The HERBACEOUS Garden

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Information
on 50+ Perennials

THE HERBACEOUS GARDEN
by Alice Martineau

WHAT an ugly
name! But would “My Perennial Garden,” even
if correct, sound any better, or “My Hardy Plant
Garden”? So I must just leave it. It was originally
the kitchen. gar en, but as it is close to the house
and bordering the drive, the vegetables have been banished
and only the fruit-trees retained on high walls, many
centuries old, which enclose the oblong garden, of half
an acre, on three sides. The fourth has a low terrace,
with a high yew hedge behind it, and tea roses and yellow
jasmine are planted alternately against the wall ; while
in the narrow border at its foot are Madonna lilies,
their heads rising well above it, and their roots carpeted
with Iceland poppies.

The main walk which crosses
the garden at the south end is paved with brick, and
has solid posts at intervals along it on both sides,
with clematis an roses on each, and a rope across to
support the hanging masses of purple and pink blossoms.
The other paths are grass, as was originally the main
path, but there was too much traffic there, and after
a year or two grass was replaced by the bricks, which
are bordered on one side with an edging of “Mrs
Sinkins” pinks, and on the other by purple pansies
and light blue nemophila. These two, planted alternately,
are in bloom all spring and summer. The pansy, a very
hardy, fine, and richly coloured tufted self,”
was given to me some years ago by a Welsh station–
master who heard me admire it and sent me some cuttings.
The nemophila is sown in September and pricked out into
position in March, from the seedbed. Behind these again,
are some of the newer dwarf roses, and at the foot of
the peach and apricot trees against the south wall are
clumps of Iris stylosa. This lovely mauve flower, looking
like, a Cattleya orchid, is very capricious. In some
soils it takes six years before it flowers, while in
a hard, gritty border with chalk and mortar rubble,
and growing in among the roots of everlasting peas and
roses, it flowers in quantity from December to March.
Belladonna lilies are also at the foot of the wall.
They want a richer soil and plenty of sun, and take
time to establish before flowering.

The border at the foot
of the wall facing east is edged with white pinks and
has quantities of violets planted on it, both Princess,
of Wales and Admiral Avellan, the hardy crimson purple
kind. At the sunny end are beds of autumn-sown annuals
such as nemophila. Iceland poppies, and larkspurs, which
are thinned out to plant elsewhere in the spring, and
the rest left for cutting. A large white jasmine and
a blue shrubby clematis are on each side of the door
leading into the kitchen garden beyond. At the further
and shady end of the east border are beds of lily of
the valley, the variety Fortin’s Giant being particularly
fine. These should be planted in early spring, not autumn,
and should have waterings of some stimulant in June
or a mulching.

The border to the north
Wall, on which are Cordon gooseberries and Morella cherries,
has, some clumps of Iris faetidissima grown for the
sake of its handsome foliage and its orange seeds, as
winter decoration, and large clumps of Spiraea Lindleyana.

Most of the borders are edged with stones,
over which grow saxifrage or pinks. They keep things
tidier and do not show and in summer afford a cool shelter
for the little fibrous roots which hide underneath them.
The centre of this walled garden has a wide border to
it, and beyond a hedge of roses grown on pillars of
oak and tied out to wires between the posts-rambling
roses of all kinds, from the crimson Excelsa, the cherry-coloured
Lady Gay, and the scarlet Hiawatha to various white
hybrids.. Inside this hedge, which screens the entire
centre from observation, and round the four sides are
grass paths with borders of different flowers. All the
paths, converge in a round plot in the centre, and the
crossway grass walk is sheltered with vines and honeysuckle
on posts and chains, Vitis coignetiae from Japan,
Vitis heterophylla
with turquoise blue berries and
others, and the borders underneath thickly planted with
white lilies, carpeted yearly with different annuals.

This vine walk and. the round plat in
the centre is backed by a hedge of Thuja, or Arbor vita,
kept clipped, and has two juniper trees of pyramidal
shape standing as sentinels at the entrance. The border
to the grass plat in front of the Thuja hedge is broken
up into eight small beds., where the paths converge.
These are filled with lavender and the new Polyantha
Orleans, an ever-blooming . lowgrowing, bright pink
rose; while behind the hedges are old standard roses
of the white Madame A. Carriere (the long growth pegged
down to form a kind of hedge), together with Zephirin
Drouhin, fragrant, cherry-coloured, and thornless. Of
the outer borders the one facing the low terrace wall
is the most important, for it is seen by all who drive
up to the house. Therefore, winter and summer, spring,
and autumn, it has to be catered for. In winter, although
no flowers can be had, it is quite pleasing to look
upon, for at intervals are planted various bright-looking
shrubs or ivies, the latter trained and cut into tall
pyramidal shapes, silver euonymus, gold and silver ivies,
golden yew, Cypresses macrocarpa, and Nandina domestica,
the Chinese “good luck” tree. Clumps of silver
edged iris (very showy) and yuccas, round bushes of
lavender both small and large varieties, and kept clipped
after flowering, and one or two shrubby veronicas keep
the border green and furnished until the spring, when
daffodils and yellow tulips push through a carpet of
forget-me-nots, and a few handsome clumps of doronicum
show up well among the small shrubs. This year the border
is edge with salmon-coloured sweet-williams, grown from
seed, which, with white lilies, and the early Dawson
rose on the wire fence at the back will keep it going
until July

when masses of perennials, in all shades
of yellow, brown, and orange, flower, and together with
a few bold clumps of Gladiolus Brench1yensis, alternating
with white Hyacinthus candicans, will present a mass
of colour lasting till October. As the sweet-williams
fade they will be taken up and replaced with annuals,
Tagetes, and Coriopsis (sown in boxes), and by some
groups of summer chrysanthemums in brown, orange, and
yellow shades.

The outer border facing
west is edged with the white-flowered saxifrage, through
which will come up quantities of double white narcissus
and English iris. Behind it a line of peonies runs the
whole length of the garden, whose buds are well protected
from the early morning sun by the rose trellis., while
behind them again are the newer Michaelmas daisies or
asters. Each clump the last is pulled apart in October
and each piece planted separately, some 10 inches apart,
forming a clump of five or six pieces. When well staked
out, they ought to feather over the border, hiding the
peony leaves, by that time brown and discoloured, and
always with the background of the roses on their wire
trellis.

On each side of the grass walk in the
middle of the enclosure of roses are 12 feet wide herbaceous
borders 6o feet long.

The one on the left is
planted entirely with blue flowers. in all shades, and
with cream, primrose, and white. Blue is very difficult
to manage with other colours, but looks delightful if
you get a vivid cobalt against a pure primrose, such
as Delphinium Persimmon, with the yellow tree lupin,
or the azure Nemesia and milk-white foxglove. At the
further end it changes from the vivid and strong colourings
of anchusa, larkspurs and commelinas and with good masses
of such plants as white phlox and creamy bergamot, merges
into the grey hues of echinops, eryngiums, campanulas,
and scabious.

The border. is slightly raised, with a
stone edging and here gentians, Plumbago Larpentae,
Ombhalodes verna, Asberula tinctoria,
white pinks,
and other low- rowing things are quite happy in the
front row, the lovely tiny blue sedum being sown among
them yearly.

The right-hand border
shades from the greys and mauves of nepeta (catmint),
lupins, and galega, and the pinks of pimernel,. sidalcea,
phlox (Mrs Oliver), up to the crimson of spiram and
bergamot, the purple of Salvia nemorosa and phlox
(Mahdi), and then to a vivid climax of scarlet geum,
(Mrs Bradshaw), scarlet lychnis, phlox Coquelicot and
tritomas, broken here and there with the grays of santolina
and Gypsophila paniculata, and such low-growing plants
for edging as London Pride, pink daisies campanulas,
and pinks (gloriosa). A great effort has been made to
prevent any spotty effect, and I have tried to get one
mass of a given plant rather than half a dozen clumps
at intervals. It will be noted from the accompanying
plan that each planting has been carefully chosen with
due relation to the colour and height of its neighbour.
In spite however of all the care that can be exercised
in planting, it is generally necessary to alter the
position of some of the plants after the general effect
has been produced at flowering time, and careful notes
should be made for the alterations required, which should
be carried out in autumn.

It may be remarked that
very little, if any, space has been left for annuals
in either of these borders. That is because they are
not very large, and owing to the generosity of friends
and the acquisitive habit of the owner during twelve
years, they are rather crowded as it is. The daisies
and London Pride may perhaps be moved after their flowering
is over and their place taken by some annual, but annuals
are grown, here separately in some of the other borders
in the enclosed part. The two borders on the other side
of the ” rond point ” are 52 feet by 12 feet,
and where they border the centre grass path are filled
for half their width with some of the best phloxes,
chiefly in pink, rose, mauve, and purple tones, and
as this end is partly shaded and . rather moist it is
an ideal place for them. In front of them are single
pyrethrum, in pink, white, and vivid crimson colours.
They are carefully staked and tied as they grow, or
they will get draggled and done for with the first wet
wind. A couple of ..clumps of that lovely mauve Michaelmas
daisy, Top Sawyer, which though old and cheap is still
one of the best, some feathery pink Cosmos (sown early
under glass and planted out), and an undergrowth of
mauve candytuft made a charming effect. The phloxes
are chiefly Mrs Oliver (low-growing pink), Mahdi (purple),
a few tall rose and white ones, Gruppen Konigen and
Dr Charcot. The back of this border is arranged to face
west and is of campanulas in all varieties with tall
clumps of mauve Salvia Sclarea. This has flowers of
pale blue, and bracts of rosy pink, but the effect is
mauve, and it grows 5 to 6 feet high. It is not well
known in England, though a very old plant; once known
as clary, and used by cottagers for making wine. The
variety I grow is far better than the one usually seen,
and the original seed of it was picked in the garden
of the Vatican. It is perfectly hardy, but except in
mild winters only a biennial, and is grown from seed.

The back border on the
other side of he phloxes (which faces west) is planted
with China roses, chiefly Comtesse du Cayla and a few
white Irene Watts and red Fellenberg. Between these
roses are iris of all kinds, flowering at different
times flavescens, dalmatica, florentina, and
the old purple flag. Here there is an undergrowth of
Commelina caelestis, whose vivid blue blossoms
each last, but a day. It is grown from seed, flowering
freely the first year if sown in heat, and its tuberous
roots remain and go on flowering for years if the soil
is not too damp.

On the far side and facing west is a borderfilled
last summer with perennials; either on probation or
growing on, so as to divide into three or four times
as many in the autumn, ready for the herbaceous border.
These included such good things as the Bradshaw geums,
some new Michaelmas daisies, double rockets, which,
alas! flowered themselves to death, and though
cut down directly never recovered. Probably a hedge
of pink mallows will follow them this summer, or perhaps.
Campanula.pyramidalis preceded by Canterbury bells,
both of which are in the nursery borders ready to move
on.

These are the chief borders, but there
are many , other narrower ones. A west border, planted
with Beliadonna seedling delphiniums and Shirley poppies,
was very pleasing last summer.

Another is filled with Acanthus mollis,
with 5 foot spikes. of purplish flowers., its handsome
cut-leaved foliage standing out well from a groundwork
of saxifrage., Megasea cordfiolia, and Sedum spectabilel
that flower beloved. of the Red Admiral butterfly.
It may not be generally known that the blue thistle,
Echinops euthenicus, attracts queen wasps in
numbers during August and September, and is a happy
hunting-ground for the destroyer.

Other borders are used for growing flowers
for cutting, mignonette, rosy larkspur, snapdragons,
scabious, Aster sinensis, and stocks, and in
a sunny corner is a mass of Valerian, red, pink, and
white. In the middle of the garden grow a tall almond
tree and a peach tree, left there for the sake of their
lovely blossom in spring. There is also a pear tree
with a rose, Paul’s single white, growing up it. Single
hollyhocks in lemon, white, and pale pink seed themselves
and come up sometimes most happily in unexpected places.

To protect the peach and
apricot trees that are on the wall against early frost.,
iron rods, turned up at the end, after the fashion of
the garden at Bagatelle, are driven into the wall near
the top and project 18 inches or 2 feet. Small thatched
hurdles, as wide as the rods are long (or light frames
covered with oiled paper would do), are laid upon and
secured to these, being partly held in place by the
turned-up end of the projecting rod. Old fish-nets can
be fastened to them to hang down as a protection if
the small hurdles cannot be obtained, but in most districts
wattle hurdles can be made in any size required. At
one time I had some small frames thatched with straw
which answered the purpose admirably, and never before
or since have we had such wall fruit. Unfortunately,
an enterprising person connected with the farm discovered
that they made capital wind-screens for early lambs,
since when they have never been seen again, and are
popularly supposed to have been eaten by hungry sheep.

One year I had some 12
foot borders in which were many late flowering perennials
of the sunflower, late white daisy, and starwort families,
filled up with hundreds of plants of Canterbury bells.

The picture made by the
varying shades of mauve, purple, pink, and white was
set off by some very large bushes or pillars of an old
fashioned rose called Cheshunt hybrid, one that is seldom
ordered now, as it only flowers once in the season.
Its big, heavy heads, crimson when freshly opened, changing
and paling to veritable vieux rose and lighter
faded tints, were extraordinarily attractive with the
Canterbury bells beneath, and when their beauty was
over they were replaced by summer chrysanthemums, such
as Perle Chatillonaise, creamy yellow; Rabbie
Burns, salmon and yellow; Horace Martin, vivid yellow;
and Tonkin, mandarin yellow which range of colourings
worked in very well with the heleniums and helianthus
behind.

Another year this border
was given up to eremuri in all its varieties of pink,
peach, lemon cream and white, rising,from a groundwork
of A1streemeria chilense in
its gorgeous azalea-like
colourings.

For two or three years
the warmest border, which is slightly on a slope, was
given up to carnations. Six hundred plants were grown
in four varieties only, of the hardiest and most profuse
flowerers, namely, Audrey Campbell, pale yellow; George
Maquay, White; Raby Castle, pink; and a scarlet seedling.
This bed was filled with bloom for two months;. indeed,
Audrey Campbell flowered right through the summer and
into November, and armfuls of grey green and white loveliness,
were cut from George Maquay, which grows so luxuriantly
that it was never necessary to see if any buds were
cut by mistake.

Raby Castle has the bad
fault of splitting, worse in some gardens than others,
and is being replaced by such new sorts as Mrs Nicholson
and Adeline.

We used a great deal of
cow manure as a subsoil, and the ground, before planting,
was well pressed down by means of a plank with a good
big gardener to stand on it. The plank was used for
kneeling on, and was gradually moved backwards as each
row was planted in turn with rooted cuttings in October
and early November.

Alas! a day came when
we were persuaded to leave the layers where they were,
without transplanting, instead of remaking the border.
The next summer was a wet one, and owing to overcrowding
they all died out.

This year a batch of the
perpetual carnations from the greenhouse are to be planted
out. If they are young plants, and not too leggy when
put out in April (to make room for the Malmaisons),
they give blossoms without stint, and owing to their
upright habit of growth do not require so much staking
as the border carnations. Britannia, a large scarlet
with very strong foliage, did splendidly out of doors
last summer. Planted out from flowering pots into a
very large stone trough and left to tumble over naturally,
they flowered in a sheltered corner till nearly Christmas.
In Spain, the home of the carnation, the are grown in
pots hung up on the sides of the houses, when they fall
over like a cascade of grey with flowers of the most
lovely tints.

This year, in addition
to Britannia, we shall plant out May Day, a bright and
hardy pink, Enchantress, the well known flesh coloured
form, and white Lawson, ail free-blooming and sturdy.
In addition to these, we shall have a bed of the old
crimson clove (brought from the Isle of Wight). Year
after year we have tried to grow this old favourite,
and each time the blooms open with ugly splashes of
white, however true the stock may have been. It is a
mercy that “hope springs eternal” in the gardener’s
breast.

A word or two as to the.
clematis growing on the various poles in this garden,
which, by the way, is quite apart from the gardens on
to which. the house opens. Several curious kinds which
I could never get named flourished here., and had evidently
been here for many years. One has unfortunately died
after a very severe cutting back. It is a mistake to
cut a very old clematis back to the ground, even if
the stem be ugly and ragged. They rarely survive such
drastic treatment, and I have lost two or three this
way.

One of these clematis
had a most lovely fern-like leaf, finely cut, delicate
and graceful, of vivid light green, and with slightly
drooping bells of peach colour, a good deal larger than
those of the old purple viticella. Another was also
of peach colour, shaped like Jackmanii but much smaller,
with a bar down the centre of each petal of rather a
rough purple-blue. One of this variety still lives,
but I have never seen anything’ that resembles it at
any of the show’s or nurseries.

Another very old plant
in this garden was a pink rose very full and very fragrant,
flowering in September as freely as it does in June,
and looking from the size of the stem as if It lived
here for centuries. And it very likely, had for it is
the counterpart of the one mentioned in another chapter
as having been’ painted by Van Verendael in 1628.

Owing to an alteration,
which necessitated pulling down the wall behind it,
we had to do away with the old plant, but were fortunate
enough to get some plants from cuttings. The flowers
are very large, one bloom was measured and found to
be 4 inches across.

Among the bulbs that take
care of themselves in this garden are the colchicum’s,
which no amount of digging ever seems to disturb, and
which throw up their great chalice shaped CUPS of rosy
mauve when most needed, namely, in October.

The great tulip family
will not establish themselves permanently, with the
exception of the rose coloured Gesner tulip, an old
favourite, which flowers yearly in masses, and a black
Darwin tulip of which a clump or two are always to be
found in May; all the others, though planted by hundreds
in different years, have died out. Triteleia, a small
and pretty white-flowered bulb, seems to be able to
take care of itself; but in this hot gravel soil no
lily but candidum is ever permanent, though speciosum
does well in another part of the garden. Neither alstraemeria
nor the delightful red October flowering African bulb
schizostylis succeed here for long. While in Ireland’s
moist deep soil the latter flourishes, here plants even
from the same source die out. Lilies of the valley do
extremely well, perhaps because they are given a damp
place at the foot of a north wall, and the large variety
(Fortin’s Giant) is always particularly fine.

This oblong garden filled
with flowers may serve as a guide to those who have
one of the same shape, possibly their only garden; and
if one or two of the flower borders were replaced by
flowering shrubs, a very representative and .certainly
a very, charming garden might be made even near or in
a town.

It needs a shallow marble
basin and lead figure in the centre, or a sundial, or
even a little brick-edged pond; but at present all this
is supplied only by that vivid imagination I have alluded
to before. It also cries out for a couple of Elizabethan
brick seats, in keeping with the period of the walls.
The colour of the bricks has much to do with the charm
of this garden; they are of a delicate pink, flushed
here and there with warmer sunny tones of red, and occasionally
melting into lilac, and they make a wonderful picture
when, the peach and almond blossom are out.


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