in the demesnes of royalty. But looking out upon the space at your disposal, and the figures that represent your bank-account, you sigh regretfully, run the blue pencil through your order and begin the practise of self-abnegation, which is alleged by those addicted to it to be good for one's morals.
in the temperate zone we can not have the flowers,
even in our greenhouses, that make the tropics gaudy. We have vegetal
and abundance of it; but there is no such wonder of grace, such passion
color, such extravagance of perfume as we find, say, in the West
where the tree jasmin loads the air with fragrance, and the flamboyant
(poinciana regia) burns like the flaming bush and
carpets the roads
with red after a wind--a red more gorgeous than that of our October
When we do fetch an exotic into our yards, it may survive, but it will
be the same as in its native soil. So let us content ourselves with
shall grow with ease and certainty. If we can not have the jasmin we
cultivate the tuberose, which is as sweet; if not the flamboyant, we
have the croton, galax and poinsettia in our borders, and the
dahlia and chrysanthemum in our beds. And in buying plants you have
you two methods and a compromise. The first method is to fill your
with hardy plants that come up year after year with little or no urging
attention. The second is to have a change of contents every year by
out potted plants--annuals--that you buy from florists in the spring,
that you may raise from cuttings, seed and roots, if you have a
or a cold frame, and such plants will bloom once and be seen no more.
compromise is to give a part of your garden to the sure and sturdy
and reserve places for annuals and opportunities and experiments. My
election would be for perennials, if I were bound to a choice, but one
his knowledge and deepens his interest if he tries the effect of new
and new conditions on plants with which he is unfamiliar. The common
flowers are always inviting for this purpose, and are never more
than when we find them in the strange and seemingly uncongenial
of a city yard.
A Window in Ohio.
If you resolve on the hardy garden, choose those plants that really are hardy and will not die in a sharp winter. A backing of bushes near the fence is desirable, any way, if you have room for them. If you have annuals, assign them to a separate space, where the spading and planting will not imperil the roots of the perennials already in the ground. Study the cultural directions given on the seed-packets, but remember that some annuals, like the poppy, hollyhock and portulaca, seed themselves so abundantly that you have no need to plant them after the first year. Arrange the garden so that the smallest of its contents shall be nearest. For the back row plant vines and flowering bushes--lilac, rose, rudbeckia, syringa, rose of Sharon, rhododendron, snowberry, snowball, smoke-tree, weigelia, oleander (to be taken indoors in cool weather), even a small magnolia; or, tall annuals like hollyhock, sunflower, artichoke or elecampane. These will stand at a height of from five to eight feet and will cover your fence from view. Then, before them can be set things like the tall varieties of phlox, dahlia, golden-rod, Joe Pye-weed, marshmallow, yucca filamentosa and mullein. Why, but these last are weeds! As you please. A weed by the name of a garden flower is quite as handsome as many garden flowers that are weeds in their own countries. Our mullein, for instance, is really a distinguished vegetable, and if it were less common we should raise it in our conservatories alongside of our orchids and gloxinias. In Holland it is cultivated, and is spoken of respectfully as the American velvet plant. Then, a step lower than these we can have the peony, Dutchman's breeches, bleeding-hearts, larkspur, cardinal flower, lily, iris, the common daisy, canna, salvia, gladiolus, tuberose, Canterbury bells and others of a like stature. Still advancing toward the path, for you will not hide the small plants by putting the big ones in front, are poppies, columbines, gas-plants, funkia, candytuft, pinksi the low-growing phlox, balsams, zinnia, mignonette, heliotrope, indeed, a majority of the garden favorites. Of course, if these plants--or any other --are used, their color relations must be considered, not less than their height, and in planting we must also regard their habit of growth: not merely whether they grow lengthwise, but whether or not they spread out sidewise. If this matter is neglected we may plant a gaillardia or amaryllis, and have to look for it later under the spread of a stramonium, or find it strangled in the clasp of a clematis or woodbine.
It was Lord Bacon's idea that a garden should always be in bloom. So it should, and so it will not be. Bacon's quaint essay on the subject supposes an immense tract laid out with avenues, arbors, fountains, lawns, and an edge of wilderness. In a space like that it would not be difficult to have a succession of blooms so long as the weather permitted any. It is worth while to quote from this discourse, if only to observe how little or how much of the. English language has become incomprehensible in the last three centuries:
"God Almightie first Planted a Garden. And indeed, it is the Purest of Humane pleasures. It is the Greatest Refreshment to the Spirits of Man; Without which, Buildings and Pallaces are but Grosse Handy-works: And a Man shall ever see, that when Ages grow to Civility and Elegancie, Men come to Build Stately, sooner then to Garden Finely: As if Gardening were the Greater Perfection. I doe hold it, in the Royall Ordering of Gardens, there ought to be Gardens for all the Moneths in the Yeare: In which, severally, Things of Beautie, may be then in Season. For December, and January, and the Latter Part of November, you must take such Things, as are Greene all Winter; Holly; Ivy; Bayes; Juniper; Cipresse Trees; Eugh; PineApple-Trees; Firre-Trees; Rose-Mary; Lavander; Periwinckle, the White, the Purple, and the Blewe; Germander; Flagges; Orenge-Trees; Limon-Trees; And Mirtles, if they be stooved; & Sweet Marjoram warme set. There followeth for the latter part of January, and February, the Mezerion Tree, which then blossomes; Crocus Vernus, both the Yellow, and the Gray; PrimeRoses; Anemones: The Early Tulippa; Hiacynthus Orientalis; Chamairis; Fretellaria. For March, There come Violets, especially the Single Blew, which are the Earliest; The Yellow Daffodil; The Dazie: The Almond-Tree in Blossome; The Peach-Tree in Biossome; The Cornelian-Tree in Biossome; Sweet-Briar. In Aprill follow, The Double white Violet; The Wallflower; The Stock Gilly-Flower; The Couslip; Flower-Delices, & Lillies of all Natures; Rosemary Flowers; The Tulippa; The Double Diony; The Pale Daffadill; The French HonnySuckle; The Cherry-Tree in Biossome; The Dammasin, and Plum-Trees in Biossome; The White-Thorne in Leafe; The Lelacke Tree. In May, and June, come Pincks off all sorts, Specially the Blush Pincke; Roses of all kinds, except the Muske, which comes later; Hony-Suckles; Strawberries; Buglosse; Columbine; The French Mary-gold; Flos Africanus; Cherry-Tree in Fruit; Figges in Fruit; Raspes; Vine Flowers; Lavender in Flowers; The Sweet Satyrlan, with the White Flower; Herba Muscaria; Lilium Convallium; the Apple-Tree in Biossome. In July come Gilly-Flowers of all Varieties; Muske Roses; TheLime-Tree inblossome ;EarlyPeares, and Plummes in Fruit; Ginnitings; Quadlins. In August, come Plummes of all sorts in Fruit; Peares; Apricockes; Berberles; Filberds; MuskeMelons; Monks Hoods, of all colours; Peaches, Melo-Cotones; Nectarines; Cornelians; Wardens, Quinces. In October, and the beginning of November, come Services; Medlars; Bullises; Roses Cut or Removed to come late; Hollyhokes; and such like. These Particulars are for the Climate of London; But my meaning is Perceived, that you may have Ver Perpetuum, as the Place affords."
Your yard shall be the clock of the seasons if you plant with reference to the flowering time. Thus, we put bulbs into the earth in fall, for their appearance so soon as the snow is gone. The first warm days bring points of green to the surface, and before the trees have shot out a leaf we have the crocus, white, blue and yellow, clinging to the ground as if to retire if it had miscalculated its chances for prosperity. In their hardihood some of the spring flowers are deceived, and are cut down in a night by sudden and cruel freezes. We prize these drops and flashes of color at more than their intrinsic worth, no doubt, because they are the first. We should not care a great deal for the anemone, the bloodroot and the liverwort if we were to find them in the summer. The opulence of loveliness that surrounds us then would blind us to the modest and brave little creatures that are its heralds. Still, not all the spring flowers are small. There are hyacinths, most prized of the bulbs, with spikes of white, pink and pale-blue flowers, thick-set, often double, deliciously fragrant, and fairly lasting; for, so early in the year few insects have arrived, and it is the effort of flowers to last until the insects, seeking nectar, fertilize them and "set" the seed. Then we have the freesia, fine, delicate, well-nigh as fragrant as the hyacinth. Other first appearances that inaugurate the eight months of bloom are those of the grape hyacinth, crown imperial, snowdrop, bluebell, the bellis or English daisy--the "wee, crimson-tippit flower" of Burns's apostrophe, which I have found, self sown, as an escape from American gardens; and in your wild corner, if you have one, the tawny lily that we call dog-tooth violet, because it is not a violet and does not represent a dog's tooth, and is as unwisely called adder'stongue; the fragile spring-beauty, squirrel-corn, the anemone; then, among the woods we come upon the Dutchman's-breeches (if this name offends you, call them white hearts) and trailing arbutus, that peddlers tear up from the New England and Long Island woods to hawk about our streets. Before April is over we have in our gardens the candytuft, clarkia, gilia, California poppy, Drummond's phlox, daphne mazereum, goldenbell, June-berry, shadbush, spicebush, Judas-tree, Japanese quince, and such boughten things as you may have had from the florist and put into your flower-beds, pots and all, against the sharpness of spring winds.
There is little danger from frost in the latitude of New York after the beginning of May, although the month may be raw and the output of flowers but slight. In that season the columbine, everlasting, jack-in-the-pulpit and wakerobin are springing in the glens, and in your yard, if you have planted them, you may watch for the moss-pink, daffodil, jonquil, tulip, summer snowflake, dogwood, tulip-tree, magnolia, barberry, kerria, lily-of-the-valley, silverbell, forget-me-not, lamp-plant, rock-cress, tree-peony, sweet alyssum, godetia, marigold, ten weeks' stock and baby's-breath.
In June the garden will be in full flower; the sweet peas will enrich the air, the morning-glories will open their eyes to the sun before you open your own, the roses will unfold their damask to the butterfly, the lilies will arise to teach their seldom-heeded lesson of humility and worth, the nasturtium will reflect the warmth as well as the light of summer, and while the fields and brook sides are ablaze with dandelion and buttercup, you, in your pleached garden may rejoice in the peony, iris, wistaria, pelargonium, cineraria, marigold, amaryllis, and, in the wild garden, the harebell, Solomon's-seal, shooting-star, bunchberry and columbine.
Color flows in high tide across the earth in July. All the tender things we house during the cold season are in bearing out of doors. The locust and catalpa have dropped their blossoms, the rhododendrons are passing, but the syringa exhales its luscious odor, if it is one of those years when it deigns to do so, the chestnut is putting out its belated, rusty looking clusters; in the fields are seen the golden stars of the St. Johnswort, the button-bush, pepper-bush, and in wild ground in the South the yucca has thrown up its candelabrum of wax-white blossoms; while the beds are aflame with zinnia, crinum, spirea, pansy, pink, bachelor's-button, salpiglossis, the red and yellow lilies, coreopsis, calceolaria, geranium, painted daisy, balsam, cockscomb, lovelies-bleeding, four-o'clock, gaillardia, phlox, nicotiana, portulaca, (this seeds itself, and will grow next year,) alyssum, fuchsia, scabiosa, white and pink yarrow, sweet-william, and on our arbors, the cobcea, honeysuckle, moonflower, passion-flower and Dutchman's-pipe are spangled with bloom.
The fierce heat and sultriness of August are tempered by a continuance of most of these blossoms, and the showering of the garden with a hose, on a still, warm evening, is a more composing occupation than struggling with a crowd at the beach or listening to rag-time music on a roof. The vines now blooming include not only those just named, but the wild bean, the nightshade, the balloon, the trumpet-creeper, the virgin's-bower, the Japanese hop, the perennial pea; the hydrangea has put out its bunches of dull pink and greenish-white flowers, long lasting; the blue spirea, the sweet alder, balm, lychnis and maurandia are at their showiest; and the giants, the sunflower and hollyhock, lend of their pomp.
September continues the pageant with canna, gladiolus, ageratum, candytuft, musk-plant, cosmos, heliotrope, verbena, zinnia, funkia, giant daisy, rudbeckia, dahlia, mignonette; the cardinal-flower blazes on the edge of the damp wood; the witch-hazel puts out its uncanny little sprays; in the hills the sweet peas are at their best; there are the late roses, too, and the dahlia, poppy and nasturtium are gay in the country gardens. In the bulb corner the tiger-flower and blazing-star have emerged, the Japanese anemone and showy sedum are up in the rockery, the boneset is feathering in the pastures, the pondweed and waterlily add color and fragrance to the pools.
In October the flowers are in rivallry with the trees, for the mountain sides are gardens, arid the maple, beech, birch, oak, sumac, brambles and a thousand lowly things paint the scene with splendor. Now the asters, wild and tame, constellate the gardens and the roadsides, and late goldenrods add touches of warmth to the chilling fields and to the hollows among the dunes. If the frosts have held off, the stout old favorites of the garden are still putting forth arid the bees are humming over them. We find the petunia, gaillardia, alyssum, candytuft, clarkia, godetia, marigold, stock, goldentuft, poppy, blue spirea, sedum, starwort, sunflower, hydrangea, daisy fleabane, which-hazel and swamp-flower. We are also likely to find freaks--plants that have decided to bloom a second time or put; out a second crop of fruit. I have seen a horse-chestnut, stripped of one clothing of leaves by caterpillars in a birdless town, put forth a new crop of leaves and a multitude of blossoms in the fall. The last rose of summer may be found blooming in October. I have never been in the country in that month when I have failed to find raspberries in bearing, and in the White Mountains, after several nights of frost, I have battened on blackberries, and have noted how active the foxes had been in gathering the fruit before me. We are liable to have a fresh output of honeysuckle, and the dahlias are lingering. Dandelions I have found in bloom on Long Island in every one of the twelve months, though not of the same year. But October is the month of the chrysanthemum, and unless the weather becomes intolerably cold it lasts into November. It seems as if nature made a final effort to hold the admiration of her children; hence she beams up from the fading earth with a smile, fitful and pathetic, yet as bright as summer.
In November we find lingering a geranium, possibly, or a petunia, or some of the coarser wayside growths, but the beauty of the garden has passed, unless it is a Southern garden, or a garden in California, for there it is always spring in the air and summer on the earth. It is the certainty of winter, however, that makes us, who have it, prize the fleeting beauty of the garden all the more, though we may envy the people of warm places in that the flowers they grow are so large, so gorgeous and so late. Not that this invariably applies, for some plants prefer the cold, and I have never seen finer sedums than are grown in the public gardens of Halifax, nor does the camomile put out bigger blossoms than on the rocky shores of New Brunswick.
Maybe you would prefer to plant for color, rather than for season, for in that you have the joy of all seasons. When I am rich and have ten acres I shall have color beds in my garden, so that I may enjoy a blaze of yellow now, a rousing, martial red at another time, and bring down the sky upon my kingdom, or simulate the snows in fragrant white. I will have spaces for daffodils, yellow iris, cowslip, yellow lilies, chrysanthemums, goldenrod, cloth-of-gold and Persian roses, calceolaria, coreopsis, coneflower, columbine, cinquefoil, canna, helipterum, marigold, nasturtium, escholzia, zinnia, gaillardia, goldentuft, St. Johnswort, black-eyed Susans, barberry, honeysuckle, currant goldenbell, kerria Japonica, dahlia, yellow water-lily, buttercup, elecampane, and the big, honest sunflower--we raised one last summer that was eighteen inches across the disk--while in the borders will appear the yellow shades of alternanthera, coleus, pyrethrum, iresine and cockscomb.
Then, either at another season or in another place, shall be a bravery of red roses, blooming in beds edged with the red and variegated alternanthera, iresine and acalypha; here, too, shall be the geranium, the cardinal-flower, poppy, rhododendron, azalea, chrysanthemum, aster, lotus, salvia, Chinese primrose, red lilies, begonias, morning-glories, currant--a reckless mixture of species and seasons, this--diervilla, spirea, Japanese quince, burning-bush, balm, stock, peony, coral bells, phlox, Japanese anemone, carnation, amaryllis, gaillardia, helichrysum, portulaca, verbena, zinnia, love-lies-bleeding, and, most gorgeous of all, the cockscomb. This is not a true flower, but nothing in the world has finer color. It is the deepest, richest red conceivable; the most intense ruby and garnet; the most vivid stripe in the rainbow. No rose blows more glorious red, and rarely do we see the like at sunset. The orange cockscomb is no less wonderful, and as a decoration we need both.
Then, in the cooler beds of pink there should be hyacinth, bouncing Bet--don't misprize this fragrant and pretty blossom because it grows wild--amaranth, balsam pink, clarkia, cosmos, sweet pea, gillia, bleeding-heart, lychnis, hollyhock, peony, dianthus, and in the pond the tinted water-lily and that splendid borrowing from the East, the lotus, though this likewise occurs in white and pale blue, as to its flowers.
In the blue and purple beds should appear the hyacinth, grape hyacinth, fleur-de-lis, violet, columbine, cineraria, heliotrope, hyacinth bean, mourning-bride, ageratum, bachelor's-button, lobelia, nemophila, blazing-star, shooting-star, aster and larkspur.
As for white, there is no end to it. One can help himself to syringa, weigelia, rhododendron, azalea, moonflower, crocus, hyacinth, tulip, iris, daisy, rose, lily, water-lily, lily-of-the-valley, achillea, yucca, nicotiana, phlox, sweet pea, sweet alyssum, columbine, tuberose, stock, rock-cress, candytuft, geranium, baby's-breath, pansy, aster, chrysanthemum, petunia, dahlia, peony, bean, honeysuckle, snowball, snow drop, hydrangea, and so on, from wisteria down to portulaca.
All this time I am not forgetting that there are to be lawns to frame and offset these splendors. Never forget that grass is to be your richest crop. You will rest in its color, it will be carpet to your feet, and after the mowing it will reward you with fragrance, at least, if you have mixed clover with it. Our soft-breasted earth yields treasure to her children for the asking, yet never in such free wise as at haying time. And by keeping to beds of a single color, as you agree to leave your lawns to the single color, green, you gain a simplicity which the eye best comprehends. You need not sacrifice variety to obtain it, but merely allow flowers of a petal to group together. They are happier in one another's company than in that of strangers.Click the Little Gardens Icon to continue to the next chapter.