The Herbaceous Garden

The Herbaceous Garden

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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