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 What right have we to blame the Garden
Because the plant has withered there?’
                                        — Hafiz. 

 JULY is often a discouraging month to a gardener who does not employ a great many annuals. Following upon the exuberance of June, it seems a sort of pause, a breathing spell before the grand display of almost unfailing Phioxes and their train of late summer flowers. It is quite true that there are not as many well-known flowers belonging to this month and, in consequence, many gardens are quite scantily clothed with bloom. For years my own June pride was regularly shattered by the blank which followed the departure of the Flag Irises, Paeonies, and tumultuous Roses, and it required many years of study and “trying out” before I learned how many fine plants there are, other than annuals, with which to beautify this high noon of the year.

In July, also, we have the elements against us; whether it is against pitiless drought or fierce electric storms that we must contend, it is very difficult to keep the garden in good condition and the plants are bound to suffer somewhat. In time of drought the garden assumes an air of passive endurance; one does not feel the growing and blowing, and while there may be plenty of bloom, it appears to be produced without enthusiasm and quite lacks the spontaneous exuberant quality that one is conscious of in the earlier year. Then must we stir the soil assiduously to conserve what little moisture there may be left and water whenever that may be done thoroughly, as surface wettings do more harm than good.

Hardly less painful to the plants are the electric storms with twisting, devastating winds and pounding rains, and woe to the gardener who has not done his staking in season and with intelligence! A prostrate garden is his bitter portion, and not all the king’s horses and all the gardeners in the world can repair the broken stalks of Larkspur and Hollyhock, raise up the crushed masses of Coreopsis, Gypsophila, and Anthemis, or mend the snapped stems of lovely Lilies. A storm, such as we are all familiar with, can do damage in half an hour that we, even with Nature’s willing cooperation, may not repair in many weeks. But with faithful cultivation, intelligent watering and staking, and a knowledge of the plants at one’s command, much may be done to avert calamity and to make this month a month as full of interest and beauty as the gay seasons past and to come.

Tall spires of Larkspur are still reaching skyward when July comes in. Sweet Williams, Coreopsis, Scarlet Lychnis, Madonna and Herring Lilies are still in good order, and there is often a host of self-sown or early sown annuals creating bright patches of colour about the borders, but in our garden the most prominent features of early July are Hollyhocks and the great sunshiny Mulleins.

For many years a hideous disfiguring disease rendered Hollyhocks almost useless for garden purposes and it was only in out-of-the-way corners in humble gardens that this poor plant, once so lauded and admired, raised its stricken head. The disease first shows itself in ugly brown pimples on the under side of their foliage and it works so quickly that soon the whole flower stalk stands bravely flying its colours still, but denuded of its greenery or with a few tattered leaves hanging forlornly about it. Much has been done of late years, however, by lovers of the Hollyhock to alleviate its sufferings, and it is now quite possible with a few precautions or remedies to have this splendid flower in its integrity. We seldom have a diseased plant in our garden, and our secret is simply to give them plenty of sun and air, a rich soil, and to treat them as biennials. Old plants are much more apt to have the disease, and Hollyhocks are so easily raised from seed that to keep up a stock of young ones in the nursery is a very simple matter. We dig up the old plants and throw them away. Plants out in the open (not against walls or fences) where the air may circulate freely about them are much more likely to be healthy, but we have found that by using only young plants we can put them in almost any position. Bone meal and wood ashes are both good as tonics for the Hollyhocks, and there are a number of sprays recommended for afflicted plants. Bordeaux mixture used several times in spring is an old reliable remedy, and Mr. C. H. Jenkins in his “Hardy Flower Book” recommends a treatment the simplicity of which is certainly in its favour: “Use a breakfast cup full of common salt to three gallons of water. Employ an Abol syringe with fine mist-like spray so that the solution does not reach the roots of the plant.” This should be done about every two weeks in spring.  

"Hollyhocks are among the most pictorial of plants, and it is 
very difficult to find anything else to take their place.  I like
best the single ones in pink and blackish crimson, pale yellow and
pure white, but the double ones are very fine and opulent, and
the lovely shades and tints to be had very numerous."

Hollyhocks are among the most pictorial of plants, and it is very difficult to find anything else to take their place. I like best the single ones in pink and blackish crimson, pale yellow and pure white, but the double ones are very fine and opulent, and the lovely shades and tints to be had very numerous. One I had from Eng land, called Prince of Orange, was a splendid orange-copper colour, and there are now many named varieties. I have a fine group of salmon-pink Hollyhocks against a large tree of the Purple-leaved Plum, and another cherry-coloured group has a fine background a pink Dorothy Perkins Rose which drapes the wall behind it. White Hollyhocks are fine with Tiger Lilies, and there are many other good associations for them. Althaea ficifolia is a very pretty pale yellow-flowered single sort called the Fig Leaved Hollyhock. This plant is slender in growth and sends up lateral stalks which keep it in bloom all summer long.

Next to Hollyhocks, or quite equal to them in picturesque value, save that they have not the wide colour range, are the radiant Mulleins. Every one knows the noble outline of the wild Mullein, Verbascum Thapsus, and also its bad habit of opening but a few of its blossoms at a time. The foreign and hybrid Mulleins have the same splendid form and clothe their great candelabra-like stalks in solid bloom which continues to develop during the greater part of the summer. Mulleins are friends of only about four years’ standing, but to no other flower am I more grateful for fine and lasting effect. Their soft yellow colour is so sunshiny as to really seem to cast a radiance and is so non-combative as to affiliate well with almost any other colour. The splendid V. Olympicum was the first I knew. It is, like most of the others, biennial in character and grows seven feet high. V. phlomoides is as splendid and as tall, and V. pannosum has woolly leaves and grows about five feet high. V. phoeniceum is a low-growing sort, two feet, sending up from a flat rosette of leaves a spike set with flowers of rose or purple or white, but this sort seems to me much less worthy than the others. V. nigrum has yellow flowers marked with purple and grows four feet tall; there is a white variety of this.

Of late years a number of good hybrids have been created among which Harkness Hybrid, four feet tall with yellow flowers, is one of the best. Miss Willmot is a beautiful long-lasting variety bearing large white flowers on stems six feet high, and Caledonia is a lower growing sort with sulphur-yellow flowers suffused with bronze and purple. There are two verbascums, namely densiflorum and newryensis, which are said to be true perennials, but I have not yet procured them.

The Mulleins are splendid plants for our American gardens for they love a warm, dry soil and this we can certainly give them. They are easily raised from seed, perfectly hardy, and as they self-sow freely it is not necessary to keep up a stock in the nursery. The Greek Mullein, V. olympicum, which is my favourite, takes three years to develop its blooming ability with me, so I keep the great rosettes in the nursery for the first two. The tall-growing Mulleins are splendid plants for the back of the border and are lovely as a background for blue and silver Sea Hollies and Globe Thistles.

The handsome Yarrow family offers several strong-growing and drought-resisting subjects for the July garden. They present no difficulty in the way of cultivation and will grow in poor, dry soil if they must, but require yearly division. Achillea filipendulina (syn. Eupatorium), in a variety known as Parker’s, is the flower of the flock. It grows in strong clumps throwing up stems four feet high nicely clothed with feathery foliage and terminating in broad corymbs of golden bloom. This plant is ornamental from the first appearance of its pleasant green in spring until autumn when the yellow flower heads have softened to a warm brown. It lives out its span of life in dignity and order, for its foliage remains in good condition to the last and it has no fuzzy untidy way of perpetuating itself.

A cool picture for this summer season may be created with tall white Hollyhocks, Parker’s Yarrow, early white Phlox, Miss Lingard, and a foreground of Anthemis Kelwayi. A patch of tawny Hemerocallis fulva is a good neighbour for this group. Blue and white Aconites are fine with this Yarrow and also that splendid hardy plant, Erigeron speciosus var. superbus, which grows about two and one-half feet high and bears innumerable daisy-like flowers of a fine lilac-purple from June until September. It may be easily raised from seed and will sometimes bloom the same season as sown.

Achillea sericea is a good Yarrow having much the character of Parker’s save that it grows but eighteen inches high and starts to flower in June. A. ptarmica, fl. pl., otherwise known as The Pearl, we have banished from our borders though it is a much-lauded plant by many and is good for cutting; it has no domestic qualities, must rove and stray, insinuating its wandering rootlets into the internal affairs of its neighbours and choking out many a timid resident. Its bloom is pretty and fluffy but its stems are weak and vacillating; altogether a frivolous and unstable creature to my thinking. There are some good little alpine Yarrows with gray foliage quite charming for creeping among the stones at the edge of the border. A. umbellata has pure-white flower beads. A. tomentosa has dark prostrate foliage and yellow flowers; argentea has silvery foliage and white flowers. This little plant grows four inches high and the other two about six.

There is no more important plant in the mid-summer garden than Gypsophila paniculata, variously known as Chalk Plant, or Baby’s Breath, and called by the children here “Lace Shawls.” Seemingly oblivious to scorching sun and prolonged drought, it coolly carries out its delicate plan of existence from silver haze to cool white mist to fragile brown oblivion. No plant is so exquisite an accompaniment to so many others; indeed, any spot where it grows will soon become a lovely picture without our agency. Poppies sow their seed about it and rest their great blossoms upon its cloudlike bloom, and Nigellas and Snapdragons are particularly fine in association with it. One very pretty group here has Stachys lanata as a foreground with its gray velvet foliage and stalks of bloom now colouring to a pinky mauve. Behind is the cloudlike mound of Gypsophila, and resting upon it, its large flowers partly obscured by the mist, is a pinkish-mauve Clematis kermesina. The vine is supported upon pea-brush which does not show behind the Gypsophila.

In another corner that lovely and courageously magenta sprawler, Callirhoe involucrata, glistens exquisitely through the mist, and white Lilies rise in silver harmony behind. The double-flowered Gypsophila is a less ethereal but very beautiful plant and should find a borne in every garden. The single sort is easily raised from seed but does not make any great show until the third year. G. repens is a fine little trailer for the edge of the border with a long period of bloom.

The Moonpenny Daisies, Chrysanthemum maximum, are invaluable among mid-summer flowers. They make stout bushy clumps of dark foliage, two to three feet tall, with large, glistening, marguerite-like flowers of much substance. They spread broadly and should be divided every year, and they enjoy a moderately rich soil and sunshine. Good varieties are Mrs. C. Lowthian Bell, King Edward VII, Robinsoni, Mrs. F. Daniels, Mrs. Terstag, Alaska, and Kenneth. They are easily raised from seed and last a long time in bloom. The china whiteness of these blooms is a little hard so that they are at their best when associated with the softening influence of such plants as the Artemisias, Rue, Stachys, Gypsophila, and Lyme Grass.

Goat’s Rue (Galega officinalis) is a soft-coloured delightful plant of the present season with attractive foliage and a good habit of growth. It is fine with Campanula lactoflora var. magnifica and late Orange Lilies. The delicate lavender sort is the prettiest, I think, though the white is also desirable; var. Hartlandi is considered an improvement.

Several fine blue-flowered families make valuable contributions to the July garden and linger into August —  Veronicas, Aconites, Platycodons, Eryngiums, and Echinops.

The Veronicas are a splendid race with good foliage and attractive spikes of bloom, blue, rose, or white. Most of them are plants for the middle of the border, though the silver-leaved V. incana belongs in the front row with repens and prostrata, and the tall virginica may have a place at the back. V. spicata grows almost eighteen inches tall and bears many spikes of bright-blue flowers and has a good white variety and a washed-out rose sort. If cut after blooming it will bloom again toward autumn.

V. virginica grows from four to six feet high and appreciates a heavy soil. Its feathery flower spikes (white) are very pretty as a background for salmon Phloxes such as Elizabeth Campbell or Mrs. Oliver. It is also well placed with the Rose Loosestrife. The head of the family is Veronica longifolia var. subsessilis whose sonorous name in no way belies the vigorous dignity and importance of the plant. Its foliage is rich and strong, and in late July and August its long sapphire spikes of bloom are a delight indeed. If the season is not too dry it remains a long time in perfection and is on hand to welcome and complete the beauty of some of the softly coloured pink Phioxes, Peach Blow, in particular, with the becoming addition to the group of some metallic Sea Hollies.

I must confess to having had some trouble with this Veronica; it certainly suffers from the drought, turning rusty in its nether parts, and yet seems to want a full view of the sun for, planted in shade, it languishes immediately. A rich retentive soil seems to bring it to fullest perfection, and it more than repays any trouble bestowed upon it. A little bone meal dug in about its roots in May strengthens its growth and seems to improve the colour of its flower spikes. I have not been able to raise this plant from seed, but it is easily increased by division of the roots in spring or by soft cuttings. I should advise planting it in spring as it is important that it should be well established before winter.

The Platycodons are closely connected with the house of Campanula. There are only three kinds in cultivation and they are easily raised from seed. P. grandiflorum grows about two feet high and bears many widely spreading steel-blue bells. The lovely white var. album is faintly lined with blue and always makes me think of the fresh blue and white aprons of little girls. The flowers of P. Mariesi are a somewhat less clouded blue and the plant is dwarf and compact.

Chinese Belifiowers have a disadvantage in the brittleness of their stems. After a heavy rain they will be found flat upon the ground never to rise again, and they are difficult to support inconspicuously by the ordinary method of stake and raffia. I grow mine in good-sized clumps and stick stout, widely spread pieces of pea-brush about among them. This is the most satisfactory method, for it allows some of the stems to fall forward a little, giving to the clump an agreeable rounded outline. The thick fleshy root of the Platycodon seems to enable it to ignore the drought, and its clean-cut, fresh-coloured blossoms are always a pleasant sight in the garden.

The beautiful family of Aconites I always hesitate to recommend as the whole plant is very poisonous when eaten and, where there are children, might prove a serious danger. My own children know it well and its deadly consequences and avoid it assiduously. The fact that they are tall plants suitable for the back of the border makes it possible to put them pretty well out of reach, and they are among the most beautiful of the flowers blooming in mid-summer and autumn. They have long been among garden flowers; the old gardeners, Parkinson and Gerarde, give long lists of sorts, interspersing their admiring descriptions with illustrated warnings of the dire results of eating any part of the plant. Gerarde writes of A. Napellus:

“this kinde of Wolfesbane, called Napellus vernus, in English, Helmet-flowers, or the Great Monkshood beareth very faire and goodly blew flowres in shape like an helmet, which are so beautiful that a man would thinke they were of some excellent vertue — but, non est semper fides habenda fronti.” The foliage is beautiful and shining, “much spread abroad and cut into many flits and notches.” The flowering of Aconites covers a long period. The earliest here is a clouded blue sort with shining foliage which came to me as A. tauricum. It blooms in late June and July and is not more than three feet high. This was the first Aconite I grew, and, after reading the early herbalists, my mind was rather filled with the evil reputation of the plant so, when an army of little wicked-looking black toadstools appeared over night about the beautiful plant, it seemed most fitting    like an evil spirit and his minions. The Napellus varieties, the dark blue, pure white, and most of all, the bicolour, are all lovely and graceful plants growing about five feet tall and blooming through mid-summer. A. Wilsoni and Spark’s variety are magnificent plants growing five or six feet high and bearing their spikes of rich-coloured hooded flowers in August and September. A. Fischeri is a clear blue sort not more than two feet high, which bridges the time between Wilsoni and the October blooming A. autumnale. There are two yellow-flowered sorts, lycoctonum and pyrenaicum, two and four feet high respectively, which bloom in August and September.

The Aconites are impatient of a dry soil, so it should be rich and retentive. A north border suits them very well as they enjoy some shade, and they should be taken up and divided about every three years. I am very fond of a group of A. Napellus var. bicolour and Tiger Lilies which fills the angle made by the high wall and the garden house. The clean blue and white of these Aconites accompanies well the strange tawny hue worn by the Tiger Lilies and, lower down, a fine group of pure orange Bateman’s Lily, growing behind the spreading light-green foliage of Funkia subcordata, completes a good north border group. They are also fine with the Phloxes — pink and white and scarlet.

One would not willingly do without the beautiful Monkshoods, so valuable are they in the summer and autumn gardens; but, in all our dealings with this “venomous and naughty herb,” it is well to remember the terse warning of Dodoens that it is “very hurtful to man’s nature and killeth out of hand.”

Eryngiums, or Sea Hollies, are plants of great interest and beauty, their silvery stems and foliage and deep-blue globular flower heads creating an unusually lovely effect. They are easily raised from seed and seem to take kindly to any soil in a sunny situation. E. maritimum, the true Sea Holly, is a low-growing plant for the front of the border with large glaucous foliage. B. alpinum and Oliverianum, two and one-half and three feet in height, with rich blue flower heads, are the best, I think, though planum, bearing an immense quantity of small blue flowers and amethystinum, more gray than blue, are both extremely good. Their subdued and charming colour scheme enables us to use them with many flowers of their day. Most interesting are they with the Aconites and blue Veronicas, with Tiger Lilies or flame-coloured Phlox. With all the pink Phioxes they are lovely, but with the delicate Mme. Paul Dutre they produce a particularly charming harmony.

Somewhat resembling the Sea Hollies are the Globe Thistles (Echinops) of which E. Ritro, three feet, and bannaticus, five feet, are good representatives. Both have metallic blue, thistle-like flowers and glaucous foliage. These may be used in the same colour combinations as the Sea Hollies and are as useful.

A beautiful and little used native plant of late July is the Rose Loosestrife, Lythrum Salicaria var. rosea superba. It is a tall plant, four feet in height, carrying its leafy branches erectly and bearing at the top of each a long spike of rose or, perhaps one should admit, magenta flowers. But no one need hold aloof from what they are pleased to call “that fighting colour,” for it is so frank and clean and splendid in this plant that it can but win admiration and respect. Pale, ivory-coloured Hollyhocks are charming in its neighbourhood, and such buff-coloured Gladioli as Isaac Buchanan. White Phlox and garnet Hollyhocks become it well, and a daring but successful association for it is strong blue Monkshood and blue-green Rue. It is not a plant which requires frequent division, but it desires a deep, retentive soil and a sunny situation.

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