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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 )
To arrange a city or suburban plot when you have both a front yard and a back yard is a comparatively easy task. Everything of a decorative nature can be put where it will show; everything which detracts from the beauty of the scenery may be gathered conveniently about the neighborhood of the back door. But there are some who are not fortunate enough to have this universal catch-all at their disposal; whose property runs from street to street, to a neighbor's pergola-ed pleasure ground, or to the edge of a lake or river where all the world passes by on Sunday afternoons. Such an environment is ideal in many ways, but it is also productive of many wakeful moments for its owner in the wee sma' hours of the night, when, as someone has said, ruin always stares you in the face and bankruptcy seems inevitable. What can be done with the compost heap? How may the vegetable garden be arranged so that it will not spoil the symmetry of the surroundings? And where, oh where, can the ash-barrels be hidden?
First of all arises, in this problem, the question of enclosing your domain. A barrier, when the property fronts upon all sides, must obviously, regardless of other considerations, be everywhere the same kind of a barrier. It must, therefore, be one which will agree with the setting of house and garden, and at the same time be a protection from passers-by upon the street. With these many purposes in view, the greatest safety lies in something unobtrusive, since any striking arrangement would be sure to prove unsuited to some one of the different parts of the property involved, and the fence or hedge selected must protect, and at the same time harmonize with, all its surroundings. For this purpose althea and the other flowering shrubs are at once excluded. They are never satisfactory near a street or road, where they form too great a, temptation for flower-loving passers-by. The only exception among flowering hedge plants is the Pyrus Japonica, or burning bush, with its striking scarlet flowers. This, armed as it is by heavy thorns, would be excellent for hedge use, save for its straggling growth which prevents its making a good effect. Another excellent hedge plant in proper surroundings, the box, is also inadmissible here. It winter-kills in our northern climate, and grows too slowly. Stone walls are rather too well-defined for general use; they do not allow your garden to melt imperceptibly into the adjoining one, but cut it off short, giving, especially if the plot be not large, a box-like effect. A thick-growing, flowerless hedge will be found to harmonize best with any surroundings in which it may be placed, and of plants suitable for such use the barberry and privet are the most hardy and effective. Of these the privet is neater and less straggling in its growth and if it is cut back severely for the first year or two, will give a stout, heavy mass of foliage which cannot be broken through save by a determined effort, and which is rather stimulated than otherwise if an occasional switch be broken off by a passing boy. It has the additional advantage that, after a severe winter, if it be not cut back until very late, it is likely to come to life again in the most unexpected places.
The grounds before the house can, of course, be arranged to suit the owner's fancy, but it is at the back door that trouble begins. I have seen a garage built directly before the kitchen entrance, and this does, of course, form a perfect screen-screening effectively, by the way, not only the kitchen from the outside world, but the sight of the green trees and the coolness of the occasional summer breeze from the occupants of the kitchen; but even so, the constant use of the garage by members of the household renders it impossible to use the narrow space between it and the service entrance as recklessly as might be done if this were not the case. However neatly the back of the house be kept, ash-cans and gardening tools, lawnmowers and laundry, will accumulate and are unsightly. To shield them, some screen for kitchen and dry-yard should be provided, and is often obtained by the erection of a trellis, rose-covered in summer, which in winter also conceals, to some lesser extent, by the woodwork of the lattice and the bare stalks of the roses. To this end, too, a privet hedge may be erected and allowed to grow some six feet in height. This is a fairly satisfactory protection, even in winter, for the brown leaves have a tendency to cling to the bushes until they are pushed away by the little green ones in the succeeding spring. It will not, however, serve as a thorough protection for a year or two, for it should be cut back more heavily than the ordinary hedge which is to be used only as a barrier, in order to make it as thick and heavy as it must be to serve its purpose of a screen. If the house be used only in the summer, masses of the "giant knotweed" may be planted about kitchen and cellar doors, and this, growing to a height of some eight feet, starting early each spring and requiring absolutely no care, makes a compact and impenetrable mass of foliage during the summer, springing up beyond the borders assigned to it in lavish profusion. Unfortunately, however, it dies down completely in the winter. Besides this there is the ubiquitous, but none the less sightly, planting of evergreen, which serves equally well as a screen in winter and in summer.
A word may here be said about the view of your neighbor's kitchen entrance, which, like your own, the utmost neatness will not suffice to make attractive, and which is almost sure to be commanded by your upstairs windows. On this account, height is a prime consideration in dealing with this problem. A screen of Lombardy poplars is an excellent solution, growing, as it does, with rapidity and taking up little room. These trees are sometimes used in cities with very good effect to protect back yards from being overlooked by neighboring apartments, and they are perfectly hardy, although apt to winter-kill in the northern states. In the latitude of New York they are free even from this slight defect, and are a most useful and valuable addition to grounds where a high and quicklygrowing screen is desired. Evergreens are not to be recommended as a protection where the view from a window and the obstruction of an object at a distance are involved, because in this instance height is a prime consideration, and evergreens are both slow of growth and, when of good height, require an area of considerable size.
Behind trellis, privet hedge or screen of Lombardy poplars, your cook and gardener and those of your neighbor may do their worst with little fear of observation.
Returning to your own yard, the vegetable garden calls for attention. This need not spoil the appearance of the grounds at all, if concealed by an althea hedge. Should a westward-sloping hillside be at your command, one side of the vegetable garden may be sunk in it, and this will have the double effect, both of protecting the plants from storm and wind, and of preventing this useful but unbeautiful portion of the grounds from forcing itself upon the attention of the observer.
Another arrangement for the kitchen garden, which if successfully done may free you from the necessity of a hedge at all, is that which has been followed by a well-known artist in her home near Philadelphia. Her idea has been, as far as possible, to make the vegetable garden as delightful to the eye as the flower garden, and the result is striking and successful. Her walks are bordered with parsley, and behind this runs a row of lettuce. Other vegetables are set out in various places, arranged according to their height, or massed with an eye to the effect. The coppery bronze of the beet-top, the feathery foliage of the carrot, the crimson fruit of the tomato, first grown, we are told, for its decorative effect, the blossoms of the potato, a bouquet of which it is said was once worn by a French gentleman at the court of France-these are all additions to the garden which would never be overlooked were we less familiar with them, or did we look for or expect effect in so humble a spot. A kitchen garden arranged after this fashion is a real addition to the grounds where it is situated.
Too low for a hedge intended as a screen, but excellent as a barrier between vegetable and flower garden, is the globe artichoke. This is a bush of about three feet in height which bears, not only the pretty decorative fruit so useful as a vegetable, but, earlier, a striking creamy blossom, trumpet-shaped, with a throat of coppery purple. The plant is handsome enough to find a place in the flower garden on the strength of the flower alone; and as its habitat is properly among the vegetables, a row of these large and well shaped bushes makes an effective and appropriate barrier between vegetables and flowers.
In connection with the vegetable garden, mention may be made of the espalier fruit trees which, omnipresent throughout Europe, are comparatively little known in this country. They may be trained upon a lattice which shuts off the kitchen garden from the rest of the grounds, so that screen and orchard may be combined in one. I have also seen espalier apple trees used in France as a border to paths in the kitchen garden. For this purpose they should be trained to a height of about eighteen inches, and then allowed to grow sideways. The method is effective and striking, and also has the merit of protecting the beds from a careless passing foot.
There is one other eyesore which is of prime interest to the enthusiastic gardener-the compost heap. This, too, may easily be disposed of in your grounds, with little trouble. If the kitchen garden is at the side of your property, as it is almost sure to be, let it not come quite close to your boundary wall or hedge. In the intervening space set the compost heap. A pit may be dug for it, and fitted with a top of weathered boards; and when grass is cut or leaves raked, the harvest obtained may be thrown into this hole, occasionally stirring the contents up from top to bottom. In this way your compost heap will thrive, will be out of the way, and will be at hand on the occasions when you have need of it to enrich your soil, without any fear that it may mar the appearance of your grounds or in any way obtrude itself upon your notice until you have need of it again.
After all, though it takes a little more time and patience to puzzle out the proper arrangement of a garden that faces four ways rather than to plan the simple I I front and back yard," the game is well worth the candle. The most surprising thing about it is that so many persons, under these circumstances, evidently consider the problem unanswerable and make no attempt to solve it. Indeed, whether your domain be visible on all sides or not, there is nothing productive of more complete satisfaction than the knowledge that all your household debris is out of the way, and that the President himself could drop in unexpectedly without arousing any uneasiness on your part as to the possible location of the ash-can. There is, when all is said and done, one delightful thing about Nature; only give her a place to disport herself, be it trellis, hedge or wall, and she will do her best for you and, with a little care on your part and with reasonable freedom on hers, make both your front and back yards equally sightly and attractive.