"And the sinuous paths of lawn and moss, Which led through the garden along and across; Some opened at once to the sun and the breeze, - Some lost among bowers of blossoming trees, - Were all paved with daisies and delicate bells, As fair as the fabulous asphodels; And flowerets which, drooping as day drooped too, Fell into pavilions, white, purple, and blue, To roof the glow-worm from the evening dew."
As to the situation of a garden, it is not always in our power to choose. A level plot, however, is to be preferred; for, if there be considerable descent, the heavy rains will wash away the soil. A southern aspect, sheltered from the north and west winds, is a proper situation for most plants. An inclination to the north, or west, or any any point between them, should, if possible, be avoided. It should be situated contiguous to or near the dwelling-house, and well exposed to the sun and air, that the more curious and valuable flowers may be treated with the best success.
The soil should be a deep, rich loam. If not naturally so, it must be made rich and deep by trenching and manuring, by carting away poor soil and bringing on good. If naturally heavy, it should be made light with a more sandy soil; or, if too light, it should be improved by a mixture of that which is more heavy.
The ground should be trenched two spades deep, or from twelve to sixteen inches, according to the quality of the subsoil. If the subsoil is poor, the depth of the mould must be made by carting on such substances as are most needed to correct the bad qualities of the soil. A compost, made of decomposed green sward from a pasture, and old, rotten manure, would, in most cases, be the best application to increase the depth of the soil.
If the ground allotted for the flower-garden is inclined to be wet, or springy, it should be thoroughly drained by ditches, or drains, so deep underground as not to interfere with cultivation. A location having a gravelly subsoil and exposed to drought, should be avoided, if possible. In a word, what is wanted is a deep, rich soil, natural or artificial, not too wet, nor too dry.
In giving directions for laying out a flower-garden, it must be borne in mind that it is not the design of the writer to give elaborate plans for extensive pleasure grounds; those who are able or disposed to indulge themselves in this great luxury, will, probably, consult the professional landscape gardener, or derive their information from other sources within their reach, rather than from a work written particularly for the multitude, whose means may be more or less limited.
"Neatness should be the prevailing characteristic of a flower-garden, which should be so situated as to form an ornamental appendage to the house; and, when circumstances will admit, placed before windows exposed to a southern or south-eastern aspect. The principle on which it is laid out ought to be that of exhibiting a variety of colors and forms, so blended as to produce one beautiful whole. In a small flower-garden, viewed from the windows of the house, this effect is best produced by beds, or borders, formed on the side of each other, and parallel to the windows from whence they are seen; as, by that position, the colors show themselves to the best advantage. In a retired part of the garden, a rustic seat may be formed, over and around which honeysuckles, and other sweet and ornamental creepers and climbers, may be trained on trellises, so as to afford a pleasant retirement."
In laying out a flower-garden, it is best to have the work all completed by the middle of October, that it may be in readiness to receive bulbous, and many of the herbaceous and other plants, and such shrubs as are hardy enough to set in autumn.
The work may, therefore, be commenced at any leisure time during the months of August and September; or, if it is more convenient not to commence the work until spring, it should be accomplished as early as possible. If thus deferred,, the proprietor must necessarily be deprived of the pleasure of having anything in its greatest perfection, except annuals, and tender bulbous, or tuberous plants, for that season. I should, therefore, advise, by all means, to have the work done in autumn.
The quantity of land to be devoted to the object may be small; but however limited the space, it is necessary that some order should be observed in the general arrangement.
As to the style of laying out, it will be difficult to propose any plan that would be likely to give satisfaction to all, for most of our readers have a fancy of their own; and, though they might be disposed to ask advice, yet would, probably, after all, follow the guidance of their own taste, whether it be good or bad. It may not be amiss, however, to throw out a few hints. And, in the first place, if any considerable extent is to be improved, - or if small, and it is desirable to have the business done neatly, and in a substantial, workmanlike manner, - we should recommend that a thorough-bred, intelligent gardener be employed to execute the work; for the beauty of a garden depends very much upon the manner of laying out, the proper consistency and richness of the soil, the make of the walks, and laying the edgings, whether of box, grass, or anything else.
The form of the ground may be either square or oblong, somewhat circular or irregular. The interior part may he divided into oblong four-feet beds, or in the manner of a parterre, in some fanciful style; the former being more convenient, particularly for most of what are called florist's flowers, but the latter more pleasing to the eye. In either method, a walk should be carried around the outward boundary, leaving a border to surround the whole ground. This outward border will be the most appropriate place for choice flowering shrubs, and tall herbaceous biennial and perennial plants. If the border be a wide one, groups of ornamental trees, of low growth, may be planted in the background, especially on the northern and western quarters, which will greatly protect the plants from cold winds, particularly if evergreens be planted there. Large trees should not be set so near the garden as to injure it by their roots or shade. Every fine garden should be well secured by a fence or hedge, if at all exposed to the public road. A hedge is far the prettiest,' and if well managed, neat and ornamental.
"The plan of the garden, be it either large or small, generally pleases when it is so constructed as to give a variety in the design. Formality, though often the leading feature, seldom gives that ease that is requisite. The planting of the ground should also bear the nicest consideration; by which, I mean, that such shrubs and plants should be selected as will form a pleasing contrast, and be appropriate in the different places assigned to them."