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The Moonlight Garden
The Water Garden
The Rock Garden
The Wild Flower Garden
The Court Of The Queen Of Flowers
The Children's Garden
The Bulb Garden
The Indoor Garden
The Garden That Faces Four Ways
What Can Be Done With Half An Acre
Old And New Flowers For The Garden
Where Are And Nature Meet
Our Birds And Our Gardens
The Flower Spectrum
Garden Friends And Foes
Trees And Tree Planting
Window Box Gardening
Flowers For Cutting
The More Common Garden Flowers And How To Grow Them
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
We who love gardens have all experimented with the marigold, the zinnia, phlox, and other indestructible plants; and a good many of us have even gone further afield, seeking novelty in the almost equally easily grown nicotiana and verbena, buying snapdragons and other tender plants in "flats" and setting them out as soon as the weather permitted. There are, however, other varieties, little known to the casual gardener, which require as little trouble as these -pretty, gay things, which will give you of their beauty lavishly all summer, and for many summers, in return-not for care, for they ask nothing as troublesome as that-but only for the planting.
"Give us a chance !" they seem to cry, as they raise their nodding heads out of the earth; and the giving of the chance is productive of pleasure and profit to you, in the increased loveliness of your garden.
First of all these tempting blossoms comes the foxglove. This flower is, of course, familiar to everyone, but it is astonishing how many persons neglect to raise it because of the care which it, as a biennial, is supposed to require. As a matter of fact, nothing is easier to grow. Plant seed in the summer, early enough to be sure that the small plants will be well started before frost. That is all that is required, save for covering, which must to some extent be governed by the climate, but which should not cover the crown of the plant. This is all that is needed, and next spring you will be rewarded by a mass of bloom, pink, red or white, borne on stout stems which, according to their variety and situation, vary from three to six feet in height. Although properly speaking, biennials, the plants are exceedingly prolific, and sow themselves broadcast. A bed of foxgloves, once started, will practically, like the brook, "go on forever."
Another blossom which comes early-at about the same time as the foxglove, is the Greek Valerian. (Polemonium cteruleum,) This plant, which grows about three feet high, is invaluable for the "blue bed," and only requires to be once firmly established to succeed. One enthusiast has described it as resembling "a bit of sky fallen into the garden," and though almost no blue flower can be called "showy," since blue is not a color which strikes the eye at a distance, the solid mass of pale lavender with which the valerian bed will be covered in the spring must delight the heart of anyone who loves color or profusion.
Another blossom which lovers of blue flowers should cultivate-and lovers of blue flowers seem more frequent every year-is the anchusa. This is widely grown in England, but has not yet come into its own in this country. The reason for this is hard to imagine, for next to the larkspur, there is no other blue flower so striking or so effective. The florists' catalogues are apt to damn it with faint praise, as being "ungainly in its habit," and this objection is reason able, but not insuperable. The beauty of the anchusa will well repay an effort to find it surroundings where its straggling habit will not mar its effect. It should never be planted in rows, nor will a single plant, nor even a small group prove satisfactory; but if enough space can be given to form a mass, the effect will be most striking. Another arrangement which shows the anchusa to advantage, is the planting of a clump of it before a group of evergreens; the pale blue blossoms stand out against the dark foliage with excellent effect, while the habit of the plant is less noticeable against the green background. The anchusa will be found a splendid addition to the garden, and requires little care. The roots, it is said, are apt to become watersoaked after the second year, but I have known plants to do well after a longer period, when planted in well drained soil, and since the anchusa is self-sowing, any number of seedlings may be safely counted upon to replace the older plants, should misfortune befall them.
The sneezewort, or Helenium autumnale, may be most highly recommended for planting near the house. It makes a splendid covering for the desolate stretch of bare ground which of late years many persons fill with little evergreens, and which, in earlier days, our fathers struggled to keep green with grass. It grows to a height of six feet, and makes a ray of golden sunlight, wherever it is planted. The blossom resembles a daisy, with the petals cut off at the broadest part. It may be had in crimson or yellow; the yellow variety is the more effective in the mass. The plant is perfectly hardy if some care be taken to protect it from freezing, when grown in places where defective gutters or leaders are likely to cover it with a coating of ice from December to March; although often, even this will only retard its growth. Nor is the least advantage of the sneezewort its size and habit, which enable us to substitute it for the ubiquitous golden glow, which, although once so pretty, has now become as conventional a bromide in every yard or garden as the front path, without the path's excuse for usefulness for its existence.
But while we are abusing the golden glow-which, poor thing, has no fault but its too many friends-let us pause at its distant cousin, the coneflower or Rudbeckia purpurea. This has none of the triteness of the golden glow and is not, indeed, as well known as it deserves. Upon a plant some five feet high are borne daisy-shaped blooms some four or five inches across, from the middle of each of which rises a tall dark cone of velvety appearance. The petals are a dull pink. The whole flower is strikingly handsome, and will a1ways attract the attention of those who see it.
It is often hard to say which flowers are well known and which are not-so much depends upon the information of the individual-yet in behalf of those who do not yet know the liatris and the penstemon, which were unfamiliar to me until recently, I should like to say a word-for the sturdy growth and brilliant coloring of the former and for the delicacy and daintiness of the latter. They should be grown in every garden.
A determined effort has been lately made by growers to spread the acquaintance of the pyrethrum in this country. It is said to be an old and tried favorite abroad, and seems to be becoming one here. The plant is, however, a disappointing one in my opinion. Few pyrethrums are sold by name; the result is apt to be a mixed assortment in which the single variety predominates, as the double varieties are less hardy and more difficult of culture. The double pyrethrum is said to repay well the trouble taken to secure it, but is difficult to raise with success. The single variety is pretty, but not strikingly so. It is very free-blooming, however, and can be relied upon to keep a bed gay with bloom for the greater part of the summer.
The monkshood (Aconitum), is another well known favorite of our grandmothers' days which is not now extensively grown. Care is necessary in the planting of this flower, as the very poisonous root has the additional disadvantage of closely resembling that of the horseradish. It should, therefore, not be planted near the vegetable garden. The blue varieties are more hardy than the white or yellow, as well as more effective, and of these the dark flowered is superior to the paler shade. This plant varies in height from three feet to, in some localities, so much that it may be trained as a vine. With it should be mentioned the veronica, which in the old days when monkshood was a part of every garden, played its part as "Lady of the Lake." It has been greatly improved in recent years, and its nodding plumes of dark blue bloom are graceful and attractive.
A wild flower which has sprung into great popularity under recent cultivation is the verbascum. This is no less than our wild mullein in a glorified form, which has been domesticated in England and which, in a short time, has become a much sought-after standby. But don't fear to try it because of its origin; there is no more likeness between this giant aristocrat of the garden, its pale yellow petals touched by a glint of copper or dull purple, and the "common garden" mullein than there is between your nodding bed of snapdragons and its far-off ancestor, the little "butter and eggs" which decks our summer fields.
Lychnis, too, is becoming more and more popular in this country, although it is not, as yet, a part of every garden. The Lychnis viscaria is a striking pinkish purple flower, rather low in growth and blooming in long spikes. It is, in certain parts of America, becoming known as a "garden stray," especially along the lines of railway. The reason for this is that its seed is used in packing shipments from certain parts of Europe, and :has thus sown itself broadcast along the lines of freight trains. It is an attractive plant, and well repays cultivation. The Lyclnis Ch,alcedonica, on the other hand, is a scarlet blossom, somewhat resembling the flower of the verbena in form, but larger and more showy. I have seen it used in a larkspur garden where it was the only touch of color apart from the many shades of blue. Although red and blue are not usually a good color combination, in this instance the touch of scarlet was the one thing needed to bring out the wonderful tones of the larkspur-just as the "man in the red shirt" who in some form or other is always present in every Corot painting, furnishes the keynote to the whole.
Although it is said that all flowers were originally yellow, it seems at times to the lover of the hardy garden that it is the hardest thing in the world to provide a permanent touch of this gay color here and there, save for a few well-known and not particularly satisfactory plants. Besides the helenium, however, another valuable addition to this all-too-short list is the Senecio, or groundsel. This plant will grow in any soil, although it does best in low, moist ground. From enormous leaves about its foot rise stems fully four feet high, which are bright with yellow blossoms in August.
The Galega, or goat's rue, is a splendid flower for cutting, which has the additional advantage of flowering in July and August while most other perennials are preparing for their second blooming. At this time it is a mass of pink or lilac flowers, which resemble the sweet pea in shape and which are equally decorative in vases in the house or in their native home in the garden. When the flowers are gone the pretty foliage makes the Galeg,a an addition to the bed where it is planted.
The pink Sidalcea is also worth knowing. It grows to a height of five feet, and in June and July is a mass of clear pink blossoms which are produced in the greatest profusion. There is a smaller and less striking white variety of this plant, but the pink is by far the more effective.
There are other blue flowers which should by no means be omitted from the list of blossoms which have not received the publicity deserved by them. The first of these, the Eryngium or sea holly, grows to a height of three feet and is classed as a hardy perennial, although it is extremely difficult to winter. Stout stalks, each bearing a thistle-like, steel-blue blossom, spring from a mass of foliage which is reminiscent of lily-of-the-valley. The flower, which is notable for its unusual color, is everlasting, and may be preserved for many months after cutting. Another good blue blossom, the Linuna, or flax, is a dainty, graceful plant with foliage resembling that of the willow. It is low-growing and delicate rather than striking, but can fail to please no one who cares for lightness and grace. Besides the blue variety there is another, covered with small, red, poppy-like blossoms. The Echinops ritro, or globe thistle, is an odd and striking plant, in color resembling the Eryngiuam, in its metallic shade of steelblue. The flowers are globular in form and exceedingly attractive. The list of little-known blue flowers would be incomplete without a mention of the Meconopsis, too, although on account of the extraordinary difficulty attendant upon growing it in this country, to dwell upon its beauties is, perhaps, more tantalizing than practical. There are many varieties, in different colors, of this lovely plant; the most beautiful, the Wallachii, resembling somewhat a sky-blue hollyhock. These flowers are beautiful in the extreme, and well worth any trouble to secure, although such trouble may all too often be undertaken without result. They grow in their natural state at great altitudes in the Himalayas, and find it difficult to endure, not the cold of the American winter, but, more oddly, the heat of the American summer. If they can be nursed through the heated season, however, their almost unbelievable beauty will be its own reward.
Perennials-to which class a11 these plants belongare, of course, the basis of the plans of a11 garden lovers of old standing. At first one runs to annuals, but as time passes and "waiting to see" becomes a habit, they are gradually discarded in favor of plants which require less care and which, after a year or two, grow with a luxuriance which attests their length of residence. One annual which is not often seen of late-is the Scabiosa, or "mourning bride," as it was prettily known in old-fashioned gardens. It is now grown in delicate shades which rob the name of meaning, but the old "black" variety-really a deep, dark red, resembling the color of the "black tulip "-is an odd and charming flower which well repays the little care which is necessary to raise it, and which is far too little grown.
Another annual well worth mention is the Dimorphotheoa aurantiaca, or golden African daisy, which thrives in the hottest sun. This charming plant bears numberless daisy-shaped flowers, each with its dark center surrounded by a dark line, and the whole growing some twelve inches in height. It blooms early and continues all summer, making gay little pools of sunlight in the clumps where it is planted.
Harking back to perennials, there are many more that could be named. The Japanese anemone, both white and a delicate shell pink, so difficult to winter, but so unequalled for delicacy; the platycodon, a glorified bluebell-an exquisite thing, easy to grow and yet slowly disappearing from the seedsman's catalogues on the plea of the insufficiency of the demand-a state of affairs which every flower lover should hasten to rectify before one of the loveliest additions to the garden joins the limbo of forgotten things; the lupine, which, properly grown, almost rivals the larkspur in habit and dignity; the Sedum or stonecrop, invaluable where a solid mass of pink is wished for; the gorgeous Oriental poppy, and many others whose names will be more or less familiar to the reader.