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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 )
There is no sort of garden more delightful than the water garden, and none which, contrary to the general opinion, is so easy to make or maintain. For those who have a natural pond, or a brook from which a pond may be made, at their disposal, this is obvious; but under no circumstances is it difficult for the lover of water lilies to gratify his tastes, and from no other form of gardening is it possible to obtain such rapid and profitable returns.
For those who must construct their water gardens from the beginning, various courses are open. If a large pond be desired, it is possible to excavate the required size to a depth of about two feet, and then to turn cattle into the space so formed. If the soil be of stiff clay, in a few months a bottom sufficiently hard to hold water will be obtained.
If a smaller pond be desired, it should be dug to a depth of a little over two feet, the sides slanting out as they approach the top, and the bottom paved in stones. A rough mould, which will run parallel to the sides of the hole, but six or eight inches from them, is then built of boards. Chicken wire should be inserted in the space between the earth walls and the mould, and the space filled with concrete. This work requires no technical skill, and can be done by practically any "Italian-by-the-day." The bottom of the pool should also, of course, be covered with concrete, the stones here acting as reinforcement. Concrete which is not reinforced, or which is less than six or eight inches in thickness, cannot be relied upon to stand the frost of our northern latitudes.
In making the pool, it is well to provide compartments in which to plant the lilies. They may, of course, be planted in soil spread loose upon the bottom, but this method is less desirable, especially in small water gardens, on account of the tendency of the plants to spread. It also makes the cleaning of the pool more difficult. Wooden boxes may be used instead of concrete or stone compartments, but they make a rather ungainly appearance. In cleaning the pool, however, they have the advantage that it is possible to move them about. And when the lily pads have begun to spread, as they do in a wonderfully short time, neither boxes nor compartments will be visible.
The average water lily requires about ten cubic feet of soil. A box or compartment, therefore, should be about three feet square and one foot deep, and its top should be about one foot below the surface of the water. Fill it with earth which has been thoroughly enriched-about one part of well-rotted manure to three parts of heavy rich earth or humus. Mud from an old pond, or leaf mould, will not be found to give such good results as this combination.
It is, of course, also possible to make a small water garden, from which much pleasure may be had, from several tubs sunk in the earth, the divisions between them being hidden by water plants. Generally, however, the water-lily enthusiast soon wearies of the limitations imposed by gardening on so contracted a scale, and either gives up aquatic plants altogether, or -which is more probable-turns to some more elaborate arrangement where his plants will show to better advantage. The tub garden may be made very pretty but is a makeshift at best, and when a satisfactory pool is so easy to obtain, the other is not, in my opinion, to be seriously recommended.
The best way to secure lilies is to buy the plants of a reliable dealer. It is, however, interesting to try to raise one or two from seed, for one's own satisfaction if nothing more. Put a few inches of rich earth in the bottom of a bowl, and cover it with sand. Fill the bowl with tepid water, and when it becomes clear, drop the seed upon the surface of the water. It will sink when wet and sow itself naturally.
In a week a little sprout will be seen rising from the earth; in another a leaflet will appear; and during the third week you may expect to see the first tiny pad make its way toward the top of the clear water. If the plants become too crowded, move some to other bowls. If they are sown early in February they will be ready to set out by the middle of May, and by midsummer will delight you with their bloom. The seed of the tender varieties should be used for this purpose, especially that of the Nymphaea Zanzihariensis.
When the time comes for planting the garden-which should not be until a11 danger of frost is well over-each plant should be set in the box or compartment provided for it, and the earth entirely covered with white sand. This ensures clear water. The pool should then be filled. Although every water gardener will warn you of the danger of chilling the lilies by placing them in too cold water, my experience is that, if a warm day be selected and a garden hose of moderate size be used, the growth of the plants will not be interfered with to any appreciable extent. But do not set them out too early.
The plants put in, your work in the water garden is at an end. You need only visit it each day and see what new surprises it has in store for you. It needs no weeding, no cultivation, no care. And there is a fascination in seeing each bud, as it is formed, rise upward through the water, and each faded blossom sink back into the depths again, in seeing the actual "working" of the lily plants.
Lilies, as has been said before, require stagnant, or nearly stagnant, water. This must be taken into consideration in planting them in .a natural pond, or in one formed from a running brook. It does not, however, mean that the water must become covered with algae, or serve as a breeding place for mosquitoes. The presence of a. few goldfish will always keep it clean and fresh. The lonely two that you first put in-two goldfish are enough to start with in any pond, unless it be a very large one-will evidently have never seen anything larger than a bowl before you pour them into your garden out of a tin pail, and will be obviously greatly taken aback at first, as they cautiously explore the recesses of the pool side by side, darting back at every unexpected sight or sound. In a few days, however, they will come up for crumbs as quickly, and retire to the depths as cheerfully, as if they had lived there a11 their lives. And before summer is over, wherever you peer through the lily pads, you are sure to catch sight of some of their numerous descendants.
Tender water lilies are usually considered superior to hardy ones for cultivation. They are larger, more quickly growing, and on account of their habit of growth, the flowers rising on stout stems well out of the water instead of lying flat upon it, are preferable for cutting. Of them there are two varieties, the day and the night blooming. On the other hand, without skilled assistance it is almost impossible for the amateur to carry them through the winter.
In my experience the hardy varieties are perfectly satisfactory. They are beautiful, and quite rapid enough of growth for any pool which is not very large. They do not harrow the feelings of the lily enthusiast by dying each year at the touch of frost. If their roots be not actually frozen-which can always be avoided by deep planting-they withstand any ordinary conditions. The hybrid varieties are easier to care for than the tuberous and the odorata, which are strong growers and require watching lest they crowd the others. None of the hardy lilies bloom at night.
These lilies are to be had in all colors save blue, and it is well to secure this color by the purchase, each year, of the tender Nymphaea Pennsylvania. This is a very fine shade of blue, and a strong and rapid grower. It establishes itself quickly, blooming profusely and at once, until the weather becomes cold. One plant in a small pool by itself, is a joy to the eyes a11 summer.
Mrs. Edwards Whitaker is another lovely blue tender nymphaea. The flower is borne on a stem a foot above the water, and often attains a growth of thirteen inches in diameter. It remains open a11 day and is very fragrant.
The Nymphaea Capensis and the Nymphaea Zanzibariensis are other good blue lilies belonging to this class. The flowers of both are some six inches across. The Zanzibariensis may also be had in pink.
The night blooming nymphaeas have received detailed attention in another chapter, but a few words may here be said once again regarding their habits and a few of the best varieties. They open in the evening and do not close until the day is bright. Nothing is more beautiful by night than a. white lily, and of these the dentata superba is one of the finest. There are, too, some very lovely red and pink varieties, among which the old and well known rubra rosea (red) and the rose pink Bissetti are worthy of especial mention.
Among the hardy nymphaeas the Eugenia De Land (odorata) is one of the best, with its great floating flowers of deep pink, while the blossoms of Paul Hariot, which, originally yellow, turn to pink as they grow older, almost produce the effect of blossoms of three colors-yellow, pink and shaded-growing from one plant. The marliacea chromatella is one of the fine yellow lilies, with its stamens of dazzling orange; while the marliacea rosea is an equally striking flower of bright rose. For the sparkling whiteness which cannot be surpassed, although from habit we are apt to consider it inferior to the more uncommon pinks and blues, comes the marliacea albida or-which can really hardly be improved upon-the odorata variety of our native lakes. The free-blooming Robinsoni and the beautiful shell-pink William Doogue are also good.
The real glory of the water garden, however, is not the lilies, perfect though they are, but the Nelumbium or lotus. It is impossible to say too much in praise of these flowers. They are perfectly hardy, like the hardy lilies, if the roots be not frozen. They require very rich soil, but beyond that no care. The large leaves, which stand several feet out of water, are a dull pale green in color, and upon them drops of water roll about like globules of mercury. The enormous blossoms, which are borne upon stems sometimes four feet high, are pink or white in color, with an extraordinary yellow seed pod in the center. The Osiris and the speciosum are good pink varieties, while the album grandi florum is an excellent white. There are also some double varieties, notably the Pekinensis rubrum plenum.
The Victoria reqia, though interesting, is not adapted to the average water garden. The enormous size of its leaves makes it impossible of culture save in very large ponds, and even where space is available, unless the summer be very hot, it is possible to care for it tenderly without the reward of a single bloom. It is, of course, not hardy.
Of other plants suitable for the water garden or its vicinity, there are still a few of which mention should be made. The Eichlaornia crassipes major (water hyacinth) floats upon the surface of the water and does not root in the soil. The blossom is lavender and in form somewhat reminiscent of the ordinary hyacinth. One or two of these plants are sufficient, as they multiply so rapidly that they tend to become a nuisance. Three plants were once put, in May, into a pool about eight feet by sixteen. In September I pulled out enough of them to make a heap some two feet in height and three feet in diameter-and left an abundance in the pool. The plants are rather decorative, however, if one can harden one's heart and take them out ruthlessly.
The water poppy (Limnocharis Humboldtii) is an attractive little plant, the bloom of which somewhat resembles that of the California poppy.
The Myriophyllum proserpinacoides (parrot's feather) is a very luxuriant growth covered with masses of feathery foliage. In the case of a water garden composed of sunken tubs, this plant is useful in hiding the unsightly rims of the tubs. It is a prolific grower.
In connection with the pool, the different varieties of iris are pretty and appropriate, as well as our own wild cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). The Cyperus papyrus, which sometimes reaches a height of eight feet, is also worthy of mention. The hardy bamboos, which reach a considerable height and which, in addition to their decorative qualities, make a pleasant sound as their branches rub together in the wind, are valuable from an ornamental point of view, and act as a windbreak. The hardy grasses, such as the Arundo donax (Giant reed) and the Erianthus ravennae (Pampas grass) should not be forgotten, while a space should certainly be saved for the hibiscus or giant rose mallow, which brightens our country marshes in August and which well repays cultivation.
It may be advisable, for the benefit of those who have neither time, room nor inclination for a large water garden, to suggest the possibilities offered by one of small size. As has been said already, one devoted to the growth of some fine tender variety alone is effective and unusual. A small pool will not be too small for so large a plant, since, if tender, it will, in its one season, not grow beyond its compass. The same may be said for the night-blooming lilies, several of which may be accommodated in a small pool with ease-three, for example, finding satisfactory accommodation in a triangular pool each side of which meas ures ten feet. Especially good for this use, however, are the somewhat expensive-but not prohibitively so "dwarf varieties," the Nymphaea pygmaea, which may be had in white or yellow, and is the smallest lily grown, and perfect in its miniature. The blooms are from one and a half to two inches across, with pads proportionately small; and the effect which is produced by them is exceptionally charming. The construction of the small pool, of course, differs in no way from that of its larger brother.
Apart from the Nymphaea pygmaea, which is especially adapted to the small water garden, there are other varieties which make a good showing in a small pool or even in a tub. Among the hardy varieties of these is the Andreana, in red and yellow; the laydekeri lilacea or purpurea in lilac or crimson; the marliacea albida, carnea, chromatella and rosea-white, pale pink, yellow or rose-which latter though exquisite, are strong growers, and, in the course of a year or two will certainly require moving to larger quarters. Among the tender lilies where, as has been said, the problem of strong growth is less important to the owner of a little garden, the Jubilee is white and highly to be recommended among night bloomers, as is Kewensis in pale pink. The day-blooming varieties afford many possibilities in small-garden culture, notably the Panama Pacific in a rich and unusual shade of red, the Zanzibariensis rosea-a really lovely variety-the pale blue Daubeniana with its enormous and numerous blooms, and the Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, a strongergrowing and freer-flowering hybrid of the Daubeniana.
Wintering? If your pond be natural, plant deep and do no more. If it be artificial, do not empty it. It should be covered over with a double platform of boards, over which is spread a load of stable litter. In spring, when all danger of frost is passed, this covering should be removed and the pool emptied and thoroughly cleaned. The water which comes from it will, diluted, make excellent manure water for your roses. For this reason I have not thought it necessary, as do some other water gardeners, to suggest plans for an elaborate system of drawing off the water of the pond, and for filling it again. Every gardener knows the value of manure water, and here, each spring, is as much as you can use of this excellent fertilizer ready to hand. It can be bailed out in pails, the pool cleaned, and fresh water put in by the hose, with little trouble, and with the additional advantage of less original trouble in the building of the pool. The water garden, by the way, will be found to keep perfectly sweet and fresh, and the flowers to bloom better, because undisturbed, if the pool be cleaned but once a year. And when the garden has filled again, you need only wait for a little to enjoy it for another summer.