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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 )
The rock garden, which has been for many years the standby of English flower lovers, has found its way into America. I do not mean by this the "rockery" which has for many years defaced the aspect of suburban yards, with its pile of jagged stones supporting a formal salad of red cannas, salvia and "foliage plants." The rock garden, properly speaking, need not be large, often finding its boundaries in a dry wall or even in a path; but as far as it goes it is a tiny corner of the Alps, all a-bloom with Alpine flowers and sparkling with every color of the rainbow.
For the success of the Alpine garden Alpine conditions must, of course, be provided. The first requisite of this is good drainage. This may be secured by skilful placing or, if a well-drained position be not available, the space intended for the garden should be dug out to a depth of about three feet and filled in with old rubble or stones. Upon this the garden is made. Laying out the Alpine garden is a task worthy the skill of a landscape gardener, although with taste and pains there is no reason why any garden lover cannot accomplish it with success. Often one sees rock gardens which have evidently been made by the simple process of throwing all the old stones, bricks and rubbish procurable upon a desired spot, and covering the pile with plants. It need hardly be said that the result of such a method is sure to be unsatisfactory. In spite of the apparently careless arrangement of the rock garden-for of all gardens the rock garden is the least formal in appearance-the laying of every stone is a matter for care, and as in everything else worth having, the amount of care expended in preparation will show in the finished product.
After the site of the garden has been selected and prepared, the earth should be piled solidly about in hillocks and slopes of varying height. In a general way the land to be used should be given an Alpine contour in miniature. Then about the hillocks stones should be piled, as large as can conveniently be handled. Remember that the stones themselves have no nutritive property, as far as the plants are concerned. They hold moisture in the soil, and the crevices between them, which as time goes on are constantly filled with more earth and with the mould of decaying plants, form moisture-holding pots of rich earth. To this the plants in their native state are accustomed. Natural conditions should be kept closely in mind during the building of the Alpine garden, and should be conformed to as nearly as possible.
For this reason it is well to use rock of a porous texture if it can be had. In the absence of this, rock of any kind will serve to hold the moisture of the ground to some extent. Too much should not be used. The garden should be at a distance from large treesboth for the esthetic reason that trees are not usually found at the altitude of real Alpine gardens, and for the practical one that their roots absorb much of the moisture from the soil. The rocks should be embedded in the earth about a quarter of their height. It is well to give them all a slant in the same direction to imitate natural stratification.
Earth should be filled in behind these rocks, and in this the seeds are planted. Any appearance of a series of terraces should be avoided, and the whole be given, as far as possible, a natural rather than an artificial look. This will be obtained by the building of a series of pockets at irregular distances rather than of a formal terrace.
In continuation of this same idea, if a border of rocks be used-as, for example, in edging a pathwhile the stones should be set close together so that no earth may wash out between them, they will give the best effect if set irregularly. The path itself should be irregular in width, and its course, like that of any natural trail, should follow the "line of least resistance."
The formal water garden which is sometimes seen in Alpine gardens is inappropriate, aside from the obvious absurdity of growing the average water plants among Alpine surroundings. If water is to be used as a feature of the garden a series of little pools may be made, which in shape and contour give the effect of an Alpine brook. Very pretty results may be had from this method of handling the problem, and if carefully done, a deep pool may be introduced effectively. It should, however, be irregular in outline and rough in its formation.
The crevices between the rocks and the cracks in them, should these be large enough to plant, must now be filled with earth. For this purpose, and for all filling-in where Alpine flowers are to be planted, a mixture of loam, leaf mould, manure and chips of stone has been found to produce the best results. It should be tamped down into the crevices, and after the first rain has fallen the garden should be gone over and any places needing it filled and tamped over again. It is, of course, most important that each pocket be filled beyond the possibility of a wash-out, and that no cavity remain where roots, stretching out, will lack for food. The principle cannot be too often or too strongly laid down that ample flower-space should be provided among the rocks. The Waterloo of the average Alpine gardener is his insistence upon a preponderance of stonework. It should never be forgotten that the stones are only a means to the end of an effective display of Alpine plants. It is they, and not the stones, which are the feature of the garden.
There are other varieties of the rock garden which should be mentioned. First of these comes the drywall garden. If you have a bank wall, you may, by covering it with Alpine plants, make it a constant pleasure to the eye. It is almost worth while to provide one for the sake of the sheer beauty with which it will greet you every day. A wall is built-preferably a bank wall, as I have said-loosely, to imitate an old wall, which in falling away has opened crevices where flowers may find lodgment. Plant Alpine flowers upon it, as in the crevices of the rock garden. The general rules for an Alpine garden are applicable here, but the pockets between the stones should point downward (which may easily be managed by careful laying of the wall) and the face of the wall should slope backward as it rises. In this way the smallest shower will be sure to benefit the plants, and their roots will be as, sured of ample nourishment.
The "walk garden" is hardly worthy of the name of garden at a11, but may be mentioned as a charming in novation which is likely to tempt its owner to a wider acquaintance with Alpine plants. It is a variant of the walk of broken flagging, through the cracks of which peeps grass, which is becoming so popular in this country. The English variant of this quaint idea is as yet unfortunately little known here. It consists in placing Alpine plants between the stones, which makes the walk, to be sure, a little less practicable for walking, but a joy to the eye and a real addition to the garden.
I remember the first of these walks which I ever saw, upon which I was taken one moonlight night to view the gardens of an old English country house. For a while I stumbled over tufts of foliage and wondered, irritably, why the gardeners did not weed the walks; but next morning, when I peered through the little leaded Elizabethan windows of my room at that same walk, what was my surprise to find the "weeds" of the night before an actual wilderness of pink and yellow and purple blossoms, which in their brilliancy and variety reminded me of nothing as much as a handful of jewels sparkling on the grass !
The plants for the Alpine garden are for the most part hardy perennials and run the gamut of color. And now, the preparatory work completed, the gardener's thoughts may turn to them in detail, and plant the lovely luxuriant things to his heart's content. For yellow, the bushy Alyssum saxatile compactum will give a touch of sunlight in a shady spot, the Oenothera (evening primrose) in yellow and white, the infinite shading of the Iceland poppies, the delicate annual Erysimum (Fairy wallflower) which is so like its more sturdy namesake, and the bright golden yellow Primula, or English cowslip, will make your rock garden gay. The Arabis Alpina, which resembles a snowdrift, so completely is it covered by its white flowers in the early spring, thrives in the shade, and should be in every Alpine garden. The tiny sea-pinks (Armeria maritima) will cover bare slopes with a mass of deep pink in May and June, and will grow on the steepest incline.
The columbines here and there make a brave showing; and the Alpine garden would be indeed incomplete without the edelweiss-the national flower of Switzerland-which combines the properties of being both graceful and everlasting. The Aubretias, in various shades of blue and violet, are almost dazzling in their profusion and color; mention should especially be made of the variety known as Dr. Mules. Saxifrage, which grows in stout clumps or tufts, gives another variety of purple shade, and still another is furnished by the Phlox sublata, which may be depended upon to cover stonework gracefully and to keep it in its proper subservience to the flowers of the Alpine garden.
For those who care for blue flowers, the plumbago is covered with bright blue blossoms in August and September, and there is a dwarf variety of veronica which in June carpets the bed in which it is planted with a covering of sky-blue; while the hepatica and the forget-me-not will suggest themselves to everyone. There are many other distinctly "rock plants" especially adapted for various conditions, and one English authority has even compiled a list of those which are well suited to the pathway because they can be trodden upon without harm. One of the most striking among them is the rock sistus, in purple, white or yellow, and this is especially effective. It cannot, as far as I know, be had in this country, but is well worth an effort to secure and to adapt to our climate.
As far as other plants go there are many varieties which, although ordinarily used in the everyday garden, may also be used to advantage in the Alpine garden. The asters, the viola, the campanula, lychnis, sedum, spirea,-anything, in fact, which is not too formal-may be satisfactorily used, if planted sparingly and if balanced by distinctively Alpine growth-a growth so extraordinarily luxuriant that in a short time it will give the garden a character of its own and relegate the old-fashioned flowers with which it was "filled out" at first to their proper position.