copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)                                             

Click Here to return to
My Garden
Content Page


Take thy plastic spade, it is thy pencil; take thy seed, thy plants they are thy colours.           
— Mason.

     IT IS well, I think, for all gardeners, present or prospective, to be reminded that the words “garden,” “yard,” and “orchard” all spring from an Aryan root meaning an enclosure; for apparently, in the general letting down of barriers, which seems to be the order of our day, there is more than a little danger of the garden losing one of its greatest charms — that of privacy and peaceful seclusion.

Many suburban places are quite open to the street, so that for all freedom from observation their owners may enjoy they might as well be in a public park; and often, on large country places, the space devoted to flowers is not divided from the surrounding country by any distinct boundary, but trails away indefinitely, so that one quite loses the significant delight of going into the garden, of being within an enclosure set apart for a special and beautiful purpose.

For many centuries the idea of a garden as an enclosed, protected area prevailed, and, indeed, it is only recently, since Kent1 “leaped the fence and saw that all nature was a garden,” that such an anomaly as a barrierless garden was thought of, much less perpetrated. In the early gardening days of the old world walls and stout fences were needed for protection; but later, in less strenuous times, were retained for the sake of the peace and privacy they insured. And, it seems to me, that no pleasanter picture for our emulation can be called to mind than those little walled gardens of long ago — the trim, straight paths, the little beds and narrow, straight borders filled with friendly and lovely things, the shadowing Crab and Cherry trees — a spot converted from the common land and made intimate and personal, sacred to beauty and sweetness, to delightful work and quiet meditation. To me, a garden unenclosed can never quite deserve the name, however beautiful the flowers; and I feel sure that any one who has ever owned a garden gate, and known the rare enjoyment of passing through and closing it behind him, will understand and support my preference.

There are many ways of encompassing the garden; walls of old brick or stone create an especially agreeable atmosphere and a splendid background for the flowers, but in many cases these are not possible and sometimes not desirable, and one has the choice between clipped or free-growing hedges, trellis or paling fences, wire fences overgrown with vines, or posts set at intervals with ropes or chains hung between, upon which Roses or other long-limbed vines may be trained.

For small gardens or for divisions between different parts of large gardens, the wooden trellis, painted white or very light green, is extremely pretty; and even the white paling fence, when used to enclose simple gardens of the cottage type, is both attractive and appropriate. But for general use and beauty, next to walls of stone or brick, I think a fine evergreen hedge close-clipped to a formal line is unsurpassed. The dark colour of this hedge throws the brilliancy of the flowers into high relief and the severity of line creates a charming foil for the luxuriant unrestraint within.

Three true evergreens make satisfactory hedges in our Northern climate: our fine Hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis), the Norway Spruce (Picea excelsa), and the common American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), the last of which is the least expensive and makes a handsome hedge.

Privet is very nearly evergreen in our climate, and for cheapness, quick growth, and ease of management has much to be said in its favour. Many urge against it on account of its reputation as a ravenous feeder, but I feel that we should not be frightened away from so good a shrub on this ground, for it offers us the opportunity of having a fine hedge in a comparatively short time and at small expense, and where much hedging is to be done this latter point must usually be taken into consideration. Privet should be cut hard back the first two seasons after planting in early spring — this to insure a compact growth at the base-and thereafter the pruning may be done in June when the spring growth of the young shoots is accomplished.

The management of the evergreen hedge, the first few years after planting, is all important, and I think I could not do better than to quote the following enlightening instructions from “The Book of Topiary "2 : “No matter how much it is desired to get a hedge quickly grown in a certain place, whether for shelter or anything else, it is the greatest possible mistake to sacrifice strength and substance to a desire to promote rapid growth, a result that is certain to occur if a hedge is allowed to grow eight or ten feet before it is stopped. Nothing should be done to a hedge in the way of clipping the same autumn or winter it is planted, and perhaps not even the following autumn, but each year afterward it should be stopped, and never allowed to make more than a few inches of growth each year. By following the system of stopping the growth every year, the length of time required to grow a hedge eight or ten feet in height is greatly extended. But the result will amply repay the extra time that has been taken to grow it; you will get a hedge full of strength and substance, and well furnished with young growths from top to bottom. But if the other system is followed of allowing the hedge to get to its full height before any clipping is done, you will have a hedge that is lacking in strength and substance, easily blown out of shape by every wind, and also one that is very difficult to clip in anything like a proper way, on account of its many strong branches growing toward the outside that should have been removed to make room for a thicker growth. Each year, when the work of clipping is being done, a sharp lookout should be kept for all small branches or shoots that are inclined to grow toward the outside of the tree or hedge, and these must be removed whenever they are seen.

     Those shoots in the course of a few years will grow into strong branches, and become a regular nuisance in the way of keeping them constantly tied in.”

     A hedge may be cut into any desired form at the top, but exactness is of prime importance. A garden line should be run on either side at the bottom of the hedge and another along the top at the desired height. In the case of a hedge cut into battlements a line should be used at the top and base of the battlements, “and whatever size and width the battlements are, say, for instance, two feet high and two feet in width between them, a stick cut exactly two feet in length, or a two-foot rule should be used to measure the exact height and distance between the battlements.”

Some people care for free-growing, flowering hedges, but I think they are not positive enough to serve as a fence, but may be very charming following paths or drives or used as a screen.

Having got the garden securely enclosed, the next step is the careful preparation of beds and borders, that our plants may dwell in peace and wax in strength and beauty year after year. And this must be done with generosity and thoroughness, a little at a time, if all may not be done properly at once, for there is no manner of use in trying to raise up a family of fine and vigorous plants on food which does not nourish them, or under conditions which are not comfortable for them.

Here we dig out the beds and borders to a depth of two feet, filling them in again with alternate layers of manure and good soil — a heavy layer of manure at the bottom — to within five inches of the top. This is then well forked together, and about nine inches of the best soil procurable filled into the remaining space, raising it a few inches above the surrounding ground to allow for settling. This top layer may be the top spit of the soil already in the garden, if it is good enough, or it may be brought, as in our case, from some old pasture land or from the woods. If the soil used to fill the main body of the beds is very heavy, the addition of wood ashes and sand will be useful in bringing it to the proper state of nice loaminess; and if dry and light, the layers of manure may be made a little heavier. If this work is done in the autumn, as is advisable, a dressing of slaked lime will combine with the frost and sunshine in making our soil of a most delectable consistency — and surely, all this accomplished, no sweet and normal plant would have the heart to withhold from us the sunshine of its smiles.

The edging of the beds and borders is rather a vexing problem, for upon it depends, a good deal, the appearance of the garden. All sorts of things have been tried from glass bottles and shells to the trim and seemly Box. For the garden laying not too great a claim to magnificence, I think no edging is prettier than large irregular stones sunk part way in the earth. Over these stones many a charming alpine will creep and tumble so grateful for the moist, cool root-run between the stones and for the warm surface over which they may spread themselves to sun and air that they burst forth with such a praise of blossoming that one thinks anxiously of the endurance of their little material bodies under the strain of so lavish a manifestation of the spirit. Arabis, Aubrietia, Alyssum, Arenaria, Saponaria ocymoides, Cerastium, Iberis, creeping Veronicas, and Gypsophilas, Pinks in delicious variety, Thrift, Stonecrops, Silenes, Campanulas, alpine Phioxes, and many another small and lovely thing will create a jewelled setting for the taller plants and may be brought, by a little care in their arrangement, into delightful harmony with the rest of the border.

Box edgings are charming and create always an atmosphere of sweet and comely reserve, while the “far, strict scent,” rising from its dark, shining surfaces, carries one dreaming into the past. Flowers seem to behave themselves behind Box edgings — they do not get out into the path, nor sprawl about, but seem somehow imbued with the prim manners of Box — but this will be considered romancing, and the fact is that Box is frightfully expensive and grows very slowly, but if one can afford both to pay for it and to wait for it there is nothing quite so good to possess.

Turf edgings are very popular and always look well if taken care of, but they must be kept absolutely true to line and shorn the sleekest, or they will present a ragged and slovenly appearance. Edgings of brick set on end are sometimes used, but the frost is apt to throw them out of place during the winter. Concrete edgings are durable and satisfactory, and edgings of boards firmly pegged into the earth and painted white or green are both quaint and useful for unpretentious gardens. Grass and Scotch Pinks make pretty border edges, and in Elizabethan days Thrift and Germander were much utilized for this purpose. Dwarf Irises such as pumila and cristata are firm and pretty along the front of the borders, and English Ivy, pegged down and trained to form an edging, has also been used. Here we have the stone edgings mainly, and also some concrete in the main garden, and, in the Nursery and Herb garden, we have used wood painted white.

    The question of what to put in our beds and borders, now that we have them enclosed and trimly edged, is such a broad and beguiling one that it may not be squeezed into the narrow space of a chapter, and besides, each one of us must desire and choose his own flowers or he loses the very pith of the pleasure. But a few generalities are permissible. Gardens of the most lasting satisfaction and beauty are those in which hardy herbaceous perennials are the foundation. By these, I mean those plants whose leaves and stems die down in winter but whose roots endure; among those we include, rightly I think, the hardy spring bulbs and Lilies. Shrubs also are permanent residents in the garden and play an important part, but annuals, tender bedders, and such bulbs and roots as Gladioli and Dahlias, are incidental, mere decorations, subject to our caprice, while the herbaceous folk and shrubs come into the garden as long-tenure residents, and upon them the stability and strength of the garden depends.

    I take it that with most of us the goal aimed at in our gardening is not simply to form a large collection of plants as specimens, but to so choose and arrange our material as to create as fine and full an effect as possible over a period of five or six months. This does not preclude thinking of and treating our plants as individuals; quite the contrary, for to meet with any success in the management of our garden world, we must know very well the needs and habits and possibilities of each of its tenants. In pursuance of this end, it is wise to carefully consider one’s garden conditions in relation to the plants it is desired to install, and not try to force upon reluctant, helpless plants conditions which are utterly unsuitable. For beneficent Nature has so bountifully provided for us that no one need be without an overflowing joyous garden if he will but observe her gentle laws and respect the simple requirements of her flower people.

The ideal garden has a southern or southeastern exposure and provides both sunshine and shadow, both heavy and light soils, and even a little damp spot for the accommodation of a few moisture lovers, and where one has the making of one’s garden from the very beginning, it is often possible to have all these luxuries.

To go back to the planting of the beds and borders, if they are wide, say six to twelve feet, shrubs may be used among the hardy plants with fine effect along the back and may even venture an occasional representation toward the front, so forming alcoves within the shelter of which one may create some especially lovely picture. Here and there along the borders a lightly made flowering tree may cast a gracious shadow, and bulbs may be planted in clumps and patches everywhere.

In choosing one’s plants it is well to select those whose bloom is not too ephemeral and whose habit is good —  that is, whose form and foliage are fine and lasting, thus securing a more permanently full effect. If one is not familiar with the appearance of many plants, the botanical gardens and nurseries offer a valuable means of forming a closer acquaintance, and both those institutions are making some effort nowadays at harmonious grouping, which is very helpful to the novice in forming an opinion as to the relative merits of the various plants to his particular uses.

If such plants as Foxgloves, Delphiniums, Valerian Canterbury Bells and Oriental Poppies, that die down or must be cut to the ground after flowering, are planted in front of some of the long-armed brethren, such as hardy Asters or Gypsophila, the blank left by their departure will bloom again, for the long branches may be drawn over the vacant spaces. Plants with especially fine and lasting foliage should be given due prominence. Of these are the Flag Irises, Fraxinella, Funkias, Baptisias,Achilea filipendulina (A. Eupatorium), Phioxes, Lemon Lilies, Geums, Paeonies, Heleniums, Galega, Heucheras, Lythrum Salicaria, Potentillas, Dicentras, Thalictrums, Elymus, Santolina, Stachys lanata, Artemisia abrotanum, Rue, and Nepeta Mussini. Such scantily clothed plants as Lilies, Gladioli, Tuberoses, and Asphodels need the foliage of other plants to screen their naked stalks, and are always weak in effect if planted in large groups without this borrowed greenery.

In small beds and narrow borders, and indeed in any save good-sized gardens, plants of great size and pervasive character such as Boltonias, many Helianthuses, Folygonums, Bocconia, and Golden Glow, are best omitted, and choice made among the more conservative, of which there are a great number.

The best effect is arrived at in the borders by massing the plants in irregular groups of one kind, the size of the group to be determined by the length and breadth of the bed or border, and there must be some attention paid to gradation in the relative heights of the different groups. Thus, a group of some eighteen-inch plants is badly placed in front of one attaining a height of seven feet! In the main, tall plants should be kept at the back, those of medium height in the centre, and dwarf and creeping things along the front, but one need not adhere too consistently to this rule but rather strive for a rolling contour — plains, foothills, and mountains, if one may use so gigantic a simile — the highlands creeping out over the plains and the plains reaching back among the hills. Spaces may be left here and there for patches of long-flowering annuals, and these may also be used to fill the places of such hardy plants as may have died during the winter.

There has been much written of late as to how to keep the entire garden in full bloom from early spring until frost, and varied and vain were my attempts in the days of my novitiate to accomplish this feat that I now feel would be of doubtful desirability even were it possible. In our climate where the importunities of the sun rushes our plants from youth to a precocious maturity and on to early oblivion, the blossoming period of the individual plants is so much shorter than in climates of moister atmosphere and less torrid summers that to keep all parts of the garden in bloom at all seasons would require so immense a variety of plants that a most spotty and restless effect would be the result, and such exact knowledge of the plants would be necessary that few amateurs could hope to acquire it. A few lovely pictures for each season is about all we can hope to accomplish successfully in the garden devoted to herbaceous perennials and designed to be beautiful for six months of the year. These pictures may vary in number and size according to the dimensions of the garden they are to adorn, and may be made up of groups of two or more kinds of plants blooming together and for about the same length of time. Of course close observation, study, and experience are required to so create these blossoming groups that at no time is the garden without an effective number; and nothing is more helpful than to keep an exact record of the blossoming periods of such plants as are where we can observe them.

Garden colour scheming has become something like a craze    we talk colour schemes, write colour schemes, read them, and try to create them. Like all obsessions, this charming pastime is in grave danger of being done to death, of degenerating by means of extreme preciseness of finish into something not so far from the carpet bedding, which we, in our boasted enlightenment, profess to despise. A mosaic or tapestry-like effect does not seem to me what we want in our home gardens, but a gracious blending and contrasting of lovely elements    sweeps and patches and trails and spires of delightful colour in happy agreement    and certainly there is no more enthralling pursuit than the handling of these floral pigments. It is not nearly so difficult as it sounds, for few flower colours are really fiercely opposed to one another, and none are bad if given the companion necessary to bring out their best qualities. Of course the colour sense is individual, and what appeals to one may not to another and so, after all, one can but express one’s own feelings.

To me, strong contrasts in the garden are seldom happy; plants having the same strength of colour are best kept out of each other’s company, or the resulting effect will be crude and hard. The yellow of Coreopsis and the deep blue of such a Delphinium as King is, to my colour sense, both glaring and unpleasant; but the soft yellow of California Poppies and the blue of Veronica spicata is agreeable. Just so, opaque white flowers are not pleasing in close proximity to strong red or blue flowers but should have an admixture of softening foliage or some intermediate shade. Many flowers, quite strong in colour, are, as one might say, tender in their strength, a sort of bloom seems to lie upon them there, more as an intangible impression than in fact. This is true of many blue flowers, some of the Deiphiniums, Monkshoods, and Chinese Belifiowers in particular, and this quality makes it possible, though I cannot explain why, to place them happily with flowers of great strength of colour. Thus, Monkshood and Tiger Lilies make a most splendid picture quite lacking the rawness of Coreopsis and Delphinium though quite as brilliant. Harmony, not contrast, or agreement, not opposition, is a good rule for the garden colour schemer, the great M. Chevreaul to the contrary, notwithstanding. That eminent authority on colour in the section devoted to the arrangement of flowers in his book, “The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colours,” directs us to place yellow flowers with red flowers, yellow with blue, deep red with deep blue, and white with any and all. But pink flowers must not approach rose flowers, yellow must be wary of orange, and blue and pink must not touch violet. Are we thus to be deprived of such subtle and exquisite associations as Peach Blossoms and purple Crocuses, lavender and pink China Roses, lavender Phlox and blue Monkshood, dark-red Hollyhocks and orange Lilies, sky-blue Flax and purple Iris, and a thousand more?

As I said before, the colour sense must ever be individual and one’s expression of it original and personal, but there are a few simple laws which have helped me greatly in the harmonious disposition of my flowers. Contrast between the primary colours, red, blue, and yellow, is too harsh and sudden; contrast between the secondary colours, green, violet, and orange, while striking, is not crude or raw. White is constantly spoken of as a peacemaker and much used in gardens to separate discordant colours, but, while it separates them, it so heightens the tone of each that, instead of drawing them into agreement, it further opposes them to each other, and instead of a charming whole, we see three sharply contrasting units.

The too free use of white in the garden, especially the hard white worn by Moonpenny Daisies, Iberis, and Canterbury Bells, will ever result in spottiness and unrest. I feel that the gardener should get his effects by gentle measures; his groups may, if desired, be strong in colour, but at the same time, deep and rich, not high and sharp. And this result can be obtained only by the use of strong colours closely related to one another.

A few years ago I saw at the wonderful gardens of St. Pagans Castle in Wales a border which will illustrate this point. It was about seventy yards long and eight feet wide and was backed by a high wall curtained with creamy Wichuraiana Roses. Against this softening background, in bold groups, were garnet and salmon-coloured Hollyhocks, with alternating groups of dull blue Monkshood lying like shadows between. In front were great colonies of flaming Tritomas, Tiger Lilies, gray-blue Deiphiniums, blazing Montbretia, and tall salmon-pink Snapdragons. Along the front, rioting above the trim Box edging, were Orange King Snapdragons, buff Calendula, and scarlet and sky-blue Anagallis. Daring indeed, but inspired, was he who brought those colours together. Arresting in its brilliance, this border was yet visualized as a magnificent whole which seemed to reflect the luminosity and glow of the sunset sky, filling one’s soul with a sense of fulness, strength, and satisfaction. How different was the border seen a few days ago, where a splendid effect was attempted by the use of Delphiniums, Scarlet Lychnis, and Coreopsis. There the colours were no more brilliant, but being so fiercely opposed, the result was one of restless motion — floral fidgets, one might say — and one was forced to see and consider each plant as a separate element.

Dark, rich colours — garnet, purple, very dark blue, and the dark green of Box or other evergreens — are more efficient than white in harmonizing crude opposing colours, for they tend to lower their tones instead of heightening them. Note the softening effect of dark garnet velvet Sweet Williams upon the raw colour of Lychnis chalcedonica. Gray foliage, in even greater degree than white, accentuates the colours to which it is contiguous and, like white, is most satisfying when associated with the tender broken tones — lavender, pinky-mauve, heliotrope, blush, rose, pink, salmon, cream, and buff. Gray and the various white tones —  cream, gray-white, and greenish-white-also associate well, and all these soft shades are charming in each other’s company and may be used freely with the primary and secondary colours.

Some people are much more highly sensitive to colour than others, and to these, after they have acquired some knowledge of their floral pigments, the creating of lovely pictures in the garden will be instinctive; but those whose colour sense is less developed must cultivate it as a tea taster educates his palate, or as a perfumer his olfactory nerve. Nature may be his teacher, the woods and fields and marshes at all seasons his classroom; and the daring or tender blendings of colours in a single flower should be a constant help and inspiration.

Magenta is a colour that gives the gardener a good deal of trouble, but there are many fine flowers wearing this turbulent shade which are lovely enough if removed from the neighbourhood of antagonistic shades and placed in congenial surroundings. The clouded blue of Monkshood is fine with the magenta of Rose Loosestrife and all the buff, creamy, and gray-white flowers and gray foliage encourage this usually combative tint to show its softest side. The two colours most difficult to me are the raw scarlet of the Lychnis and the crude yellow worn by Coreopsis and some of the sunflowers, but even these may be modified and brought into peaceful agreement with their surroundings by the near neighbourhood of softening influences.

Personally, gardens of one colour do not interest me particularly, though I have seen many very well worked out. Yellow gardens contrived in all the shades from buff and cream to orange are very effective, and also the purple tints from palest mauve, with much silvery and hoary foliage, to strong red-purple and violet. White gardens, too, are very charming, especially toward evening or by moonlight. The finest one I have seen was in England and was made up of annuals, perennials, bulbs, Roses, and shrubs. I put down the names of most of the plants in a notebook and give it here for those who may care to create a “ghost garden.”



Chionodoxa Luciliae var. alba, White Crocus, Galanthus nivalis and Elwesii, Scilla sibirica var. alba, White Tulips and Grape Hyacinths, Fritillaria Meleagris var. alba, Hyacinthus orientalis, Leucojum vernum, Poet’s Narcissus.

Spanish and English Iris, Madonna Lilies, Hyacinthus candicane, Gladioli.



Helleborus niger, Anemone nemorosa, sylvestris, and Pulsatilla var. alba, Arabis, Arenaria montana, Iberis, Cerastium, Dicentra cucullaria, Lath yrus vernus var. alba, Omphalodes verna, var. alba, white Iceland Poppies, Phlox subulata vars. Nelsoni and alba, Bloodroot, white Trilliums, white Periwinkle, white sweet Violets, St. Brunos Lily, white Columbine, Sweet Woodruff, Centaurea montana var. alba, Lily of the Valley, Dianthus Mrs. Sinkins, Iris florentina var. alba, Iris Innocence, Iris Snowqueen, Iris sibirica var. alba, White Flax, white Paeonies — single and double, white Sweet William, Jacob’s Ladder, and Spiderwort, Silene alpestris Stellaria Holostea, Fraxinella, Achillea The Pearl, White Foxgloves, and Canterbury Bells, Campanula persicifolia var. alba, carpathica var. alba, pyramidalis var. alba and lactifiora alba magnifica. Moonpenny Daisies, Clematis recta, Crambe cordifolia, Gypsophila paniculata and repens, white Goat’s-rue, Sweet Rocket, Heuchera sanguinea var. alba. White Lupines, Oenothera eximea. White Chinese Belifiowers, Silene mar-it ima, Spiraea aruncus, Yucca filamentosa, Aconigum napellus var. album, white Willow herb, Funkia 3ubcordata, white Bergamot, Phlox Miss Lingard and late white Phloxes, Physostegia virginica var. alba. Sedum album, Boltonia, Pyrethrum uliginosum, Pentstemon Digitalis, Cimicifuga, white Mallows, Anemone Japonica vars. alba and Whirlwind, white Hardy Asters, Chrysanthemum nipponicum, Veronica sirginica, Artemisia lactifiora.


Petunias, Verbenas, Phlox Drummondii, Sweet Alyssum, Candy-tuft, Stocks, Snapdragons, Sweet Sultans, Asters, Clarkia, single and double Poppies, Cosmos, and single Dahlias.

     Besides these there were climbing and bush Roses, pure white or creamy, and many white-flowered shrubs —  Magnolias, Lilacs, Philadelphus, Spiraea, and Deutzia, white Wisteria and large and small flowered Clematis. The garden was enclosed in a hedge of dark evergreens and gleamed and shimmered against the sombre background with strange fascination. Gray foliage might be put to effective use in such a garden, and a list of suitable plants will be found in the chapter, “Plants for Special Situations.”


     Keeping the borders in good order during the summer is a simple matter if a few tasks are faithfully performed. The first and most important of them is staking — a matter in which all our ingenuity may be employed. If not done at all or if badly done, the finest garden will, after the first hard storm, be a sad spectacle. In exposed gardens there are few plants over medium height which do not require support, and even in sheltered gardens it is best to stake all fairly tall plants that have slender stems.

The most important point about staking is that it shall be done as inconspicuously as possible and in such a manner that the plant is not diverted from its natural habit of growth. For most purposes, the green wooden stakes, for sale by all seed houses, are best adapted. Plants with a single stem, such as Lilies, Foxgloves, and Mulleins, may have the stake (always considerably shorter than the full height of the plant) placed behind the stem and secured with green raffia about the centre of the stem, leaving the upper half to curve gracefully at will. It may be necessary to change the stakes once, anyway, during the growth of very tall plants, and such strong growing plants as Mulleins, Hollyhocks, and Dahlias will require very heavy stakes. Plants with many stems, such as Boltonias and Heleniums, should have several heavy stakes placed in and about the clumps with strong cord stretched from stake to stake, thus allowing all the stems to maintain their natural position while still being upheld. The fine appearance of such plants is quite spoiled if they are bunched together and tied to a single stake.

Plants with long, weak stems and broad, heavy flower heads, as Michaelmas Daisies and Gypsophila paniculata, are best supported on pea brush, the weak stems being drawn over and tied to the spreading branches of the brush. When the plants have attained their full height, any unsightly ends of the brush may be cut off.

The removal of all withered flowers is of considerable importance in the fair appearance of the garden. The self-sown seedlings of many plants — Phlox, for instance — are a real nuisance; and besides this, most annuals, and a fair number of perennials, may be kept in bloom for a greatly lengthened period if the plants are not allowed to seed. This is particularly true of Moon-penny Daisies, Geums, Erigeron speciosus, and the hardy Cornflower (Centaurea montana). The blooming period of Phlox, Mulleins, and Anchusas may be extended if the flower stalk is cut just below the lowest blossom; auxiliary flower stems will then be sent out at once. Foxgloves may be bewitched into perennialism if the flower stalks are cut to the ground immediately after fading. Hardy young plants will form around the old crown. This is also true of Hollyhocks. Many low-growing plants, such as Pinks, Aubrietias, Iberis, Cerastium, Sun Roses, and Golden Alyssum are much benefited by severe shearing after their bloom is past. They are apt to become very untidy in appearance, but if well cut back will soon regain their tidy, rounded form.

In the summer care of the garden, cultivation of the soil is more important than watering. The latter should not be done at all unless thoroughly — that is, the soil soaked at least two inches below the surface. Our own method is to stick the rake handle in the ground, placing the hose nozzle between the tines and allowing it to remain in one spot for several hours. In dry weather it takes two or three days to get all round the garden but the effect is lasting, and when this method is used the watering may be done in full sunshine without injury to the plants.

The soil of the beds and borders should be kept well stirred always, as this not only conserves the moisture but does much toward discouraging weeds. We always stir the soil after a heavy rain, for the soil is then most apt to form a hard crust.

After the garden has been made for a year or two, some renovation will be required each succeeding year. This is best done in the autumn. The large spreading clumps of plants need to be lifted and divided and the soil enriched, and this, with the beds and borders full of bulbs and the ground between the larger plants pretty well carpeted with creeping things, is rather difficult. Each fall we decide upon a certain section of the garden to be “done over,” then in early October we take everything out of that section except shrubs and climbers. The bulbs are dug up carefully and laid in piles on the garden-house porch and labelled, and the plants are also taken up, divided, and set in the shade. The space is then well spaded and a quantity of well-rotted manure, with a generous supply of wood ashes, is incorporated with the soil. When the surface is raked smooth, we replace the disturbed inhabitants, adding some and leaving out others that did not come up to the standard. We attempt only what we can finish in a day, as the plants must not be long left out of the ground, and we manage to get all round the garden about every three years.

Some plants, such as Japanese Anemones, Paeonies, Fraxinella, and Sea Lavender, with a known antipathy for interference, we dig carefully around and arrange a little tempting food within their reach.

In a series of very helpful articles which appeared in The Garden for February and March, 1914, Mr. Brother-son writes the following: “I know there exists a kind of horror at the thought of introducing a spade among established herbaceous plants, the dear roots being objects of much concern, lest they should be severed. May I express the conviction that nothing better could happen to the plants next to lifting and replanting. By digging deeply and carefully among them they are divested of useless roots and an improved root run is provided, into which new roots to take the place of those removed will quickly find their way, to the great benefit of the plants. Manure about twelve months old is best fitted for mixing with the soil under these conditions.” I have seen the beautiful gardens at Prestonkirk, Scotland, over which Mr. Brotherson presides, and their superb well-being is all the testimony required that this seemingly drastic treatment is not only safe but most efficacious.

In closing this chapter I should like in some way to make others feel the joy of doing at least a part of the garden work one’s self; do not turn all this possible pleasure over to some one else. Many women will contend that they are not strong enough and, of course, very sadly, some are not; but the rest will, I feel sure if they make an attempt, be greatly astonished at their power which will increase tenfold as the magic of fresh air and sunshine gets in its rejuvenating work, and those same timid ones will be astonished at, and I hope thankful for, the sound sleep, the quiet mind, and the absorbing interest which will be theirs. “It is of those few pleasures which age cannot wither,” and for this reason alone one might do well to give it a trial. Love your garden and work in it and let it give you what it surely will of sweetness, health, and content, and let no one feel that the benefit is all on the side of the garden, for truly you will receive more than you give, no matter how faithfully you work, and you will soon find yourself more dependent upon your garden than your garden upon you.

1 Walpole’s "Modern Gardening.” 

2 “The Book of Topiary,” by Charles H. Curtis and W. Gibson.

Click the icon to go to the next chapter of My Garden.