This section is from the book "How To Make A Flower Garden", by Wilhelm Miller. Also available from Amazon: The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques.
They make the north side of the barn sunny with generous yellow bloom, and they add much to the background of the border. That they add too much is all that lessens our gratitude. The strenuous life is theirs indeed, and their modern ways must greatly perplex their conservative neighbours of the old school, who, with their leisurely and dignified bearing, make the border of old perennials a restful place even when it is gay with brightest bloom. And we like it to be restful, for the enjoyment of those associations in which there is much that borders on psychological ground. Can we be sure that the spirits of garden-lovers do not hover over other real garden-lovers' gardens, wherever they may be found? A fancy far pleasanter than that of the transmigration of souls through animal life would be the thought that those who have dearly loved certain flowers identify themselves, to the discerning sense, with their favourites forever. Perhaps; who knows? It is a bit of Celia Thaxter's vivid thought that comes to us from the poppies as they sway lightly in the breeze.
And why is it that we feel such tender care of the low-growing things, the babies of the border? Is it not something more than plant life that looks up out of the blue eyes of the forget-me-not, the little violet faces, the sweet June pinks, and daisies? Over these garden pets we bend with something of the mother-love, to minister to their needs. Of Mrs. Ewing, too, we like to think while busy among the flowers. She, too, was fond of gardening, as well as of her garden, believing that a close acquaintance with the flower friends can best be had with little intervention from the professional gardener. How much we lost when Mrs. Ewing's charming "Letters from a Little Garden" were cut short by her death!
Shortia galacifolla, a rare and exquisite perennial discovered in 1788 and then lost for nearly one hundred years.
The famous Matilija poppy of California - Romneys Coulteri. It is one of the showiest members of the poppy family, but only a very few persons have succeeded in raising it in the eastern States.
White Day-Lily (Funkia).
Hybrid Day-Lily (Hemerocalls ** Florham ").
Another garden enthusiast, Miss Mitford, tells us what a pleasure it is "to have a flower in a friend's garden."
Gardens conduce to friendliness in many ways, and the exchange of roots, bulbs, seeds and flowers is one of them. Dear personal associations are rooted to the spot where grows "a flower from a friend's garden." It is as much of an event in the garden as in the social world when a new acquaintance is formed, and when a fine chrysanthemum root steps from a neighbour's garden into ours the campanula bells should ring for joy. We are fortunate in having garden campaniles that fall each autumn, only to rise again in the same likeness when summer comes again. Always to be associated with old-fashioned roses is the friend who appeared on the garden scene one October day with a bundle of plants in her arms. Like a fairy godmother seemed she when the bundle disclosed an assortment of roses from her own old garden, all duly labelled - damask, Scotch, seven sisters (a single rose which was traced back more than a century), "and a George the Fourth black rose, my dear, that your uncle gave me years ago." Happy is the garden that has a fairy godmother to bring it gifts like those roses!
Happy, too, ought to be that garden of the Nova Scotian who said she always meant to have thrift, honesty and abundance in her garden. Honesty is not often met with in gardens now, unfortunately. It is a most interesting thing to grow because of its beautiful oval seed-valves, made apparently of mother-of-pearl, set like an eye-glass in a delicate but firm rim. From the pleasure a bunch of these lustrous ornaments (one of the loveliest of Nature's devices in seed-pods) gives to elderly persons it would seem that it was more in favour formerly than now.
Hardy chrysanthemums are disappearing, like honesty, from the borders, discouraged, possibly, by the wonderful show-flowers of the florist. But it is a pity to let them go, for they are among the truest of the hardy friends, and, with Japanese anemones, keep up the cheer of the garden until winter is close upon us. There are several good ones among those still available - white, purest yellow, dark red, silvery pink, and all the dear little button kinds, mahogany-red among them.
There is one seemingly more precious, perhaps because elusive, that used to grow along a fence on an old village street, and was the object of a yearly autumn drive. The lovely flower was a loose white ball just tinged with purplish pink. It vanished several years ago from that Kmderhook garden. Doubtless it flourishes elsewhere. May its shadow never grow less until it reveals itself again to us in its beautiful old-time splendour.
The herbaceous border in front of a house* showing careful planning as to the height of all the plants.
Another neglected once-upon-a-time favourite is the Christmas rose. To look, on Christmas Eve, into a little hollow walled with snow, at its waxy blossoms, white, flushed with pink, is like looking down at the Bambino in an Italian church at Christmastide.
After all, there are but few among the dear old favourites that have grown out of our affections. Most of them have been loved down through the years by so many who have sounded their praises in poetry and prose that a wealth of association now surrounds them for those of whom it can be said - "In books and gardens thou hast placed aright Thy noble, innocent delight".
Literature has embraced the old-fashioned garden, and more and more in these days the garden gathers to itself an added charm from literature. We feel it with the primrose, the violet, and daffodil; the wallflower, whose unassuming blossoms send forth Old World memories as well as their own delightful fragrance; with the dainty columbine, and the foxglove, whose flower-stalk arrangement Ruskin likens unto the various stages of 1ife - infancy at the top, old age withering away below. Tennyson speaks of "the foxglove spire."
Rich are we in these treasures, for the flowers that a well-stocked hardy border holds may be called the classics of the garden.
Compared with our short span of life, they belong to the Immortals.
Year after year "the same dear things lift up the same fair faces," and we would gladly become perennial, far beyond the limit of our threescore years and ten, to longer enjoy our hardy flower friends.
A young hollyhock in spring, grown from seeds sown in a frame the previous August.