THE garden may be in the front or the back of the house or at the side of it; or if none of these situations is available it may be laid out some distance away, but should be connected with the house by a direct path enclosed with a fence or hedge, preferably a hedge. For, as a garden is a part of the house, it should be easily accessible from it at all times, and should be visible from some of the principal rooms. Then it may be enjoyed on a rainy day or in Winter, or in the early Springtime when frost is still in the air but the tender green shoots of the Iris are gently pushing through the ground, and Snowdrop and Crocus are sprinkling the brown earth with their welcome bloom. It is a good plan to have the garden connected with the front or back porch, or with the piazza, or even better to have the floor of the piazza flush with the garden path, or with a grass terrace from whence a few steps will lead you into the garden. A good formula for the size of the garden is "half as wide as it is long."
Sunlight is absolutely necessary for the health of the majority of flowers, so that a sunny position should be chosen for the garden if luxuriance and brilliance of bloom are to be looked for. There is nothing quite so disheartening as trying to coax flowers to bloom in semi-shade. It is well if the garden is so situated that for a short time at least in the morning every nook and corner will be penetrated by the clear, health-giving sunlight, for such a mild tonic is not injurious to even shade-loving plants, and its benefits cannot be overestimated. Sunlight seems to be essential to the most cheerful forms of both plant and animal life, and can be replaced by nothing else.
If space permits, and there is a shady corner, it is a good thing to have a garden house or a bench built where one may read and sew and entertain one's friends at tea, for tea is always more attractive in company with the flowers. For some plants shade is necessary, as Lily-of-the-valley which thrives under the trees and soon carpets the ground with its silvery green leaves. It is a great temptation to the lover of flowers to reproduce the bloom of every plant that attracts attention in neighbouring gardens, a temptation that often leads to dire confusion of colours and forms and produces bizarre effects that it would be better to exclude from a small garden. The atmosphere of the common sense garden should be soft, subdued, suggestive of peace to both the mind and the eye.
The beginner would do well to start with comparatively few plants, and when he has thoroughly mastered the cultivation of these, when he knows their whims and idiosyncrasies and can anticipate their wants and supply their needs, he may take up others, add to his repertoire as it were. He will surely find out that there are some flowers which grow in the gardens of his neighbours like weeds but with which he can not succeed. This rule, however, works both ways, and he will succeed with some that require much care and attention when his neighbours fail. It is better to give up the obstinate ones for a time at least, although the idea of defeat may be imwel-come; there are enough flowers to go 'round.
Turn a deaf ear to the nurservman and even to your dearest friend if he would dissuade you from edging the paths of your garden with Box, for in your heart of hearts you know that there is nothing better for the purpose than the little plant that has stood the test for so many hundred years. Besides, there is nothing else that will do. There is certainly nothing more typical, nothing more eloquently redolent of the old garden. When the enclosure is made and the paths laid out and edged with Box, the garden is finished, except for the planting of the flowers; but if it were never edged with Box it would never be finished, no matter how many flowers were planted nor how brilliantly they bloomed. And if the flowers never were planted you would enjoy it as it was, as you will see it many months of the year.
Box edging is easy to transplant and grows quite rapidly. Although for the first year or so after setting out it may be slightly Winter-scarred in this locality (New York) it will recuperate quickly and be made more stocky by the experience. By the middle of May one may be sure to see it vividly green - and is there any green more refreshing than the new green of Box? - and if only three or four inches high it will mark out attractively the patterns of the paths and beds. The plants used for this purpose are raised in Holland and Belgium and are a dwarf variety of Buxus sempecrvircns. It is better if possible to use stock that has been at least one Winter in this country, but if you cannot find this, set out the edging in the Spring as soon as it arrives from the other side, and plant it in good black loam, watching it carefully to see that it does not dry out. Edging may be propagated very handily from an old hedge that has been neglected and allowed to go to pieces, being useful for nothing else and only an eyesore. Such a hedge can generally be had for the asking, and of course the plants raised from it would be perfectly hardy and very cheap. Box is a very greedy feeder and should be fertilized continually if health and vigour are expected to be shown.
A top dressing at least every Fall is necessary, and a mulch of well-rotted manure in the Spring is an excellent thing. Many edgings become starved out, turn yellow and die because they have not sufficient nourishment. That is why so many edgings in old gardens look so patchy, so scarred. The soil is unable to nourish the plants, being used up and not having received any enrichment for many years. If you will water your Box plants with manure water of the colour of strong tea every ten days or two weeks during Summer you will find that they will be much strengthened against the rigours of Winter, in fact that they will not be Winter-killed as many people complain. Do not trim the edging at all the first season after setting out, but the following Spring before it begins to grow give it a good clipping. It makes a second growth later in the season.
Box Edging at Mt. Vernon.
Old Box Hedge.
The beauty of a new garden and its surroundings may be much enhanced and the illusion of age heightened by planting old Box and Lilacs, two shrubs that were much in evidence in the New England yards, and that were great favourites in the more formal gardens of the South. If these are used, however, care should be taken to place them where they obviously belong, where one finds them in old gardens and yards, and not to scatter them indiscriminately about the grounds. Box was planted at the foot of the front porch steps, although this position, especially in New England where formality was not much followed, was often preempted by the Lilacs. At the corners of the beds in the garden and in the round bed at the intersection of two paths it seems very much at home. Hedges of Box were planted along the front yard paths and on the tops of retaining walls in the immediate vicinity of the house, along walks leading to the kitchen garden and as screens around back and side porches.