Kellscraft Studio, 1999
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THE CHOICE OF FLOWERS
IN making a choice of flowers for the home garden do not buy exotics and tender things. They will not grow, at least, without housing in the winter; and if you own the usual little house and little patch of ground around or back of it, you can hardly add a conservatory to your establishment. Plant the hardy things. And first of them is the rose. This flower, in its various phases modest, flaunting; demure, sumptuous; timid, aggressive; solitary, social, is probably the oldest of all the treasures of the garden. It is the flower of Venus and of Mary; it has wreathed the brows of emperors and martyrs, of poets and revelers; it has figured, not merely in sentimental and religious traditions, like those of St. Rose and St. Elizabeth, but in history, for had we not a war of the roses ? Of our garden it is queen; or shall we give that rank to the lily, and greet the rose as king? There is a masculine, rather than a feminine splendor in the American beauty--a French variety, by the way, that thrives best in our soil--and the habit of the bush, in taking what it wants, and in clinging to its vantage in the soil, is virile. The old-fashioned, sturdy kinds are best: those that defy the seasons and outlive neglect and wreck. Last fall while scrambling through a lonely region in the Green Mountains, I came upon a cellar on a deserted farm. The building which once stood above it had entirely rotted down, a jungle of vegetation covered its dooryard, but tall and strong above a thicket of raspberries stood a bush of damask roses, flaunting year after year, untended and unseen. Of all that the farmer had planted, this and a few gnarly apple-trees survived. The homeliness of farm life had vanished, and a faint echo of its beauty came out of the past. Three or four miles away I culled a bouquet from a self-extended thicket of crimson roses before another deserted place. Now, plants that behave like that are good to know, and to grow up with. They are as reliable as grass. Their yearly appearance, their opulence of scent and color, endear them to us as home is endeared; for they become, literally, a part of it. I hope to see, one day, such rose farms as they have in France and Persia; acres, yes, miles of red and white, grown for the attar and other extracts, but though we have none of them we can still make our gardens beautiful. For some nurserymen are devoting themselves entirely to roses, thereby seeming to betoken the unfailing popularity of the flower, and their list of varieties is surprising, not to say, confusing. After trying sundry of the new strains I go back to the standards with increasing satisfaction. The new varieties, especially those of dwarf habit, delicate color and tea fragrance, are floral toys, made only for the greenhouse, or for balmy lands where the natives never feel the invigorating frosts of the North. At least, my experience is that such roses peak and pine out of doors, even in genial weather, they are subject to insect pests and diseases that less affect the larger bushes, and they are uncertain in their blooming. Of a number that I set out in a sheltered yard one summer, all died but two or three, and they exhausted themselves in putting forth their buds. Last summer a dwarf plant gave birth to a huge pink rose, as large as a La France and of fine fragrance, but it killed itself a-doing it, for so soon as the petals fell the bush shriveled into the ground and was seen no more. Wherefore, I say, place your reliance on the tried and true, unless you have a greenhouse, or desire to experiment. The best of roses will not grow for us in the East as their humbler sisters will flourish for the Californians, but the effort to bring them to a sturdy maturity is self-rewarding. Of the better known of the tea-roses, mention is due to the Marechal Niel, La France, Mermet, Bon Silene, Bride, Meteor and Mme. de Watteville. These do well in the South, but do not look to see them survive a New England winter out of doors. Of the reliable kinds there are, among the reds, the Jacqueminot, often called Jacks by florists, Rosiere, De Rohan, Wilder, Verdier, Carriere, Rothschild, D'Aumale, Libaud, Bernardin, Neyron and Bruner; among the pinks, Magna Charta, Favorite, Christy, Prince of Wales, Prevost, Lyonnaise, Rothschild and Verdier; of the white and blush roses, Mrs. Paul, Elise Boelle, Mabel Morrison, Margaret Dickson, Altaica, Perle des Blanches, Hybrid China; of the moss-roses, Hermosa and Clothilde Soupert; and there are the climbers, Dawson, Carmine, Pillar, Wichuriana, Seven Sisters, Thalia, Prairie Queen--sturdiest of them--and Mary Washington.
It may be that some of the old strains do not bear as they did; that they have been urged to exhaustion, like the potato, for the scientists tell us how in propagating this tuber from eyes, instead of seed, we have violated the method of nature, and as a consequence, the potato will disappear, along with the buffalo, the dodo and the Indian. You have noticed, of course, that potato plants seldom bear their balls or seed pods now, although they did thirty years ago. It is against the popularity of the rose that, on some bushes, the flowers do not remain so long as could be wished, yet there are other varieties which are quite as enduring as any other plant that we grow, unless we may except the geranium. I have had a hybrid blooming in my yard for a month together, and it often happens that a second crop of flowers appears in the fall. This is a bushy rose, six feet high, bearing flowers of mingled pink and white. We are told that once, when St. Francis of Assisi was tempted by thoughts of comfort and sufficiency, he rushed from his cell, stripped off his robe, and rolled in the snow. There were briers in the drifts, and wherever they brought blood the snow disappeared and the crimsoned stalks burst into bloom; but, lo! only half the petals were red: the others were as white as the snow and stainless as the spirit of the saint. My rose, I think, came from Assisi.
I require that a rose have fragrance, whether it has endurance or not. Hence, I have small enthusiasm for the ramblers, crimson, yellow and white, that have attained a sudden vogue with us, and that produce bunches of small, papery, scentless flowers. For me they produced nothing, for they died promptly and made way for something stouter. Yet they are pleasant to look at: these wiry little climbers. They are decorative; they bear hundreds of blooms, in clusters as large as a fist; and when they spring from a congenial soil they climb vigorously and their leaves are green and wholesome, therein contrasting with the foliage of some relatives, which turns rusty, at least, in town, and is much beset by worms, beetles and thrip. The two former you often dislodge when you shower the plant with a hose, and you may throw some of them to the ground by shaking the bush, in which case you will shake off more petals than insects; but the thrip, which in its nymphal form is a whitish fly, hardly an eighth of an inch long, with a baffling, parabolic manner of flight, clings to the under side of the leaves and escapes wetting and observation. Soot has been used to destroy these vermin, but a bush covered with soot is even more unsightly than a bush covered with parasites, because you can see the soot. And again, there is not much soot in town; at least, there should not be, for it gathers thickest where we permit the burning of soft coal and the making of impure gas--enemies of gardens, by the bye. Powdered white hellebore, in solution, syringed over the bushes, is said to be harmful to thrip. If the new ramblers are unsavory to these little feeders, that, to be sure, is a reason for cultivating them; yet I think there is no plant that is not a joy to some manner of creature that we believe ought not to be there.
Why is it that we see so few of the yellow roses any more ? Has our use of the term yellow, as an adjective of contempt, and applied to vulgar and vicious things, made us afraid of using this joyous color? True, you see magnificent cloth-of-gold roses on the Pacific slope, great vines and bushes of them that bury a cottage out of sight, and Yankeedom clings to its old Persians, but the yellow rose has elsewhere fallen into a neglect that is wholly undeserved. Let us not revolt at a mere name. We are assured, on high authority, that a rose by any other name will smell as sweet. Where the yellow roses bloom, one spot of earth is gay with sunshine. The sun may shine in our north, too; at least, the growers vouch for the hardiness of the standards and especially commend the Belle Lyonnaise, Harrison's Yellow and the Persian. If you buy them, get such as are "on their own roots"-that is, not grafted--for they are strongest, and flower most plentifully.
Of late some use has been made of the rosa rugosa, a wild variety from Asia, in parks, hotel lawns and other places where strong vegetation and solid masses of green are needed. A bush of it is not a bad centerpiece for the little garden, for it bears abundance of pink and white flowers, bright and cheerful in color quality, and single or double, as may chance; while its big red haws are almost as decorative as flowers. Our common wild rose or sweet-brier is one of the pleasantest of familiars, and one of the most fragrant; but it is not lasting, and it can not be cut for bouquets, which facts, no doubt, have prevented it from gaining a hold in our gardens it might otherwise deserve. Whatever roses we employ, it is best to group them into beds or clusters, or keep them near the fence, if the ground is small. In November they will endure the cutting out of weak growths, and in the spring, of sprawly new ones. Some gardeners cut down all roses to within a few inches of the ground, at the coming on of winter. Though my own roses have defied cold weather, it is safest to wrap the stems in sacks when snow is due, to heap earth above the roots, and strew old manure and straw over the beds. A spring manuring does more good than fertilizing in the fall, but the snow covers from sight what is never pleasant, while in the spring the plant food asserts itself to at least two senses.
Next in importance to our roses--to many the most important of all the garden contents, since they are the largest objects, and have the use not alone of beauty but of hiding the unbeautiful--are vines. And by all means cultivate a honeysuckle. Train it over a trellis at your back door, or over a part of your fence. If you have any sheds or unsightly buildings on your premises, cover them with it. Its flowers are not much to look at, but the deep, strong green of its leaves stays through the winter, at least where it mats together, and there is nothing more delicious than the odor breathed through its tiny trumpets in call to the bee. If I could have but ten flowers they should be the rose, lily, lily-of-the-valley, lilac, nasturtium, petunia, pansy, sweet pea, aster and honeysuckle. This vine can safely be left to itself, once it has been started, and it needs no more than occasional thinning out, for it has a tendency, on arbors and summer-houses, to put out such masses of leaves, and to so knot and twine itself together that it forms a screen against the air and light. It can be employed to cover walls of brick or stone, and there is an estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., which for a mile is hedged with honeysuckle. A walk past the grounds on a quiet evening, with delicate incense pouring from a million censers, is a memorable experience. It can also be grown near the sea, and visitors to Brighton Beach will recall the veranda of the immense hotel, partly overgrown with honeysuckle, its exquisite fragrance mingling with the saline pungency of the ocean that roars and pounds but a stone's toss distant.
A useful and handsome vine of larger expansion and more rapid growth is variously known as Boston ivy, Japanese ivy, and ampelopsis. It has a leaf resembling that of the maple, only more compact and shiny, and in October it vies with that tree in the beauty of its color. It is almost the only plant that shows autumnal tints in town, for there is that in the air of a city which causes vegetation to rust and wither when it has ripened, instead of taking on the sunset glories of the woods. This ivy is a tremendous grower. It will blanket a three-story front in a couple of years, and sprawl over two or three buildings on either side. It throws out hundreds of branchlets that dangle from the stronger stems and are covered with tiny resinous drops. These are to be persistently snipped away, for they will creep in at window-casings, between sashes, through area gates, under doors and over chimneys; they will fasten their little suckers against stone, brick or wood; and pretty instances of this covering occur in the permanent awnings of wire, which are supports for the ivy and make a frame of green for the view, as seen from within.
Another quick-growing, wide-spreading vine, of use in covering displeasing buildings and barring dull views or transforming tall fences, is the cobaea scandens. Its large leaves are of especial service in concealments, although it has not the charm of fragrance and its flowers are less beautiful than those of some other creepers and clingers. It may cause trouble from the reckless way in which it extends itself, for it will lay hold upon anything, whether clothes-lines or flower-stems, and seem to mock the efforts made to curb its pranks.
In the country, too, they are beginning to see that the common gourd, cucumber, squash and pumpkin vines are of value as curtains and decorations. The pumpkin, especially, with its big leaves, can be taught to clamber over sheds, rickety walls and fences, stone-heaps, ash-heaps and other disagreeable happenings, while it makes a superb setting for a back door. Take one pumpkin out of the corn-field, and let it have the run of the back porch.
The wisteria, beloved in the East, but in none too common use in our country, is a pleasant vine and an early bloomer, putting out compound leaves that are light and graceful, and fine clusters of white or pale-purple flowers that look almost like bunches of ripening grapes, at a little distance. These pendant masses of color are particularly charming, and are unlike the bloom of any other cultivated vine. The Japanese make an effective use of the wisteria as an enhancement to the grace of arches and bridges, the screening of rockwork, and in covering the trellises of tea-gardens. Vines in full flower suggest jets of water leaping from a fountain's lip, or the shower of colored lights from a rocket. The wisteria is of slow growth, and in our climate requires years to establish itself; still, once with you, it means to stay. Its stem grows thick and tough, it strengthens itself by gnarling its various branches together, and it grasps a tree with a veritable strangle hold. One in a yard in New York has put out a mass of wood nearly equal to the tree that supports it--an aged tulip, I think--and were the tree to fall, the immense trunk of the wisteria might continue to hold the mass of the vine somewhat above the earth.
There is nothing like morning-glory for covering fences and sheds. Once admit this vine and it will befriend you forever. If it remained where you put it you could make no objection, but it will by no means do that. Its flowers of white, pink, purple, delicate mauve and blue would justify it for your use, even if its clean and thrifty foliage did not. It is a swift grower, a copious bloomer, a useful and pretty plant, that deserves not to be discouraged. In Dayton, O., where so much has been done to make mechanic labor content with its lot--so much in the way of prizes, free libraries, reading-rooms, recreation-rooms, cost-price restaurants, baths, rest-rooms, gardens, medical service, sanitation, music, lectures, picnics, schools; and after all, this did not prevent a long and bitter strike--a successful effort has been made to reform the appearance of a rowdy district through the use of flowers, lawns, vines, window-boxes and greenery. The effect has been reformatory, not merely on the appearance of the quarter, but on the character of its dwellers, for it has become one of the quietest and most agreeable sections of the city. Until the renters were stimulated by offers of money for the best kept yards, the houses near the factories had a forlorn environment. They were surrounded by trampled grass, weeds, rickety constructions and refuse. Now, a view over the fences behind a house row will disclose abundance of flowers, and the morning-glory is especially in evidence as a covering for the fences. It fairly loads those partitions with bloom and leafage, and we have a park or garden where all was squalor. The morning-glories are actually rampant, and they-pile upon the fence like green breakers, flashing with multi-colored bubbles in the early sun.
the architecture is worth while we do not want to
conceal it; and in almost any event we do not wish to cover it with
so thickly that the purpose or form of the construction becomes a
for surmise. If Boston ivy, for example, were in the habit of throwing
twists of branches or bunches of flowers into the air, at right angles
its upright growth, we should not be sure of the form of the house on
it grew; but as it is, we lose nothing of the shape, because it fits
so snugly to the bricks. Vines that pour over the premises, throwing a
shade, especially through the windows and into the living-rooms, are to
avoided; and so are those, for house-front use, that wilt and turn
or rot with dampness or frost. Our morning-glory is not for attachment
houses, unless it is ruthlessly displaced when it has ceased to be
and to bear flowers.
Shade and Bloom in Profusion.
Beds of Lettuce.
Experienced physicians can practise medicine with ten drugs, and gardeners can produce all the effects they wish with half the variety of plants that the amateur considers needful. So, with wisteria, ivy, ampelopsis, honeysuckle and morning-glory, one hardly requires to extend his knowledge of vines; yet if conditions of soil or climate exact it, he can add or substitute for these indispensables the prolific cobaea, the excellent Aristolochia, the moonflower, the trumpet-vine, the Madeira vine, the canary-bird vine, the cypress-vine, the scarlet runner, the perennial pea, the Japanese clematis, the matrimony-vine and the passion-vine with its broad and open blossom in which pious teachers of the faith discovered the sacred symbols: the crown of thorns in the corona, the stigmas representing the nails, and the anthers the wounds. Our native passionflower, by the bye, produces a berry which is eaten by some people. A deal of food goes to waste in this country from not knowing where to find or how to use it. We must also remember the hop, which can be trained over large spaces. These are all easy growers, generous in bloom. In remoter parts of the country grounds, where ledgy and unkempt areas invite them, we can employ the roadside growths. There is the bittersweet, for instance, a skillful climber, dappled with orange berries, in the season; there is clematis, or traveler's joy--though why it is more of a joy to the traveler than wild grapes and blackberries I never could tell--with its hoary tufts and its decorative leaves; there is our woodbine, whose leaves rival the flowers in their October coloring; and there is even poison-ivy, though it is best to show consideration for the public, and to check this, rather than extend it.
It is not an ill-looking vegetable, and in the fall it often takes on ripe and delicate tones of pink and orange which make it ornamental, and the harm it does, to such as can be harmed, is commonly due to the fact that it is so little recognized. It is sometimes mistaken for woodbine, albeit the plants are quite unlike. If the leaves occur in fives you are to know that it is woodbine, and you may put a finger on each leaflet; but if they are in threes, it is poison-ivy, and you are to treat it with respect. I handle it without gloves and with impunity, as I fancy most people can do; yet I have known persons to break into unseemly eruptions merely because they had passed to leeward of a thicket of this plant. In Chickamauga, the site of the great camp during the Spanish War, this weed grew as plentifully as the black snakes, yet there were hardly more than two or three soldiers to a company who showed the ill-effects of contact with it, though the tales they told of the power of "poison-ivory" were dismal enough, and their appearance, with swollen faces, patched with ointment, which gave to them a peculiar ghastliness, roused unfeeling laughter from the immune.
There is one other vine, which we seldom cultivate as such, yet that is useful where it is not desired to carry vegetation to a greater height than five or six feet, and that is the nasturtium. This usually grows so thinly when it is carried upright that there is no danger of its throwing the shade that the larger and heavier climbers will cast. And of course, there are the sweet peas, but we are to regard them less as vines than as garden plants. Vines are rather more human than shrubs. They are selfish. They grasp for support, and do not care what it is they rise by, so long as they rise. We say that the plant does not think, and possibly it does not, but its career symbolizes all life, and nothing in the physiology of the walking races is more wonderful than its adjustment of pistil and stamens to propagation by means of the insect that feeds upon it. Yet I am by no means sure that the vine does not see and feel and think, and in the willful and unaccountable conduct of morning-glories and sweet peas in reaching across spaces for support--how otherwise do they know it is there?--we have matter for deeper study than other garden problems offer.
So surely as our garden has roses it should have lilies. With roses, lilies and vines it is a garden in sooth. These flowers are apart from most others in form and mode of growth, and they are of surpassing loveliness. In their exquisite purity, their white humility, their exceeding fragrance, which one breathes with a sort of rapture, they stir, not merely admiration but emotions akin to those we feel in contemplating the qualities of the lily in a member of the human family: emotions of affection, touched with reverence. These are flowers that saints have borne about the earth, and are thought to bloom in heaven. The old masters show the angels wreathed with lilies. And they consort charmingly with the rose; that is, their simplicity and silver whiteness make them a foil to the other flower, passionate, rich colored, and its slender leaves are a contrast to the luxuriant bush. When we have planted a rose, a substantial, free-blooming damask, or a hearty old cabbage-rose, at the back of a bed, it can have no better company than a lily. Remember: we can use white with anything, except black, which fortunately does not occur in flowers, but only in the evening dress of men--and dreadful guys they look at night, as their great-grandchildren will tell them a hundred years from now. Though a trifle tall for a border, any or all of the lilies will make a good appearance against a green background, care being taken to avoid such other contrasts as cheapen the red and yellow of some varieties when placed near other flowers. The wood-lily and tiger-lily, for example, are of a tawny or foxy shade that suffers by contact with the crimson of a rose, the pink of a peony or even the scarlet of a geranium. They can better abide near zinnias, marigolds, nasturtiums and coreopsis. Of hardy varieties, like the candidurn, auratum, speciosum, longiflorum, tenuifolium and funkia, all are safe to plant about the beginning of November, in partly shaded beds, at a depth of five or six inches, and during their first winter out of doors the bulbs should also be protected with a mat of leaves, or old manure. Other plants ask the same kindness, in their first winter, and it is as well to grant it to all of them, whether they ask it or not. The loss by frost will be less, and the bloom will be earlier and more abundant.
Bearing the name of lily, but of a different family from our queens, is the lily-of-the-valley, a pearl in the garden crown, a blossom with spring in its breath, a symbol of innocence and humility. The only fault I urge against this plant is that it does not bloom forever. That it is said to be a poison affects me not a whit, so long as it feeds my eye and nose. Leave a little space for it in the shade of the house, or of the wall, enrich it, and leave it to itself. Its hardiness commends it for the carpeting of odd spots that are shady and damp, though myrtle, moneywort and partridge-vine are better liked because they grow more thickly, and their green lasts longer.
So close akin to the lily in leaf, form, shape of flower and carriage of it that they are supposed by many to belong to the same family, are the zephyranthes, which put up a six-lobed bell of pink; the tigridia, topped with a fantastic, orchid-like blossom of a scarlet, at once soft and bright; the amaryllis, of a red usually more sullen, though rich and deep, and a habit more assertive; and the crinium, even more proud and flaunting. But all these require coddling. They must be taken in during the winter, and rested; or they can be kept indoors as window-plants; and at best they are uncertain. An amaryllis that bloomed regularly and splendidly on a hill farm in Vermont, behaved sulkily when it was translated to New York, though it did give a good account of itself a year or two later. If one has no greenhouse, or cold frame, he may feel obliged to forego the cultivation of many flowers that tempt him in the seedsmen's catalogues; yet a dry, clean cellar, which is cool but never frosted, suffices for the keeping of bulbs, tubers, corms and roots that require removal from the soil for the winter. Such roots ought to be first dried, then placed in paper bags, plainly labeled in ink, and so stored on shelves or in boxes that the name shall be upmost, for otherwise moisture from the root may obliterate the writing, and I have found that one is able to forget various things between November and March--so many that, in the first season, at any rate, it is well to mark the place of each plant with a stake, (a clothespin will do,) after its stems have died down. Because of neglecting this I have played mischief with some of the hardy things in the soil; I have attempted, for instance, to set out heliotrope and mignonette in spots already occupied by tulips and chrysanthemums, with results disadvantageous to the latter. A faithful gardener will not only indicate his buried treasures by stakes or stones, but he wilt make a map of his territory and mark upon it the place and name of each of them.
For early bloom, among the hardy species, we rely on the crocus, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, narcissus, daffodil, snowdrop, snowflake, tulip, squill and trillium. These all arise from bulbs, which should be planted in three inches of light loam in the fall, but which are sometimes put into the earth on a mild day in January, when there is no frost in the bed, and when they are well mulched to prevent nipping by frosts that are sure to pinch our noses before spring fairly opens. The bulb plants, particularly the crocus, squill and tulip, are excellent for massing. The others are at their best when planted as borders.
None of these, save the tulip, which makes all too brief a show, gives to the garden the richness that comes to it later in the season, when the dahlia blooms; but this is not a hardy plant. Its tubers are to be taken up and dried, after the top has withered, the new growths divided from the old, and all kept in the cellar till it is time for planting in early spring--a treatment that may be given to the canna and gladiolus, also. You could fill your yard with dahlias yet have hardly any two plants alike, for there are something like four hundred varieties, widely diverse in height, form and color. They range through a gamut of red and yellow, with strains and touches of intermediate orange, and they appear, likewise, in pearly white, which affects both of the basal tints, so that we have refined pink, ethereal yellow, and blossoms dappled and streaked in willful fashion. The dahlia comes at a time when flowers are welcome, when chill weather is impending, and when most of the tender things have ended their year's delight. Its fresh, strong-looking foliage is no less charming, as the tree leaves begin to fall, than are its flowers. Its bloom varies considerably in size, from hard little nubbins, which seem to have tightened their petals to keep out the cold, to the new Colossus, with flowers a foot in diameter; still, in the average, it is a dignified plant and requires to be treated with the respect it confers on itself. It is not proudly self-confident; there is no swagger in its attitude; its gently bending head betokens a certain modesty, as well as pride; hence it should be allowed to enjoy the room and state that are conferred on the distinguished. It is neither king nor queen of flowers, but it wears the coronet of the aristocracy. And while it is not hardy, it has more life and more latitude than people know. I can show some handsome, healthy specimens in a New England village a thousand feet above the sea, and they kept on blooming last fall, after several sharp frosts had shorn and bedraggled not a few of the stouter blooms. It has a disagreeable habit of dropping its head on provocation that to an observer seems insufficient. A smart wind, a stout rain, a chili night, an interloping dog, will shake down a dozen fine knobs when it is in its prime. To remedy this tendency it is well to put it into rows, with some care for its support against the elements, either in the form of a wire net fence, or individual stakes to which we can tie the stems. Where stakes are used in a garden they should be painted green, that they may show as little as possible, and that they may agree with the vegetation when they are seen. If the dahlia never put forth a bud, its rich leafage would make it prized for a hedge, and against its green wall white flowers, such as the lily, ageratum, centaurea, dianthus, stock and nicotiana show clearly and beautifully. To allow for their spread of leaf the tubers of the dahlia should be placed two feet apart, but an effect of greater solidity is obtained if they are planted in a double row, and the front rank is opened so as to show that in the rear, thus:
In such a case it would better insure their safety if a strip of wire net, such as is used for fencing poultry-yards, were extended behind each row, and the stalks tied to the wires, to hold them stiffly against the shock of wind and flood.
There is another good old grower of our grandmothers' gardens, that we can hardly overlook: the hollyhock. It is taller than the dahlia, coarser, weedier in its leaf, and as its buds open one after another, they shed their petals and go to seed, leaving long spaces of knobbed stalk, so dry and bare in appearance that one is reminded of the neck of a bantam after a fight with a bigger cock. Yet the round, sonsie face of this hearty, house-loving, wholesome rustic is full of cheer, yes, and beauty, too. In its white and pink aspects it is refined, even, but the crimson variety suggests the strength of sun and soil, and it seems to have good red blood running through its veins, in place of sap. I have found that the hollyhock will seed itself, under certain conditions, but its appearance is best guaranteed by planting the seed of it in early spring.
And speaking of color, we ought to make more of the zinnia than we do. It is a highly useful bedding plant, inasmuch as it blooms generously and in a surprising number of hues. Doubtless its lack of odor and a certain harshness of texture and stiffness of carriage has to do with its lack of popularity, but its opulence of hue would make amends for more defects, if it had them. The flowers remain long, holding their color somewhat like the everlastings, so that they have an appearance of life after they have really faded. It is almost inconsistent, in our notion, that an herb so thick of leaf and petal should show such delicacy and even loveliness of tint. This flower avoids the blue, hence it accepts the red and yellow rays, and the variety of these tints that it exhibits is larger, I think, than that of any other flower which is equally confined in its range of form. It has not the limpid, brilliant white of the rose, the lily or the camellia, but a white of opaque and grayish quality, yet it grades down from this high light to a crimson, full and deep enough for the robe of an emperor, through a range of pale yellow, lemon yellow, gold yellow, orange, salmon, scarlet, pink-red, and hints at a purple mixture in magenta, solferino and a refined tone of lilac. These colors, varying though they do, can more easily be assembled in a single bed, because of their softness, than we can put together a diversity of most other species. The full reds will make the solferino cheap, hence it is better to sacrifice the one or the other, removing it to a distant patch, if you like. I do not understand the hostility to purples and purple-reds that is shown, and no doubt felt, by so many people. It is especially surprising that women should object to them, because they almost invariably gain in bloom from a touch of purple near the face. We have aniline dyes of these tints that are unpleasant, but, then, most of the anilines are unpleasant, and it is a good part of them that they all fade so quickly. The colors of the cineraria, which are ringed about the petal edges of that daisy-like flower, and which range from the blue of a June sky to deep and splendid maroons, magentas and solferinos, are superb--as pure and beautiful as sunset clouds and twilight skies in high altitudes, though differing in quality. We find these colors, too, and their modifications, in petunias, sweet-williams, centaureas, pansies and pyrethrums, and such tints are best grouped by themselves, or, at any rate, associated with green and white, and kept away from the shouting scarlet of the geranium and the assertive yellow of the marigold. Zinnias have occupied a group by themselves in my little garden, and have luxuriated in a light and pebbly soil, interspersed, to my sorrow, with relics of a glacial age, among which I shall not include tomato-cans and whalebone. They like water, and will eat a trifle of fertilizer and be thankful for it in the spring. Like other annuals, they are to be sown during the last of April, or a few days later, if the season is backward, and it may be well to relate here that the manner of planting such seeds is to stir the ground with a rake, or with a spade, if it has not been previously loosened, breaking up tough and clayey clods, and smoothing the surface; then, with a stick or trowel-tip, marking a tiny trench, half or two-thirds of an inch in depth. Into this the seed are sprinkled. With the stick or trowel flick the displaced earth back into the crevice, then crumble soil over the bed for half an inch or so, with the hands if the tract is small, with a sieve if otherwise. A light sprinkling with the hose may follow, using only the finest nozzle, so as to give a spray and not a shower; or, a little ducking from the watering-pot will serve. The object of this is not only to stimulate the seed, but to settle the earth about it.
Nearly all florists advertise packets of mixed seed. Artistic gardening is not encouraged by their use. If you buy a packet of zinnia seed, for example, you do not know, until the buds are actually opening, what you have put into the ground. By that time it is rather late to transplant, for even if the individual herb that you take from the soil is not injured in the process, you may seriously disturb the roots of its neighbors. If you find color inconsistencies and if you want to avoid cheap and glaring contrasts, you must dig up the plants, however, that are most belligerent in their blooming, and put them elsewhere. When there was no room in the beds for these intruders I have stolen out, in dark seasons, and transplanted them in vacant lots, hoping that they might prove a joy and astonishment for some wayfarer across those wilds, or for the children playing after school. One other item anent the planting of your garden, namely: begin weeding early. Don't tear up your choice things by mistake, and there, you see, is another reason for marking the burial-place of the seeds, bulbs, roots and tubers. You will shortly learn to know the ragweed, pigweed, carpetweed, thistle and purslain or "pusley "--if you do not already know them, to your sorrow--and will have at them without mercy. The Spaniards have a wise old saw to the effect that it is never well to work between meals, so I pull my weeds before breakfast--sometimes. At all events, the earth is so softened by the night dews that these alien growths come out most easily while the soil is yet damp. If the bed is long, you will whip them out with the hoe, but if small, and especially if it is thickly set with flowering plants, you must bend to your work and displace the intruders with a long, strong haul. Oh, yes: it's hard to do, when your hands are soft, your cheeks white, and your withers wrung, but there is a fine sense of brag, which you may speak or not, when you go in, sweaty, grimy, blistered, and you can not count that day lost in which you have toiled with a hoe, a spade, or a lawn-mower, as you may count some days in the hospital or on the stock exchange.
Higher in the color scale than the zinnias are the nasturtiums, and in the make-up of a house garden we must not overlook these, its eminently cheerful citizens. They want the sunshine, and they soak it up and give it back in generous measure. Their color is really warm; it smacks of mustard; it lightens their very stems and leaves; they are even hot to taste, and they pickle the seed pods in the country, for a condiment. Yet, be it noticed that they do not assail the eye as a scarlet geranium will do, for the eye can not penetrate the petal of a geranium: it is as opaque as china, while the nasturtium is as translucent as colored glass. Moreover, the green of the nasturtium leaf is as high keyed as are the orange and yellow of the flower, so that there is a harmony of color well up in the treble. Even the soft and satisfying pinks and crimsons of this plant have an undertone of yellow. Theoretically you could arrange a disk or circle with a gradation from central warmth to marginal coolness, by putting nasturtiums in the middle, surrounding these with salvia, geranium, ruddy marigolds and poppies, these in turn with phlox, red poppies and the like; next a circle of deeper red, as in roses, grading into the lilacs and purples of bearstongue, rock-cress, mourning-bride, closed gentian and so to the blue of pansy, fringed gentian, columbine, centaurea and ageratum--a rainbow that would be no longer a bow, but the completed circle. This is merely a fanciful arrangement, because these plants are not simultaneously in bloom, nor are they named with any regard for gradation in size, for where a circular bed is occupied by several varieties, the tallest must be in the center, the next tallest in a band or ring about it, and so, in successive diminutions till the low-growing ageratum, verbena, heliotrope, mignonette, candytuft, alyssum, alternanthera or portulaca forms the outer edge. In placing the tallest plants in the center we not only satisfy the desire for a formal yet simple arrangement, placing the conspicuous plants where they shall overtop the others while allowing them to be seen, but we minimize the shade they will cast, so as to give to each occupant of the bed an equal chance for prosperity with the stoutest. The nasturtium is useful as a bedding plant, also for borders, and as a vine; and if there are old stumps about the grounds that are too stout for pulling, they can be hollowed for eight or ten inches, and seeds or young nasturtiums can be placed there, in an ordinary soil. While they seem to like the drainage in a situation like this, and in porch- and window-boxes and hanging baskets, too, they are light feeders and prefer a sandy soil to one that is heavy and richly manured. This makes them easy to grow, and it may be the reason why they are not grown oftener, for we take most pride, if not most comfort, in what has cost labor and anxiety.
The geranium requires no introduction. Everybody knows it, even in the towns. It is common to both continents and is cheap, clean, vigorous and useful. It is long active, and you will force it to keep in blossom longer than it intended if you will pinch off the flower-stalks after they have begun to wither. This manner of producing bloom applies to numerous other plants as well. For the same reason that people buy yellow journals and see crimson dramas, they buy scarlet geraniums, forgetful that the plant has other hues, the pink, for example, and the full, clear red and white. Venders in the town streets offer geraniums at five to ten cents a pot in the spring, so that it is hardly necessary to cultivate them through the winter in window-boxes and pots, though they are easily raised from cuttings and will grow in almost any kind of soil. One really excellent use for them is to fill ornamental receptacles, in parks, where assertive accents are desired. You may remember the half dozen big bronze urns on top of the orangery terrace, in Versailles, flaunting their blossoms above their lips, while the elaborate garden below is also lustrous with red clusters. Again, you may have wandered into some of those quaint inn-yards in France and England, where the ground is wholly hidden under cobbles or flags, and noted the relief to their desert stoniness which is gained from a single pot of geraniums at the door, or a ring of such pots about the well-curb, or a group of them in the corner where the hostler can spray them when he washes the wagons. Sometimes they are arranged in rows on low, broad walls, and in rural Normandy they prettily edge the porches of inns and cottages. But the scarlet geranium is a plebeian, and it brags of its loudness and vitality the more when it is in refined and quiet company. There is but one way to treat it, in such a case: pot it and send it to the flower mission. It will be appreciated.
Grow fleur-de-lis, or iris. It is one of the early and affecting things of the year, with a sad, watery loveliness of texture, a faint fragrance such as we might expect from tears, if those liquids were not salt or bitter, and a reserve that is near to dignity. Tender as it seems, fragile as a form in tinted ice, it is yet hardy in our north temperate zone, and increases little by little every year until, in place of eight or ten stalks you have several square feet of fresh blades, and spike on spike of white, yellow, pale-blue, lilac and rich purple flowers. The roots will be so matted that weeds can not intrude, but these roots should be separated from time to time, in order to gain room for healthy continuance and increase. The iris will grow on dry ground, in partial shade, or in ground that is almost marshy in summer and in the sun, but it prefers not to be wet in winter. I wish I could speak from experience as to the growing of the Japanese iris, or iris Kaempferi, but mine bloomed only once. It has large, handsome flowers, when they grow, but I found the old-fashioned kind the more reliable. They tell me that I should not have given a place to it in the usual garden-bed, but made a deep trench for it, filled it with old manure and rich loam, and watered it, no end. It is one of the disadvantages of rare strains that they require special treatment, such as you do not bestow on the contents of the old home garden, for most of the flowers I have named thus far ask little that is not given to their neighbors. The iris leaves can be cut off in the late fall, and after the frosts we will partly dismantle the garden, if only for appearance' sake, tearing up the annuals and the frozen plants, and housing such as will live through the winter in a sheltered situation, like the parlor.
Beside the iris there is another old friend that would be sadly missed if it were not in view from our windows: to wit, the pansy. This charming little blossom, with its quaint, innocent face painted on the petals, and its refined, elusive fragrance, is a development from the violet. The latter is not largely grown by us, because it shrinks from sight among its own leaves. The violet thrives best in the greenhouse, and those amazing violets of California, hawked through the land some years ago, guaranteed to rival the giant pansy in size and exceed it in perfume, paid smaller dividends to the confiding than some of the oil-wells in the same State that were advertised with increasing strenuosity the farther the promoter escaped from the base of operations. The pansy should be massed, its various colors by themselves, and it ranges through white, pale blue, lavender, yellow, orange and purple, its lowest note being a rich and velvety shade of the latter that casual observers speak of as black, albeit there is no black in flowers. It may be a fancy of mine, but it has seemed to me that the deeper the color in pansies, the deeper the odor. While it does not object to partial shade, an afternoon eclipse of the sun by a tree or building, it also stands the light, and if the flowers are picked often and straggling stems cut back, it will utter flowers the whole summer long. It often sows itself, and I know a bed of it that weathers temperatures of 3°0 below zero, but it is believed to do best if kept in a cold frame from early frost to early spring, then set out in a sandy place that has been well enriched rather than in a heavy soil.
Turning now to a different species--for we are considering customs and availabilities, rather than botanical relations--the peony presents itself, a healthy, rustic companion that suggests a country bride, a bashful, good-natured wench, prone to blushes and embonpoint. In form like the rose, suggesting it, too, in its short life, its prompt appearance, its thrift, its opulence, make it a glad arrival in every zone it decorates. Country gardens without "pineys" would be like old homesteads without wells, shade-trees and lilacs. There are white, pink and red peonies, and each shade is finer than the other, for all of them arrive when the world is otherwise lean of show, and the flowers are shy and small. The peony is a foretoken of the treasures soon to be squandered over the earth. It grows in almost any soil, but deserves to have its choice considered, and it prefers a light, but rich earth, fertilized once a year, and watered through the summer. In planting it is well to throw some old manure into the pit, and from that time forth it will care for itself. Its natural term of life is over twenty years. As the peony ends its blooming early, it is willing to share its bed with any plant of a later season and different form. We are to prefer harmony in forms as well as in colors, yet we are to avoid monotony, hence it is pleasant to find the bushy masses and decorative leaves of the peony in company and contrast with the green fountains of lilaceous plants, or with flowers of an upright or spiky habit, like foxglove, larkspur, nicotiana, the tall phlox, scabiosa or salpiglossis.
The prejudice that certain good people have against the petunia arises partly from its abundance; for if sunsets happened every hour, there are thousands who would not look at them any more than they do at present, and partly from the injury it suffers in being thrown into contact with vivid leaves and blossoms, that make its tender, purple tones weak, cold, even ugly. Petunias deserve a place to themselves, and I have seen beds of them, forty or fifty feet in their greater dimension, on a Long Island farm, that were like drifts of snow dashed with a purple light of morning. While sensitive and costly plants may produce nothing but leaves, and few of them, the petunia is a sure bloomer in all kinds of soils, and it keeps at it all summer long. Its flowers wear white, pink-purple, blue-purple, a sober red and magenta, hence they are no partners for cannas, salvias, and especially for the geranium, coreopsis and ruddy marigold. Petunias are both double and single, but it is a defect in the former that their heads seem heavier than they can support, and they are as easily broken as dahlias are by rain, wind and gamboling pets, to say nothing of Mary Ann, whose destructive energies are greater than all the others. The single flowers are the handsomest, in so far as we are concerned with form, for the color range is the same in both. Either a light, dry soil or a rich and moist one serves for the raising of petunias. They will live in almost anything except a swamp or an alkali desert. Though they can be started in pots or boxes indoors, or in cold frames, I have never been disappointed in them when I have sown the seed out of doors in early spring.
Something of the prejudice that is roused against the petunia, because of its color, is stirred against the poppy, for the same, and better reason, for the poppy, albeit a magnificent work of nature, splendid as the light that falls through cathedral windows, perpetrates an unattractive and opiate smell, likewise a gross inharmony, as you are likely to find if you raise it from mixed seed, for you will discover meek lavenders, sad purples and grave maroons side by side with roistering scarlets and gory reds, as if monks and bacchantes had been thrown into an enforced society. The poppy is tender and does not bear transplanting, therefore, if these chromatic riots annoy you, there is nothing for it but to look the other way, or else to boldly behead the offender --a thing you hate to do, for their sin is in their society, and not in themselves. Happily, in the case of discords, unhappily at other times, the poppy lasts but a little. Often it shakes its petals down in twenty-four hours after they have opened, leaving the seed-knob with its lethal content--its opium--swaying on a long; spent stem. The fleeting character of the poppy endears it to us the more, for we can not see the rain of its silken petals without a pang, and it is not color alone that draws us to it, but its variety and grace of form. It is simple as we find it in the fields, a little red cup with rounded edges; and we hardly know for its relative that mass of white or pink or purple plume, lifted waist-high above the earth, and so full of life and light that we can not associate with it any property of sleep. Nor do we at once recognize as a member of the family the escholzia, a common variety in California, with delicate, finely divided leaves and low-growing flowers of yellow, singularly creamy, pure and tender. The escholzia will grow from seed planted in the fall, if it is well mulched, but the showy varieties come from seed committed to the earth at the end of winter. Such oddities as the horned poppy and the thistle-like poppy of Mexico do not please us in like measure with the splendid heads of the snowdrift, the cardinal and the fairy blush.
Sweet peas ought to be among our earliest considerings, both for their own sake and for their help in covering the fences. They must have strong cord, or wire, or strips of wire net to climb upon. The custom is to buy mixed seed and let them come up anyhow: white, pink, red, purple, bronze, blue, faint yellow and mottled, all in a jumble; but it is easy to sow each color by itself, and you will admit the gain in this method, if, the next time they are in flower, you gather bouquets of them according to color: a blue to-day, a purple to-morrow, and so on. Let me add that by keeping the flowers picked you keep the vines well filled with flowers to pick. There is a paradox, if you like, but it is a fact. The seed may be sown in October at a depth of fully four inches, and to insure later flowering and take the place of any vines that may be frost-killed, there can be a second sowing in April. The plants are apt to come up thickly and will stand thinning. Some florists not only tear out a number of their vines, to give room for the greater expansion of those which remain, but in the late summer they cut all of them to a lowness of two feet, feed them with manure water, and start them in life all over again; but mine have always been such thrifty creatures that they have bloomed till frost, and after, needing no other attention than an occasional pruning. There is a pretty dwarf variety that calls for no wires or strings, for it is of bushy habit, and it therefore endures closer planting and less pinching back. I confess to a dislike of pruning--amputation of the limbs of unresisting subjects; the thwarting of nature's intent; yet the garden is unquestionably the better for it. A florist will advise us not only to tear up and cut down sweet peas and poppies when they come up thickly, but will have us do the like for border plants, which we sow for thickness: candytuft, sweet alyssum, mignonette, portulaca, clarkia, larkspur and canary-bird vine.
A Window Box and Ampelopsis.
Before the sweet peas have ceased from blooming we have the asters, with their heads of red, pink, crimson, white, pale-purple and dark-purple bloom. Their buds are due to open by the first of September, yet I remember that they are forced into flower at earlier dates--a circumstance brought to mind by the delighted remark of a woman at the Chicago fair, whom I heard calling to her companion, in one of the gardens, "O Samanthy! Look at the chrysanthemiums and Chaney oysters!"--the same signifying chrysanthemums and China asters. The asters carry themselves with reserve and primness, greatly different from the artistic slovenliness of the poppies, though less severe than the erectness of the zinnias and marigolds, and they rejoice in colors that are simply exquisite. Some of the rose-tinted asters have the glow of rubies. These are held to be tender, and are generally 'started in cold frames, yet they grow on bleak northern farms after spring sowing in open ground.
Chrysanthemums close the season. They resemble the asters in leaf, habit and mode of growth, but they have a wonderful diversity in form and a greater range of color. Fashion has neglected this plant of late, for fashion has its whims not merely in the matter of gowns and the drama, but in such affairs as mountains and bouquets. It has given over the chrysanthemum shows, that used to be regarded as society events no less than events of esthetic and scientific interest; hence, because it is less worth their material while, the florists exhibit fewer of the blooms in their windows. But no matter. We, who admire, may continue to cultivate it. Just as likely as not, we have fallen out of the habit of reading the society news, and have therefore failed to observe the significant announcement that Mrs. Chuckleson-Jermynsides no longer drives in the park with a pug and chrysanthemums, but with a terrier and a bouquet of castor leaves and scarlet beans. And there are nurserymen in the land who go right along raising chrysanthemums as if nothing had happened to make them believe they shouldn't. They create new strains every year, and within the last quarter century they have sent specimens to the exhibitions that would have been an astonishment to our parents--big, fuzzy heads like those of football players, shapely globes of white, red, pink, magenta, yellow, orange, disks of crimson dashed with gold, open, sunny faces, knobs of close-set petals, nests of petals frazzled like those of the poppy, sober, formal, well-proportioned blossoms--in fact, there is no end to the variety. The big examples, that we see in the greenhouses of the dealers and showmen, are the results of unnatural stimulation and forcing; they have been treated to strong manures, and enlarged by disbudding; that is, the buds of the plant are nipped back to a single one at the end of each stalk, so that the strength formerly imparted to fifty blossoms is centered in half a dozen. Put your giant into the ground as soon as the petals have fallen, that is, if it is hardy, and next autumn, lo, a miracle! For instead of six or eight flowers something less in size than cabbages, here come thirty or forty of them, but all smaller than last year's buds; each a copy in miniature of the stately blooms of a twelvemonth ago. This increase in number and shrinkage in size and value but denote the reversion of the plant to its original type, the assertion of nature, and its reclamation of this, its offspring. In urging the chrysanthemum to feats and freaks of growth and color, shape and size, we sap its strength, and our indoor coddling makes it subject to colds and other diseases. Old-fashioned varieties are best to live out, for civilization weakens the subject. Hothouses are snares for both the vegetable and human victim: they so easily lead both into habits of luxury. Chrysanthemums can be started early in a hotbed, or later in the place where they are to grow. Those left out for the winter are to be cut down and thickly mulched. The showiest varieties are tender, and will require to be taken indoors and treated like other members of the family--a service which they requite by not putting out a single flower till fall.
With the flowers named in this list we can go a-garden-keeping. Not that the list is complete. One would require to take something like 700 pages out of Gray's Botany to make it so. Brief mention must still be made of the sunflower, that flaunts its banner of black and gold above the other color-bearers, and holds its station in any dry and sandy place; of the delightful marigold--I like even the bitter smell of it-unfolding its gold-yellow, lemon-yellow, orange and brown-red in almost rash luxuriance: one of the easiest and surest of plants, and to be sown at the end of April in ordinary soil; the calendula, or pot marigold, with a more limited range of color but more refined quality--a tremendous lot of it you may count upon, in all varieties; the coreopsis, with its fringed petals of red and yellow, and its lank and infirm carriage when it is not artificially supported; the calceolaria, with its queer floral pouches dappled with red and yellow--a greenhouse product, not to be set into the yard till summer; the heady and luxuriant sedums, that like sand, rocks and coolness; and phlox, both Drummondii (the annual), low-growing, strangely starred and streaked, and the stout, tranquil perennial of our grandmothers' gardens, with its panicles of white, pink and red in solid colors. We ought to make a good deal of the begonia. If you have ever seen the beds of the tuberous species in the Harvard botanical garden, in Cambridge, you have seen a show as fine in its way as the shows of the chrysanthemums in town. Yet the flowers are not aggressively beautiful, and the plant is to be regarded rather for its foliage. In the greenhouse the begonia will attain a height of more than six feet, and it bears leaves of beautiful markings.
It is a pity that the primrose does not grow with us as it does in England. The Chinese primrose, that we raise in pots, is one of the first tokens of spring that florists offer, and it will keep in bloom for several weeks, they tell me, yet it is not for me to see it in flower after the first ten days in the window. It puts out false buds in bunches that never open, but wither down. Still, its fuzzy leaves are pleasant to see, and those transplanted early from the greenhouse will bloom generously. The red and yellow primrose and primula polyanthus, like the English cowslip, are hardy with us. The fuchsias, too: every one likes them, with their delicate, drooping bells of red and white, but it takes a year to raise them from seed, and they are seldom kept after their first flowering, though the fuchsia variegata is commended as a hardy kind that will live out of doors and take care of itself. The cockscomb, or celosia, is such a magnificent piece of color that it ought to be in every garden. Both the red and orange varieties are available in borders, though their hues are so strong that they are apt to dull the tints of milder colored flowers in the vicinity. It is a delicate plant, for all the bristling of its crest, and must be guarded against frost and dryness. There is much charm in our common balsam despite the habit of its flowers in clinging close against the stalks, and so showing less of themselves than if they jutted boldly into view, like zinnias. It is to be sown so soon as mild weather is assured. Not only is the color of the balsam pure and delightful, but the texture of its petals is singularly pearly, and the white is as tender as the white of a summer cloud.
One of the flowers that always appeals to me by its modesty and grace is the bleeding-heart, with its festoons of pink, and its spring-like leaves. If they did not call its sister by so appalling a name as Dutchman's-breeches, quite probably we should elect that for the garden too, although it pleases one most when he finds it in the woods and among the ledges in May. The bleeding-heart is one of the long-lived plants, and is to be set into good soil so soon as the frost is out of the ground. Stronger reds than the bleeding-heart's we shall find in the canna, with its spikes of bloom and its huge leaves of refreshing green, and this plant is of especial use as a center for round beds, taking care not to put into the circles about it any flowers of a hue to be killed by its more assertive colors. The seed of the canna is so hard that it is proper to file a little hole in it and soak it in tepid water for a day be. fore planting. With canna in the center or in the back row we can employ the gladiolus as a neighbor for the inmost circle or the row next to the back, only there are pinks and magentas in the gladiolus that do not go well with the shriller reds of the canna. If standing at a distance from tall plants with straight leaves, the gladiolus is in good company if it is with rounder, shrubbier growths. The carnation and dianthus are popular in towns, but they are usually greenhouse products. In the garden they grow well enough in hot summers, but are apt to come up spindling, and they make less of a show, by far, than many plants of less estimation. Candytuft and sweet alyssum, with their tiny white flowers, are chiefly of use in borders, and are apt to grow scrawny and long. The alyssum appears to be the chosen habitat of a slithy grub that may have something to do with the patchy appearance of this plant. If you turn up the clusters you are pretty sure to find him in considerable numbers on the stems or on the earth where he has dropped. Better, to my mind, as a border plant, or as a filler for vacant spaces, is the portulaca, a lovable little member of the garden community, though related to purslain, which is one of the commonest of garden pests. In the first sowing of portulaca use seed rather liberally, and in places where the sun shines. After that it will sow itself, and you may look for it every spring. It exhibits white, pink, red, crimson and scarlet, the latter discordant with the others, but right enough for neighboring the geranium, the salvia and some of the cannas. More delicate, more charming than the strong-hued blossoms, is the salpiglossis, with its trumpets of buff and brown-pink, and the scabiosa, or mourning-bride, which puts up heads suggestive of a chrysanthemum, or of an impossible cross between that and the bachelor's button. It occurs in white, yellow, purple and a so-called black, which is really a deep purple-crimson. In shape a kinship will be found to this flower in the gaillardia, a handsome and neglected species which likes the sun and a sandy soil. The bachelor's button, adopted by the German Emperor as his personal flower, and of soft blue, white, pink and purple, is agreeable in borders and masses.
The heliotrope and mignonette are entitled to a place in the garden because of the fragrance they give to it, but they make no such show as do the verbena, the stock, the sweet-william, the four-o'clock, the linum, the painted-daisy, or even the fuzzy little ageratum, and in considering these plants of woolly texture we are not to forget the uses of love-lies-bleeding, with its drooping tassels of crimson and its cloth-like leaves. One fills odd corners with this plant to advantage, as its line of grace relieves the angular setting of a fence junction and the uprights of a house or arbor. There are good words to say for Canterbury bells, foxglove, blazing-star, clarkia, columbine, and especially for the cosmos, with its fern-like foliage and its daisy-like flowers of red and pink and white. The cosmos stands six feet high, and ought to stand against a wall or fence, for it roots so lightly that it may be tipped over by a stiff wind. Its flower is delicate and refined and looks well in clusters for vases on the table.
Then, there are the plants with ornate leaves, the well-known coleus, the dusty-miller, the striped grass, the poinsettia, with its flaming bracts, the odd little house-leek and especially the alternanthera, a close-growing, small-leaved plant, that takes on glossy green or the autumnal red of oak-leaves. The alternanthera is almost the equal of box for borders and figures in the elaborate designs used in carpet bedding. I have not included any mention of this latter thus far, because, while it is more suitable for a small garden than for some of the grounds in which it is essayed, it is so extremely formal and difficult that for the amateur it is best left alone. The carpet bed reproduces as closely as possible the texture of a rug, and it is in these close-cropped and solid masses of vegetation that we find those horrors which are supposed to be the joy of Jake and Maggie in their walks through the parks: pictures, in plants, of eagles, harps, soldiers, ships and other devices so exceeding cute that you think of the man who invented them as sitting up with them all night to check the growth of a leaf here, a stem there and a flower in the other place) lest the sharp edging of a stripe or circle or curve be marred. To plan some of these foliage mosaics requires a geometrician, a gardener, a botanist in one, and the unceasing service of a laborer or an enthusiast is exacted to keep them in order after they have been planned and planted. Flowers growing as nature intended them to grow, in beds, to be sure, but unrestrained and helped, are of necessity more beautiful than plants collected into cities of their kind without elbow-room or breathing-room, tortured for a show.
garden has a high fence or wall to keep off the
winds and reflect the sunshine, there are many tropical or semitropical
that will be willing guests of ours through the summer-the palms, the
the velvety gloxinias, the huge elephant's-ear , the decorative
the dracenas, the jasmin, and even those strange things of the air: the
fern, the tillandsia, and the orchids. We have swamp and field orchids
can be grown about our houses, provided they can have the soils and
of light and shade which they elect in the open, and the orchids of the
and Amazon can be kept through the summer in a warm and sheltered yard.
these have a stronger hold on life than is commonly supposed. The
Skinneri and the cattleya trianae cheered a winter for me by putting
some beautiful blooms in a south window, where they had been hung
pieces of cork with a packing of moss about the roots; yet I have to
that while they lived for several years, they never flowered again. The
varieties are not for domestic cultivation, at least, for more than a
season, except to that happy person who has a greenhouse. Wherein the
is not unlike the cactus. The plant children of the desert were a fad
mine, for a while. I spent more than I had a right to do in rare and
specimens, and with one or two exceptions they died without flowering.
exceptions died just afterward. It was quite an experience to see them
it. And when you observe that in Arizona they live through everything,
heat of a rolling-mill, the drought of the desert, the chili of a
winter, the calm of a cellar, the gale of an open sea, to say nothing
the preyings and nibblings of animals and insects, it is hard to
why they should behave so ungratefully on our shelves and in our
but I suspect it is that they are treated too well, and have too much
and too much water. I found that cacti did the best in a rockery--to
a little stone heap by that name--for perched in niches on this
such moisture as they received ran quickly off, leaving them as dry as
when the sun came out, and that is what they insist upon. They live a
life, and when they have all that you suppose they have been asking,
sicken of a surfeit and expire. Hot sunshine and little rain are their
requirements, so the difficulty of keeping them contented in a cool and
land is obvious. Their bizarre forms, their hoary heads, bristling
snaky arms, tall candelabra, their melon shapes and their flat,
lobes are interesting, certainly, and experts persuade them to flower
surprising ways, but in the north country I would rather have a lily
a hundred cacti. Out on the plains in June it is a different matter.
bursting forth of rose and lemon-yellow cactus flowers in early summer
one of the shows of the world. Here are we in a yard and can not see