Kellscraft Studio, 1999
(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Click Here to return to
the previous section
ALL large forms are to be used with caution in small grounds. We must give our yard to what we deem the best, and in the country, where we are surrounded by woods, we will not try to construct a forest at our doors. If we can deceive ourselves into thinking that the yard is a cosmos, well and good; but the effect will be rather desperate if we try to make it one. If a brook runs through it, flowing between steep banks, bowed with alder, elder, willow, woodbine and clematis, setting the birds a-singing with its gurgle, and opening glades that invite us from the world to listen for that message of more than mortal consequence that winds and waters always seem about to speak, yet that ever eludes our understanding, we are privileged, indeed. Only, as there may be a mile of delightful wilderness beyond our confines, and no lilies, dahlias or chrysanthemums in all that distance, is it not better to make our garden in the spot we have cleared, than to restore our clearing to the wilderness?
of shrubs, however, does not commit us to any
such attempt. Many of them are 'available and admirable for yards and
small spaces. They are needed, like the vines, to cover unsightly
to give variety, interest, dignity and beauty to the prospect. In a
garden they can be massed into thickets, or made to serve as
for beds, and it is an effective use of them to have dense plantations
flowers in careless windings before these thickets, the flowers rising
from the lawn without the usual path before them, thus:
By following a contour rudely indicated by the shrubs themselves, formality is reduced to a minimum, though we can add the two little beds and the half-circular space at the beginning and end of the path for the cultivation of smaller, more delicate plants than we would entrust to a summer-long tussle with the grass, and with the shade cast by the thicker vegetation. Beside the ferns there are many flowers which can be relied upon to bloom in shade.
It is claimed that shrubs and trees are now safely transplanted at any time of the year, but the fall is the best season for the work, as in spring the sudden interruption of the sap flow, made in lifting them, retards their growth, if it does not imperil their lives. A tree unsuccessfully replanted is never strong and satisfying, and generally dies young. The shift should be made as quickly as possible, and the ball of earth be kept about the root until the bush is ready for its new place. The hole must be large enough to receive the roots outspread, and if it is found that any of them have been injured in transit, it is advised that they be cut off cleanly, with a sharp knife, above the break. When set into its new lodgment, earth is to be sifted over the roots, then garden mold shoveled on and well tamped down, by boot-heels, if other and less usual implements are not convenient. It is seldom that heavy manuring is required, because the best shrubs for garden use thrive on soil of coarser texture than is needed by herbaceous plants, and root more stoutly for their own livings in a dry season. If flowers are planted near, they should still be at such a distance as to avoid entanglement with the bushes, for in such case they would steal one another's substance and the growth of each would be hindered. Severe and yearly pruning is believed to injure the flowering property of shrubs, and I have never done more in that direction than to cut out old or gnarly branches. The new growths will have to be fought steadily, unless it is desired to extend the range of the plant. Black currant and lilac, especially, are determined to possess the premises, the former sending its runners under ground to arise at unexpected places six feet away. It is fiercely and insistently reproductive.
The lilac does not put out these skirmishers, but advances in solid line of battle, sending up from the close neighborhood of the central trunk a multitude of lesser stalks, and massing so densely as almost to exclude the light from the earth beneath it. If these suckers are not promptly trimmed off, or hoed out of the earth, the difficulty of removing them is much increased, for in a few months the wood grows so tough as to resist the hoe. These shoots will rollick upward into the body of the bush, and so it interferes with itself, lessening the growth of its flowers and starving such leaves as can not gain the light. If early separated from the bush and set out in new ground, the suckers will become healthy bushes of themselves, in a few seasons. The lilac is one of the elements in the rural picture that a country boy will not dismiss from his memory. He recalls the white and the pink-purple clusters that flourished in scores, sometimes in hundreds, over the bush that stood at the door, and that are still blooming in lonely spots among the hills where men's eyes rarely see them, for the houses they beautified are gone and the farms deserted. He recalls their fragrance in moments of reverie that happily come to him in the moil of town. He remembers the pitcher of new-cut thyrses that adorned the table when the minister took tea with the family, or when lunch was set out for the matrons and spinsters of the sewing-circle. He recalls the groups of lilacs in the school-yard, and those that cast a shadow at the gate of that sacred place of shadows: the village cemetery. And so remembering, he plants a lilac before his city home, or has it in his yard. We see more of lilacs in town than of any other shrub, yet we see not half enough of them. Over a score of varieties are offered by the nurserymen--white, purple-rose, red with a faint blue cast, full purple and purple-violet. This shrub will stand neglect, but that is no reason why it should have it. What is worth room on one's premises is worth affectionate care. Like other plants, the lilac asks a drink in thirsty weather, it needs occasional pruning, and is none the worse for an annual loosening of the soil about its roots.
in backgrounds is the weigelia, or diervilla,
a bush of loosely spreading habit, but shapely, and bearing trumpets of
purple, pink, red and white. This shrub is said to come from Japan,
it grows from three to six feet in height, but I am sure that one in my
has attained a height of eight feet--at least, that its branches would
that if they were straightened. It is a free bloomer, the flowers
from the end of May to mid-July. It loses a branch now and again, not
disease, but apparently from age, and these dead limbs will be
of course. It also appreciates a little fertilizer, yet it grows
and in any common soil.
A Pleasing Vista.
I doubt if the azalea will stand our winters; at least, the cultivated sort, bearing red and white flowers, is sensitive, and the wild azalea, with its watery buff, yellow and salmon blossoms makes so much less of a show, in the north, that it has yet to win its place as a garden plant; but its congener, the rhododendron, deserves admiring consideration. This splendid shrub, most glorious of all spring vegetation, its thickets bombarding the hills with flashes of red, pink, purple and white, is a winter ornament, because its leaves are always green and glossy, and it pushes forth its buds in the fall, so that all through the winter it seems as if an hour of sunshine would set it flourishing; but after its season has passed and it has begun its summer rest, it is apt to grow dull and ragged; hence the planter should make the most of it, and group it by colors, where possible. These clusters are not to be crowded, to be sure, for the plant requires room to develop itself to its full height, and if it finds a place to its liking it becomes a tree. Such clusters are large for the town yard, and are better apportioned to country estates, especially for covering a hill slope and concealing spots of poverty or ugliness at the bottom. The laurel, with its waxen cups, is a contemporary of the rhododendron, as to bloom, and suggests it at a distance. It is sometimes used to fill out masses of shrubbery in which the latter bush is dominant. As foliage the andromeda is also to be viewed with favor, and its white spikes sprinkle it with snow at about the time the bigger rhododendron is lavishing its bloom. Specialists tell us that all of these shrubs, azalea, rhododendron, laurel and andromeda, which are American in origin and come to their best with us, succeed in a peaty soil, or one in which old leaf-mold, rotted turf and a modicum of stable manure have been mixed. In England they refuse to thrive in a limestone district, but I have found thickets of healthy laurel, or kalmia, among the limestone hills of the Hudson; that is, there are lime quarries within a mile, or less, of these plantations.
Of other shrubs mention may be made of the barberry, which grows to a height of five feet, takes on autumn color, produces yellow and red flowers and scarlet berries, and is useful where a thin hedge is required; also, the English and Spanish brooms; the Japanese quince; the dogwood, which, like the magnolia, is to be considered rather as a tree; the snowball; the rose of Sharon; in fact, the list might be extended to a hundred, but several of these are less available for small gardens than the shrubs first mentioned, because of susceptibility to frost, sprawling growth, undue size, failure of bloom, or finical disposition respecting soils and treatment. Any seedsman, nurseryman or practical gardener will advise the amateur when problems arise respecting yard area, shade and light, herbaceous allies and character of soil.
The box and privet are especially to be mentioned, however, because of their usefulness in hedges and borders. Box is of a small leaf, tough stem, compact growth, is at home in all soils and can be raised from cuttings, which are to be removed at the end of warm weather, say, in September, and placed in the shade for rooting. Some new strains have been announced, in which the leaves, instead of showing the deep green that lasts all winter, are variegated with white and yellow. These gold and silver shrubs are serviceable when tubs or pots of vegetation are required to margin a walk or lawn, or to sentinel an arbor or a door, or to encircle a pool. The potted box will grow to a height of four or five feet, and it looks quite as well as the yew or cedar that has attained no greater altitude. The same may be said of the privet, which makes a neat appearance as a single plant, but serves its best function as a hedge. Privet is said to grow scrawny in some parts of the country, but in the North and East it can be teased into a hedge as compact as that of box. The proper treatment of it is to cut it ruthlessly in the early spring of its second year--cut it to within a foot of the ground. This will cause a number of strong new shoots to emerge from the central stalks, taking the place of stalks that have been shorn away, and the effect of this thick growth near the root is to make the shrub so dense that dogs, cats and poultry will not pass through. I frequently walk by a city yard that is shut off from the street by a row of privet which has been allowed to grow a dozen feet high. It is thin below; hence it gives no concealment, but it attains arboreal importance in its outspreadings. And, apropos, the severity of a hedge, when there is a long reach of it, can be broken by a few evergreens behind it, or a few potted plants on the lawn or walk before it, or by both. Spruces and hemlocks show well against the solid green of privet, and they can be grown in tubs, where they are to be manured and watered, like deciduous growths.
If one has large grounds he should not plant a hedge where it will obstruct a pleasing view, or cut across a generous vista. Indeed, nothing should be planted in an open space, if it will have the effect of breaking that space into inconsequent and disconnected areas. If we can not plant in masses, at least we can plant in rows. In the orchard we plant in rows for convenience' sake, and if our fruit-trees flank the house, it is an easy matter to open the aisles before our doors and windows, and so give reach of the eye into comforting distances.
As centers in plant groups or geometrized plans, or as bits of form and color in dull spots, we may use, beside the shrubs, the conifers, the Japanese "blood-leaved" maple, compact and colorful, the hazel, the weeping birch, the weeping ash, and the small varieties of weeping willow and weeping elm, but the usual city yard is too small for a tree that has a lateral spread of more than ten feet. We must consider proportion, especially in the furnishing of a place that custom has made disproportionally small for our needs.
And in summer we can set out our palms and rubber-plants, which have been adorning the dining-room or parlor, sinking the pots into the beds, to secure them against the wind, keeping off the insects and cutting away the dead leaves. They will enjoy our tropic summer, but must be taken in promptly when cool weather threatens. Every one knows the rubber-plant, with its broad leaves of polished green; and there is no better palm for domestic cultivation than the kentia bahnoreana. Palms are all more or less addicted to the pesky little scale insect, which must be washed off and picked off at least once in a week, yet the palms usually enjoy as good health as the insects.
Click the Little Gardens Icon to continue to the next chapter.