By Helen Colt, F.r.h.s., Diploma of the Royal Botanic Society
Tke Right Conditions of Culture - Beautiful Bulbous Plants - Daffodils and Hardy Ferns - Numerous
Many people who cannot have a wild garden on a large scale may have a delightful corner in their own gardens, where wild flowers can be naturalised. The search for such plants as would be at home in the garden adds interest to country walks, though care will, of course, be taken never to rob a neighbourhood of rare specimens, nor to detract from the beauty of field or hedgerow by removing in quantity even the commonest flowers and ferns.
In attempting to naturalise wild plants, the conditions under which any particular plant is found growing must be the first consideration, in order that these conditions may be as far as possible imitated. Of course, if there is no moist, grassy spot in the garden, cowslips and hose-in-hose are not likely to flourish, and if the garden is near a smoky town, it is useless to hope to naturalise violets. And with rarer plants, such as the water-loving sundew and panguicula, grass of Parnassus, and parsley fern, it is foolish, if not positively cruel, to take them from their native haunts, unless the necessary conditions can be given.
Everyone is delighted with the effects which can be had by naturalising such bulbs as snowdrops, aconites, daffodils, and so on, and it is, of course, by the efforts of expert horticulturists that we possess those beautiful bulbous plants which are improvements on the wild species.
There are other bulbs, less well-known, such as the vernal and autumnal squills, which may be found in charming patches of blue near the sea-coast, notably in Cornwall; wild crocuses also, and meadow saffron, and the Star of Bethlehem. This last is met with in Somerset, as well as in Sussex: and Bedfordshire, and it was formerly sold as a "pot-herb" in the neighbourhood of Bath.
Copyright, One and All Association
Among the numerous forms of willow-herb, some of which take up their abode in gardens without invitation, few except the great hairy willow-herb are worth keeping. Other flowers, however, which are conspicuous for covering patches of waste ground and yet are well worth naturalising, are the winter heliotrope, which bears its perfumed flowers in February, and the handsome yellow ragwort, which flowers later in the year.
As most persistent subjects among climbing plants, the convolvulus and hop should be mentioned. These will, of course, flourish where other climbers would not succeed; but in more favourable situations a cutting or a tiny layer can be put in of the Traveller's Joy clematis. It is not every garden-lover who will attain to the detachment of John Parkinson, who in forming for Queen Henrietta Maria the "garden of all sorts of pleasant flowers which our English ayre will permit to be noursed up," yet left "in his owne place," " the Honisucle that groweth wilde in euery hedge, although it be very sweete, ... to serue their senses that trauell by it, or haue no garden."
Among wild flowers which are really worthy of a place in the herbaceous border in June and July, the evergreen alkanet, with its beautiful blue flowers, and the bright red valerian should certainly find place. The latter plant is equally at home in border and rock-garden, and as a patch of colour is only equalled by another wild flower, the pheasant's eye, which bears flowers of a richer crimson. The pheasant's eye has an interesting history, for, though often seen as a border flower, it was probably introduced into England as a weed among grain. We read in Gerarde's "Herball" of " the red flower of Adonis growing wild in the West parts of Englande, among their Corne as Maie weed does; from thence (he says) I brought the seed, and have* sown it in my garden, for the beautie of the flower's sake." The flowers of pheasant's eye were formerly sold in the streets under the name of Red Morocco, but Gerarde also mentions it by its sweet-sounding name of Rose-a-rubie, a name given it by the herb-women of his day. Flower of the Gods, or Adonis, is the legendary name of the pheasant's eye, the legend of its origin being that when the young Adonis was slain by a wild boar, this flower, growing hard by, was stained with the crimson of his blood.
A very pretty arrangement for a garden can be devised by lifting hardy ferns from different spots where this can be done without fear of denuding lanes or woods, planting them in a shady corner, and putting in daffodil bulbs between them. If this is done, the daffodils increase each year, making a beautiful show in March and April, and by the time the flowers are over and the leaves grown untidy, fern-croziers will uncurl themselves and cover them with fresh greenery.
Foxgloves can be planted in the neighbourhood of the ferns, seedlings being put in the garden in spring or autumn, and clumps of primroses will make a charming edge to the scheme. In the country, of course, the white and purple violet can be naturalised near by, and its relation, the little wild heartsease, in the less congenial atmosphere of towns.
Of wild flowers which can be brought into gardens where a favourable wild patch is to be had, the number is legion. A list would include such notable examples as the little wood sorrel, Claytonia, pink cranebill and its relative the meadow geranium, the yellow toad-flax, sea-thrift, sheep's scabious, milfoil, iris foetidissima, and the wild arum or "lords and ladies," with its quaint summer sheath and bright autumn berries.
A clump of primroses. These flowers make a charming edging to a scheme for a wild flower garden
Copyright, Sutton & Sons
No one who has seen masses of yellow rock-rose growing wild will wish to be without a clump in the garden, if they have a chalk or gravel soil and the benefit of the full sunshine this plant enjoys, for it is true to its Greek name of helianthemum.
Lovers of a real rock-garden will introduce many members of the Pink family, saxi-fraga oppositifolia, sibthorpia, gentians, and even the little native harebell, with other wild bell-flowers, such as campanula glomerata and campanula hederacea.
The Alpine Lady's Mantle is another desirable wild plant, not so much on account of its rather inconspicuous greenish tufts of flowers as for its exquisitely cut leaves with their satiny under-surface.
The double variety of saponaria - of which Gerarde says "it is planted in gardens for the flowers' sake, to the decking up of houses, for the which purpose it chiefly serveth" - is, of course. a development of the common single soapwort of the hedge-row. This can also be included among our wild flowers for the garden. The soapy principle which exists in the plant, and which will make a lather with hot water, was in old times used to bathe and beautify the skin.
To grow water-loving plants on any large scale presupposes an actual water-garden, where the flowering rush, the bog-bean of the Lake District, arrow-head and water-plantain can be naturalised in shallow water, with white water-lilies and Villarsia, a beautiful little yellow water-lily, and water-violets also.
A garden stream will look beautiful if edged with purple loose-strife, kingcups, the great spearwort, and masses of the yellow flag iris, while in a real bog garden, tiny roots of the sun-dews from Dorset or Devonshire may even be planted, as well as grass of Parnassus from the Lake country, and butterworts.
A number of British orchids can be cultivated, but will need special care, and the amateur whose garden does not provide the proper facilities will probably be content with growing the spotted orchis and the well-known early purple orchis.